Trendily dubbed the “Loft District” by developers and “The Eraser ’Hood” by locals old enough to remember the landscape that inspired 1977 cult film Eraserhead (by former resident David Lynch), Callowhill is both between—and beyond—two extremes. The neighborhood owes its name to William Penn’s spouse Hannah Callowhill Penn, who is credited with planning Philadelphia’s grid, and administered the Province of Pennsylvania upon her husband’s death.
Today, the once-industrial section is gritty and stylish, with a rich stock of large, urban buildings, remnants of cobblestone streets, edgy rock clubs, emerging galleries and hidden cultural gems.
It attracts both young professionals who enjoy its high-end condos and close proximity to Center City and Chinatown, artists looking for affordable studio and gallery spaces and students, including those attending The School of the Pennsylvania Ballet.
Just north of Center City, Callowhill’s boundaries run between 8th and Broad Streets, Spring Garden and Vine Streets, along the northern border of Chinatown. Bisecting the neighborhood are the distinct elevated train tracks of the dormant Reading Railroad, including the recently unveiled Rail Park, a hub of relaxation and creative activity.
Food & Drink:
- Angry Deekin Ribs – There’s more than ribs at this no-frills, mostly takeout joint. Pulled pork, Italian sausage, chorizo and, of course, ribs, are available with classic BBQ sides: collard greens, mac and cheese and baked beans. 1019 Spring Garden Street, (215) 769-7427
- Café Lift – One of the earliest eateries to capitalize on Callowhill’s boom, Café Lift serves brunch and lunch in an airy, post-industrial space. The menu includes panini, frittatas and crespelle, including the irresistible Nutty Monkey with bananas and Nutella. 428 N. 13th Street, (215) 922-3031, cafelift.com
- El Purepecha – This corner taco-tostada-burrito-nacho spot is authentic yet familiar, cozy but not cramped, spicy and colorful—just right for an affordable, yummy, anytime-of-day meal. It’s also a bring-your-own-bottle (BYOB) spot. 469 N. 10th Street, (215) 765-2369
- Foo Kitchen – George Pan’s funky food truck—or Foo Truck, rather—turned into this fun spot for approachable, indulgent Asian fusion breakfasts and lunches. Popular here: coconut curry eggs, General Tso’s eggs Benedict, shrimp toast, chicken satay with bacon, chilaquiles with Foo meatballs and chocolate covered velvet cake balls. 1301 Vine Street, (215) 413-0133
- Elixr Roastery and Café – This sprawling, sunny cafe is known for its five-cup omakase coffee flights hand-picked by its experts. Elixr roasts its beans onsite, and guests can get a peek at the process behind large windows. 315 N. 12th Street, elixrcoffee.com
- Johnny Mañana’s – “Where every day is a fiesta” is the motto here. And it’s no wonder: The everyday special is a $5 margarita, with enchiladas, tacos and nachos making up the Mexican and Southwestern-inspired food menu. 315 N. 12th Street, (267) 764-1408, johnnymananas.net
- Love City Brewing Co. – One of Philly’s newer breweries invites drinkers to sample its wares in a rehabbed industrial space that once manufactured parts for the trains of the Reading Railroad. The tasting room also hosts puppy yoga, DJ quizzo and food trucks. 1023 Hamilton Street,
(215) 398-1900, lovecitybrewing.com
- Parada Maimon – Rice and beans accompany most orders at this authentically Dominican eatery. Wood paneling and checkered-clothed tables also make this a great setting for pork mofongo, fried plantains, stewed chicken, ropa vieja and patties. 345 N. 12th Street,
(215) 925-2000, paradamaimon.net
- Prohibition Taproom – The owners of Café Lift branched out into the gastropub scene with their rehabbed taproom outfitted with filament bulb lighting fixtures and a killer jukebox. The menu includes a solid tap list of domestic microbrews and a rotating bottle selection, along with eats from their seasonal menu. 501 N. 13th Street, (215) 238-1818, theprohibitiontaproom.com
- Roy-Pitz Barrel House – Born in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, this 130-seat brewpub stands atop old truck docks and serves 15 house and local drafts (especially sour, barrel-aged, funky brews), regional craft wines and spirits and a casual, clever lunch, dinner and weekend brunches. The food here starts basic—wings, fries—and gets funky—fried persimmons, chicken schnitzel sandwiches, root vegetable gratins, pork belly BLTs. 990 Spring Garden Street, (215) 995-6792, roypitzbarrelhouse.com
