Marrakesh

$25 - $50 Top 10

Marrakesh endows patrons with an authentic Moroccan feast, fused with a traditional Moroccan family home setting in the Society Hill District. Accented with imported rugs, vibrant-colored pillows, and sweet incense, the banquet room encompasses everything that is Moroccan decor, allowing guest to lounge in a tranquil environment at a communal table among other diners or a private table. A seven course dining experience, Marrakesh’s menu features arrangement of illustrious Moroccan dishes, which will satisfy guest’s craving for authentic Mediterranean fare. For a reasonable price, patrons can pamper their palates with Tajine of Lamb with Almonds and Honey or Couscons Grand Atlas Topped with Vegetables. Guests will end their meal with a basket of fresh fruits and hot mint tea paired with pastries, which brings the Moroccan experience at Marrakesh to a full circle accompanied with an appeased appetite.

The Soul of South Street

Anointed by Philly’s own R&B group, The Orlons, in their iconic Sixties ode, South Street continues to be the place where the bohemian culture meet. While The Orlons sang of hippies, the shapers and interpreters of pop culture are now generally referred to as hipsters. Defining a hipster is elusive. Just as Louis Armstrong said of jazz, the same can be said of hipsters, “If you have to ask what it is, you’ll never know.” This well-trod funky Philly strip forever rolls with an electric vibe that’s all its own. It’s here that class meets crass. The rich and the struggling commingle as do the young and the aging. The in and the out find common ground in South Street’s dazzling array of restaurants, cafés, music venues, and sometimes strange specialty shops. South Street is perhaps Philly’s only suitable platform for the Magic Gardens, which is, in the words of its proprietor Isaiah Zagar, an art gallery junkyard that showcases in comedic disorder, Zagar’s mosaic madness. Condom superstores, tattoo-hookah parlors, a store selling only African music, instruments and clothing, and a BYOB make-your-own pottery store are part of South Street’s unique marketplace.

Funk is the South Street marquee. It pierces generational walls. It energizes a fun and frenetic scene. But at South Street’s core, it’s the district’s authenticity, rugged and hardcore, that keeps it afloat and vibrant. Somehow, the real manages to buoy the unreal.

In such a wide-open milieu, it’s no surprise that Marrakesh set up shop on Leithgow Street way back in 1977. Leithgow is an otherwise unremarkable ruelle off South Street between 4th and 5th Streets. Marrakesh infuses the street with a whiff of exoticism. Recalling the lyrics to “Year of the Cat,” Al Stewart’s atmospheric tribute to Mideast culture, “there’s a hidden door she leads you to.” Leithgow Street bears the door to Marrakesh. A large Marrakesh sign beckons at the corner of Leithgow and Gaskill Streets. The door isn’t hidden as it is in the song. However, it may be locked. You have to ring the bell for admittance. That’s different.

A step inside evokes more pop-song imagery, this time from the Disney hit, “Alladin”. It’s a whole new world, but don’t look for a sanitized Disney knock-off of a bona fide Moroccan experience. This is the real deal. For those who have visited and supped in Morocco, you’ll relish reigniting the thrill of the dining experience, especially since eating in Philadelphia’s Marrakesh restaurant is more convenient and economic than having to make a trans-Atlantic crossing for the pleasure. For the uninitiated, you’ll bask in a special experience, which is at once unique, bona fide, and fulfilling [with particular emphasis on the “filling,” as you’ll see].

Marrakesh’s interior is mesmerizing, mysterious in appearance and ambiance. Incense wafts through the air. Flat divans covered in soft, colorful, gold-stitched rugs and piled with huge plush, brightly embroidered pillows stretch along the walls. Massive circular golden trays lie in wait in front of the divans, lining up on each side of the main dining room. The trays form a line parallel with a central sunken aisle that traverses the length of the room. Flickering candles provide faint illumination. There are no utensils for dining. Guests eat in the traditional way, with their hands, just as you would in Moroco.

The repast begins in ceremonial style. The server brings hot towels to cleanse the hands, a gesture he will repeat throughout the meal. Each guest partakes in seven different courses, indulging an unembarrassed extravaganza of culinary diversity. Take note that, in and of itself, each course would suffice as a full meal. Portion sizes surpass generous, so plan to depart with a booty of leftovers.

Although the number of courses for the meal is fixed, guests have latitude in choosing the three, yes, three main courses. Not surprisingly, Marrakesh also accommodates vegetarians, and does so with aplomb.

The first course is a gargantuan trio of salads, a bountiful earthy harvest of fresh vegetable flaunting a colorful symphony of natural hues.  The scent of coriander envelops the salads. The coriander that perfumes the sautéed julienned carrots brings out the carrots’ maximum zest. Cooked eggplants contrast deep green beneath a reddish mantle of spicy tomato sauce. They sidle up to a dish of sliced cucumbers supplemented by a rainbow roster of bell peppers. It’s an enticing ensemble. And eating with your hands underscores just how far from the customary and routine your experience is taking you.

