Philadelphia and the Countryside - Press Room

Releases: Expanded View

Aug 4 2015

18 Reasons Philly's Dining Scene Rocks

For Starters: Chef-Owned BYOBs, Global Cuisine, Pennsylvania Dutch Traditions, Vegetarian Fare & The Country’s Best Pizza

A richly textured, wonderfully layered dining scene combines history and growth, innovation and tradition, local and global influences. Philadelphia has all of these attributes and more: homegrown bring-your-own-bottle (BYOB) spots redrafting the rules of elegant eating; a distinctly local sensibility informed by a fertile food shed; a wildly diverse array of ethnic eats; a nationally lauded vegetarian and vegan culture; and much more. Here are 17 reasons why Philly food scene rocks:

  1. Just Bring It: The BYOB Phenomenon

Though the bring-your-own-bottle restaurant first emerged in Philly more than a decade ago, a steady stream of brilliant chefs with a do-it-yourself sensibility and the belief that great food is enough to attract loyal diners keeps the concept fresh. Philly’s restaurant patrons understand the value of picking up their own wine at a nearby liquor store and enjoying it at the table without a corkage fee. Often, BYOBs are owned and operated by couples, making for a personal, intimate experience that would be hard for a bigger-budget operation to replicate. These days, original players Audrey Claire, Chloe and Little Fish stand alongside newer-comers Laurel and Will. With more than 300 such restaurants to choose from (and counting), one could easily visit a restaurant every night for almost an entire year without ever having to ask for a wine list.

  1. 100 Miles Of Ingredients

One reason Philly chefs can whip up magic night after night is that they have access to a gorgeous bounty of local ingredients. Whether it’s pasture-raised and grass-fed meats and dairy from Chester County’s Birchrun Hills Farm, heirloom shelling beans from Lancaster County’s Green Meadow Farm, Jersey day-boat scallops from Cape May or Claudio Specialty Foods’ ricotta made right in South Philly, there’s never a shortage of excellent quality products on which to build a menu. This cornucopia has inspired countless farm-to-table restaurants—among them, The Farm and Fisherman, Talula’s Garden and Russet.

  1. Mushroom Magic

The most famous indigenous food the region offers is the mighty mushroom. Kennett Square, after all, is the mushroom capital of the world, producing half of the nation’s output. The town hosts an annual Mushroom Festival in September, with street vendors, growers’ exhibits, family activities and all manner of mushroom-related foods. Year-round, homegrown varieties like porcini, oyster and shitake find their way into area restaurant soups, sandwiches, pizzas, omelets crostini and countless other dishes.

  1. Going (PA) Dutch

With Lancaster’s Amish community close at hand, the Pennsylvania Dutch influence remains strong in Philadelphia dining. The Reading Terminal Market’s Dutch Eating Place provides a countertop passport to German immigrant foodways, cooking up rib-sticking apple dumplings, ham loaf and shoo-fly pie—all recipes meant to sustain a day of work in the fields. Also in the market are the Amish-inspired Miller’s Twist (pretzels) and Amish-owned Beiler’s Bakery, in addition to Amish vendors offering fresh produce, canned Chow-Chow pickles and sausages. Elsewhere, traditional dishes such as sticky buns, scrapple and whoopie pies make their appearances at restaurants from the relatively modest (Melrose Diner, Jerry’s Bar, Strangelove’s) to the absolutely high-end (Amis, Fork) sides of the spectrum.

