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A hand is shown holding up a soft pretzel in front of Philadelphia City Hall.

Eat Like a Local in Philadelphia

Play Video The soft pretzel is one of the most popular comfort foods for Philadelphians. Photo by K. Huff for PHLCVB.
Date March 20, 2024

Eat Like a Local in Philadelphia

A hand is shown holding up a soft pretzel in front of Philadelphia City Hall.

No trip to Philadelphia is complete without trying a cheesesteak, the city’s trademark sandwich. But there’s so much more to the city’s diverse dining scene.

Want to try the best food in Philadelphia during your visit? You won’t want to miss these hometown favorites.

Philadelphia Favorites

The most famous Philadelphia staple is the Philly cheesesteak. The sandwich is served on a soft roll filled with melted cheese and tender pieces of beef. Most places offer a choice of Cheez Whiz, American, or Provolone cheese. Some of the most popular spots to try these delicacies are the iconic rivals Pat’s and Geno’s in South Philadelphia, or Campo’s in Old City.

A sandwich is shown. The roll is a light brown. The meat inside is like an almost dark gray. The meat is smothered in yellow cheese. The sandwich is in white paper in a wicker basket.

Campo’s Cheesesteak. Photo by K. Huff for PHLCVB.

The cheesesteak isn’t the only Philadelphia sandwich worth trying. Roast pork sandwiches are also a popular choice among Philadelphians. These juicy classics are made with a soft roll, sliced roast pork, sharp provolone, broccoli rabe, roasted peppers, and long hots. See what all the buzz is about by ordering the sandwich from DiNic’s in Reading Terminal Market.

If cheesesteaks and roast pork sandwiches aren’t enough for you, Philadelphia is also home to great Italian hoagies. Hoagie makers pack these sandwiches with lettuce, tomato, onions, Italian deli meats, and cheese. Italian hoagies can be found across the city at delis and sandwich shops like Di Bruno Bros. Known for their delectable cheeses, this shop has been serving up some of the best meats and cheeses since 1939.

Made from a delectable blend of seasoned pork and cornmeal, Scrapple has a crispy, golden-brown exterior and soft, tender interior. Each mouthful greets you with a rich and flavorful medley of spices and textures. Whether enjoyed at breakfast, brunch, or any time of day, scrapple’s rustic appeal will leave you yearning for more of the Pennsylvania Dutch specialty. The Down Home Diner in Reading Terminal Market even has scrapple fries.

Snacks and Desserts

A city known for its sandwiches is also a city known for its snacks. Discover why the soft pretzel is one of the most popular comfort foods for Philadelphians. These soft and chewy, hand-twisted baked goods are made fresh daily. Several vendors inside Reading Terminal Market offer freshly baked pretzels, as does the Miller’s Twist. The Pennsylvania General Store ships soft pretzels nationwide.

A hand holds a soft pretzel in front of Philadelphia City Hall.

Photo by K. Huff for PHLCVB.

Another local snack is Chickie’s and Pete’s world-famous crabfries. These crinkle-cut French fries are sprinkled with a mix of spices that perfectly combine heat, sweet, and salty. Often served with a side of creamy cheese sauce for dipping, these golden fries are especially popular at sporting events.

Irish Potatoes are a sweet staple in Philadelphia. These tiny balls of coconut cream rolled in cinnamon are not actually an Irish dessert and there is no potato involved. The sweet treat is especially popular around Saint Patrick’s Day on March 17. Grab a handful to try from the nation’s oldest candy store, Shane Confectionery in Old City.

If you happen to be visiting during the summer, beat the heat with some water ice. Also known as Italian ice, this cool and refreshing frozen treat is a smooth mixture of ice, fruit juice, and fresh fruit. A local favorite spot to try is John’s Water Ice in South Philadelphia.

Neighborhood Markets

Philadelphia is known for its markets, each is associated with different cultures and different styles of food.

South Philadelphia, the historically Italian section of the city, offers numerous red gravy Italian American restaurants, sandwich shops, and pizza places. It is also home to the Italian Market. Despite its name, this centuries-old open-air market is filled with cuisine from many different cultures. You’ll find vendors selling Asian, Latin American, and Mexican specialties alongside the market’s original Italian occupants.

An open-air marketplace is shown. It is bustling with customers picking out their fresh produce. There is a man toward the right using a scale in front of him. There are bins of fresh produce throughout.

The 9th Street Italian Market is one of the largest and oldest open air markets in the country. Photo by K. Huff for PHLCVB

Pennsylvania Dutch delicacies are plentiful inside of Reading Terminal Market in Center City. Beiler’s Doughnuts and Dutch Eating Place are two of the must-try vendors who call Reading Terminal Market home. Both make everything on their menu from scratch with local ingredients.

The Southeast Asian Market has called Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park in South Philadelphia its home for more than 35 years. The unique market features more than 70 Thai, Vietnamese, and Indonesian vendors.

Along with these, there are many other markets to explore across Philadelphia.

Culinary Tours

Explore Philadelphia’s culinary scene by taking a food tour. StrEATS of Philly will take you through the Italian Market and along East Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia. WeVenture offers a collection of walking, driving, and bus tours throughout the city, with stops at iconic eateries along the way. City Food Tours offers food experiences on East Passyunk Avenue and in Old City. Those looking for a more beer-focused journey should check out City Brew Tours’ offerings.

A group of people are shown holding beer glasses in front of them. They are smiling as they clink their glasses together.

Photo courtesy of City Brew Tours.

Looking for things to do in between bites? Check out our things to do page.