The 8 Best Foods in Philadelphia

Philadelphia’s famous cheesesteaks and Wawa hoagies have earned the city a reputation for its bona fide sandwiches, but there’s much more to eat in Philly than that.


From landmark coffee shops with handmade dumplings to stylish modern Mexican cafes, there are plenty of standout options to choose from during your lunch break. Here are eight of the best:

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1.Philly Cheesesteak.

Cheesesteaks are a staple in Philadelphia culture. Nearly 17% of the city’s residents eat one at least once a week, and another 4% do so daily (per 2006 Philadelphia Magazine statistics).

They’re simple, but they pack in flavor. They’re a combination of meat (typically beef), bread, and cheese (typically American, provolone or melted Cheez Whiz).

Philly cheesesteaks have a very specific recipe that goes into them. First, the steaks are sliced thinly. Next, the cheese is melted atop them and mixed in on a grill. Finally, the onions are caramelized on the sandwich instead of raw.

The best cheesesteaks are served on a fresh roll with a crusty exterior and soft insides, and with the right amount of meat. It’s important to make sure the meat is seasoned correctly and that the cheese isn’t overpowering or too strong.

2.Roast Pork Sandwich

We’ve all heard of the famous cheesesteak from Philly, but there’s another sandwich that locals actually prefer: the Roast Pork Sandwich. This savory hoagie is filled with shaved sharp provolone and heaping amounts of thinly sliced pork that’s been slow roasted for hours.

The pig is layered with broccoli rabe and provolone for a classic flavor combination that’s hard to beat. This recipe from Philadelphia’s High Street on Market makes a perfect project for any cook looking to bring a little bit of the city to their own kitchen.

Originally founded as a shipyards eatery in 1930, John’s Roast Pork has stayed true to its original recipe, which is still used today by the Bucci family. It’s the best-selling sandwich in the US and a James Beard Foundation American Classic.

Their slow-roasted pork is tender and herby, and the sandwiches come topped with sharp provolone and a choice of broccoli rabe or spinach. It’s a must-try for meat lovers and a must-visit for anyone visiting the Philadelphia area.


The hoagie is an Italian-American sandwich that combines cold cuts, cheeses, vegetables, and spices stuffed into a long “hoagie” roll. It’s often eaten by Philadelphians, but anyone can enjoy this sandwich’s flavors.

The origin of the hoagie isn’t exactly clear, but it likely started in the city’s Italian immigrant community. During World War I, Italian workers who worked at the Philadelphia Navy Yard were known as hoggies and brought their sandwiches stacked with cold cuts, oil, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and peppers to work.

A hoagie is also called a sub, hero, grinder (New England English), poor boy, and torpedo in different regions of the United States. It’s a submarine-shaped sandwich that is typically served cold, though it can be heated as well.

You can get a classic hoagie at a number of places around the city, but there are a few places where you’ll find the best hoagie in town. If you want to try a Chicago-style hoagie, head to Lil’ Mama’s in Patten Parkway. You’ll get a huge, delicious hoagie that is stuffed with everything from Italian ham and salami to grilled chicken and cheddar cheese.

4.Philly Soft Pretzels

Philadelphia’s soft pretzel is a staple of the city’s cuisine, and it’s a unique food. Unlike the butter-sopped mall pretzels or smoky New York City street cart pretzels, the best Philly soft pretzel is baked fresh in local bakeries.

There’s something about this salty, chewy snack that’s especially satisfying when dipped in mustard. It’s one of the most quintessential Philly foods, and it’s so easy to grab a fresh-baked pretzel from a neighborhood convenience store or food cart.

But you won’t get the full flavor unless you try it straight from a Philadelphia bakery. That’s where the best pretzels in the city are made, churned out by the likes of Bud and Marilyns, Center City Pretzel Co., and Taffets Bakery.

Tucked away in a lower Northeast neighborhood, this baker is known for making its pretzels right on the premises. Owner Joe Sidorick wakes up early to crank out thousands of these twisted dough rods, which he then hand delivers to corner stores and residents in the area.

5.Water Ice.

In Philadelphia, there’s nothing more iconic than a cup of water ice – a frosty, fruity frozen treat that defies convention and is beloved by everyone. Known as Italian ice elsewhere, water ice is a soft, sweet slushy with a hint of fruit flavor that can be firmer than sorbet or granita, softer than shaved ice, and smoother than a snow cone.

It’s a staple of the Philly summer – and an integral part of the city’s food culture, as it is with cheesesteaks and pretzels. While there are some chain shops that serve water ice, it’s best to go local and enjoy a classic cherry cup or gelati with a fried soft pretzel dipped in the icy delight.

Kylie and Milan’s Tropical Treats in West Philly is a great place to get your fix of this iconic frozen treat. Their ices are made with coconut shavings and are loaded with various flavors, including Mango Madness, Pineapple Crush and Cherry Blast.


For a century, Philadelphia residents have loved Tastykakes. These palm-sized cakes, like butterscotch krimpets, creme filled krimpets and peanut butter Kandy Kakes, bring back nostalgic memories of childhood.

Founded by Philip Baur and Hebert Morris in 1914, Tastykake has since grown to be one of the largest snack cake companies in the country. Today, they produce a variety of snacks that are sold up and down the East Coast.

In the 1980s, Tastykake began to shift its business model toward higher-end snack consumers. It also began to expand beyond its home market, selling to other regional snack distributors and even out-of-state for national distribution.

But as the economy worsened, Tastykake’s sales started to drop off. The company had lost many of its core customers to cheaper competitors such as Little Debbie.

In 2011 the company was bought out by Flowers Foods, of Thomasville, Georgia. This sale, in part, ensured that Tastykakes would continue to be made in Philadelphia. However, this new owner would make all major decisions for the company at their headquarters in Thomasville rather than in Nicetown, Philadelphia.


A staple of Pennsylvania Dutch culture, scrapple is a delicious meat loaf that is eaten plain, as part of a sandwich, or fried. It is often served with ketchup, maple syrup or applesauce.

According to a recent article in USA Today, there is much to love about this meat product that has been around for centuries. It is a regional favorite, and it has a rich history that ties it to the country’s oldest states.

Besides being a delicious food, scrapple also has some health benefits that make it more nutritious than your average greasy breakfast meat. The dish is made with pork trimmings and offal that are then seasoned and simmered until they form a gelatinous gruel.

The gruel is then thickened with a grain meal, seasoned with spices, and cooled into a sliceable loaf. Cornmeal is the standard ingredient, but individual cooks will add different grains depending on their region and taste preferences.

This savory food is a must-try in any city that has a strong Philadelphia-style culinary tradition, and it should be included in every food lover’s travel itinerary. It is a delicious treat that can transport you to the heart of the city.

8.Tomato Pie

Tomato Pie is a cousin to pizza with a focaccia-like crust, thick topping of slightly sweet tomato sauce and little to no cheese. Unlike its cousin, tomato pie can be served at room temperature or slightly warm, and is best eaten with fresh basil and other greens.

Tomato pie is one of the most popular and well-known Italian pies in Philadelphia. It’s found at restaurants and bakeries around the city, and has evolved with each generation of Philadelphians.

Despite its name, tomato pie can be surprisingly flavorful even for those who aren’t big fans of tomatoes. The cheese, basil, and green onions make this dish a hit with anyone!

A key component of this recipe is mayonnaise, which helps moisten the pie filling and combines the melty cheeses. You can add a dollop of Dijon mustard to boost the flavor as well. Thinly sliced green onions are also a great way to add some subtle, sharp flavor to the dish.

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