  1. Around The World

Having attracted waves of immigrants since its earliest days, Philly has always been known for its cosmopolitan cuisine. Going back to the 18th century, that meant German (City Tavern, Brauhaus Schmitz, Frankford Hall), Swedish (Noord eetcafe), French (Bibou, Zinc) and, of course, English restaurants (The Dandelion, The Victoria Freehouse). In the 19th century came Jewish food (Famous 4th Street Delicatessen, Zahav, Abe Fisher) and way too much Italian fare to be confined to a “little Italy” (Modo Mio, Le Virtù, L’angolo, among dozens of others). In the early 20th century, immigrants turned Chinatown into a pan-regional dining destination (Dim Sum Garden, Tai Lake, Xi’an Sizzling Woks). More recently, the diasporas from Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia are making their own imprint on the dining scene: Burmese (Rangoon), Vietnamese (Vietnam Restaurant), Cambodian (Khmer Kitchen), Indonesian (Hardena, Sky Cafe), Malaysian (Banana Leaf), Caribbean (Jamaican Jerk Hut, Mini Trini food truck), Ethiopian (Dahlak, Abyssinia), Venezualan (Sazon) and Colombian (Tierra Colombiana).

  1. Taco Trail

Once glaringly absent from the local restaurant roster, the traditional taco now challenges the cheesesteak as Philly’s most ubiquitous fast-food staple—thanks to a steadily growing Mexican population. In South Philly, North Philly and beyond, authentic mom and pop storefronts like El Jarocho, Taco Riendo, Taqueria Los Taquitos de Puebla and Taqueria La Mexicanita serve up inexpensive tacos with classic fillings such as carnitas, lengua and pescado asado. Highbrow chefs turn out their own renditions at Tim Spinner’s Taqueria Feliz, Stephen Starr’s El Vez and El Rey and Jose Garces’ Buena Onda and Distrito. Still another cohort of upstart restaurateurs has taken a different tack, redefining the endlessly popular street food with sometimes quirky results: That would include Union Taco, Dos Tacos and Loco Pez.

  1. Meatless Wonders

It all started with a little restaurant called Horizons, which other than the decades-old Govinda’s, was the first major restaurant in the city dedicated exclusively to meatless cuisine. Proving that vegan eaters deserved a fine-dining experience as much as anyone else, owners Kate Jacoby and Rich Landau drew a fervent following. Their success not only paved the way for their nationally revered Vedge, which has been touted as the best vegan restaurant anywhere, and their street food-inspired V Street, but also for offshoots from former employees: Charlie was a sinner., HipCityVeg, Miss Rachel’s Pantry, Sprig & Vine and Blackbird Pizzeria, to name a few. Meanwhile, Pure Sweets & Co., Veggie Lovers, Vegetate, Mama’s Vegetarian and Kung Fu Hoagies food cart have proliferated the options for meat-free eaters from tempeh hash to coconut yogurt to faux teppanyaki steak to ridiculously good falafel. That’s not even counting Little Baby’s Ice Cream’s dreamy dairy-free ice creams.

  1. The Classics

No matter how exalted Philly’s dining scene may be, there will always be a place for the iconic, everyday foods that have become a necessary part of the city experience. Take the cheesesteak, the luscious combination of fried thinly sliced beef, fried onions and melty cheese (Whiz, American or provolone), which is said to have been invented by Pat and Harry Olivieri in the 1930s. This epic sandwich can be found at the still-operating Pat’s King of Steaks in South Philly, its across-the-street competitor Geno’s Steaks and just about every pizza and sandwich shop within a hundred-mile radius, as well as in fine dining establishments upping the ante with Kobe beef, homemade Whiz and truffles (see Barclay Prime). Likewise, the hoagie, a spicy combination of cold cuts and cheese on a similarly long roll, was the creation of Italian immigrants on a lunch break. Today, with the creative but reverent variations at Sarcone’s Deli, Koch’s Deli, Cosmi’s Deli and Paesano’s Philly Style, there’s truly a hoagie for every taste. A Pennsylvania Dutch invention, the soft pretzel is a doughy yeasty salt lick that can be found at street vendors, pretzel-specific storefronts such as Philly Pretzel Factory and even, of late, as a trendy first course at restaurants such as The Ritz-Carlton’s 10 Arts Bistro. Finally, water (pronounced wudder) ice, a semi-frozen slushy confection that’s meltier than sorbet and more solid than a granita, is another Italian immigrant import, best experienced from a summertime truck (complete with a clanging bell) or old-school stands such as John’s and Pop’s—though Little Nonna’s upscale changing seasonal flavor (think blood orange-basil-olive oil) is a sophisticated after-dinner slurp.

