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Jun 30, 2009 06:26 PM

Opinions wanted on soft pretzels

I'm surprised there isn't more talk about soft pretzels. What's your favorite?

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  1. Three of the more common ones seen are Philadelphia soft pretzel, Federal soft Pretzel and DiPalma soft pretzel. All good and all better if bought at the factory, first around 5th and the boulevard, second south Phila, and the third in far northeast near Cottman exit of Route 95. They weaken fast after baking thus buying off street corners means they have many hours on their clock when you get them.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Delucacheesemonger

      The best pretzels in the city are at Miller's Twist in the Reading Terminal Market. They are big, soft, fluffy, and airy, and not at all like the things sold on the street corners. They also have great cinnamon pretzel sticks.

      1. re: Delucacheesemonger

        I guess after reading "bluehensfan" post maybe we should specify the diference between the two types of soft pretzels because both types have their fans. There are "Antie Ann's" style which are mostly the sweet versions then there are the traditional Philly soft pretzels which are the longer narrow ones with kosher salt. Both are good but I prefer the traditional.

        I heard that J&J Snacks of SuperPretzel fame bought out Federal Pretzel a few years ago. That's why the quality has declined.

        In my opinion, "Center City" pretzels are great as well as the ones sold at the Cottman exit at Rt 95. Does anyone know the name of the Cottman pretzels?

        1. re: BBCaprice

          Cottman is DiPalma, same family as the bread on Decatur St

          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

            Thanks, I think the DiPalma pretzels are great and when on 95 North I try to stop and get some. I've been know to eat six at a time with a coke then spend a day recuperating.

          2. re: BBCaprice

            Please permit me to clarify the previous post.

            The two types of pretzels are really regional types. The sweeter 'Auntie Annes" style is really the Pennsylvania Dutch style which I grew up with in Lancaster County. Because Anne Beiler is from Lancaster County she adapted this recipie for her chain pretzels. Many far superior versions are found in the Dutch country.

            Since Millers Twists are part of the Pennsylvania Dutch part of the market, it is not surprising they feature the Pennsylvania Dutch style of pretzel. Havn't sampled it since they succeded Fishers, but Fishers was as good as amything I've had in Lancaster County.

            Since soft pretzels originated in Lancaster County, you could argue that this style is the" traditional" style.
            Not surprisingly, I prefer the Pa Dutch style, having grown up with it.

            1. re: brookquarry

              So you're saying that soft pretzels originated in Lancaster County? Or that just the sweet pretzels originated there?

              It would be nice to hear the Philly side of the story. I always thought that the real soft pretzels with the salt came from South Philly.

              Some one please clarify.

              1. re: BBCaprice

                Well the stry that I have read all my life in Lancaster County local history books, is that shortly after the civil war an itinerant tramp showed up at Julius Sturgis's bakery in Lititz. and in exchange for a meal gave Sturgis the recipie(supposedly from Germany) for soft pretzels.
                Sturgis was supposedly the first in this country to sell them commercially. This is also the version they tell to this day at the Sturgis Pretzel house tourist attaction in Lititz.

                FWIW Wikipedia in their 'Cuisine of Philadelphia' article says this:

                'A food associated with Philadelphia but not invented there is the soft pretzel. The soft pretzel dates back to 7th century Franceand was brought over to the Philadelphia area by the Pennsylvania Dutch in Lancaster County"

                Not quite sure how france comes into the picture, since the word 'PRETZEL" is clearly German, not French.

                1. re: brookquarry

                  I've always took it as common knowledge that pretzels originated with the Pennsylvania Dutch (Germans) and made their way to Philly, where the mass produced variety became what we recognize today as the Philly Soft Pretzel. I feel like I learned that in school but maybe I invented the story.

                  In any case, I have a huge weakness for pretzels (the street vendor variety). I like them all, as long as they are consumed the day of, except for the Wawa soft pretzels. I remember the Wawa ones being good back in the day. Today, they are absolutely terrible. I'd rather have a SuperPretzel.

                  1. re: barryg

                    Perhaps what you all need is a primer on what it means to be "Pennsylvania Dutch"

                    The PA Dutch are any German Speaking immigrants to the colony of Pennslyvania - during colonial times, and before the nation of Germany was created. The majority of these peoples came from what was known as the Palatinate region - and while the English speaking colonists eventually called them PA Deutsch since they tended to keep to their own communities and maintain their German dialect, they were actually referred to as Palatinates when they first arrived. This region comprises areas of what is now Germany, Switzerland, and France. They left for many reasons, not just religious (as is often assumed) and were many different protestant religions, not just the "plain" religions that are now primarily associated with the culture. I learned all this while doing genealogical research on my family which has been in Central PA since at least 1731 - though I suspect even longer. And while no one in my family has ever been Mennonite or Amish, on my grandfathers side they spoke the PA Dutch language in the home until his generation was in adulthood.

                    I always associated the hard pretzels such as Martin's (my preferred) or Hammond's with this area. I actually can't stand the buttery, sweet Auntie Anne's, and didn't have soft pretzels out side of a shopping mall until I went to Philly as a teen (I'm in my mid 30's). I have been to Sturgis, and while the Civil War seems awfully late for the PA Dutch community to add something to their culture, I guess it is possible - but in my mind that excludes it from being truly PA Dutch, since most items associated with the culture go back much earlier than the Civil War.

                  2. re: brookquarry

                    Thanks for clearing that up and the research. Never knew that!

          3. I love a good soft pretzel - I grew up a few blocks from Federal Street pretzel, and one of my favorite memories is of the pretzel guy wandering the streets with a shopping cart full of steaming hot, crusty pretzels in the morning. He'd yell "Frrrrrr-esh Prrrr-etttt-zels!" and we'd all come running out of the house like he was the ice cream man.

            Clearly I like the salty kind better than the sweet kind, which I think are just kind of meh.

            The best pretzels are crusty and salty on the outside, steamy and soft on the inside, and require pretzel mustard - not gulden's brown, not that disgusting French's yellow, but proper pretzel mustard that I have a hard time finding anywhere else but at a good cart, which is hard enough to find itself nowadays.

            I haven't had a proper good pretzel in a loooong time. These flabby stale ones that are so ubiquitous now are sad. And the Auntie Anne's sweet type are just not in the same ballpark.

            Sigh...if anybody knows of a good pretzel place, *please* let us know!

            2 Replies
            1. re: gwebber

              Best pretzel place is Center City Pretzel Co on Washington Ave. Go late at night or in the morning for hot pretzels fresh from the oven. They also sell the "proper" pretzel mustard. I keep a bottle in my pantry.

              1. re: lawgirl3278

                I concur, Center City pretzels are the best but it seems when I eat them then I crave carbs for a few days and end up putting the weight on. Once in a while I will by a bunch and "OD" on them.

                Can't wait to get back to DiPalma, they are real good too.

            2. I prefer a salty, chewy pretzel spread with mustard any day over the sweet kind. How can you eat those with mustard? For me, it's all about the mustard. And I'm not even from Philly!

              1. I'm from Lancaster, PA. I love soft pretzels but they seem so heavy sometimes! Better is hard pretzels - my favorite is Uncle Jerry's Pretzels - handmade straight from PA - sorry Martins;)

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                  1. Oh, Smitties" are DEFINITELY the best! A wonderful, yeasty flavor; my mouth waters, just thinking of them! Get them fresh and warm from their roadside sales location near Dover or now conveniently at Rutter's Farm Stores.