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University City and Center City: A Neighborhood Comparison

March 07, 2018

University City and Center City: A Neighborhood Comparison

How do you get to and from school?
Ian (Center City/Rittenhouse): I almost always walk, and it’s about a 20-minute walk for me. I’ve taken the bus before when it’s really rainy — it’s a $2 bus ride and takes about 10 minutes (assuming the bus comes right away).

Molly (University City/West Philly): Biggest perk of University City — I can leave my apartment at 8:50 and be in my seat in class on time for my 9 a.m.

Any good restaurants in the neighborhood?
Ian (Center City/Rittenhouse): the area is full of awesome BYOB restaurants, and a huge variety of cuisines and price ranges. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Honey’s Sit n’ Eat: great, inexpensive BYOB brunch, go for the Honey’s platter
  • Erawan Thai: awesome dinner combo includes appetizer, soup/salad and entree
  • Indian Cuisine: 10% off if you pay cash!
  • Mama Palma’s: a full page of different pizzas and some great pasta dishes too
  • Marathon: a few locations around center city, great food and big portions

Molly (University City/West Philly):

  • Sabrina’s Cafe: BYOB brunch with three locations in the city, serves breakfast food all day!
  • Greek Lady: delicious gyros and vegetarian options
  • Bobby’s Burger Palace: for fans of celebrity chef Bobby Flay, gourmet burgers/fries/milkshakes
  • Pattaya Thai: huge menu, great happy hour specials on food and drink
  • Spread Bagelry: right across from the law school — perfect for breakfast or lunch.


What about the nightlife?
Ian (Center City/Rittenhouse): Living in the neighborhood makes going out really convenient. Most of the time, we’re out in Center City. Some neighborhood spots:

  • Bob and Barbara’s: really chill cash-only dive bar that has live jazz music on the weekends. Ask for the citywide special, it’s $4 for a shot of whiskey and a PBR
  • Drinker’s Pub: two floors and two different vibes, both really fun
  • The Raven Lounge: three floors of great music and cheap drinks
  • Concourse Dance Bar: I haven’t been yet, but it just opened up and it has a giant ball pit!


Molly (University City/West Philly): While Center City/Rittenhouse has a more traditional nightlife scene, University City has great options for a lower key night.

  • Movie Theater: Just a few minutes from the law school, this is one of the main movie theaters in the city showing all the blockbusters.
  • City Tap House: has an amazing outdoor space with fire pits.
  • New Deck Tavern: classic Penn Law hangout, perfect for happy hour after school
  • Bernie’s: brand new, gorgeous outdoor deck right across from the law school
  • Landmark Americana: Wednesday nights are music bingo!


What brings you to other neighborhoods?
Ian (Center City/Rittenhouse): Concerts, for sure. The best concert venues are in Chinatown and Fishtown.

Molly (University City/West Philly): Fitness studios (Philly has tons of fun fitness places like SoulCycle, Flywheel, PureBarre, CKO Kickboxing, solidcore)

What’s the vibe in your neighborhood?
Ian (Center City/Rittenhouse): We’ve got two different vibes going on over here:

  • Center City by Market Street — the working world. Tall buildings and working professionals.
  • Rittenhouse Square — The neighborhood. Quiet streets, brownstones/townhouses, and young families. Dogs everywhere.


Molly (University City/West Philly): University City is where Penn and Drexel campuses are, so the area is full of students, from undergrads to graduate students in medicine, law, dental, etc. There are also lots of dog owners, young couples, and working professionals.

How do you stock your fridge?
Ian (Center City/Rittenhouse): Philly is not known for its abundance of grocery stores, so Target opened up a pseudo-grocery store nearby. There’s also a Trader Joe’s nearby. I don’t really use either much, because I’m lucky enough to live near two great stores: Food & Friends and Rittenhouse Market.

Molly (University City/West Philly): I usually walk to Trader Joe’s (it’s between 20–30 minutes from University City) and take the bus/trolley/Lyft home with my groceries. I also order from Instacart which delivers from local stores including Whole Foods (only $5.99 for delivery) and have friends who do AmazonFresh deliveries.

Any green-spaces nearby?
Ian (Center City/Rittenhouse): Rittenhouse Square is great in the summertime (and beautifully lit in the winter). There’s also a park on the water at the end of Spruce Street with lots of grass and a great dog park.

Molly (University City/West Philly): Schuylkill River Trail is gorgeous and perfect for runners, walkers, bikers, and dogs. Penn campus is also very green — Woodland Walk is great.

Any downsides?
Ian (Center City/Rittenhouse): I love the neighborhood, and I love living further away from school. The only downside is that I usually end up taking my afternoon nap at school. But then I nap again when I get home, so it’s all good.

Molly (University City/West Philly): Sometimes, I feel a little isolated to the Penn community and forget that there’s a whole city on the other side of the river. But, it’s super easy to get over there with just a little effort.

Who are you?
Ian Irlander, 25-year-old 1L from New York City. Currently living near Rittenhouse Square in Center City. irlander@pennlaw.upenn.edu


Molly Wolfe, 22-year-old 1L from Silicon Valley, via Chicago, Nashville, Washington D.C., and London. wolfeme@pennlaw.upenn.edu