  1. To Market

Reading Terminal Market may be more than 120 years old, but it remains astonishingly vibrant, with produce stands and butchers, Pennsylvania Dutch products (see above), souvenirs and gourmet specialty items, plus dozens of quick-service restaurants serving everything from Thai noodles to wurst and kraut. Then, of course, there’s the Italian Market in South Philadelphia and its shops full of specialty Italian cheeses, seafood, game meats, pasta and outdoor tables laden with inexpensive produce.

With a citywide emphasis on local eating, farmers markets selling ultra-fresh and often unusual wares have proliferated in recent years, serving just about every community during the growing season. Some notables include the outdoor Headhouse Farmers’ Market and the year-round Fitler Square and Clark Park farmers’ markets.

  1. A Family-Style Affair

Few dining experiences are as convivial as gathering around a table and sharing a multicourse set menu with friends, and Philly’s restaurants proffer many such options. There are the storied and elegant farm-to-table dinners (requiring a year-ahead reservation) at Talula’s Table (eight courses for $108 per person) in Kennett Square, and the slightly more obtainable meals at Talula’s Daily in Center City (five courses for $55 per person). The dinner table at Tela’s Market is chef Chad Williams’ weekly showcase for seasonal produce. Zahav’s Tayim dinners, served only to the whole table, include a spread of salads and hummus and two mezze, in addition to a main and a dessert for $42 a person. For a hearty red gravy-soaked feast, Northern Liberties’ Modo Mio delivers five courses of Italian fare on Sugo Sundays ($35) that will feed a crowd, and then some.

  1. Chef Empires

More than just an incubator for local culinary talent, Philadelphia is a veritable proving ground for chef restaurateurs who’ve turned a knack for cooking into true restaurant empires. Consider CookNSolo, the joint venture of Steven Cook and Michael Solomonov, responsible for Zahav, Percy Street Barbecue, Dizengoff, Abe Fisher and a growing number of Federal Donuts locations. Jose Garces built his Spanish tapas emporium Amada into a cadre of first-rate eateries, including Distrito, Tinto, Garces Trading Company, Village Whiskey, Volvér, Rosa Blanca and JG Domestic—and that’s just within the city limits. Chef Marcie Turney, together with her partner Valerie Safran, operate a large swath of Midtown Village’s dining scene (Lolita, Barbuzzo, Jamonera, Little Nonna’s, Grocery market). Internationally revered chef Marc Vetri began with his self-titled Italian restaurant, and has since branched out to Osteria, Amis, Alla Spina, Pizzeria Vetri (two locations) and Lo Spiedo. After training in Stephen Starr’s Asian kitchens, Michael Schulson opened his own Sampan and Graffiti Bar, followed by Independence Beer Garden, with more Philly projects slated for the near future.

  1. Screen-To-Table Eating

While flavor is everything, it never hurts to gain some national visibility. After conquering Top Chef D.C., Kevin Sbraga opened Sbraga and The Fat Ham. Likewise, season 11 winner Nicholas Elmi took his spoils back to Philly and opened the appropriately named Laurel. Another local Top Chef contender from season 11, Jason Cichonski has numerous outlets for his real-life cooking challenges: Ela and The Gaslight. Iron Chef Jose Garces and Iron Chef competitors Michael Solomonov and Marc Vetri have parlayed TV triumphs into their own respective restaurant dynasties (see above).