I confess to an addiction for B’Stella. I’ve sampled many different versions over the years. Marrakesh’s B’Stella surpasses any I’ve had on this continent. In fact, it can hold its own against any I've had in Northern Africa. What is B’Stella? It’s a Moroccan pie made with chicken and a macédoine of spices, nuts, and finely chopped onions wrapped in phyllo dough.This flaky cousin of mille feuille, amply dusted with powdered sugar, interplays sublimely with the power-packed cornucopia of ingredients buried within. Subtle variances and nuances spark each bite. One forkful might scintillate because of the dulcet verve of ginger and cinnamon. A crisp undercurrent of cilantro might dominate the next. Diced almonds and a tumble of spices including turmeric and black pepper join in the lush chorus of tastes in the pie.

There are three main courses. The first offers choices such as, Chicken with Lemon and Olive, Rabbit with Prunes, and Spicy Chicken in Cumin Sauce. Marrakesh will gladly alter ingredients to accommodate preferences. So if you want chicken with lemon and cumin but with no olives, the chef will prepare it to your taste. Assertive spicing is the hallmark, as are the generous portions. With Chicken in Cumin Sauce, half a chicken covers almost the entirety of the circular serving tray. The chicken skin is marinated in an elixir of spices. The dish is irrigated with cumin sauce that’s lively and spunky and keeps the chicken juicy and succulent throughout. A note to vegetarians: the chicken can be replaced with cracked wheat, lentils and fried onions. The resulting dish is yummy.

Second main course choices include Marinated Berber Beef Shish Kebab, Tajine of Lamb with Almonds & Honey, and Lamb with Chick Peas. The Tajine, a lamb stew, is superb. Tajine takes its name from the earthenware pot used in cooking the stew. After being braised to fork-tenderness, the lamb is slow-cooked. A medley of ingredients lends coherent complexity to the stew, but it’s the crunch of almonds and a sweet undercurrent of honey that elevate this recipe above the standard.

The third Main Course features a spectacular mound of couscous on the serving tray. The couscous is topped with a collage of fresh green vegetables. A fistful of chickpeas mellows the taste of the couscous, which is studded with raisins that infuse it with just the right sweetness.

The feast closes flavorfully and healthily. Nearly an orchards yield of fresh fruits – apples, grapes, oranges, and others – overlay the tray. Did I mention the other dessert, baklava? It’s delicious. In Marrakesh’s version, the phyllo dough is flaky and divinely light. Honey moistens the dough but does not inundate it into soggy banality (the blight of inferior versions). But the major difference maker in the Marrakesh rendition is the use of pistachios rather than walnuts or other nuts. Pistachios, known as the “Queen’s Food”, ever since the Queen of Sheba expressed her predilection for them, feathers in gentle crunch that moderates and mellows the dish.

All in all, there’s hardly a table in town that can match the magnitude and diversity of Marrakesh’s intriguingly uncommon feast. Quality and quantity prove not to be mutually exclusive. The staff is accommodating. And, aside from sheer comfort in practically reclining to eat, Marrakesh also provides more between-table (or serving tray) space than virtually anywhere else. Marrakesh is partitioned into a series of intimate dining rooms spread out over three separate floors. Each accommodates no more than 15-20 diners.

There’s a full bar for mixed drinks and aperitifs. Marrakesh gets passing grades for its bar, but admittedly does not focus on the bar operation. It’s simply not a large part of genuine Moroccan gastronomy. There’s also an adequate stock of wines, including labels from Morocco, California, and France. A few beers are available as well. To accommodate their guests, however Marrakesh lets you bring your own wine and doesn’t charge a corkage fee. That’s a rarity for center-city restaurants.

There’s staying power in a restaurant that’s going strong for 35 years in Philly’s hotly contested restaurant scene. If you need further convincing, since 2005, a third of a million visitors to the website philadelphiarestaurants.com have chosen Marrakesh as the top restaurant in the City of Brotherly Love. Given its popularity, Marrakesh has gone on to colonize Washington DC, where it owns and operates another restaurant of the same name. Of course, unlike Philly’s Marrakesh, DC’s Marrakesh is not smack dab in the middle of where all the “hippies” meet. And for over 35 years, Marrakesh has been as hip a place as South Street has to offer.

Insider Tip: Marrakesh is cash only and there are no exceptions so make sure to hit the ATM before you arrive because plastic is no good here.

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  Restaurant Info

  • 517 S. Leithgow Street
    Philadelphia PA 19147
  • Address: 517 S. Leithgow Street, Philadelphia PA 19147
  • Cross Street: South Street
  • Location: Society Hill | Society Hill
  • Cuisine: Mediterranean | Middle Eastern | Moroccan |
  • Cost: $$ | Inexpensive | $25 - $50
  • Category: Casual Dining
  • Star Rating:
  • Reservations: Available
  • Dress Code: Casual
  • Meals Served: Dinner |
  • Parking: Street | Public Lot |
  • Payment Options: VISA | Amex | Mastercard | Cash |
  • Corkage Fee: N/A
  • Phone: (215) 925-5929

  Business Hours

Monday
Main Dining Room | Dinner 5:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Tuesday
Main Dining Room | Dinner 5:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Wednesday
Main Dining Room | Dinner 5:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Thursday
Main Dining Room | Dinner 5:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Friday
Main Dining Room | Dinner 5:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Saturday
Main Dining Room | Dinner 5:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Sunday
Main Dining Room | Dinner 5:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.

