Philadelphia Must-Eats

by Emily Thorson

pretzelsIFAers Kay and Ben are headed to Philadelphia over Labor Day weekend. Normally I would take full responsibility for squiring them around the city and force-feeding them delicious Philadelphia food. But because I’ll be out of town, they’ll have to get their food advice blog-style–and so can you!

Here, in one convenient list, is everything you must eat and drink when visiting Philadelphia. Although it’s probably difficult to do all of these in a single weekend, you should try your damnedest. Note: relevant links for some but not all of these places are provided, under the assumption that anyone reading this list knows how to Google.

Food and Drink Must-Do’s in Philly

  • Get a pork sandwich at DiNic’s or at John’s Roast Pork. Scoff at the losers who don’t realize that pork sandwiches are what real Philadelphians eat. Cheesesteaks are for tourists.
  • Drink a perfect cocktail at the bar at Southwark. Chat with the bartenders.
  • Buy a bottle of wine (or two) and bring it to dinner at a BYO (Little Fish, Cochon, Mr. Martino’s, Bibou, Tre Scalini, Audrey Claire, Chloe, Matyson). Marvel at how delicious, romantic, and yet inexpensive it all is. How is this possibly a viable economic model for a restaurant? Who cares?
  • Pick up a gelato to go at Capogiro or a sundae the size of your head at Franklin Fountain. Walk it off.
  • Go to Grace Tavern, Standard Tap, Pub and Kitchen, or the Memphis Taproom. Drink local beer.
  • Stop by Monk’s, Eulogy, or the Beneluxx Tasting Room and be astounded at the variety of Belgian beer available in Philly. Order a snack.
  • Wander through the Italian Market, buy some wicked cheap suspect produce, eat a banh mi at Cafe Nhu Y a or a BBQ sandwich at Bebe’s, check out Fante’s kitchen store, sample some cheese at DiBruno’s. Take a nap.
  • Eat a sandwich from Sarcone’s. Take another nap.
  • Dress up a little and go to Zahav, Supper, Amada, Osteria, or James. Hey look, even the fancy restaurants are cheaper than eating out in DC!
  • Go to Bob and Barbara’s and have a beer and a shot for only $3 (the Citywide special). Repeat.
  • Eat a Philadelphia pretzel (or three) hot from the factory, while drunk. Wake up the next morning miraculously hangover-free.
  • Go home. Think about it for a few weeks. Move to Philadelphia.

16 responses to “Philadelphia Must-Eats

  1. kudos to emily on a really good list. a couple things: 1) monk’s is closed for a little while, but i think you’re just as well off going to one of the gastropubs mentioned–generally beer lists in philly are off-the-charts good. 2) Zahav is, i think, my favorite restaurant right now. it’s completely unique, and totally worth it. 3) for your BYO, go to BINDI (13th and Sansom). It’s sort of new-indian. flavors are awesome, dishes are unique, and the drink mixes are great. 4) BREAKFAST: cafe con chocolat. don’t worry, no one in philly has heard of it either. it’s the best, freshest mexican food i’ve ever had. ZOMG. GO. THERE. 5) don’t go to pub & kitchen.

  2. Thanks for the bleg! I’m looking forward to eating all this awesome food.

  3. ar: yeah, I thought about Cafe con Chocolat but it’s kind of a hike if you don’t have a car or bike (Kay and Ben don’t). Is there an easy way to get there via public transport?

    also: why the dislike for pub and kitchen? I thought the food was very good, although granted I’m a pretty easy sell on bar food.

  4. i’m not a public transportation guru, but i do know that it is SO CHEAP it would make up for a cab ride. you could take the broad st. line to passyunk-ish and then take a $6 cab ride or something? i guess getting back would be tough. it’s really my favorite place ever though..wanted to give them some props :) mmm..molletes.

    pub & kitchen: so i’ve been there twice, and was really unhappy both times. one time we got oysters, which everyone claims are great there, and they were EASILY a day old, and chewy, and etc. second thing we got that made me sad were the brussels sprouts. they were just a poor attempt. they weren’t totally cooked. they weren’t awesome. and brussels sprouts are not hard to make awesome. the wings were meh. i dunno, i think p&k is very impressed with itself, and i’d just much rather go to standard, n. 3rd, royal, grace, sptr, memphis, … point is, we have so many great gastropubs now, and two really bad dishes at p&k were enough for me to give up. pretty solid burger though.

