March 16, 2018

Those Famous Philly Flavors—Delicious And Deciphered

A Guide To The Philadelphia Region’s Legendary Foods

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The famous Philly soft pretzel can be purchased from street vendors, corner stores or from bakery storefronts such as the Philly Soft Pretzel Factory. Photo by J. Varney for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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Here in Philly, cheesesteaks are a civic icon, a tourist draw and a cultural obsession. Pictured here is a provolone cheesesteak from Tony Luke’s. Photo by J. Varney for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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That Tasty Baking Company's Tastykakes have been the Philadelphia snack of choice for nearly a century. Photo by M. Fischetti for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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Roast pork sandwiches are also big business in Philly. Pictured here is a John's Roast Pork sandwich. Photo by J. Varney for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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Philadelphia’s signature flavor is a dynamic mix of traditional recipes, new culinary inventions, well-known treats and obscure dishes—specialties that can be found everywhere—from corner stores to the fanciest restaurants. Among the region’s best-known foods are Italian water ice, Pennsylvania Dutch pretzels and the ever-popular cheesesteak. More local favorites include pork roll and scrapple, which are available here in the region and through services such as Taste of Philadelphia, one of many companies that ship Philly goodies across the United States.

Here are some of the sandwiches, snacks, meats and more that have left a lasting mark on the Pennsylvania palate:


  • Cheesesteaks – Everyone agrees that the cheesesteak, invented by Pat Olivieri in 1930, requires thinly sliced beef and a crusty roll. But the choice of cheese—provolone, American or Cheez Whiz—is a matter of great debate. So is the choice of where to eat it. The age-old feud between Pat’s King of Steaks and its across-the-street rival Geno’s Steaks draws thousands of visitors to 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue for taste-offs. Local shops like Dalessandro’s Steaks and Hoagies, John’s Roast Pork, Joe’s Steak + Soda Shop, Steve’s Prince of Steaks, Tony Luke’s and Jim’s Steaks have equal numbers of devoted fans. Jim’s goes so far as to ship steaks out of town. High-end interpretations of the city’s humble sandwich await at restaurants such as The Continental Restaurant & Martini Bar and its sibling The Continental Mid-town, which whip up cheesesteak eggrolls with a spicy Sriracha ketchup dip. Rittenhouse Square’s Barclay Prime offers an opulent $120 wagyu ribeye, truffle cheese and foie gras concoction that comes with a half-bottle of Champagne. For vegans and vegetarians, popular meatless variations on the classic sandwich come from Blackbird Pizzeria and Wiz Kid.
  • Hoagies – The hoagie, Philly’s signature answer to the sub or hero, can be traced back to South Philadelphia’s European immigrant population. The sizeable sandwich comes stuffed with fresh meats, cheeses and veggies—or some variation of these ingredients. The quintessential Italian hoagie, for example, is layered with cured ham and salami, cheese, oil, oregano, lettuce, tomato and more. The bread is critical, too: Amoroso’s and Sarcone’s bakeries are among the most popular purveyors of rolls in the city. One of the biggest local sandwich chains, Lee’s Hoagie House, has built a small empire with its special house-spiced oil and expansive selection; Primo Hoagies is another growing brand with roots in the 215. Still more creative combinations await at Campo’s Deli and Tony Luke’s. New-school purveyor Matt and Marie’s delivers a fresh take with choices such as the Italian Stallion, topped with coppa and salami, locally made Claudio’s provolone, house-pickled peppers and pepperoncini aioli. In South Philly, still the spiritual home of the hoagie, loyalists swear by go-to shops like Antonio’s Deli, Ricci’s Hoagies, Cosmi’s Deli and more.
  • Roast Pork Sandwiches – While it’s not quite as well known as the cheesesteak or hoagie, the roast pork sandwich is nevertheless a regional delicacy born from Italian-American cookery. Meltingly tender, oven-roasted pork shoulder, usually shaved or chopped, gets layered with melted sharp provolone cheese and garlicky sautéed broccoli rabe. John’s Roast Pork, Tony Luke’s, George’s Sandwich Shop and DiNic’s Roast Pork all deliver classic renditions, as the long lines can attest. For a high-end interpretation, High Street on Market adds fermented rabe and a homemade semolina roll, while Paesano’s has innovated the Arista, with fiery longhots and pulled suckling pig meat.


