I'll be in the downtown Philly area for 3 days and am looking for nearby local favorites. I definitely want a cheesesteak and a preztel. Any recommendations? I'm willing to cab it somewhere but would rather stick to places within walking distance.
Suggestions for other Philly-specific eats are welcome!
Most street vendors (of the hot-dog variety, not the fruit salad or the chinese food ones) have soft pretzels. You want to make sure that there are still intact salt crystals. if the salt is melted, that usually means that it's a day old. (This is less true in the summer).
I think that there are some specialized pretzel places - one on sansom, maybe? and another down in suburban station. But I'm not positive.
The reading terminal ones mentioned above are good, but they're really a different kind of pretzel altogether. That said, if you're here for 3 days, be sure you go to reading terminal as soon as you can! that way you can prioritize for the 3 days.
Miller's Twist's pretzels are great, but they are not exactly the traditional Philly soft pretzel. Definitely get one, but also try one off of any street vendor. They are pretty much all good.
For cheesesteaks, this is a religious topic and if you do a board search you will find many opinions. For places within Center City, try Rick's at the Bellevue, Campo's in Old City, or Jim's on South Street. All will have their detractors and supporters, and I have my own opinions, but I think all three are pretty legit cheesesteaks. At all three places, you want to order a "whiz wit"--cheese whiz and fried onions. Even if you don't like cheese whiz, trust me. FTR, I like Rick's the best in CC.
It sounds like you are interested in street and casual food, so for local favorites I recommend the roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe and sharp provolone at DiNic's in Reading Terminal Market (better than most cheesesteaks, really), the chicken cutlet sandwich at Shank's Original, and hoagies from Primo's or Sarcone's. Craft beer and upscale pub food is really popular here; some good spots in Center City are Monk's (get the mussels and frites), Good Dog (the stuffed cheeseburger is legendary) and Pub & Kitchen (all around good though a bit more pretentious than the other places). South Philly Taproom, as mentioned, is also great though it would require a cab or subway ride. I love SPTR but if you are going to travel for a pub, I would make the trip to Standard Tap in Northern Liberties instead as I think it is just a smidge better and only serves local brews, which is a nice touch for a visitor.
If you have any specific cuisines in mind, shout 'em out.
So, this is not really helpful in the sense that they serve neither soft pretzels or cheese steaks to my knowledge, but if you are looking for a great bar, you should check out the South Philly Taproom. They have an absurd number of premium beers they rotate and it always makes for a fun night. The ambiance is great and their grilled cheese is so so good.