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Experience A Taste Of That Famous Philly Flavor
A Guide To The Philadelphia Region’s Legendary Foods
Philadelphia’s flavor is a dynamic mix of traditional ethnic recipes and new culinary inventions, well-known treats and obscure dishes. Among the region’s signature foods are national favorites like Italian water ice, Pennsylvania Dutch pretzels and the ever-popular cheesesteak. Other local favorites include pork roll and scrapple, which are available here in the region and through services like Taste of Philadelphia, one of many companies that will ship Philly goodies throughout the U.S. Philadelphians are loyal to their edible heritage, and the following are just a few examples of foods that have left a lasting mark on the local palate:
- Everyone agrees that the cheesesteak, invented by Pat Olivieri in 1930, requires thinly sliced beef and a crusty roll, but the choice between provolone, American and Cheez Whiz is a matter of great debate, as is the best place to eat the famed sandwich. The age-old feud between Pat’s King of Steaks and its neighbor Geno’s, which sits just across the street, regularly draws visitors to 9th and Passyunk for taste-offs. Dalessandro’s, John’s Roast Pork, Pudge’s, Tony Luke’s and Jim’s Steaks have equal numbers of devoted fans, and the latter will ship steaks out of town. The cutting edge of steak belongs to high-end restaurants like the Continental (a Portobello cheesesteak at lunch includes peppers and provolone) and the Four Seasons’ Swann Lounge, with its cheesesteak spring roll available at the bar.
- Contrary to popular belief, “hoagie” is not just a euphemism for a submarine sandwich. The creation of Italian immigrants in South Philadelphia, a hoagie is a sizeable roll stuffed with vegetables, ham, salami, mozzarella, provolone cheese, oil and oregano. The bread component is critical: Amoroso’s and Sarcone’s bakeries are the most common purveyors of rolls, and Sarcone’s even sells its own hoagies in a Bella Vista storefront. The biggest of local sandwich chains, Lee’s Hoagie House, has built a small empire with its special house-spiced oil and 24-hour hoagie shipping service. Hoagies can also be made with tuna, turkey and other meats, and still more creative combinations are available at Campo’s Deli and Tony Luke’s.
- Introduced to the region by German (“Pennsylvania Dutch”) settlers in the 18th century, pretzels—dough twisted into three loops, then baked, salted and served hard—quickly became a favorite local snack. Now, of course, there’s the famous Philly soft pretzel, purchased from a street vendor or from a bakery storefront such as Philadelphia Soft Pretzel Factory. No matter what form the pretzel takes—braided, sticks, nuggets and bagels—every soft pretzel must be accompanied by mustard.
- Visitors would be hard-pressed to find a Philadelphian who didn’t have fond memories of Butterscotch Krimpets or chocolate cupcakes with rich striped icing: Tastykakes have been the Philadelphia snack of choice for nearly a century. Founded by a baker and an egg salesman in 1914, the Tasty Baking Company later revolutionized the snack-cake industry with its individually wrapped fruit pies. The company’s new location, opened in 2010 at The Navy Yard, spans 25 acres and offers visitor tours. Tastykakes can be ordered directly from the bakery or found in any local food store.
- Its name is oxymoronic, but Italian water ice is a perfectly logical solution to a hot Philadelphia summer day. Otherwise known as Italian ice, the combination of fruit or syrup and shaved ice is a refreshing treat. John’s Water Ice and Rose’s Real Italian Water Ice are age-old favorites, but the Yardley Ice House recently took the “Best of Philly” award from Philadelphia magazine for its astounding variety of flavors.
- A mixture of pork, spices and cornmeal, scrapple is a fried breakfast meat introduced by the Pennsylvania Dutch. Today, scrapple can be found in luxury hotels, greasy spoon diners and every local breakfast joint in between. Some of the most famous purveyors are Godshall’s, Habbersett and Hatfield.
- The quintessential Philly confection, Goldenberg Peanut Chews are dense bars of nuts and sweet syrup enrobed in chocolate. First issued in 1890 by a Romanian immigrant named David Goldenberg, this chocolate treat has become a mainstay of regional trick-or-treat bags.
- Popularized in the region during the 19th century, pork roll, also known as Taylor ham, is sausage-like breakfast meat that is usually served on a roll with eggs and cheese. This Philly favorite rivals scrapple as the breakfast meat of choice for locals.
- For one-stop shopping, visitors can find all of Philly’s finest foods at the historic Reading Terminal Market, where vendors sell the freshest meats, seafood, poultry, cheeses, vegetables, chocolates, Amish specialties and, of course, cheesesteaks.
