Passyunk Avenue, in South Philadelphia, is one of the oldest and busiest shopping streets in the city. Originally a Native-American trail, the name Passyunk derives from the Native-American term, “pachgesink”, which means “place between the hills” or “in the valley”. Where the hills are, I’m not sure. But the street has been a cramped neighborhood shopping district since the early nineteenth century, when numerous European immigrants started settling there. In recent years, the area around Passyunk Avenue has seen an influx of new immigrants, particularly from Mexico and Southeast Asia, prompting one local businessman to famously request that his patrons please speak English when ordering food.
Anyways, the street intersects the famous Italian Market at the site of the two famous cheesesteak purveyors, Pat’s and Geno’s. The cheesesteak was invented by Pat Oliveri in 1932 quite by accident, and has been a Philadelphia food icon since. The mostly working class neighborhood has had numerous delicatessens, butchers, tailors, dress shops, shoe stores, variety stores, and eateries lining Passyunk Avenue for generations. These days, however, many other businesses are opening up on the Avenue, including trendy restaurants and cafes, stores selling CDs and comic books, and trendy clothing stores. A walk along Passyunk Avenue now may remind people of South Street, Old City, or Main Street in Manayunk more than a traditional South Philadelphia neighborhood.
I recently took a walk up Passyunk from Broad Street to South Street, where it ends. This is called East Passyunk Avenue, and it is seeing the most new development and businesses. What struck me was that most of the new businesses seemed to be closer to Broad, in the middle of South Philadelphia, and further away from Center City. What was also noteworthy was the fact that it was Sunday and many of the eateries and stores, especially the newer ones, were open. I had walked along Passyunk Avenue a couple times, years ago, on Sunday and back then almost everything was closed on Sunday. Nowadays, however, that appears to be changing and the area is known for being a popular area for Sunday brunch. The new restaurants, seen in my pictures below, that have opened there recently include LeVirtu, Los Caballitos Cantina, and Izumi and some of the new cafes include Adobe Cafe, Fuel, cchaya, and Black ‘n’ Brew. These restaurants and cafes often serve sustainably grown food. Home prices in surrounding neighborhoods, such as Passyunk Square, the Italian Market area, and Pennsport, generally range from $100,000 to $400,000.
Clearly, Passyunk Avenue is becoming another South Street, Main Street, Second Street, etc. and the surrounding neighborhoods are becoming more diverse than ever!
For more info on Passyunk Avenue and the area, you can check out the East Passyunk Avenue Business Improvement District and the Passyunk Square Civic Association.