Top 12 Best Foods in Philadelphia

Last Updated on February 17, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Philadelphia is a city renowned for its incredible food scene rooted in tradition yet exploding with innovation. From the famous Philly cheesesteak to sophisticated fine dining, Philly offers cuisines to satisfy every palate.

Food ItemLocationDescription
CheesesteaksPat’s King of SteaksClassic Philly cheesesteak sandwich, thin-sliced ribeye beef with melted cheese on an Italian roll.
Roast Pork SandwichDiNic’s, Reading Terminal MarketJuicy pork, sharp provolone spread, on a crusty Italian roll with greens.
Soft PretzelsCenter City Soft Pretzel Co.Authentic soft pretzels, shiny with a crispy salt topping, chewy yet crusty texture.
HoagiesPaesano’sStuffed hoagies with meats, cheeses, lettuce, tomatoes, and condiments on fresh rolls.
ScrappleReading Terminal MarketPork scraps breakfast meat with cornmeal and spices, sliced and pan-fried.
Tomato PieSarcone’s Deli & BakeryGarlic, buttery crust with cheeses and tomato sauce, a South Philly specialty.
Short Rib CheesesteakMike’s BBQShredded short ribs with Whiz, caramelized onions, sharp provolone, on an Italian roll.
Water IceJohn’s Water IceRefreshing icy dessert with fruit flavors, especially grape and cherry.
Hot Roast Pork SandwichDiNic’s, Reading Terminal MarketFork-tender pork on a crusty, seeded roll, showcasing natural flavors.
Spicy Rigatoni VodkaFrench Bistro MarabellaCreamy tomato sauce with broccolini, Italian sausage, over rigatoni.

After extensive research on Philadelphia’s iconic establishments, upcoming hot spots, and hidden gems, I’ve compiled a list of the 12 best foods to try in the City of Brotherly Love that capture the heart and soul of this culinary capital.

Cheesesteaks from Pat’s King of Steaks

Name and Location: Pat’s King of Steaks is a landmark Philly cheesesteak restaurant located across the street from rival Geno’s Steaks in South Philadelphia.

History and Significance: Pat’s has been serving up classic Philly cheesesteaks made with thinly sliced ribeye since 1930 using a recipe unchanged for over 80 years. Its fierce loyalty and long lines are a testament to their delicious sandwiches.

What to Expect: Visitors can expect hot, thin slices of steak and melted cheese stuffed into fresh Italian bread 24 hours a day. Cash only. Order quickly with just meat/cheese choice and “wit” or “wit out” for onions.

Visitor Information: Pat’s is open 24/7. Expect longer lines after midnight. Nearby metered parking available. Cash payments only.

No trip to Philadelphia is complete without indulging in the classic Philly cheesesteak sandwich. And there’s no place more iconic than Pat’s King of Steaks in South Philly, which has been serving their famously delicious cheesesteaks since 1930. Their slim steak sandwiches loaded with thinly sliced ribeye beef and Melted cheese on a fresh Italian roll have earned Pat’s a reputation for serving up the definitive cheesesteak you’ll crave long after. Their classic cheesesteak with whiz and onions strikes the perfect balance of savory, salty, and just a bit greasy—the way it’s meant to be.

Roast Pork Sandwich from DiNic’s in the Reading Terminal Market

Name and Location: DiNic’s Roast Pork is a counter inside Reading Terminal Market specializing in roast pork sandwiches.

History and Significance: Originally DeNicio’s until shortened, the family has been roasting pork, beef and turkeys since Italian immigrant Gaspare Nicolini opened a meat stall in the historic market in 1918 using Old World family recipes.

What to Expect: Tender sliced pork roasted fresh each morning gets stuffed into a freshly baked roll and topped with sauteed spinach, sharp provolone, and long hot peppers for a balanced perfect bite full of flavor.

Visitor Information: Counter is open 8am to 6pm daily except Sunday. Cashless payments accepted. Save room for dessert from neighboring pastry stall Termini Brothers.

