South Street has long been one of the most eccentric, diverse, and all-around awesomely weird streets in Philadelphia. The street was the city’s garment district before the 1950s, but transformed into a haven for Philly’s artists and musicians in the second half of the 20th century. Today, the stretch of South Street between 7th Street and Front Street is a hip hangout spot lined with dive bars, quirky, independent specialty stores, vintage thrift shops and live music venues.
South Street is truly a melting pot for every demographic and subculture in Philadelphia. It’s common to see business men in suits and ties mingling with heavily pierced, leather-clad punks on this diverse, constantly-buzzing street. If you’re looking for an entertainingly odd people watching experience, you’ll certainly find it while spending an afternoon on South Street.
South Street is lined with over 300 shops and more than 60 bars and restaurants. We’ve narrowed down the list to some of our favorite places to see while spending an afternoon on South Street:
Tattooed Mom (530 South Street) – A bar unlike any other in Philadelphia, Tattooed Mom is impossible to categorize. With heavily graffitied walls on the second floor, seats made from old bumper cars and plush furniture that looks like it was pulled out of your grandmother’s house, Tattooed Mom is a proudly weird establishment. Describing itself as a “melting pot of good people of every stripe,” Tattooed Mom welcomes anyone looking to grab a beer on South Street.
Theatre of the Living Arts (334 South Street) – The TLA is a legendary concert venue that features well-known, famous acts along with up-and-coming and local bands. A converted movie theater with a 1,000 seat capacity and cheap drinks, The TLA has concerts or performances almost every night of the week. Walk right up to the TLA box office on South Street for tickets and check out a show.
Jim’s Steaks (400 South Street) – One of, if not the best, cheesesteak places in all of Philadelphia, Jim’s has been serving cheesesteaks on the corner of 4th and South Streets since 1939. Well worth the line that often stretches from the front door and wraps around the building, grab a cheesesteak with provolone or wiz “wit” onions to experience a real, authentic cheesesteak done right. Make sure you stop by an ATM before getting in line – Jim’s is cash only.
Lorenzo and Sons (305 South Street) – Lorenzo’s has few frills, no seating, slices of plain cheese pizza only, and is a Philadelphia legend. This famous South Street pizzeria is revered by late-night crowds for its flavorful, cheap, and most of all, absolutely enormous slices. Make sure you come hungry – a single slice of Lorenzo’s pizza is so large that it covers multiple paper plates.
Brauhaus Schmitz (718 South Street) – Philly’s only authentic German bierhall, Brauhaus Schmitz offers German braus alongside amazing German cuisine like schnitzel and bratwurst. Try the Wurstplatten – a sausage platter with a side of potato pancakes and spatzle – and wash it down with any of Brauhaus Schmitz’ 30 draft beers.
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (1020 South Street) – Award-winning artist Isiah Zagar spent 14 years constructing a maze of mosaicked walls and tunnels in a vacant lot next to his South Street art studio. The result is the Magic Gardens, a 3,000 square foot outdoor space adorned with colorful tiles, glass, and sculptures. Tours of the Magic Gardens are available to the public, and Zagar himself can often be found lounging in the gardens and chatting with guests.
Repo Records (538 South Street) A hip mecca for audiophiles and vinyl enthusiasts, Repo Records is an essential stop for any music fans spending an afternoon on South Street. One of the oldest record stores in Philadelphia, Repo sells LPs, CDs, and cassettes, with everything from obscure, hard to find CDs to classic albums in stock.