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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
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
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
What's In The East Passyunk & Pennsport Neighborhoods?
For years, insiders have flocked to South Philadelphia’s East Passyunk Avenue for its restaurants, particularly its red-gravy Italian spots. The neighborhood surrounding the avenue—a diagonal interruption to Philadelphia’s grid layout—has enjoyed revitalizations in recent years, creating a sort of renaissance for the thoroughfare itself.
Visitors who stroll down Passyunk (pronounced pashunk by those in the know) find eclectic boutiques, coffee shops, gastropubs, excellent Mexican and sushi fare, as well as the amazing Italian eateries that first made this street famous—not to mention the two across-the-street cheesesteak rivals, Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks. Generally, the area known as East...
2015: The Year Of Craft Beer In Philly
As home to the world’s original and biggest craft beer week—Philly Beer Week—Philadelphia sets a high bar for beer events. In the city and suburbs, beerific happenings take place all year long that draw hundreds and thousands of beer lovers. Here’s a look at some of the oldest, largest, quirkiest and most popular celebrations of artisanal suds slated for 2015:
- Called “one of the top 10 beer festivals in America” by Forbes Traveler, the Philly Craft Beer Festival returns under tents at the Philadelphia Navy Yard with more than 75 national and international breweries, food trucks
What's In The Old City Neighborhood?
Located just next to Independence Mall, where the country’s Founding Fathers declared liberty and built a free nation, Old City still boasts charming cobblestone streets and plenty of 18th-century charm—along with an independent streak that’s evident in everything from its owner-operated shops to its edgy art scene.
Its proximity to the Liberty Bell, Penn’s Landing and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge make Old City a favorite for out-of-towners as much as for the residents who call it home. People love the neighborhood for its fashionable boutiques, great restaurants, eclectic galleries and theaters and vibrant nightlife. Especially popular are First...
In Philadelphia, Cooking Classes, Demo Kitchens On The Rise
Sure, it’s satisfying to enjoy an incredible meal in one of Philadelphia’s restaurant gems, but learning how to recreate said incredible meal at home is equally appealing for many. With demo kitchens on the rise in Philadelphia, there are countless options for culinary education—often served up with dinner and drinks. From the butchering classes at Kensington Quarters and Wyebrook Farm to the celebrity chefs demonstrating their skills at COOK to vegan and gluten-free baking workshops at P.S. & Co., there’s a lesson for eaters of all tastes. Here are some of the region’s best ways to satisfy hunger and curiosity:...
New 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, 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...
What's In The West Philly Neighborhood?
Every resident knows (and secretly loves) Will Smith’s Fresh Prince of Bel Air lyric “In West Philadelphia, born and raised … ” Not obvious from the 1990s theme song is the dynamic culture that thrives inside the large area—due to historic characteristics, large educational and research institutions and new developments and residents.
Separated from Center City by the Schuylkill River, West Philadelphia resembles a microcosm of the city itself, with a number of smaller, distinct neighborhoods inside it. Many of its attractions and events—community gardens, Ethiopian restaurants, offbeat performances and the like—were created to benefit the people living in the...
Backgrounder: 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. In 2013 alone, Pennsylvania vintners won awards at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, International Women’s Wine Competition, San Diego International Wine Competition, International Eastern Wine Competition,...