  • Scrapple – A mixture of pork, spices and cornmeal, scrapple is a crispy-fried breakfast meat native to the Pennsylvania Dutch (who, in fact, are German—or Deutsch—in origin). Today, scrapple can be found in all manner of venues—luxury hotels, greasy-spoon diners and every local breakfast joint in between. Some of the most famous purveyors of authentic scrapple are Godshall’s Quality Meats, Habbersett and Hatfield, though plenty of restaurants make their own versions in-house.
  • Pork Roll – Popularized in the region during the 19th century, pork roll, also known as Taylor ham (after a well-loved brand name), is a bologna-like breakfast meat often served on a Kaiser roll with eggs and cheese. Originally from the Trenton, New Jersey area but extremely popular in Philly, this Mid-Atlantic favorite rivals scrapple as the breakfast meat of choice for locals. It can be found in pretty much any area diner, but there are local versions too such as the scratch-made pork roll at La Divisa Meats in the Reading Terminal Market. Hungry Pigeon serves its pork roll from Country Time Farm in Hamburg, Pennsylvania, along with egg and cheese on a house-made English muffin. Northeast Philly phenom The Blue Duck does its own pork roll burger grinding up the meat for a dense, delicious, hearty sandwich. And new-on-the-scene Northeast Sandwich Company now hawks a pork roll hoagie, filled with chopped Taylor ham, scrambled eggs, caramelized onions and American cheese sauce.


  • Soft Pretzels – Introduced to the region by German settlers centuries ago, pretzels have long been a favorite local snack. Philly’s signature variety is the soft pretzel, an everyday treat purchased from a street vendor, corner store or from a multi-location bakery such as the Philly Pretzel Factory. No matter what form the pretzel takes—braided, sticks, nuggets or even sandwich rolls—they always taste better with mustard.
  • Tastykake – Visitors would be hard-pressed to find a Philadelphian who doesn’t have nice things to say about Butterscotch Krimpets or chocolate cupcakes with rich striped icing. Tastykakes have been Philadelphia’s sweet snack of choice for more than 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 headquarters at The Navy Yard spans 25 acres and features a LEED-certified bakery. Tastykakes can be ordered directly from the bakery or found in any local convenience store, such as the popular chain Wawa.
  • Water Ice – While its name is somewhat confusing, water ice is a perfectly logical solution for those in need of relief on a hot Philadelphia summer day. Elsewhere known as Italian ice, the combination of fruit or syrup with finely shaved ice is a refreshing treat. John’s Water Ice, Mancuso & Son and Rose’s Real Italian Water Ice are just a few age-old favorites, while charming suburban options such as the Yardley Ice House amaze with an astounding variety of flavors. Sit-down restaurants even get in on the chilly fun: Little Nonna’s is known to serve blood orange basil, Concord grape or tomato water ice, depending on the time of year.
  • Goldenberg Peanut Chews – The quintessential Philly confection, peanut chews are dense bars of nuts and sweet syrup enrobed in milk or dark chocolate. Created in 1890 by a Romanian immigrant named David Goldenberg, this chocolate treat has become a mainstay of regional trick-or-treat bags, as well as a sweet pick-me-up any day of the week.

Sending Philly Food Love:

  • Those who can’t get to Philadelphia to experience the delicacies 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 and other Philly foods throughout the U.S. and to select international destinations. The Pennsylvania General Store in the Reading Terminal Market packages Asher’s chocolate-covered pretzels, Anastasio Italian Market Reserve Coffee, Melrose Diner butter cookies, Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews and lots more regionally made goodies into specialty gift baskets. The national gourmet delivery service Goldbely can deliver Jim’s Steaks right to the doors of homesick Philly friends and family—with free shipping. 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.

