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well-known but non-touristy things to eat in philadelphia

What are some local favorites to try in center city for someone who's from out of town (great quality/interest food you can't get elsewhere)

Not looking for formal sit-down restaurants, but rather the kind of things you can get at RTM (cheap, simple things done very well). I especially like hole-in-the-wall type places that have been around for many years.

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  1. Center City is not really the best location for this, and RTM has the bulk of this kind of grub. But some ideas:
    -Takoyaki at Maru Global
    -Mama's Vegetarian for Israeli-style falafel, hummus, veggie patty, sabich, burekas
    -Falafel Nazi at 20th & Market for his platter with falafel, grilled chicken, and salads of the day
    -Primo's for Italian hoagies (though Salumeria in RTM is very good, too)
    -South St Souvlaki for homestyle Greek food (I like the other stuff better than the souvlaki actually)
    -Lorenzo's Pizza is terrible, but it's a divey late night by-the-slice institution that may be a worth a visit culturally if that is interesting to you

    SSS and Lorenzo's are probably the only places on my list that have been there for decades.

    Chinatown is very close to CC and opens up a lot of options too.

    5 Replies
    1. re: barryg

      Primo's, at least the one on South 11th St has changed rolls, now Liscio seeded, and have texture ofchewing gum, hopefully just an off batch. l ditched the bread and ate the remnants like a meat salad.
      Add Nick's at 20th and Jackson, been there for over 55 years. Roast beef sandwiches, Chicago beef should be half this good.

      1. re: barryg

        my experience of maru, delivery mind you, was that their takoyaki was pretty bad.

        there is the argan's sandwich place that many seem to talk about (still haven't made it there yet) and then i do think chinatown really offers a lot of options for quick sit down. otherwise i'm personally fascinated by the food cart scene but there might be a greater variety of options in university city.

        1. re: pinstripeprincess

          I've never had tokoyaki anywhere else, so I have nothing to compare it to. Only been to Maru a couple times (not recently, eat in both times), and i liked it, but it could be way off, sure. They have a lot of "fusion" takoyaki which are interesting.

          1. re: barryg

            they're a cheap proposition, so i do want to try them again and do it in shop to see if i can get a peek at how they make the takoyaki... it might explain a lot of my bad experience. at the very least they were far too greasy and that is a first in my takoyaki experiences.

          2. re: pinstripeprincess

            Good luck getting that Sandwich at Argan on a Saturday. For the past few months they have not been opening until later in the day...

        2. Pork Italian or Chicken Italian from Tony Lukes is a must.

          1 Reply
          1. re: madgreek99

            I second this. You'll see almost a fraction of the tourists at pats/genos and get a 10x better sandwich in my opinion. From the people in my social circle at least, it seems that a good portion of the city identifies at least as much with pork/rabbe/sharp provolone as they do with a steak.

          2. I live in University City and I love KOCH'S deli. Second to none when it comes to quality and quantity. All of their meats are fresh and the staff is friendly and accommodating.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Hungrierthanever

              Second Koch's. Also I would recommend anything at Sazon. We love the Bimimbap at Doma in the Art Museum area.

              1. re: joluvscards

                Koch's has some interesting sandwiches but I prefer Famous 4th St Deli; meat/fish (almost all made in-house) and bread quality is much better, especially since Koch's changed ownership a few years ago.
                http://frieswiththatshake.net/?p=856

                In any case, Koch's isn't in or near Center City, but I don't know that either offer much over NYC Jewish delis; OP seems to have a lot of experience there.