  1. Cheese, Please

No longer just an addition to steak sandwiches, cheese is a bona fide commodity in Philly. Locally made cheese abounds from Lancaster County and Chester County makers (Birchrun Hills Farm, Shellbark Hollow Farm, Misty Creek), as well as New Jersey’s Valley Shepherd Creamery, which sells direct to customers from Reading Terminal Market. With multiple locations around the region displaying goods from around the world, Di Bruno Bros. has revolutionized the retail cheese scene. Smaller shops, including the Downtown Cheese Shop, The Chestnut Hill Cheese Shop and Salumeria, stock a diverse selection with all manner of interesting accompaniments. Gourmet shops and eateries Wedge + Fig and Talula’s Daily offer cheese two ways—by the wheel and by the sandwich. And for a remarkable cheese plate to top off a meal, there’s Talula’s Garden, Tria, Southwark, Bibou and Garces Trading Company, to name a few. If time is an issue, Fair Food Farmstand will put together a strictly local arrangement to go.

  1. The Place For Pie

Foodies across the country may have done a double take when Bon Appétit declared that the best pizza in the world resides in Philadelphia. Who wasn’t shocked? Philadelphians. In addition to Pizzeria Beddia, where Joe Beddia has crafted every pie since opening his bare-bones Fishtown shop in 2013, locals have come to expect pies worth crossing neighborhood boundaries for: Port Richmond BYOB Tacconelli’s, where those in the know call ahead to reserve their dough and stick to the three-topping limit; Marc Vetri’s Pizzeria Vetri, serving up Neapolitan-style pizza in Fairmount and Rittenhouse; part-pizza joint and part-museum Pizza Brain in Fishtown; square pie expert Santucci’s, with half a dozen locations; and combo-loving Zavino in University City and Washington Square West/Midtown Village.

  1. Mix It Up

The cocktail revolution keeps on shaking, with a wealth of serious bars and bartenders. The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Company, Southwark and Hop Sing Laundromat have led the charge for well-crafted drinks, both classic and new. The beverage programs at leading restaurants Vernick Food & Drink, Petruce et al. and The Gaslight show as much innovation as the food, with homemade bitters and infused spirits, and even, in the case of, house vodka. The barrel-aged trend ages gracefully at Percy Street Barbecue, The Fat Ham, Stratus Rooftop Lounge and Emmanuelle. Meanwhile, house-made mocktails and sodas at Vernick Food & Drink, Charlie was a sinner. and Russet deliver interesting options for teetotalers.

  1. The Givers

Having already given the city their brilliant talents, some of the biggest restaurateurs now also give back for the greater good. Jose Garces’ Garces Foundation supports the immigrant community with medical, educational and nutritional services. Marc Vetri’s Vetri Foundation operates a school lunch program at area schools. Stephen Starr, meanwhile, has been raising money for Philadelphia schools with his Support Our Schools initiative. And then there’s The Food Trust, a comprehensive program that matches farmers’ markets with neighborhoods, works to improve food education and access and encourages grocery stores in underserved areas.

  1. Behind Closed Doors

In a town of underrated treasures, it’s no surprise that Philly’s cultivated a cache of hideaways. A recently opened restaurant in the Loews Philadelphia Hotel, Bank & Bourbon takes the bank part of its name seriously, with a vault-like secret dining room tucked behind a bookcase. The wall of Mexican sodas at University City’s Distrito opens into a hidden karaoke room for private parties. Long known to journalists, but few others, Pen & Pencil Club is an after-hours membership club, located on a little-traveled alleyway. West Philly’s living room music venue Fiume sits just above Abyssinia restaurant.

  1. Delicious Surprises

A tight-knit dining scene brimming with creativity means plenty of collaboration and cross-pollination. Philly chefs constantly emerge at their peers’ restaurants with pop-ups. They might be showcasing a new menu item or a whole new restaurant concept, or they may simply be enjoying the excitement that comes from joining two different culinary personalities in the kitchen. Recent examples include Kanella at Mercato, Blue Duck Sandwich Company at Sancho Pistolas, the Le Bec-Fin redux at Vetri and a pop-up bar at Prime Stache. Then there are seasonal pop-ups in gardens and outdoor spaces, such as the Jose Garces options at Waterfront Winterfest and Spruce Street Harbor Park, which also features PortFedNuts, a spinoff of CookNSolo’s Federal Donuts.

