What’s the first food that comes to mind when you think of Philadelphia? Chances are it’s a Philly Cheesesteak. Yes, you do need to eat one of these bad boys when in the City of Brotherly Love, but there’s also so many more iconic dishes to try, as you’ll discover on our Philadelphia foodie bucket list.
From silky pastas to meaty pork sandwiches, there’s something delicious on every corner. Just don’t tackle this Philadelphia foodie bucket list all at once…
One of Philly’s best restaurants for no-fuss, simply perfect American cooking. The whole bronzino is roasted in their wood-burning oven, stuffed with shaved fennel, espelette pepper, and orange zest, and served with grilled gem lettuce and roasted peppers.
John’s has gained mainstream recognition in recent years as having one of the best pork sandwiches in the city. Its secret weapon? Perfectly crusty seeded rolls from Carangi’s Bakery. Tender pork is layered with Provolone cheese and garlicky broccoli rabe. Bring an appetite because you won’t want to leave a single delicious crumb.
Traditionally made, hand-pinned, and deliciously filled, you can’t go wrong with these cannolis. The cannoli production process entails 10 stages, involving at least 10 different bakers, with no shortcuts taken. Choose from ricotta cheese, chocolate Italian cream or vanilla fillings.
A South Street institution for decades, Jim’s makes one of Philly’s tastiest cheesesteaks. That means there’s often a line, but don’t worry – it moves quickly. The smell of the ribeye steaks sizzling on the grill will keep you keen while you wait.
This droolworthy dessert of a caramel pudding with dark chocolate crust, vanilla bean caramel and sea salt has a serious cult following, with people going to Barbuzzo just to order one of these. The perfect mix of sweet and salty, you’ll be addicted after one bite.
If you want a gourmet yet still deliciously dirty hot dog, Lucky’s Last Chance is ideal. They use only the best local natural casing dogs a.k.a. frankfurters and nestle them gently in butter-toasted New England style (top split) hot dog rolls. Add some homemade chili & shredded cheddar for extra flavour.
This locally famous dish of Sweetbread Katsu with bone marrow tartar sauce and pickled radish helped place Friday Saturday Sunday on the map as one of the hottest spots to eat in Philly. Perfectly crispy and oozing with flavour, the sweetbread katsu is a gem of a dish.
The hoagie is Philly’s signature answer to the sub or hero and comes stuffed with fresh meats, cheeses and veggies. The bread is critical, with local bakeries like Amoroso’s or Sarcone’s delivering fresh rolls daily to shops all over the city and this spot is one that never lets you down. Go for the Italian Stallion, topped with coppa and salami, locally made Claudio’s provolone, house-pickled peppers and pepperoncini aioli.
Spot Gourmet Burgers started as a food truck and soon morphed into a full time burger haven. Wonderful freshly ground meat with buns that are perfectly soft and spongey. Try the fries inside the bun for added deliciousness.
Otherwise known as Italian ice outside of Philly, the combination of fruit or syrup with finely shaved ice is a super refreshing treat. There’s several classic places in the city, but you can’t go wrong with Rose’s. It’s been a Philly institution for years thanks to its delicious homemade ices.
Philly’s local snack is the soft pretzel, an everyday treat that you wont be able to resist at 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.
A mixture of pork, spices and cornmeal, scrapple is a crispy-fried breakfast meat native to the Pennsylvania Dutch. You’ll find scrapple in greasy-spoon diners and breakfast joints across the city, but the one at this Reading Terminal Market restaurant is worth seeking out.
Made with thick, focaccia-like dough, fresh tomato sauce and sometimes a hint of grated romano cheese, parmesan or oregano, tomato pie is a staple at many Italian bakeries and eateries in Philadelphia. This beauty from Sarcone’s always hits the spot.
South Philly Barbacoa is a Mexican hot spot in South Philly’s Italian Market where chef Christina Martínez’s legendary cooking takes the spotlight, just as it has on Chef’s Table. Customers gather around the communal tables, along the wall counter and at the outdoor tables in front to feast on tacos, quesadillas, tamales and more. Don’t miss out on the tender lamb.
You can’t beat a serving of homemade Italian red gravy served over fresh pasta. Given the rich Italian heritage in Philadelphia, it’s no surprise that some of the best red-sauce joints and Italian bistros can be found here. Ralph’s in South Philly’s Italian Market has been making incredible red gravy that’s raved about for over a century.
Fork has a variety of menu options including a fixed price menu that offers diners the opportunity to choose from among Chef Kulp’s wealth of creative dishes and customize their own multi-course supper. Fork’s menu changes frequently throughout the year to showcase the region’s finest produce, seafood and meat, but expect tasty bites like Lamb Tartar and Roast Scallops.
Cadence is a regional American BYOB restaurant located in the South Kensington neighborhood that’s constantly winning awards for its food. Their herb dumplings with mustard butter and ‘spring things’ are perfect little pillows of flavour.
Vetri Cucina serves a multi-course tasting menu using the highest quality local, seasonal and specialty ingredients, but the star of the show is the Capretto dish. The tender, roasted goat comes with silky house-milled polenta that’s melt-in-the-mouth.
Home to one of the most craved dishes in Philly, Zahav is a modern Israeli restaurant whose lamb shoulder dish (and its hummus) put it firmly on the foodie map. They brine a whole lamb shoulder and smoke it for a few hours, then braise it in pomegranate molasses until the meat is so tender you could eat it with a spoon.
The lamb shoulder is finished in a hot oven to crisp it up and served with chickpeas.
With three locations in Philadelphia, you’ve excuse for not stopping in here for breakfast or brunch. There’s a lovely homey vibe and while you might be tempted by the regular specials, the classic stuffed Challah French Toast is unbeatable. Fluffy bread with Farmer’s cream cheese topped with bananas and vanilla bean syrup.
Head chef Shizhou Da came to the US with the original recipe for Xiao Long Bao —Chinese steamed soup dumplings. She’s the 5th generation of the original chef who created the very first Xiao Long Bao in China and has over 30 years of experience in making fresh, traditional homemade Shanghai style dim sum.
The result? Perfect bursts of flavour in every bite.