Thanks to a big Jewish population and a citywide obsession with sandwiches, delicatessens have long been a part of Philadelphia’s food landscape. Changing tastes and demographics mean that Jewish delis aren’t as prolific in Philly as they once were, but the region still has a healthy (err, unhealthy?) selection of classic spots for sandwiches stacked with corned beef or pastrami, cured fish, knishes, rye bread, and black and white cookies. Here are eight places that haven’t forgotten the lost art of the deli. Note that these eateries are Jewish-style, not kosher.Read More
Philly’s Must-Try Jewish Delis
Where to get matzo ball soup, corned beef sandwiches, and the flakiest, plumpest knishes
Hymie’s might be the area’s most well-known Jewish deli. Since 1938, Main Liners have flocked to the New York-style eatery for all-day breakfast, kippered salmon, hot sandwiches, matzo ball soup, and baked treats like black and white cookies and hamantaschen.
University City’s Koch’s Deli has been serving the neighborhood and hungry college students since 1966. It takes a minute to get a sandwich since they’re all made to order with freshly sliced meat (the place is known for its corned beef and pastrami), but free samples for those waiting help pass the time. Each local college has a sandwich dedicated to it, like the double decker Penn Special with corned beef, pastrami, tongue, sweet muenster, coleslaw, and Russian dressing on rye.
Rachael’s Nosheri covers all the classics right in Rittenhouse, from nova lox, kippered salmon, and cream cheese on a bagel to matzo ball soup and Reuben, Rachel (a Reuben with coleslaw instead of sauerkraut), and kosher salami sandwiches. Don’t forget the egg cream.
This classic Jewish deli in Center City does great lunchtime business. It opened in 2010, replacing another Jewish deli in the same spot, and has a decidedly retro vibe. Head here for softball-size matzo balls, piles of smoked meat on fresh-baked rye, whitefish, knishes, oversized pastries and cookies, and an all-you-can-eat pickle bar. Schlesinger’s shares an owner with Hymie’s in Lower Merion.
Hershel's East Side Deli
One of the region’s newer delis, Hershel’s inside Reading Terminal Market has been open since 2000. It’s named after the owner’s uncle, who was a chef at New York City’s famous Katz’s Deli for 40 years. Along with classics like matzo ball soup, bagels, and latkes, the from-scratch menu features corned beef, pastrami, and brisket sandwiches, sliced to order and served hot.
Famous 4th Street Delicatessen
Since 1923, Famous 4th Street Deli has been baking its own bread, pickling its own corned beef, and smoking its own pastrami. It truly is famous: Philadelphia and In Her Shoes filmed scenes in the iconic black-and-white-tiled restaurant. The Queen Village spot is also the place to be for politicians on election day — even Barack Obama visited. Don’t leave without picking up a frisbee-sized black and white cookie.
Ben & Irv's
Be prepared to wait in line for a table at Huntingdon Valley’s busy Ben & Irv’s. Back in the day, the deli operated in Mt. Airy when the neighborhood was home to a large Jewish population in the 1950s. Now in the ’burbs, it still serves a massive menu of deli favorites like blintzes, knishes, turkey clubs, corned beef specials, and smoked fish to hungry crowds.
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Steve Stein's Famous Deli
Decades ago, Northeast Philly had one of the city’s largest Jewish populations and a proliferation of delis. Today, most of the delis have closed, but Famous is still going strong. It’s the spot for locals to pick up smoked fish, sliced meats and cheeses, kugel, and salads, plus a decent selection of grocery items.