In alphabetical order

Antonio’s Deli
1014 Federal Street
(215) 462-4622,

Barclay Prime
237 S. 18th Street
(215) 732-7560,

Blackbird Pizzeria
507 S. 6th Street, (215) 625-6660 (closed for renovation as of March 2, 2018)
614 N. 2nd Street, (267) 324-5224

The Blue Duck
2859 Holme Avenue
(267) 686-4687,

Campo’s Deli
214 Market Street
(215) 923-1000,

The Continental Mid-town
1801 Chestnut Street
(215) 567-1800,

The Continental Restaurant & Martini Bar
138 Market Street
(215) 923-6069,

Cosmi’s Deli
1501 S. 8th Street
(215) 468-6093,

Dalessandro’s Steaks and Hoagies
600 Wendover Street
(215) 482-5407,

DiNic’s Roast Pork
Reading Terminal Market, 51 N. 12th Street
(215) 923-6175,

Geno’s Steaks
1219 S. 9th Street
(215) 389-0659,

George’s Sandwich Shop
900 S. 9th Street
(215) 592-8363


Godshall’s Quality Meats
675 Mill Road, Telford
(215) 256-8867,

Goldenberg Peanut Chews

103 S. Railroad Avenue, Bridgeville, DE
(800) 338-4727,

2700 Clemens Road, Hatfield
(215) 368-2500,

High Street on Market
308 Market Street
(215) 625-0988,

Hungry Pigeon
743 S. 4th Street
(215) 278-2736,

Jim’s Steaks
400 South Street, (215) 928-1911
Bustleton & Cottman Avenues, (215) 333-JIMS
431 N. 62nd Street, (215) 747-6617
469 Baltimore Pike, Springfield, (610) 544-8400

Joe’s Steaks + Soda Shop
6030 Torresdale Avenue, (215) 535-9405
1 W. Girard Avenue, (215) 423-5637

John’s Roast Pork
14 E. Snyder Avenue
(215) 463-1951,

John’s Water Ice
701 Christian Street
(215) 925-6955,

La Divisa Meats
Reading Terminal, 51 N. 12th Street
(215) 627-2100,

Lee’s Hoagie House
14 Pennsylvania locations

Little Nonna’s
1234 Locust Street
(215) 546-2100,

Mancuso & Son
1902 E. Passyunk Avenue
(215) 389-1817

Matt & Marie’s
1107 Walnut Street, (267) 886-9955
18th & Arch Streets, (267) 273-1940
118 S. 18th Street, (215) 563-2000

Northeast Sandwich Company
1342 Bleigh Street
(215) 904-6086

148 W. Girard Avenue, (215) 886-9556
1017 S. 9th Street, (215) 440-0371
2012 N. Broad Street, (215) 204-7000

Pat’s King of Steaks
1237 E. Passyunk Avenue
(215) 468-1546,

Pennsylvania General Store
Reading Terminal Market, 51 N. 12th Street
(800) 545-4891,

Philly Pretzel Factory
Various locations

Primo Hoagies
Various locations

Ricci’s Hoagies
1165 S. 11th Street
(215) 334-6910,

Rose’s Real Italian Water Ice
4240 Roxborough Avenue
(267) 972-1902

Steve’s Prince of Steaks
7200 Bustleton Avenue, (215) 338-0985
2711 Comly Road, (215) 677-8020
1617 E. Lincoln Highway, Langhorne, (215) 943-4640

Taste of Philadelphia
(800) 8-HOAGIE,

Tasty Baking Company

Tony Luke’s
12 Pennsylvania locations,

Various locations

Wiz Kid
124 S. 19th Street
(267) 687-2137,

Yardley Ice House
77 S. Main Street, Yardley
(215) 321-9788,

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