For a sandwich that’s uniquely Philadelphian, look no further than DiNic’s roast pork sandwichinside the historic Reading Terminal Market. Thin-sliced juicy pork is roasted until tender and then piled high on a crusty Italian roll smeared with sharp provolone spread. The combination of savory pork, peppery greens, and creamy cheese is utterly addictive. Locals have been coming to this family-owned stall for decades to get their fix of this Philly specialty.

Soft Pretzels from Center City Soft Pretzel Co.

Name and Location: Center City Soft Pretzel Company has several soft pretzel stands sprinkled around downtown Philadelphia warm pretzel carts.

History and Significance: Using an Old World German family recipe, Center City Soft Pretzel Company has been baking authentic soft pretzels to perfection since 1998 throughout Philadelphia’s streets, sporting events and farmer’s markets.

What to Expect: Fresh from the oven, soft salty baked pretzels can be purchased plain or with sides of cheese, mustard and chocolate sauce for dipping at various cart locations around Center City. No preservatives and kosher.

Visitor Information: Hours vary per cart location. Most only accept cash payments. Check websites to find one of their 30+ baked fresh daily mobile carts across Philadelphia neighborhoods.

Whether you grab an oven-fresh pretzel from a street cart or visit Center City Soft Pretzel Co.’s cozy bakery, do not leave Philly without sampling an authentic soft pretzel, Philly style. These pillowy yellow pretzels, shiny with a crispy salt topping, are far superior to any stadium or packaged pretzel you’ve tried. The dough is carefully shaped and boiled before baking to achieve that trademark chewy yet crusty texture on the outside while staying soft and chewy inside. Get one warm to experience pretzel perfection.

Hoagies from Paesano’s

Name and Location: Paesano’s is a South Philadelphia sandwich shop specializing in freshly baked hoagies and Italian classics located at the corner of Washington and Ellsworth.

History and Significance: In business since 1970, Paesano’s has perfected the balance of quality meats, cheese, fresh bread and fixings building their sandwiches into local legends fitting seamlessly into the city’s sandwich culture.

What to Expect: Sandwiches featuring delightful cuts of salami, ham and provolone perfectly stacked and dressed on freshly baked bread in 6-8-12 inch sizes customized accordingly by friendly sandwich makers behind the counter.

Visitor Information: Open Monday 8am-5pm, Tuesday-Friday 8am-7pm, Saturday 8am-6pm. Cash only payments. Outdoor seating available weekdays. Call-ahead ordering available.

There are few things more satisfying on a busy day than digging into a stuffed-to-the-brim hoagie overflowing with Philly’s best meats, cheeses, lettuce, tomatoes and condiments galore. Paesano’s serves gloriously messy hoagies on fresh and fluffy rolls baked in-house daily. From the classic Italian loaded with cured meats or the chicken cutlet oozing with sharp provolone, Paesano’s does hoagies right. Don’t be deterred by the line; one bite will reassure you it was well worth the wait.

Scrapple from Reading Terminal Market

Name and Location: Martin’s Quality Meats & Sausages inside the Reading Terminal Market offers freshly prepared scrapple daily – an iconic Pennsylvania Dutch pork delicacy.

History and Significance: Originating as thrift food making use of post-butchering pork scraps, local traditions of slow scrapple preparation persist thanks to specialty butchers like Martin’s within Philadelphia’s historical food bazaar keeping the regional food stuff alive.

What to Expect: Crispy pan fried scrapple slices rich with deep savory flavors satisfying comfort food cravings alongside breakfast or for a hearty snack available by Philadelphia’s most celebrated butchers daily except Sundays.

Visitor Information: Open 8am-5pm except Sunday. Cashless payments only. Other cured meats, sandwiches, and sides available in stall #53 of the Reading Terminal Market food court.

Scrapple is an iconic pork scraps breakfast meat unique to the mid-Atlantic region, especially in Philadelphia. Essentially, scrapple comprises pork trimmings combined with cornmeal and spices, then sliced and pan-fried until deliciously crispy on the outside and soft inside. For the quintessential scrapple experience, various vendors at Reading Terminal Market serve this regional delicacy. From buttered slices in breakfast sandwiches to scrapple topped with local eggs, you’ll immediately crave thisPennsylvania Dutch classic.

