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Feb 13, 2009 12:36 PM

Visiting - Philly must haves?

My boyfriend and I are going to a convention in Philly in a few weeks and we definitely want to experience some Philly exclusives/Philly staples. We're foodies from Boston and when we visit a new city we like to try the food they're famous for. We're either staying at the Sofitel or near the City Center. Where should I take him for a cheesesteak? Also, is Delilah's still a staple? What would food would you recommend that I will miss when I leave?

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  1. Your best place to sample an array of Philly/regional fare is to take a stroll through the Reading Terminal market. There you can sample the obligatory soft pretzel (with mustard), try Bassett's ice cream (Philly's oldest and best, IMO) and explore a range of Amish specialties. As for the cheesesteaks, there is NO consensus in this town but Jim's, Pat's and Geno's are the big three.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Chefpaulo

      I'd second the Reading Terminal recommendations. A 10-15 minute walk (a safe one) from the Sofitel. Hopefully Miller's (who will be taking over the soft pretzel making from Fisher's) will be open in a few weeks. Also good at the terminal are pancakes at the Dutch Eating Place, roast pork sandwiches (uniquely Philly!) with broccoli rabe and provolone from DiNic's, and cannoli from Termini's. Other uniquely Philly things are gelato from Capogiro (two locations a few blocks either side from your hotel) and the hot chocolate at Naked Chocolate Cafe. I'd pass on Delilah' is not all that good and aside from Oprah and the Food Network mentions, is not all that popular in town.

      1. re: bluehensfan

        I'm going to second the roast pork sandwiches with broccoli rabe and provolone. I ate them for lunch two days in a row this weekend and decided they are one of the best sandwiches I have ever eaten. Very tasty. They are also quite big, so maybe share one if you want to sample other things at the market. I also recommend the apple dumpling from the Dutch Eating Place....with fresh cream poured on top. MMmmm.

        1. re: bluehensfan

          The hot chocolate at Naked Chocolate Cafe (across street from Sofitel) is good and I adore Capogiro, but neither are serving products unique to Philly, thereby not "Philly must haves." Both are worth trying if you've got the time, but if you miss it ... Same goes for the close-by Bonte - a good Belgian-style waffle is always nice, but is clearly not uniquely Philly in any way.

          Per Delilah's, I tend to agree that it's not terribly special, but good soul food in this town is pretty hard to come by (and not really a "Philly must have" either). Delilah's is worth a try if you happen to be passing through 30th St Station, though!

          I'll third that roast pork sandwich for "Philly must have," though. DiNic's is really good (but be careful of timing or you'll be standing in line for a while), and if you've got a car, John's in S. Philly is also worth a visit (but again, be careful of timing or you'll get there and there's no food left).

        2. re: Chefpaulo

          You are correct; no consensus on the CS. So, just have one of each! Might want to add Tony Lukes to your list as well (although I prefer Pats)

        3. we surprisingly have some excellent belgian restaurants in philly that serve good food and delicious beer. the front runner is and always has been monks, and it would be worth a try (close to sofitel, be forewarned that the wait can be long since people like to linger. get there early!). reading terminal is outstanding, enjoy your time wandering around in there. try to go between wednesday and saturday as the pennsylvania dutch shops will be open, and they are excellent bakers, make excellent chicken wings and have lovely canned/jarred goods. warning - on saturday it will be packed, especially if the convention is at the convention center. if you do go, don't be on a diet since you will want the 4th street cookies, the bassett's ice cream, the termini's cookies, the fisher's chocolates. and the chicken wings, and the middle eastern food and the salumeria sandwich. hehe. reading terminal is heaven on earth, i used to spend hours in there coming home from high school.....

          i lived in boston for three years and am from philly, and philly's has a few strengths that boston didn't have ten years ago (things may have changed). we have better italian food and better chinese food (as i said, this opinion is ten years old). walking from sofitel will get you to chinatown, but good italian food will be slightly farther afield. chinatown recs - shiao lan kung is the best, but it is nothing to look at. some people prefer lee how fook, and it definitely looks way nicer. LHF is also next to vietnam, which is also delicious. there are tons of good spots in chinatown though, so if you have an itch for any sort of asian cuisine, people will be sure to send you a lot of recs.

          italian food as said is scattered. if you want italian-american, hit up dante and luigi's. if you want modern italian, try radicchio, modo mio or l'angolo. all are byos. if you want a real philly treat well off the beaten path, i would take the broad street line to snyder, walk 7 blocks to 20th and jackson and go to nick's roast beef. total hole in the wall place my family has been going to for generations, but famous in south philly for delicious roast beef sandwiches. hard to describe, but they are the top. they also make a good roast pork. get the combo with cheese and rabes, and if you like a messy sandwich, order it overboard.

          as for cheesesteaks, there aren't many good ones that are easily accessible, but the best of what is near you is jim's steaks on south street. you get a nice experience there too and if you like meat, the smell is divine. i grew up around the corner from there and even though i know there are better places for a cheesesteak in philly, i am still always satisfied by jim's. my favorite is their pizza steak with provolone and onions....

          1. Thanks everyone for the recs. We'll definitely be spending our lunch time in Reading terminal. I can't wait to try the pulled pork. As for dinner, we decided on Fogo de Chao - we simply can't go to a city without eating at a Churrascaria.

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