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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
Fall For Philly Restaurants
It’s official: Two of Philly’s recent openings—Wm. Mulherin’s Sons and South Philly Barbacoa—made Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurants list, marking 2016 as a banner year for the local restaurant scene. There’s more yet to come this fall, with a thrilling lineup of globally inspired newcomers, including Philly’s first poke shop (Poke Bowl), a boldly imaginative taqueria (Mission), Filipino fine dining (Perla) and Latin American street food (La Mula Terca). Here are just a few highlights for the season’s must-try list:
Center City East:
- Taking up residence in a cozy
Philly Pizza Pleases Every Palate
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...
Go Beyond The Gayborhood To Explore Philadelphia's Other Options For Nightlife, The Arts & Drag Shows
It’s no secret that Philadelphia is one of the LGBT-friendliest cities in the country, but Philly pride extends past the rainbow flag-adorned Gayborhood. Neighborhoods throughout the city offer endless options for queer folks looking for a gay old time. Groups QOTA (Queers on the Avenue) and OUT in Fishtown welcome partygoers south and north of Center City, respectively, for monthly happy hours, food and fun. LGBT-owned hangouts Menagerie Coffee and The Victoria Freehouse satisfy cravings for caffeine, cocktails and culture in Historic Philadelphia. South Street’s iconic dive bar Bob and Barbara’s Lounge hosts the city’s longest-running drag show.
Philadelphia Fetes Community And Culture This Fall
With the opening of a new center for Latino arts and culture (El Corazόn Cultural Center), a day of car-free city streets (Philly Free Streets) and oodles of festivals celebrating everything from fungi to films to first-person storytelling, Philadelphia coasts into autumn with a calendar chock full of fun.
More time to stay means more time to play. To maximize the season’s offerings, visitors can book the Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package, featuring free hotel parking, at visitphilly.com.
- Urban Axes introduces the newest craze from Canada to Philadelphia with the opening of the nation’s first indoor
Pet lovers are crazy about their animal companions—and, according to the American Pet Products Association, they spend nearly $63 billion a year in the U.S. on pet services and accouterments to prove it. For those who love to spoil their pet but hate to leave him or her behind while traveling, the Philadelphia region proves to be the “purr-fect” getaway. Pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, shops and parks welcome visitors and their animals, so it’s easy to bring furry friends along for the ride.
- Delaware County’s Brandywine River Hotel welcomes dogs in pet-friendly rooms for a $25-per-dog-per-night fee for
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 three years in a...
Long known as the edgiest street in Philadelphia, South Street welcomes more than just hippies these days. Shoppers searching for a statement-making look, visitors hungry for a real Philly cheesesteak and music lovers who want to catch an up-and-coming band head to the storied boulevard. Also lining South are ethnically diverse restaurants, bars that keep the party going long after dessert, galleries and performance spaces.
Over the past decade, the development of South Street’s east side has spread west of Broad Street, but the traditional definition of the district (depending on who you ask) spans up to 14 blocks: Front...
Craft Distilleries Revive Pennsylvania's Pre-Prohibition Tradition
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...
Philly's El Centro De Oro Neighborhood Radiates Latino Flavor & Culture
The hub of Latino culture and life in Philadelphia, El Centro de Oro (“The Golden Block”) is home to international non-profit organizations, many third- and fourth-generation family-owned businesses and residents descending from almost every Latino country. Visitors to this lively enclave—just a short cab ride from Center City Philadelphia—can feast on authentic Latin/Caribbean dishes at Isla Verde, find inspiration in the work of Puerto Rican artists at Taller Puertorriqueño or feel their way through a flamenco dance lesson at Raíces Culturales Latinoamericanas.
Here are some ways to experience Latino culture and flavors in El Centro de Oro and beyond:
11 Things To Know: Latino Philadephia
Strength In Numbers:
- The 2010 U.S. Census reported 187,611—that’s 12.3%—of Philadelphians are Latino.
- 121,643 are Puerto Rican or of Puerto Rican descent.
- 15,531 are Mexican or of Mexican descent.
- 3,930 are Cuban or of Cuban descent.
- 46,507 are of other Hispanic descent.
- The hub of Latino culture and life in Philadelphia, El Centro de Oro, centered at 5th Street and Lehigh Avenues in the city’s Fairhill section of North Philadelphia, is home to residents descending from almost every Latin American country, a strong concentration of Puerto Rican families, along with non-profit organizations and many Latino-owned businesses.
- Each year,