Tomato Pie from Sarcone’s Deli & Bakery

Name and Location: Sarcone’s Deli & Bakery’s location at the Reading Terminal Market sells their renowned tomato pie by the slice daily.

History and Significance: After 60 years perfecting family recipes using imported ingredients in Philadelphia’s Italian Market, the Sarcone family legacy for quality brick oven specialties like Grana Padano tomato pie continues at Reading Terminal venues.

What to Expect: Sweet marinara and imported cheese blanketed between hand stretched layers delivering each bite of their award-winning tomato pie its signature delicacy unlike typical Sicilian pizza slices elsewhere thanks to loyal preparation methods.

Visitor Information: Sarcones counter open 8am-6pm except Sundays. Cashless payments only. Slice prices vary. Side salad and beverages available to complement hot tomato pie orders.

Don’t be confused by the name; tomato pie has nothing to do with pizza and everything to do with irresistible levels of cheese and carbs. This South Philly specialty invented by Sarcone’s back in the 1930s will satisfy even your wildest comfort cravings. Their famous tomato pies feature a garlicky, buttery crust baked with a bubbly combination of cheeses and a barely-there tomato sauce. It’s the ultimate nostalgic flavor combo, which is why locals have been loyal to this beloved neighborhood bakery for generations.

Roast Pork Sandwich from DiNic’s in Reading Terminal Market

Name and Location: DiNic’s Roast Pork is a counter inside Reading Terminal Market specializing in roast pork sandwiches.

History and Significance: Originally DeNicio’s until shortened, the family has been roasting pork, beef and turkeys since Italian immigrant Gaspare Nicolini opened a meat stall in the historic market in 1918 using Old World family recipes.

What to Expect: Tender sliced pork roasted fresh each morning gets stuffed into a freshly baked roll and topped with sauteed spinach, sharp provolone, and long hot peppers for a balanced perfect bite full of flavor.

Visitor Information: Counter is open 8am to 6pm daily except Sunday. Cashless payments accepted. Save room for dessert from neighboring pastry stall Termini Brothers.

Few sandwiches encapsulate the heart of Philadelphia cuisine like DiNic’s legendary roast pork. Tender sliced pork roasted just right gets stacked high within a crusty Italian roll along with sharp provolone spread and bitter broccoli rabe. This local specialty has been satisfying Philadelphians for decades within the historic Reading Terminal Market, where DiNic’s humble stall draws hordes of hungry patrons daily. From Italian grandmothers to hungover college kids, everyone craves this sandwich with the perfect balance of juicy meat, peppery greens and gooey cheese.

Soft Pretzels from Center City Soft Pretzel Co.

Name and Location: Center City Soft Pretzel Company has several soft pretzel stands sprinkled around downtown Philadelphia warm pretzel carts.

History and Significance: Using an Old World German family recipe, Center City Soft Pretzel Company has been baking authentic soft pretzels to perfection since 1998 throughout Philadelphia’s streets, sporting events and farmer’s markets.

What to Expect: Fresh from the oven, soft salty baked pretzels can be purchased plain or with sides of cheese, mustard and chocolate sauce for dipping at various cart locations around Center City. No preservatives and kosher.

Visitor Information: Hours vary per cart location. Most only accept cash payments. Check websites to find one of their 30+ baked fresh daily mobile carts across Philadelphia neighborhoods.

Soft pretzels may originate from German immigrants, but they’ve become a can’t-miss Philly staple. And Center City Soft Pretzel Co. does them right. From chewy, fluffy insides to that iconic shiny crust sprinkled with coarse salt—sinking your teeth into one of these perfectly baked soft pretzels is pure bliss. Philadelphia’s plentiful street carts keep locals supplied on the go. Or visit their cozy bakery, watch pretzels get rolled and boiled right behind the counter, then taste a still-steaming pretzel snap under that first bite.