- Those who can’t get to Philadelphia to experience the eats for themselves can have the city’s specialties shipped right to their door. Campo’s Deli sends cheesesteaks, hoagies, soft pretzels, Tastykakes, Herr’s Potato Chips, Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews and other Philly foods throughout the U.S. and to select international destinations. Soft pretzels, old-school sodas and Cosmi’s pound cakes are the specialty shipping items of choice at A Little Bit of Philly. The Pennsylvania General Store in the Reading Terminal Market packages Tastykakes, Melrose Diner butter cookies, Asher’s chocolate-covered pretzels, Anastasio Italian Market Reserve Coffee, Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews and lots of other regionally made goodies into specialty gift baskets. Since 1978, Taste of Philadelphia has been delivering hoagies, cheesesteaks, soft pretzels, Amoroso rolls, Taylor Pork Roll and Habbersett scrapple to Philly-philes across the U.S. and Canada.
Pat’s King of Steaks
9th Street & Passyunk Avenue
(215) 468-1546, patskingofsteaks.com
9th Street & Passyunk Avenue
(215) 389-0659, genosteaks.com
600 Wendover Street
(215) 482-5407, dalessandros.com
John’s Roast Pork
14 E. Snyder Avenue
(215) 463-1951, johnsroastpork.com
1510 Dekalb Pike, Blue Bell
(610) 277-1717, pudgescheesesteaks.com
469 Baltimore Pike, Springfield, (610) 544-8400
Bustleton & Cottman Avenues, (215) 333-JIMS
431 N. 62nd Street, (215) 747-6617
4th & South Streets, (215) 928-1911
The Continental Restaurant and Martini Bar
2nd & Market Streets
(215) 923-6069, continentalmartinibar.com
The Continental Mid-town
18th & Chestnut Streets
(215) 567-1800, continentalmidtown.com
Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia
1 Logan Square
(215) 963-1500, fourseasons.com
214 Market Street
(215) 923-1000, camposdeli.com
Lee’s Hoagie House
734 S. 9th Street, (215) 922-1717
2100 S. Eagle Road, Newtown, (215) 860-9500
39 E. Oregon Avenue
(215) 551-5725, tonylukes.com
Federal Pretzel Baking Company
638 Federal Street
Philadelphia Soft Pretzels Inc.
4315 N. 3rd Street
Philadelphia Soft Pretzel Factory
Tasty Baking Company
The Navy Yard
3 Crescent Drive, Suite 200
(800) 33-TASTY, tastykake.com
John’s Water Ice
701 Christian Street
(215) 925-6955, johnswaterice.com
Rose’s Real Italian Water Ice
4240 Pechin Street
Yardley Ice House
77 S. Main Street, Yardley
(215) 321-9788, yardleyicehouse.com
675 Mill Road, Telford
(215) 256-8867, godshalls.com
701 Ashland Avenue, A-4, Bridgeville, DE
(610) 532-9973, habbersettscrapple.com
2700 Clemens Road, Hatfield
(215) 368-2500, hatfieldqualitymeats.com
Goldenberg Peanut Chews
Reading Terminal Market
12th & Arch Streets,
(215) 922-2317, readingterminalmarket.org
214 Market Street
(215) 923-1000, phillyhoagie.com
A Little Bit of Philly
(800) 959-1128, littlebitofphilly.com
Pennsylvania General Store
12th & Arch Streets
(800) 545-4891, pageneralstore.com
Taste of Philadelphia
(800) 8-HOAGIE, tasteofphiladelphia.com
The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC) makes Philadelphia and The Countryside® a premier destination through marketing and image building that increases business and promotes the region’s vitality.
For more information about travel to Philadelphia, visit visitphilly.com or uwishunu.com, where you can build itineraries; search event calendars; see photos and videos; view interactive maps; sign up for newsletters; listen to HearPhilly, an online radio station about what to see and do in the region; book hotel reservations and more. Or, call the Independence Visitor Center, located in Historic Philadelphia, at (800) 537-7676.
- Donna Schorr, (215) 599-0782
New On Philly's Hotel Restaurant Scene
In the decades since acclaimed classical French Chef Jean-Marie Lacroix opened his eponymous restaurant in a four-star hotel across the street from Center City’s Swann Fountain, the Philadelphia hotel dining scene has emerged a foodie force. Today, Lacroix, now flourishing in The Rittenhouse hotel, remains a destination dining spot. But so do newcomers to the scene: locally focused Urban Farmer Steakhouse at The Logan and culinary-kitschy Bud & Marilyn’s at boutique operation The Independent Hotel, along with springtime productions by eminent steakhouse Ruth’s Chris, destined for the Sonesta Philadelphia, and acclaimed Chef Richard Sandoval’s Aqimero at The Ritz-Carlton, Philadelphia.
