HOME > Chowhound > Pennsylvania >


Pennsylvania products you can't get on the west coast

I've lived most of my 24-year-old life in Central Pennsylvania, but I'm moving to San Francisco in a few weeks. I'm excited about the new food and drink prospects out there, but I'm wondering what sorts things one might miss when leaving Pennsylvania, especially for the west coast.

I know a lot of people who move away buy cases of Yuengling when they come back to visit, although I'm more of a craft beer guy. There are definitely some PA beers I need to stock up on before I go. I know people used to stock up on Tastykakes too, but I'm not sure if their more widely available now?

I know I'm never going to get a decent cheesesteak in CA, but then again that's been hard to get in central PA too. Scrapple is probably hard to come by, but I've never been big on it anyway. I've never been too crazy about most Pennsylvania Dutch food really...except for pumpkin whoopie pies and oatmeal pie (which I think is a southern import).

The abundance of cheap snack foods will be missed. So many brands of chips and pretzels. I'm going to have to eat a lot of lard chips before I go.

what else?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Grandma Utz can be ordered from California...
    Martin's pretzels can also be ordered, but won't be in any store.

    Lebanon Bologna
    Philadelphia style ice cream.

    Root Tea.

    Anyone know if you can find Troegenator on the west coast?

    4 Replies
    1. re: Chowrin

      Boars Head makes a lebanon bologna. Now, mind you, it's not as good as Kunzlers or other local brands. But Kunzlers can be ordered online on their website.

      -Middleswarth Chips
      -Hard pretzels in a bag w/ a twist tie ;)
      -Ham spread
      -Shoo fly pies (do peeps eat these?)
      -Ring bologna (plain & garlic)
      -Hoagies & cosmos
      -potato bread (not sure about this one)
      -Hellman's, I think they call it Best Foods Mayo but it's the same from what I understand
      -Peanutbutter meltaways
      -Birch beer

      SF is one of my most favorite food cities. You're a very lucky man. Happy Trails!

      1. re: lynnlato

        Penn Dutch brand Lebanon Bologna is made by Seltzer's of Lebanon. Check grocery stores to see if they carry it, and ask them to if they don't. It's marketed nation-wide.
        Also look for Mennonite communities in your area. They usually have a store that carries real lebanon and sweet bologna, scrapple, etc. The one near me even carries Kutztown Root Beer.
        Some CVS and Walgreen's are supposedly selling Wolfgang candy, but I have yet to find one that does.

        1. re: JEBeck

          Lebanon Bologna lunchmeat goes bad if you leave it too long.
          Buying it from Giant Eagle seems a waste of time --
          not enough turnover.

          1. re: Chowrin

            I've bought it from grocery stores in the south for years and have never gotten a bad batch. The salt content alone makes it last longer, and the grocery stores' deli coolers are made to preserve meats longer. If it didn't sell they wouldn't carry it.

    2. I moved from Pittsburgh to San Diego I realize SoCal is different than North, but I haven't missed many products.

      There seem to be a lot more offerings out this way. I do miss Sheetz at times though.

      Pretty sure I've seen tastykakes, but I'm guessing you'll find some asian bakery/import store with stuff you'll like even better.

      Beer might be something, but you'll find a bunch of new ones.

      I guess my point is..I really don't miss much, I think there's a lot more selection out this way.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Rodzilla

        I have moved to Texas and I'm at Sheetz everyday when I come home to visit :(

      2. Baumann's apple butter
        Cope's dried corn
        Stoudt beer

        1 Reply
        1. Living in San Francisco I noticed the Pennsylvania foods that I missed most were specific brands of items. As you noted Tastykakes and various brands of chips (non-lard) are/were not available. Philadelphia style ice cream is easily obtained as it is any ice cream meeting these standards: "in the United States, ice cream made with just cream, sugar, and a flavouring (usually fruit) is sometimes referred to as "Philadelphia style" ice cream". You may not be able to find your specific brand of pretzel for sure. Scrapple, doubt it. I would suggest to you will be most please with food offering in SF. One of my favorite sweet treats was "Its It" a long time SF favorite. As a craft beer guy you will be pleased as one of the first small craft beers is from the city, Anchor! San Francisco (NEVER FRISCO)has been frequently call" the city that knows how to eat".