VISIT PHILADELPHIA® makes Philadelphia and The Countryside® a premier destination through marketing and image building that increases the number of visitors, the number of nights they stay and the number of things they do in the five-county area.

On Greater Philadelphia’s official visitor website and blog, and, visitors can explore things to do, upcoming events, themed itineraries and hotel packages. Compelling photography and videos, interactive maps and detailed visitor information make the sites effective trip-planning tools. Along with Visit Philly social media channels, the online platforms communicate directly with consumers. Travelers can also call and stop into the Independence Visitor Center for additional information and tickets.

  • E-mail

Related Releases

Mar 14 2017

Experience A Taste Of That Famous Philly Flavor

A Guide To The Philadelphia Region’s Legendary Foods

Philadelphia’s signature flavor is a dynamic mix of traditional recipes, new culinary inventions, well-known treats and obscure dishes, and these specialties can be found everywhere—from corner stores to the fanciest haute restaurants. Among the region’s best-known foods are national favorites like Italian water ice, Pennsylvania Dutch pretzels and the ever-popular cheesesteak. More localized favorites include pork roll and scrapple, which are available here in the region and through services such as Taste of Philadelphia, one of many companies that ship Philly goodies across the United States.

Here are some of the sandwiches, snacks, meats and more that have left a

Dec 29 2016

25 Things To Know About Philly's Food Scene

Think Outside The Hoagie Roll For Great Eats In Philadelphia

Philadelphia food is so much more than the cheesesteak and the soft pretzel, or even scrapple, or roast pork sandwiches. It’s also amazing vegan fare, quirky BYOB (bring-your-own-bottle) restaurants, world-class craft local beer, emerging distillery scene, or chef-driven concepts and passion projects. Philly’s food scene is about neighborhoods that grow with their restaurants. And competing chefs who work together. It’s about sourcing ingredients from the region’s farms and giving casual dining its due. It’s about embracing delicious diversity.

Here is a primer of 25 lesser-known components of Philly’s lush and luscious food scene:

Major Attributes:

  1. Richly Rewarding Food Shed:
Dec 6 2016

The BYOB Restaurant: A Philly Phenomenon

Region Boasts 300-Plus Bring-Your-Own-Bottle Restaurants

Despite decades of popularity and expansion, one quintessential Philadelphia dining phenomenon continues to fly deliciously under the radar. It’s the BYOB, the bring-your-own-bottle restaurant—BYO, for short. Typically independently owned and operated, Philly’s BYOBs number into the three hundreds. Diners find them on dozens of corners in Center City, along avenues of renewed urban neighborhoods and tucked down rural roads. It’s a curious trend with an interesting backstory—and an even more interesting present.

Here’s a short explanation of how the BYOB scene came to be—and advice on navigating the landscape.

What Is A BYOB?:
A BYOB restaurant allows patrons to

Dec 2 2016

A Wave Of Authentic Taquerias & Roving Trucks Make Philly A Bona Fide Taco Town

South Philly Leads The City’s Taco Craze

Little by little, Philly’s turned into a bona fide taco town. Between the mom-and-pop taquerias of South Philly, tried-and-true tequila bars, a roving pack of lunch trucks and the newest crop of gringo-owned joints, there’s truly a taco for everyone and their hermano. Here’s where the hungry masses can get their tacos on:

New-Wave Mexican:

  • Fishtown’s divey Loco Pez found its inspiration in L.A.’s fusion-y taco trucks, and the result is a mix-and-match selection of fun—and sometimes unexpected—flavors. Classic preparations like al pastor and cochinita pibil share menu space with unconventional choices, like vegan-friendly seitan and spinach, and soy
Oct 13 2016

When It Comes To Vegan Dining, The Home Of The Cheesesteak Proudly Vedges Out

Philadelphia Offers An Array Of Vegan Fine Dining, Bar Eats, Fast Food & Café Fare

It’s a curious thing that a city so renowned for its cheesesteaks and roast pork sandwiches could also foster one of the nation’s most robust vegan food scenes. Upscale diners can find delight in the shared plates at Vedge or the coursed and the home-style elegance of Miss Rachel’s Pantry, while those seeking a quick bite can swing by Blackbird Pizza for fare that is more traditionally Philadelphian. Factor in some coffee shops, bars and even a diner, and vegan eaters will see—and taste—that the city’s offerings have something for every palate, day or night.