  5. That sucks, I’m sorry. I’ve never gotten anything but the burger at p&k.

    And yeah, it’s not like we lack for choices in the awesome bar food department. Although to be honest I’m not a huge fan of the food at Standard Tap–but everyone else loves it so I just assume I must just be ordering wrong. As far as bar food goes I think I’d put Memphis, Grace and N 3rd at the top of the list. Maybe N 3rd at the top foodwise, although I like the atmosphere at Grace better. And I’ve had nothing but spectacular meals at Ugly American, too. Oh man I could talk about drinking beer and eating food in Philadelphia FOREVER.

  6. agree completely. n 3rd >>>>>>>>>>> standard tap–tends to be where i bring people. royal is really good too (except the hummus, which has the consistency of something approximating spackle). love those grace string beans. HAVE NOT BEEN to ugly american. keep talking about it though. i hear lovely things. also, have you seen the menu for whiskey tavern? oh, my.

  7. I’ve not been (though my girlfriend adores it, and always goes when she visits the fam), but what about Horizons? Gourmet vegan food(!?), and from what I understand, the absolute best example of such on the East Coast. I’m not vegan either, but I’d totally give it a shot.

  8. I just have to second the recommendation of Capogiro. The best gelato (or ice cream of any kind) I have ever had. And an excellent perk of being back in the Philly area. Go. You will be happy you did.

  9. I had my first oysters on the half shell at the Reading Market. Being a Minnesota boy, this was a revelation. 30-odd years later I was pleased to find that the booth I’d had them at was still there. My memory of that first encounter with oysters is so clear I have no doubt about the place, by the way. And the Reading Market remains as good as any urban market I’ve been too, including Lexington Market in Baltimore, Eastern Market in Washington, and (I’ve forgotten the name) the large market in Cleveland, which is generally underrated when I read about it. What do you think, Ruhlman?

  10. Kay and Ben: listen to aceckhouse! I probably don’t talk Capogiro up nearly as much as I should just because I’m not a huge ice cream person in general but it is widely acknowledged to be dangerously habit-forming. And there are four locations!

    And Horizons…I haven’t been, but the next time I have a vegetarian visiting me I’d like to go. It’s a little more expensive than I generally like to spend, though–and not even a BYO!

    and yeah, ar, whiskey bar looks pretty sweet (pickled beets!!!!). I’m so behind this summer, though. I haven’t even been to Varga Bar or Brauhaus Schmitz and they’re both close to my house.

  11. great post. sounds like we’d get along pretty well. :D

  12. Brauhaus has a ton to love about it. amazing beer list, obviously. and if you’re in the mood, the food is really solid. i’m kinda a seller of varga bar. every time i’m gonna go there, i just go to kanella instead.

  13. I’ve had two mediocre experiences at P&K. Royal Tavern is my go to for great bar food. The last time I was there so was Atrios.

    Reading Terminal is a must for food visitors. And so is John’s Roast Pork, but it closes at 3pm.

    Capo Giro is great, but the original at 13th and Sansum is still the best.

    BYOs – only Cochon, Bibou, Little Fish and Matyson are really excellent on that list. Tre Scallini & Mr. Martino’s are actually bad (bland, dull food).

    Amada and Osteria are amazing but on the pricey side. Zahav would be my third choice after these two.

    I’d also hit up QT in Chinatown for some Bahn Mi.

  14. Not all cheesesteaks are for tourists, although both Pat’s and Geno’s definitely are.

    Like all Philly ex-pats, when I think of the perfect cheesesteak, it’s from the little place around the corner, named after the guy who opened it. For me it’s Michael’s:,0,10312758727834391865&ei=DzegSqqoDurvnQf45_TzDQ&layer=c&cbll=39.874829,-75.343734&panoid=aMyWSS9rvWEVDFwIuuOi0g&cbp=12,210.25,,0,-4.14&ll=39.87499,-75.343101&spn=0,359.990355&z=17

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