If you intend to visit or move to Philadelphia, the first thing you might notice is the amazing diversity of dishes that make up Philadelphia's local cuisine. Philadelphia's intercultural community has given rise to some of the tastiest food on this side of the Rocky Mountains – and the sooner you get into trying out the various dishes, the better for you and your taste buds! Whether you are a true gourmet or have severe sweet mania, you will be in for a treat when you try the most iconic Philadelphia foods out there.
Food aficionados know that Philly is a food lover’s paradise. Also, most tourists who have tried dishes native to Philadelphia in other states report that they are usually no match to those made in their state of origin. Because of this, you must leave behind any preconceptions that you may have and treat yourself to some of the most delicious food in the US.
It is no coincidence that these dishes have a decades-old good reputation attached to their name. If you are lucky enough to move to Philadelphia or spend a more extended period of time here, you should definitely make your stay worthwhile. This short guide will introduce you to the 'must-eat' dishes and mention which restaurants and food stands you should visit to get a hold of the authentic Philly flavors.
Presumably, the founding fathers knew that Philadelphia is a fantastic place to start off the American Dream. Today, we see that it is - at least when it comes to tasty food!
Mmm, Philly Cheesesteak… If you are not vegetarian, you should start your foodie journey by trying out this greasy, cheesy, meaty goodie. Chances are you will see food stands that offer the famous Philly Cheesesteak at every corner on your first walk through the city. But, you know better than buying the first thing you see at the airport. So, aim for small, local family businesses that make Philly Cheesesteaks instead of buying one from a big restaurant chain as they usually only try to profit from their popularity. This means that you want to aim for a Philly cheesesteak with locally made cheese, not just a generic, soulless sandwich you can find in malls and airports.
Our taste buds were more than pleased with cheesesteaks in the following delis and bars. For starters, try out Sonny’s Famous Steaks or Sorrentino’s Deli. If you cannot get enough of this perfect symbiosis of meat and cheese, then go straight to John’s Roast Pork and order a roast pork sandwich.
Moving or visiting Philly should be marked by trying out the classic Philadelphia soft pretzel. If you intend to become a resident here, be aware that you do not have the right to call yourself a citizen of Philadelphia until you embrace the soft goodness of the Philly pretzel.
Jokes (and Philly cheesesteaks) aside, be sure to try out this lesser-known treat. What makes these pretzels particularly interesting is that the first soft pretzel factory in the US was built in Pennsylvania. This fact alone makes trying out these pretzels an amazing intro into the cultural history of Philadelphia. So, eating this pretzel means you are tasting a recipe that has been developed and perfected for 150 years!
As unassuming as it may look, pretzels can be delicious when made by skilled bakers.
Several locations offer the softest of the soft pretzels that you can find in Philadelphia. We particularly enjoyed pretzels from the Miller's Twist and Tasty Twisters. Another famous soft pretzel place is Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery, founded in 1861 in Lititz, PA. Although it is a bit further from the itinerary of your typical Philadelphia walking tour, there are special group tours that offer you the chance to practice 'pretzel twisting' in the oldest commercial pretzel factory in the US. So, be sure to explore the city's rich gastronomical history once you settle in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Tomato Pie
If you did not know by now, Philadelphians treat the tomato pie as one of their culinary emblems, much like how Chicago residents treat their deep-dish pizza or New Yorkers their thin, foldable pizza. What differentiates the Philadelphia Tomato Pie from other types of pizzain the US is that the latter are called Neapolitan-style pizzas. In contrast, the tomato pie native to Philly originated in Sicily. So, the tomato pie is also part of Philadelphia's cultural mosaic since it has been introduced and perfected by Sicilian immigrants.
Philly tomato pie is a type of pizza that is famous for using lots of fresh tomatoes
The tomato pie is perfect for people who like thick, focaccia-like crust, but what really sets the tomato pie apart from other pizza types is its rich, delicious tomato sauce basis. Interestingly, the tomato pie is eaten at room temperature, which is no coincidence – the rich, locally grown tomatoes taste best when they cool down a bit. For the authentic Sicilian experience, head over to Pica's Pizza or Marchiano’s Bakery.
Philadelphia Water Ice
This sweet is as simple as they get since it only contains three ingredients – water, sugar, and juice. If you plan to move to Philadelphia in the near future, you will surely want to immerse yourself in the local culture and local flavors as soon as possible. To succeed in this intention, contact the crew from Zippy Shell of Greater Philadelphia to assist you with technicalities so that you can spend less time relocating and more time trying out the various delicacies native to Philadelphia's cuisine.
You might hear from some nay-sayers that Philly's water ice is just average Italian ice. If the person who tells you this uses any other term for this goodie than 'wooder ice,' the chances are that they have moved to Philadelphia only recently. Either way, be sure to give water ice a chance because you will be surprised how delicious this slushy can be. Finally, even if the Philadelphia water ice does not leave you speechless, you can at least say that you have tasted one of the most iconic Philadelphia foods out there.