Philly's Hottest Sips
Huddling around a steamy cup is one of winter’s greatest pleasures, and Philadelphia’s restaurants, bars, cafes and tearooms offer plenty of delicious options. Be it a cocoa infused with habanero and orange, a julep with bourbon and mint tea or an old-timey hot fountain soda, this season’s drinks call for leisurely enjoyment. Here are a few of the most tempting hot beverages in town:
- A creative cannoli bakery in the Italian Market, Café Crema pays equal attention to its drinks. The hot chocolate bar is stocked with all manner of meltables—including red velvet, peppermint, peanut butter and
Philly's All Buttered Up With Biscuits
Once a relatively rare item on area menus, biscuits suddenly seem to take the (savory) cake in Philadelphia. Mitch Prensky’s Scratch Biscuits, a fast-casual concept devoted entirely to the flaky rounds, gives diners endless possibilities, while just about every major bruncherie now serves up a sausage gravy plate or egg sandwich starring the buttery treat. Whether topped with bacon onion jam, baked with golden cheddar or slathered with honey butter, Philly biscuits tenderly hold their own against the competition.
Here are just a few favorites:
- Before he sold his Vetri Family restaurant group to Philadelphia-based Urban Outfitters,
Craft Distilleries Revive Pennsylvania's Pre-Prohibition Tradition
In just over three years, the number of craft distilleries in the Philadelphia region has multiplied by about 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 sales on-site. 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 of...
What's In The Graduate Hospital Neighborhood?
Graduate Hospital goes by many names (Center City South, South of South, G-Ho), which is fitting for a neighborhood that draws its personality from the people inside it: young transplants, born-and-raised neighbors, hip urban professionals, craft beer crowds and more. In recent years, the area stretching from Lombard Street to Washington Avenue and from Broad Street to Gray’s Ferry Avenue has accumulated a healthy dose of restaurants, bars, cafes, shops and markets that reflect the area’s residential and cool vibe.
The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) has picked this ’hood for its summertime PHS Pop Up Garden two years in a...
Breweries In Greater Philadelphia
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, it was in Philadelphia taverns that the American Revolution took hold.
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...
Wineries Near Philadelphia
With geography, climate and growing conditions that mirror those of the Bordeaux Region in France, southeastern Pennsylvania continues to emerge as a major force in America’s wine industry. In fact, Pennsylvania wines as a whole are making steady gains in quality, quantity and recognition.
The Commonwealth ranks seventh in the nation for number of wineries; more than 150 wineries operate within its borders, marking more than a 500% increase over 30 years ago. Pennsylvania vintners have won awards at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, International Women’s Wine Competition, San Diego International Wine Competition, International Eastern Wine Competition, Florida State...
Philly Tours Explore History, Art, Food, Bridges & The Supernatural
Visitors to Philadelphia can choose from an assortment of options to explore the region, including those of the air, automotive, audio, culinary, self-guided and water-based varieties. And the sightseeing fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. Those who come out at night can join tours that feature behind-the-scenes action and even spirits from beyond. Here’s a selection of tours available throughout the region:
History Lessons By Day & Night:
- The Constitutional Walking Tour of Philadelphia – Visitors get an up-close look at historic sites such as the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall during this 75-minute walking tour. It
Veg Out: Many Philly-Area Eateries Make Vegans, Vegetarians & Gluten-Free Diners Feel Right At Home
Over the past decade, the number of vegetarians in the U.S. has increased from about one in 100 to nearly one in 30, according to polls from the Vegetarian Resource Group and the Vegetarian Times. Veg-loving visitors to Philly have plenty of options from which to choose—upscale white tablecloth restaurants dishing out inventive vegetable creations to casual spots serving up raw foods and gluten-free dishes. Here are some spots worth checking out:
- Vegetable lovers head to Bucks County, where Mike Jackson’s Blue Sage Vegetarian Grille turns out creative, big-portioned vegetarian food (no meat substitutes) in a cozy,
New Philly Restaurants Blossom This Spring
With longer days here, there are more hours to enjoy the fine array of new restaurants in Philadelphia. This spring, the lineup includes an exciting new trend—restaurants with an aim of social justice, including a cafe that employs foster children (The Monkey and the Elephant) and a burger joint that donates proceeds to hungry children (Hunger Burger). Add to that an eclectic mix of Asian snacks, edgy tacos, hybrid dinner/entertainment venues and neighborhood spots serving creative fare, and the upcoming eating season looks incredibly fresh. Here’s a look at some of the newcomers:
Notable New Entrées:
- There’s always room