When most people think of authentic Philadelphian cuisine, they automatically think of the Philadelphia cheesesteak; thin slices of peppery rib eye steak served in an Italian roll, swimming in a pool of cheddar cheese. Yes, it is as delicious as it sounds. But even though this is a quintessential Philadelphian feast, this city is serving up way more than just cheesesteaks. For the benefit of travelers and locals alike, here are the top ten food trends that have been taking the city by a tasty storm.
The Hot Roast Beef Sandwich
Sometimes considered the sister of the cheesesteak, the hot roast beef sandwich is a juicy pork sandwich served on a warm Italian roll with broccoli rabe and provolone cheese. The natural juices from the pork soak through the porous Italian roll as the provolone melts from the heat and mingles with the sautéed broccoli rabe.
Experience this combination at Tommy DiNic’s (Reading Terminal Market 1136 Arch St) in the Reading Terminal Market in Center City. Many go to the Reading Terminal Market for the traditional feel of a bustling marketplace but end up staying for the delectable cuisine.
It’s a little known fact that Philadelphians consume about 12 times more soft pretzels per year than the rest of America. Its affordable cost, doughy attributes and light, salty crunch makes it a favorite snack amongst Philadelphians. Stop by the Philly Pretzel Factory (132 S 11th Street) for a fresh and authentic Philadelphia style soft pretzel and experience, first hand, the doughy, warm tradition.
With the number of diners, cafes and quaint brunch spots, it’s no secret that Philadelphians enjoy brunch. But it’s not just the French toast and eggs that have Philadelphians craving these iconic mid-morning meals. It’s the side of scrapple that comes with each dish that everyone is vying for. Scrapple is like the haggis of the Americas as it is a mixture of cornmeal and scraps of pig. It might not sound appetizing, but this Philadelphian delicacy is a savory tradition served up all over the city.
One of the most iconic places to enjoy real Philadelphia scrapple is at Little Pete’s (219 S 17th Street ) in Center City. It might be a small, historic roadside diner amongst tall buildings, but they serve up homemade favorites with a friendly, small town flair.
Whether you call it a hoagie, sub or grinder, this massive sandwich finds its origins in Philadelphia. One of the city’s best hoagies comes from a little place called Mike & Matt’s (1206 Mifflin Street ) in south Philadelphia, where the Italian rolls are fresh and can hardly contain all of the hoagie. Customize your hoagie with myriad ingredients including hot peppers, sweet peppers, onions, oil salami, turkey, pickles and more with every cheese imaginable. At Mike & Matt’s let your imagination run wild and build your dream sandwich.
Imagine a pizza without the cheese and you have what is known in Philadelphia as the Tomato Pie. At Gianfranco Pizza Rustica (6 N 3rd St) in Old City, the flavor begins with the authentic pizza dough and its crunchy crust and ends with the tomato sauce made of sweet basil and olive. Both locals and tourists flock to this tiny pizzeria located amidst many of Philadelphia’s most historic destinations to enjoy the fresh and creamy sauce of a tomato pie.
Read more: Philadelphia: Beyond the Old City
The Bacon Stack at Ants Pants Cafe
The Bacon Stack at Ants Pants Café (2212 South Street) is just another reason why Philadelphians loves brunch. Food lovers come from all corners of the city to indulge in the mountain high bacon stack: a tower of bacon, tomato, and arugula with a sunny side up egg to top off the masterpiece. Things might get a little messy when you first break into the yolk of the sunny side up egg, but the slow escaping yolk cannot run far and gets captured by the crispy bacon and the thick slice of country white bread.
South Street Philly Bagels
Many believe that the best bagels can only be found in New York City; however, many Philadelphians would argue that notion. Bagels from South Street Philly Bagels (613 S 3rd Street) are dense and gooey and often make for great sandwiches. Another aspect that sets these bagels apart from the rest is the variety of bagels offered as well as spreads. These bagels have unique flavors including sun dried tomato, blueberry or even spinach. Enjoy a creamy spread with every flavor imaginable such as cheddar horseradish, honey pecan, strawberry or even lox.
Honey’s Sit ‘n Eat
Located in the artistically vibrant neighborhood of Northern Liberties, this restaurant is serving up dishes created from only the best local ingredients. Dishes are traditional comfort foods that can be found at most diners, except they serve up feasts with a Jewish flair. Enjoy French toast made of light and airy challah bread with a side of potato latke or dive into a juicy brisket made from prime, local beef. Honey’s Sit ‘n Eat (800 North 4th Street) is also a BYOB, so feel free to bring your favorite brew and bubbly to enjoy with your meal.
Tucked away in the Pennsport neighborhood of Philadelphia lies a tiny café serving up two delectable treats that not many would ever consider putting together: gourmet doughnuts and Korean fried chicken. Most would not believe that the two fried titans could work together, but when a super group of Philadelphia’s top five restaurateurs introduced the idea, the city had no other option than to oblige.
At Federal Donuts (1219 S 2nd Street), every day is a sellout, so those who need their fix of a s’mores doughnut with a fresh coffee or piece of honey-ginger glazed fried chicken need to act fast.
Every morning, chefs create a multitude of doughnuts with wild flavor combinations including vanilla lavender, pistachio and even chocolate covered banana. Every doughnut served has a perfect cakey consistency and is never dry or over fried. Get there by lunchtime and order up a plate of Korean fried chicken, fried twice in a homemade batter to ensure the meat stays moist and juicy underneath a crispy and gently spiced skin.
Olde City Tavern
Experience the Birthplace of America by dining at the Olde City Tavern (138 S 2nd Street), where many leaders of the American Revolution used to eat, drink and argue over politics. Thanks to Head Chef Walter Staib, the tavern brings to life the original dishes that were served during the 18th century. Using some of the recipes and descriptions from that era, Olde City Tavern serves guests with some of the Founding Father’s favorite meals including Colonial Turkey Pot Pie, Tenderloin Tips and Mushrooms and even Fried Tofu, derived from a recipe that Benjamin Franklin had written.
Not only are you tasting history at Olde City Tavern, but you experience it through authentic 18th century décor, a staff dressed in traditional garb and even cups made of Pewter just as they had been during the time of the Revolutionary War.
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- Kae Lani Kennedy