          6 Replies
          1. re: Bacchus101

            Name some brands/places I could find some Philly style ice cream in SF?
            Next time I'll visit I will swing by.

            Right. You'll miss the MILK, which is why the Creamery ice cream is so good.

            Midstate milk is far better than any you'll find nearly anyplace else. Out here in pittsburgh, I miss it.

            1. re: Bacchus101

              Although you did not specifically indicate YOU were interested in Philadelphia style ice cream it was mention that it was not available. Oh contraire! Breyer's, most of which is Philadelphia style, they do have some custard based, is available at many stores in the bay area including Walgreens. Any Ice Cream made by churning milk,cream, sugar and flavouring is Philadelphia, American or New York ice cream as opposed to custard based sometimes referred to as French. Facts not opinions so also this :According to the University of Minn. the highest quality milk in the world is from Switzerland. Best wishes on the "left coast" My guess is you will love it and the fantastic variety of foods thus perhaps saving the special PA foods for your visits back east.

              1. re: Bacchus101

                I didn't think Breyers was still doing Philadelphia style anything, anymore... (I buy turkey hill, which, if not local to pittsburgh, at least makes "blitzburgh").

                Look up what they mean by highest quality (the U Minn folks)... it's fascinating, but somewhat misleading. They're particularly focused on what a farmer can do to improve their taste/yield.

                All that being said, the quality of grass and water plays a large role in what places have good tasting milk.

                Lancaster area has the third best milk in the Western Hemisphere.

                1. re: Chowrin

                  Turkey Hill is Eastern PA/Chester-Lancaster County

                  1. re: sal_acid

                    Just recently expanded to the Pittsburgh area! (their logo is even aping the steelers now!... I kinda think that might be intentional...) Believe everything's still made in eastern pa.

                    (sides: op was from central pa, where you do see turkey hill all the time)

              2. re: Bacchus101

                Right -- brand-specific products are what the OP will miss out West. (Better to ask for recipes of local favorite prepared foods, like whoopie pies/gobs, PA ethnic eats, etc., as they may be harder to find in SF.) Suggest that OP post specifics on the SF board to find out if certain foods and products are commonly available. Of course, it's hard to know what you'll miss until it's gone!

                Beer: Surprisingly, a quick search shows that a couple of places sell bottles of Yuengling Lager for $5-6/bottle. Many of the great craft beers you can get in PA, however, are not available at all, eg, Weyerbacher, Yard's, et al (most varieties of Dogfish Head and, even, haha, Straub, although the former is not from PA and the latter is not great or even craft). Check beermenus.

                Snack food: Looks like Tastykakes are found all over the East Coast and the Southeast, but the freshest are always in the Philly area, so you may not be missing much in terms of freshest depending on your location. Name your favorite local snack food; I have had friends and family mail me Middleswarth Bar-B-Q chips which are only available in some parts of central PA. Check the website for pasnacks?

              3. You will MISS Wise Potato Chips, that's for sure! Also Chinese Won Ton Soup and Eggrolls too....eggrolls out west are spring rolls. Very hard to come by a decent eggroll.

                Wedding Soup is another big missing item out here. And pizza is very different. You can get good pizza, but not like the kind in Pittsburgh and New York. You won't see much if any of any kind of Polish food and not a lot of earthy Italian food (lots of upscale Italian though). Soft pretzels will more likely have sugar on them instead of salt, the very common fried fish sandwich which every restaurant in Pittsburgh seems to have; you will NEVER see here.

                1 Reply
                1. re: cimero

                  I was going to say Wise Potato Chips too.

                2. Haluski perhaps, although it's pretty easy to make on your own.

                  1. I moved from Central PA to LA for 10 years. I missed:
                    Gazebo Room Greek dressing (although I did once see it in a store out there, so maybe you can find it)

                    East coast Chinese food, like General Tso's chicken. I didn't even love it when I lived here, but I really didn't see it much there.

                    Tastycakes if you like those. And Grandma Utz. Gibbles too, but they're gone altogether now.

                    And subs and hoagies in general. There's not the same sandwich culture on the west coast as there is on the east.

