Local bites a delight in Philadelphia

Philadelphia is synonymous with the cheesesteaks, yes, so let’s get that out of the way. Excellent versions of this meat-and-cheese sandwich can be found throughout the city—and at a surprising abundance of joints with one-word names, such as Jim’s (400 South St.), Pat’s (1237 E Passyunk Ave.), Geno’s (1219 S. 9th St.), Sonny’s (228 Market St.), and Ishkabibbles (517 South St.).

A trendier option these days is the birria taco, a creation from northern Mexico with the fillings traditionally served in a bowl, while the tortillas and condiments are on the side. The taco version with cheese, quesabirria, is dipped in consommé and slightly similar to the cheesesteak staple. The food trucks Mi Pueblito Tacos and Juana Tamale (1941 E Passyunk Ave.) serve some of the best, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Beyond a hearty sandwich or taco, Philadelphia has plenty of other specialties, restaurants, and other gastronomic destinations to boast about.

Group of young men in a beer garden
Patrons enjoy an outing at Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s PHS Pop Up Beer Garden (Photo by J. Fusco/Visit Philadelphia)

Perhaps one of the most famous indoor farmers markets in the country has to be Reading Terminal Market (51 N. 12th St.), which has been operating since 1893. Visit Philadelphia recommends the apple dumplings at Dutch Eating Place, the whoopie pies at Flying Monkey, the barbecue chicken at Dienner’s, and the noodle platter with roasted duck or pork at Sang Kee Peking Duck House, among other bites.

If it’s seafood you’re looking for, Oyster House (1516 Sansom St.) is said to have some of the best crab cakes in the city. This long-running, family-owned restaurant also serves a clambake for two, which comes complete with mussels, potatoes, and garlic butter.

Or you can step aboard the Moshulu (401 S. Christopher Columbus Blvd.), a historic ship with a restaurant inside. The menu revolves around refined American dishes with a seafood bent, ranging from ahi tuna poke to burgers to the towering Admiral’s Seafood Plateau with shrimp, sushi, and oysters.

If pizza is more your thing, square pizzas—or pies—are the way to go. Santucci’s Original Square Pizza (655 N. Broad St.) is an area staple and a good place to be introduced to this local delicacy.

When it’s hot outside, locals go for what they call water ice. It’s traditionally an Italian combination of ice, fruit, and sweeteners that can be found all over the city. Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard (1511 Spruce St.) or John’s Water Ice (701 Christian St.), which has been around since the 1940s, should hit the spot with flavors such as lemon, chocolate, pineapple, and strawberry.

Outdoor dining is also an appealing option this time of year. Jet Wine Garden (1525 South St.) features murals by local artists and hosts food truck pop-ups to fill out a menu of appetizers and sandwiches. Another option is the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Pop Up Beer Garden (1442 South St.), a seasonal hangout set in a pollinator garden. Visitors can sample seasonal food and drink menus from local restaurants Cantina Los Caballitos and Khyber Pass Pub.

If you’re looking for scenic views with your meal, flock to Morgan’s Pier (221 N. Columbus Blvd.), overlooking the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and the Delaware River. You can go for “yappy hour” or take in the live music while having tasty bites such as pork belly BLT or ratatouille grinder.

For a sweet and savory combo, try out the city’s take on fried chicken and waffles, which substitutes the latter with doughnuts. Federal Donuts (1909 Sansom St. and other locations) offers fried chicken sandwiches or wings to be enjoyed alongside one of the shop’s signature “fancy” doughnuts, from blueberry crumble to white chocolate and potato chip to chili mango lime.

Folks with a sweet tooth can hit up a number of candy shops thanks to Philadelphia’s history of confectionary companies and chocolatiers. Shane Confectionery (110 Market St.), which calls itself America’s oldest candy store, offers house-made chocolate caramels and buttercreams. There’s also a cafe in the back that sells drinking chocolate, or you can take a tour of the building, where the company has been making candy since 1863.

Finally, don’t sleep on Wawa (locations throughout the city). Officially, it is a gas station and convenience store, but it has gained a cult following of devotees who swear by its coffee and made-to-order hoagies. You can also grab breakfast foods, such as the Sizzli breakfast sandwich, or pick from a full menu of salads, wraps, soups snacks, drinks, and more.