Features

Occasion

 


  F.A.Q. - Frequently Asked Questions


 Menus

Dinner Menu

Special Delights

First Main Course

Second Main Course

Third Main Course

Desserts


 User Reviews

Marrakesh  

Excellent 25 years ago. Excellent today. A Philadelphia treasure.

Awesome eve at Marrakesh  

We went for a group dinner together to celebrate a birthday, and had a fantastic experience. The menu was pre-selected by the restaurant, and they simply brought out about 7 courses to cater for all tastes. It is BYO, but they do have a good selection of wine and beer if you need it. Service was quite quick and the team (the owners?) were courteous and attentive. A fantastic atmosphere also - really felt like an authentic experience. I'd go back!

Awesome  

Great experience and plenty of food! make sure you go with people you are comfortable eating with your hands with.

Fun Night  

Great experience. Something fun and different to do. Food was fresh and delicious

Amazing  

Definitely go here. The chicken and lamb is very good. The desert could be improved, but by that time you will be stuffed.

Nice Experience  

This place was recommended and I must tell you it was the best cultural experience. My daughter and I had a fabulous time and the food was delicious. I would definitely return!

awesome  

Located on a s secluded side street lies a restaurant that creates the best food I have ever eaten. Bring your appetite and be prepared to eat with your hands no or utensils. Thats right you eat it all with pita bread. 7 fabulous courses that leaves hour mouth feeling like it is having a taste explosion. You can smell the food down the block. A must for everyone to try an unique experience.

Amazing  

Amazing restaurant. Amazing food. Amazing experience. I would reccommend this to everyone. We cant wait to go back

opening the door to Moracco!  

the restaurant was really cool, when you get there you have to ring the doorbell, the waiter greets you and invites you in and its like your in another world. You are told to sitback and relaxe and enjoy yourself, it was a awsome time, so much food and great flovors. eating with your hands with everything is the best way. You really need to take your time to eat, you will need a solid 2 hours. Take your time with each course, take in the flovor and get the rose pedal tea, sweet with a amazing flavor. the value is great, for me with the drink it came out to $66 usd that did as well include tip. Great value for a awsome time, u got to expierece it.

Perfection  

A+

A great experience  

A wonderful discovery. It is entering in a totally different world. Excellent food, great staff, joyful atmosphere, excellent deal - Cash only. A great place to celebrate.

Great Food!  

We truly enjoyed the entire experience at Marakesh! The waiter was friendly the food was great and the environment was interesting. We will visit again. Thanks.

Awesome experience  

Excellent atmosphere and wonderful food. The staff was gracious and catered to our every need. Just like a little trip to Morocco.

No Doubts  

Funny how much you can enjoy dinner with an open mind. Food, atmosphere & ownership excellent!

Philadelphia treasure  

Marrakesh is a hidden Philadelphia treasure. Even though it is almost two hours away from our home, we will definitely be back again and again to celebrate special family moments! It was as all the graduates decided, "magical".

This Place is Fabulous!  

Great place to go and hang out with your friends, with good conversation and great food. Explore your palate here, absolutely delicious!

Excellent choice for over 20 years!  

We very much enjoyed dining at this restaurant again, after 20 years, and it was every bit as good this time around! It's not often that you can give accolades over that time span!

Great atmosphere and ambiance  

There was 7 courses, so you have to prepare to eat a lot of food. The vegetarian options were not as appealing as the meat dishes, but it was ok. I thought the overall cultural experience was great!

We're riding on the Marrakesh express!  

Wonderful ambiance--felt as if we were on the set of Road to Morrocco! Great decor. Started with hand washing from a funky ewer. Huge amounts of food served endlessly, it seemed, with great variety of tastes and textures. Eaten with fingers while reclining on pillows. Very much worth the experience. Note: cah only.

Night in Marrakesh  

It was great. The food was flavorful and plentifully. I had a great time. This past year I spent 2 months in Morocco and although it was not Morocco, the food and overall atmosphere did come close to the real thing. I highly recommend this restaurant.

Start Catering To Business Clients  

Looks like a great restaurant. How about considering taking credit cards so businesses can bring their customers to your restaurant?

Surprise  

The food was good,

The best date spot  

The ambiance was absolutely wonderful for a date. Thedim lighting,authentic music, and comfortable seating gave a true morrocan flavor to the room. The food was good and affordable. The only small issue I had was that they chrge $2.00 for a can soda and literally bring it out to you with a cup of ice. I thought it was a little tacky, especially when everyone knows a can of soda only cost about $0.50. Maybe thats just me.