Tomato Pie from Sarcone’s Deli & Bakery

Name and Location: Sarcone’s Deli & Bakery’s location at the Reading Terminal Market sells their renowned tomato pie by the slice daily.

History and Significance: After 60 years perfecting family recipes using imported ingredients in Philadelphia’s Italian Market, the Sarcone family legacy for quality brick oven specialties like Grana Padano tomato pie continues at Reading Terminal venues.

What to Expect: Sweet marinara and imported cheese blanketed between hand stretched layers delivering each bite of their award-winning tomato pie its signature delicacy unlike typical Sicilian pizza slices elsewhere thanks to loyal preparation methods.

Visitor Information: Sarcones counter open 8am-6pm except Sundays. Cashless payments only. Slice prices vary. Side salad and beverages available to complement hot tomato pie orders.

For a quintessential local comfort food, look no further than Sarcone’s Deli tomato pie. Don’t be confused by the name—this isn’t pizza or pie in the traditional sense. Instead, fluffy, buttery dough gets topped with a special blend of cheeses and just a kiss of zesty tomato sauce. One bite of this cheesy, retro goodness will transport you right back to childhood…if you grew up in an Italian section of Philly. Sarcone’s has stayed in their tight-knit South Philly neighborhood baking tomato pies the same way since the 1930s, using recipes passed down for generations.

Roast Pork Sandwich from John’s Roast Pork

Name and Location: South Philly’s no-frills John’s Roast Pork meat counter and sandwich shop keeps loyal locals returning since 1930 for heaping piles of pit smoked beef and pork.

History and Significance: Before supersized franchises served pre-molded sandwiches, family establishments like John’s carried neighborhood reputations for quality house roasted meats sliced fresh in their shops daily to order leveraging cooking techniques carried from the old country.

What to Expect: Friendly staff assemble messy piles of thin carved pork shoulder dripping in meat juices with sharp provolone and sauteed spinach on fresh Carangi bread leaving only crumbs behind. Bring napkins.

Visitor Information: Open Tuesday to Saturday. Cash only. Limited indoor counter seating. Overflow parking found 1 block over on Snyder Ave when crowded.

No Philly foodie bucket list is complete without John’s legendary roast pork piled high within a Carangi Bakery seeded roll. Juicy, thinly sliced pork gets roasted just right then topped with sharp provolone and sautéed spinach for a balanced flavor trio locals line up for daily. Having opened decades ago as a tiny South Philly butcher shop, John’s Roast Pork has achieved landmark status, even nabbing a James Beard American Classics award. Despite the no-frills ambiance, one bite instantly communicates why John’s simple roast pork sandwich merits all the acclaim.

Short Rib Cheesesteak from Mike’s BBQ

Name and Location: Mike’s BBQ is a neighborhood barbecue takeaway counter and sit-down BYOB joint in South Philadelphia praised for inventive cheesesteak preparations highlighting prime meats slow cooked in house daily.

History and Significance: Bucking traditional Philly cheesesteak conventions, Mike’s South Philly ‘cue infused styles merge regional delicacy favorites through painstaking cycles ensuring fork-tender proteins seep full depth flavors before deconstructing onto fresh rolls as specialties.

What to Expect: Smoked Short Rib Cheesesteaks see hunks of dripping wet meat bathed in cheese whiz and sauteed onions stuffed tightly into seeded long rolls making extra napkins and free drinks from the included BYOB policy welcome additions.

Visitor Information: Open Wednesday through Sunday. Cash only payments. Side ribs and brisket platters also available in addition to sandwiches. Arrive earlier as meats routinely sell out.

For a uniquely contemporary take on the sacred cheesesteak, point your compass toward Mike’s BBQ in South Philly. Smoky, tender shredded short ribs bring next-level richness and depth of flavor complemented by Whiz for ideal creaminess. Mike’s artfully stacks premium ingredients like caramelized onions, sharp provolone and even occasional specials like braised pork belly atop those impossibly tender meat shreds. From inventive cheeses to globally inspired sauces, Mike’s cheesesteaks retain the classic cheesesteak spirit while demonstrating what’s possible within America’s favorite sandwich.

