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New Yorker looking for quintessential Philadelphia Cheap Eats

I'm going to be in Philadelphia for a couple of days - are there any signature or must-have cheap eats that I should have while I'm there (under 20 dollars a person) both including restaurants and other food stands or carts or anything? Any location within the city, or nearby outside (I will have access to a car) is fine.

Happy to be referred to any quintessential cheap eats threads Pennsylvania hounds may know that I may have missed as well. Thanks.

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  1. For lunch you've gotta try Paesano's. This is a 7-seat lunch counter on the edge of Northern Liberties. It is at 152 W Girard Ave., 19123. The store front could be missed if you are driving too fast so look for the maroon-colored awning. If you are heading east towards the river it will be on your right. The food is absolutely amazing for lunch Tues-Sat. The food is cooked to order right in front of you and if it is nice out you can sit outside. While the neighborhood is still in the early stages of revitalization it is a place you mustn't miss. Most recently I had a roasted lamb sausage sandwhich (Gustaio) with fennel and sweet sun-dried tomato sauce topped with feta-- it was to die for! The menu has about 10 items on it from their take on an italian hoagie to whole suckling pig with broccoli rabe (Arista). Everything is great, try something new or get some of my recommendations, you won't be disappointed.

    For dinner, check out the blossoming Northern Liberties neighborhood for a hipster-type art scene with great food and drinks. For breakfast: Honey's Sit n' Eat, Lunch Johnny Brenda's and Dinner: Dos Segundos Cantina then if it's nice check out the shops and art galleries throughout the neighborhood especially in the Piazza and Liberties Walk

    6 Replies
    1. re: Jdkaplan

      I tried Paesanoes for the frist time 2 Saturday's ago. Their famous Arista pork sandwich was $8 and well worth it. My only complaitn was how SALTY the sandwich was. I'm told by someone who lives nearby every item on the menu is very good.

      1. re: discndav

        it is a little salty. I think from the pork+the cheese. Their gustaio is my other favorite, but I am pretty loyal to the pork.

        1. re: discndav

          I liked the Arista but found it to be a bit dry for some reason (granted it was over the summer so they may have fixed it by now). My son tried some sort of wrap whose name I cannot remember with some cherry sauce. It sounded gross but was fabulous, even better than the pork. Also the potatoes are really good! The main drag of the place is the location...granted it's a block from a subway stop but not near anything else.

          1. re: bluehensfan

            The wrap you're referring to is the Gustaio, though the way Jdkaplan describes it is not quite as I remember it; I had it with the cherry mustarda as you describe and I think rouquefort instead of feta. I know they have been changing around the menu (the eponymous sandwich has been completely redone) , so maybe the feta-tomato one is the new version.

            The location is a little whack but it is actually only a couple blocks from the Piazza at Schmidt's and Liberties Walk. They will be opening a second location at 9th & Christian shortly and I am very much looking forward to that.

            Re: the salt, I agree that both Paesano's and Modo Mio (the BYO owned and operated by the same chef and team) are heavy on the salt and this is a common complaint. Luckily, I love salt and I love both places.

            1. re: barryg

              BarryG you might be right about those sauce and cheeses.

              1. re: Jdkaplan

                The little Sicilian chickpea wrap is delicious also.

      2. Roast pork sandwich at Nick's Cafe at 20th and Jackson in South Philly. This place could not exist anywhere else. They will know you're not a local when you walk in without your big, puffy Eagles jacket. But they'll treat you like old friends anyway.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Steve

          i prefer the roast beef, withor without rabes (definitely with provie). their roast pork is excellent though, just not better than john's. but i'd take the roast beef over any of them.

          definitely hit up rtm, locals and tourists go there all day every day. and if you can make it to paesano's, you will not be disappointed.

          i would also recommend the following website. the fellow who runs it favors cheap etas places and i have yet to disagree with his descriptions:

          http://www.hollyeats.com/Philadelphia...

          1. re: mazza3

            I have heard many good things about John's for roast pork and cheesesteaks. Next time I'm in Philly, I will try to get there. Unfortunately, they are only open for midweek lunch, IIUC.

            At Nick's, the sandwiches are served on small round rolls, so the OP could get one of each. Or get a roast pork sandwich with gravy fries that come with roast beef. The best of both worlds.

        2. Go to Reading Terminal Market and get cheap pancakes at the Dutch Eating Place and then follow it up with a roast pork sandwich (wet, with provolone and broccoli rabe) from DiNic's.

          1. -Paesano's or DiNics for Roast Pork Sandwich. I go back and forth about which is better, but they are both AWESOME.
            -Cheesesteak at Sonny's (I love Sonny's in Old CIty!)
            -Hoagies at Sarcones.
            -If it's not freezing, you might try a "gelato", a Philly invention combining soft serve ice cream and water ice (italian ice for non-philadelphians)
            -Sabrina's stuffed French Toast
            -BYOBs, take your pick. There are plenty of threads on here. The food is typically less than $20 per person, and you bring your own wine or beer, so it's cheap.
            -Buttery Amish Pretzel from Miller's twist in the Reading Terminal Market

            There's plenty of regular restaurants where you'll get out for less than $20. Chinatown, South Philly Italian places, BYOB's, etc.

            1 Reply
            1. re: hollyd

              I'm going to second the Miller's twist from Reading Terminal Market. I had one last week. It was truly 500% better than any pretzel I've ever had. It actually tasted like something! It's a great snack. Get some Amish backed goods while you are at the market too. The apple dumplings (with fresh cream drizzled over them) from the dutch eating place are also awesome. You might want to share one of them if you plan to do a lot of eating that day though. =)

            2. All great picks, and I would add a burger + a craft beer or two at Standard Tap, Good Dog, or Royal Tavern. $20 or so in total and very satisfying.

              2 Replies
              1. re: barryg

                ooh Royal Tavern Burger is a good addition.

                1. re: barryg

                  while we are picking up craft beer and cheap eats also try Prohibition Tap at 13th and Buttonwood for a rotation of 6 beers and about 50 bottles. Their food is also very good - Mac n Cheese, special burgers and everything else. They also have a breakfast joint down the block called Cafe Lift, it's on par if not better than Sabrina's