                    That said, while you may occasionally miss those things, you're going to discover so many more exciting foods, you might not have a chance to stop and feel nostalgic for several years.
                    Enjoy San Fran!!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: hyacinthgirl

                      Huh, I never would have thought of Gazebo Room dressing. It's not a necessity in my life or anything, but it's always been my mom's favorite and what I have when I'm at home there. I forgot that was a local thing.

                    2. Martin's Potato Bread.

                      Also, I don't know if you do Costco, but their sliced bread varies wildly by location. Harrisburg's is far better baked than Pittsburgh's.

                      1. PA Dutch-style sticky buns. Nothing like 'em out here in CA as far as I can tell in 12+ years.

                        1. DH sometimes orders bags of Unique Splitz online.

                          1. maybe pierogies..not sure - haven't been looking

                            1. Brick cheese (I go to an Italian Deli, only place I can find it)
                              sausages of every sort, you will have to find new favorites~~ at ethnic markets ideally
                              BBq chipped ham does not exist here
                              no White Castles
                              no Tim Hortons (where I live in So Cal)

                              I go back to PA every year. San Francisco is heaven on earth "food-wise" ~~ you'll do just fine.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: laliz

                                Where are you finding White Castle in Pa?

                                1. re: Chowrin

                                  oops I lived in Erie, White Castles were in Cleveland. we went there a lot.

                                  1. re: laliz

                                    *blink*... Cleveland?! I swore they were a New England thing!
                                    ... well, it's Something To Do if i ever find myself in Cleveland, I suppose...
                                    --thanks for the tip, i'd have never guessed!

                                  2. re: Chowrin

                                    Here is your White Castle PA location:
                                    1280 MacArthur Road
                                    Whitehall PA, 18052

                                  3. re: laliz

                                    Tim Horton's is in PA? Thought that this was a Canada (and Penn Station) thing

                                  4. You'd be hard pressed to find Getulte Rinderbrust or Hog Maw but what I'd really like to see west of the Rockies are some Fasnachts.

                                    And by the way, you most definitely can get Scrapple in CA.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      I've bought frozen scrapple in CA

                                        1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                          Cuz it goes pretty well with Chinese tsao-bing.

                                        1. re: subal

                                          Next best thing. Look for a spiced ham loaf at the deli counter. Boars head has an oval spiced ham loaf available. Have them shave it. (They may hate you after shaving it by hand. They don't have the automatic machines like in Pittsburgh)

                                          Now you have chipped ham for sandwiches, Fritzy burgers or ham BBQ.

                                          1. re: ML PAVACT

                                            "Ham loaf" in PA is a blend of ground pork, ground ham and spices. ;)

                                            Chipped ham - ha! When I first moved to NC 17+ yrs ago, they had no idea what I was talking about when I ordered "chipped ham".

                                            1. re: lynnlato

                                              lol...the lunch meats definitely had to be one of the biggest adjustments for me. Boars head is my favorite brand of lunch meats. i still miss chipped ham from isleys..and the ice cream

                                              1. re: lynnlato

                                                I know that. Usually with some pineapple and brownsugar miixed in. But the rest of the country doesn't.

                                                So the Boarshead hamloaf is a formed ham lunch meat, like chipped ham before being chipped.

                                                1. re: ML PAVACT

                                                  Oh contraire, the rest of the country does know Ham Loafs with pineapple etc. The southern cooking specifically provides versions of ham loafs. Even Paula Deem offers ham loafs. Variation on a theme to be sure but even recipes in PA vary from ones labeled PA Dutch to other standards. Nothing specific to PA with Ham Loafs.

                                          2. If you are from Harrisburg, you would miss Middleswarth BBQ chips in those big tubs, Gazebo Room dressing, and several types of pretzels depending on one's preference. You might also miss Zimmermans.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: taiga

                                              Middleswarth hasn't produced chips in a tub for at least five years; they come in a resealable bag now.

                                              1. re: mookleknuck

                                                Another thing to be depressed about.

                                                1. re: taiga

                                                  I'm still depressed over them discontinuing the tubs. <sniff>

                                            2. I'm not that far from PA (Massachusetts) but what I miss the most from PA are Herr's potato chips and Rita's Gelati.

                                              1. SF has amazing places to find foods that you have become accustomed to. stay away from the touristy shopping centers. and use google to find items that you haven't been able to locate. i love SF. they have amazing foods

                                                1. Herlocher's Dipping Mustard!