Here’s a look at some

Oct 5 2016

Cheesesteak 101: A Primer On The Who, What, Where And Whiz Of South Philly Cheesesteaks


Here in Philly, cheesesteaks are a civic icon, a tourist draw and a cultural obsession. Often imitated around the world, the cheesesteak is rarely duplicated successfully outside of Philadelphia. So what is an authentic cheesesteak and where did it come from? Here’s the lowdown on this region’s favorite sandwich.

What Is A Cheesesteak?:
A cheesesteak is a long, crusty roll filled with thinly sliced sautéed rib-eye beef and melted cheese. Generally, the cheese of choice is Cheez Whiz®, but American and provolone are common substitutions. The art of cheesesteak preparation lies in the balance of flavors, textures

Sep 13 2016

Philly Pizza Pleases Every Palate

The Region’s Pizzerias Have Never Been So Bountiful Or So Diverse

Philadelphia’s gained some serious pizza cred in recent years. Not only is this city home to a pizza museum and restaurant (Pizza Brain), an artisan pizza truck (Pitruco) and, according to Bon Appétit, America’s very best pizza (Pizzeria Beddia), but it’s also a proving ground for the idea that this traditional food can be reinvented in infinite ways. Whether it’s a straightforward but studious Neapolitan round, a floppy tri-corner slice with cheese to spare or a newfangled pie laden with unexpected but carefully sourced ingredients, there is absolutely a pizza for every eater’s predilection. Here’s

Aug 10 2016

Craft Distilleries Revive Pennsylvania's Pre-Prohibition Tradition

After A Nearly 100-Year Absence, Small-Batch Distilling Has Returned To The Philadelphia Area

In just over four years, the number of craft distilleries in the Philadelphia region has increased by more than a dozen, helping to restore Pennsylvania to its once-prominent place in the national distilling conversation. Until Prohibition wiped out the state’s industry, Pennsylvania housed the country’s densest cluster of homespun and commercial whiskey producers, beginning with some of the country’s earliest settlers.

In 2011, Pennsylvania’s government passed reforms that allowed distillers to offer tours, samples and onsite sales. These new laws opened up the craft to would-be distillers who now proudly produce and sell small-batch spirits in Philadelphia. In a sign

Jul 7 2016

Beer Trail Highlights The Craft Brewing Tradition In Philadelphia, America's Best Beer-Drinking City


One hundred years ago, Philadelphia was known as the greatest brewing city in the Western Hemisphere, or the “Cradle of American Libation,” according to food critic Craig LaBan of The Philadelphia Inquirer. In fact, Philadelphia taverns were, arguably, the true birthplace of the American Revolution.

In the mid-19th through the early 20th centuries, more than 90 breweries operated in Philadelphia proper, and another 100 operated in the city’s environs. One area northwest of Philly, located on the banks of the Schuylkill River near the Girard Avenue Bridge, became known as Brewerytown. As Brewerytown grew, area producers of German-style

Jun 1 2016

Beer Gardens & Outdoor Drinking Spaces Bloom In Philly

A Sudsy Summer Awaits Thanks To Pop-Up & Permanent Beer Gardens

There’s only one place for beer lovers to be this summer, and that’s Philadelphia, where beer gardens abound and where craft beer is king. In past years, the city earned countless awards and glowing reviews for its outdoor drinking spaces. This year, these warm-weather venues are back—better, bigger and more numerous than ever. Among the most attention-grabbing: Spruce Street Harbor Park, a bustling oasis celebrating its third year on the Delaware River, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Pop Up Gardens, located in two different spots this year, and the highly anticipated SkyGarten, an alfresco German beer hall 51 stories up.