- Sazon – Venezuelan cuisine comes alive at this homey, diner-feeling BYOB. Hearty platters of steak, rice and beans; grilled tofu; and cheese-stuffed arepas draw dedicated fans, including gluten-free eaters and vegetarians—most of whom end their meals with serious, house-made chocolate, including drinking chocolate. 941 Spring Garden Street, (215) 763-2500, sazonphilly.com
- Win Win Coffee Bar – Despite the name, pizza is the star here, not coffee. Starting at 5 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, Daniel Gutter, also known as “Pizza Gutt,” makes Detroit-style pies that are available first-come, first-served (or by reserving a pie online at the start of the week). Dance parties, DJs and karaoke draw late-night crowds. 931 Spring Garden Street, winwincoffeebar.com
- Wood Street Pizza – Thin crusts and classic flavors are the name of the game at this corner pizza joint. Cheesesteaks get the from-scratch treatment with house-made Whiz and join a menu of hoagies, wings, salads and fries. 325 N. 12th Street, (215) 515-3382, woodstreetphl.com
Culture, Shops & Galleries:
- Asian Arts Initiative – This community‐based arts center engages people to create art that explores the diverse experiences of Asian-Americans, addresses social context and impacts the community in a positive way. The organization offers a full calendar of events, including exhibitions, public performances, an out-of-school youth program and more. 1219 Vine Street, (215) 557-0455, asianartsinitiative.org
- Grizzly Grizzly – Practicing, risk-taking artists run and curate an engaging series of exhibitions and alternative events in this small exhibition space. 319 N. 11th Street, 2nd floor, grizzlygrizzly.com
- Khmer Art Gallery – One of the East Coast’s first Cambodian art galleries displays and sells contemporary art that draws from traditional practices. The collection includes painting, sculpture, textiles, pottery, traditional musical instruments and more, and is open by appointment only, with free educational tours for individuals and groups. 319 N. 11th Street, (215) 922-5600, khmerartgallery.com
- Marginal Utility – Showcasing local and international emerging and established artists, this next-door neighbor of Vox Populi (below) offers similarly fresh, contemporary works on canvas, paper and new media. 319 N. 11th Street, 2nd floor, marginalutility.org
- PhilaMOCA (Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art) – This gallery space and performance venue created a home out of a former showroom for mausoleums and tombstones. The curators’ sense of humor comes out in their selection of film, music, performance and visual art events, such as an annual David Lynch-themed art show and retrospectives of public access television programs. 531 N. 12th Street, (267) 519-9651, philamoca.org
- Vox Populi – Founded in 1988, this collectively run gallery is devoted to experimental and under-represented contemporary art, with a rotating membership of artists of various genres. The space hosts monthly exhibitions, gallery talks, performances, lectures and other programming. 319 N. 11th Street, 3rd floor, (215) 238-1236, voxpopuligallery.org
Nightclubs & Entertainment:
- The Rail Park – Phase one of the revitalization of three miles of unused, elevated rail lines has transformed the previously abandoned stretch of space into a quarter-mile public greenway with swinging benches, pathways and Instagram-worthy city views. In warmer months, the Boxcar Beer Garden brings craft beer, wine, BBQ and big crowds. 1300 Noble Street, therailpark.org
- The Trestle Inn – This under-a-trestle spot for whiskey and go-go presents 1960s and ’70s-inspired music, entertainment and drink. Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night ,the in-house go-go dancers shimmy and shake to all-vinyl soul, funk, disco and more spun by house DJs. The beverage list features 18 craft cocktails—they’re known for their whiskey sour—more than 70 domestic and international whiskies and 13 craft beers on tap. 339 N. 11th Street, (267) 239-0290, thetrestleinn.com
- Underground Arts – This multi-use performance venue caters to an artistic and creative crowd. The genres of live music run the spectrum, which is one of Underground Arts’ greatest assets. 1200 Callowhill Street, (215) 627-1332, undergroundarts.org
- Union Transfer – Local and touring indie, punk, hardcore and hip-hop acts take to the acoustically awesome stage at this ultra-spacious venue for 500-1,200 people, depending on the stage configuration. Concerts finish with a post-show happy hour. 1026 Spring Garden Street, (215) 232-2100, utphilly.com
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