Water Ice from John’s Water Ice

Name and Location: John’s Water Ice is a walk-up window counter at the Italian Market serving Philadelphia style water ice in assorted fruit flavors sine 1945.

History and Significance: Generations of Philadelphians have flocked to family owned John’s refreshing iced cups filled with sweet blended fruity flavor combinations providing the most authentic regional ‘water ice’ experience through longstanding dedication to old traditions.

What to Expect: Ultra smooth frozen custard-like textured blends made with simple fruits and sugar meant to be enjoyed spoon-in-hand on hot days. Traditional favorites like cherry, lemon and chocolate plus new options always coming.

Visitor Information: Open March-November. Hours vary by season. Cash only payments. Metal stools line exterior ordering window fronting outdoor benches facing the corner of Christian Street in the Italian Market.

On sweltering summer days, join locals partaking in a refreshing Philadelphia tradition—water ice.Philadelphia’s iconic icy dessert delivers brighter fruit flavors and creamier texture than its New England cousin, Italian ice. Generations of locals flock to John’s Water Ice in South Philly, which has been serving refreshingly fruity, vibrantly hued water ice since 1945. Their grape and cherry flavors even use real fruit. But don’t shy away from unique options like ginger, pineapple, or cotton candy at this old school stand dishing out smiles along with their cooling treats.

Hot Roast Pork Sandwich from DiNic’s in Reading Terminal Market

Name and Location: DiNic’s Roast Pork inside Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market specializes in hot roast pork, beef and turkey sandwiches.

History and Significance: Since 1918, four generations of the Nicolini family have been preparing slow roasted pork, beef and turkey every morning at the family’s Reading Terminal Market stall using recipes thanks to ancestors originating from Calabria, Italy.

What to Expect: Tender sliced pork roasted each morning gets topped with sauteed spinach and sharp provolone before meeting long hot peppers for the ultimate pile stacked high on a fresh seeded roll for the hungry patron.

Visitor Information: Open daily 8am-6pm. Counter is cashless with market kiosks nearby. Save room for dessert from the neighboring Termini Brothers pastry stall steps away.

Craving roast pork in its purest form? Venture inside the chaos of Reading Terminal Market to the legendary DiNic’s stall, where third generation owner Tommy serves his family’s hot roast pork sandwich—no toppings necessary. Fork-tender pork gets slow roasted then sliced by hand and stacked abundantly between a crusty, seeded roll. The simplicity allows the incredibly succulent pork’s natural flavors to shine. Locals have been coming here for hot roast pork sandwiches for decades, whether grabbing a quick bite at the counter or ordering the sizable sandwiches for sharing at home.

Spicy Rigatoni Vodka at French Bistro Marabella

Name and Location: BYOB French bistro Marabella is located on a quiet corner in Center City Philadelphia serving twists of French and Italian favorites nightly.

History and Significance: Opened in 2002 by Chef Gerald Garutti and Pastry Chef Alain Marty, Marabella artfully blends complementary culinary traditions into an intimate menu emerging as a destination for seasonal cuisine prepared meticulously from quality ingredients.

What to Expect: Perfectly cooked rigatoni pasta enveloped tangy vodka-spiked marinara punctuated by dots of fresh whipped ricotta finished with snips of basil next to toasted bread slices awaits patrons who manage difficult OpenTable reservations.

Visitor Information: Open Tuesday – Saturday 5-10 pm for dinner only. Reservations highly recommended. Bottles corkage waived. Valet parking arranged with validated ticket next door off 18th Street.

For a refined dish with local personality, Marabella’s spicy rigatoni vodka strikes the perfect balance. This French bistro adds broccolini and crumbled Italian sausage to their creamy tomato sauce flecked with red pepper flakes over rigatoni. Foie gras butter provides luxurious depth alongside the spice and acidity while Grana Padano cheese and fresh basil balance every bite. At Marabella, the elegant atmosphere filled with Center City professionals belies this dish’s quintessentially Philadelphian roots. Here, elevated execution and chef-driven touches transform a casual regional favorite into memorable sophistication.

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