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An Italian-American feast at Ralph’s
Ralph’s Italian Restaurant/Facebook

18 Classic Restaurants Every Philadelphian Must Try

A taste of Philly’s history

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An Italian-American feast at Ralph’s
| Ralph’s Italian Restaurant/Facebook

The food world tends to be obsessed with what's new and what's next, but in a city like Philadelphia, with such a rich food history, it’s well worth revisiting time-tested dining establishments and long-standing icons.

These 18 old-school institutions remain today more or less the same as they were when they were founded, which means the classic restaurants, dive bars, bakeries, and sandwich shops below represent a taste of Philly's history.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Mayfair Diner

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This classic 24-hour diner opened in Northeast Philly back in 1932. It has undergone a few changes since then, but today the Mayfair Diner remains a pure 1950s-era throwback for chicken croquettes, creamed chipped beef, and thick slices of pie.

Czerw's Kielbasa

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Port Richmond was a treasure trove of traditional Polish foods, with Czerw's being one of the oldest surviving shops. It originally opened in 1938 as a store called Philadelphia Provisions, and has been smoking its own kielbasa for 80 years. On Christmas and Easter, expect long lines and early sell-outs.

Tacconelli's Pizzeria

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Originally founded as a bread bakery in the 1920s, Port Richmond staple Tacconelli's didn't start using its oven for pizza until the end of WWII. That pizza is now so beloved that people from all over the city still flock to the out-of-the-way location despite a number of inconveniences, including the requirement to call ahead to reserve dough. That doesn’t dissuade the many fans of these thin-crust pies.

Stock's Bakery

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Family-owned since it opened in 1924, this Port Richmond bakery makes a variety of sweets, but the Stock’s name is by now pretty much synonymous with pound cake. Around Christmas, pound cake may be the only thing offered, as bakers scale up production for the busy season.

Reading Terminal Market

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There's no shortage of must-try foods within Reading Terminal Market, open since the 1890s. The sprawling market houses a mix of Philly icons, Pennsylvania Dutch classics, and new favorites. Hit up Beiler's for doughnuts, dig into DiNic's famous roast pork sandwiches, and grab a cone at Bassett's (which is America's oldest ice cream company, founded in 1861).

R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

McGillin's Olde Ale House

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Irish pub McGillin's claims to be the oldest continuously operating tavern in Philadelphia, having opened its doors on narrow Drury Street in 1860. Today, it’s a popular venue from early to late and celebrates every holiday — big or small — with gusto (and themed drinks, food, and decor).

City Tavern

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Philly's most famous historical restaurant is actually a Bicentennial-era replica — the original structure was damaged in a fire in 1834, and demolished in 1854 — but it's a painstakingly researched recreation of the tavern that originally occupied the location, which dated back to 1773 and played host to a who's-who of the Founding Fathers. It's also touristy, of course, but it’s worth going at least once.

Dirty Frank's

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Philly would be nothing without its dive bars and Dirty Frank's is a prime example, chugging along at 13th and Pine since 1933. Originally just called Frank's, and at one point misguidedly renamed 347 bar, Dirty Frank's was a nickname that came along with the bar's second owner and stubbornly stuck. Thanks to cheap beer and citywide specials, it’s a popular hangout for a wide variety of characters.

Ralph's Italian Restaurant

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As the story goes, Ralph's originally opened in 1900 at 9th and Montrose before the Dispigno family made the short move to their current location in 1915. And it remains in the family to this day, serving red gravy Italian-American staples that have long been the backbone of the Italian Market neighborhood.

Dante & Luigi's

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Founded in 1899, Dante & Luigi's is a South Philly classic known for its Italian-American food. It’s more upscale than its nearby competitors, with white tablecloths, chandeliers, and more formal service, but it’s never stuffy. The storied spot was the scene of an attempted mob hit in the late '80s.

Sarcone's Bakery

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The Sarcone's name is omnipresent around town, as serving hoagies or roast pork on Sarcone's bread is a real selling point for area sandwiches. A trip to the 9th Street landmark, which sells a lot more than just bread and rolls, is always a good bet. The small bakery opens up early and closes by mid-afternoon or whenever it sells out (which can happen pretty quickly on weekends), so don't wait. Grab some tomato pie, pepperoni bread, or fresh loaves — it's all worthwhile.

Isgro Pastries

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Tenth and Christian is typically one of Philly's best-smelling intersections, thanks to Isgro. Holding court since 1904, this tiny shop fills up quickly on weekends with shoppers seeking out cannoli, butter cookies, rum cakes, torrone, and more.

Palizzi Social Club

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Originally opened a century ago, Palizzi was designed as a members-only joint, serving cocktails and food in a South Philly row home to immigrants from Vasto, Italy, and their families. Last year, chef Joey Baldino — of local favorite Zeppoli in Collingswood — inherited the club from his uncle. Palizzi is still members-only, but Baldino broadened the criteria to allow more diners to enjoy spaghetti with crabs, calamari with peas, and escarole and beans in a charmingly retro space.

palizzi Jason Varney

Termini Brothers Bakery

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One of South Philly's best-known and most-beloved bakeries, Termini was established by two brothers in the 1920s. It’s all about the cannoli here. The shells are handmade and filled to order with vanilla cream, chocolate cream, or — the real deal — ricotta with chocolate chips.

Marra's

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Since the 1920s — way before East Passyunk Avenue was the culinary hot spot that it is today — Marra’s has been turning out pizza and red sauce Italian dishes. The neighborhood favorite is still owned and operated by the original family, and still uses the original brick oven designed and built by Salvatore Marra himself with bricks from Mt. Vesuvius.

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Melrose Diner

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This circa-1935 diner is still going strong and providing South Philly with a 24-hour haunt perfect for devouring a pork roll, egg, and cheese sandwich early morning, mid-afternoon, or late night.

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Nick's Old Original Roast Beef

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Opened in 1938, the original South Philly Nick's is a perfectly cozy cave full of inexpensive beer, roast beef and turkey sandwiches, and can't-miss gravy fries.

Frangelli's Bakery

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Family-owned Frangelli's has been around since 1947. The South Philly bakery sells much more than just doughnuts, but the doughnuts here are a must-try — particularly the indulgent “franolli,” a doughnut sandwich filled with cannoli cream and chocolate chips.

Mayfair Diner

This classic 24-hour diner opened in Northeast Philly back in 1932. It has undergone a few changes since then, but today the Mayfair Diner remains a pure 1950s-era throwback for chicken croquettes, creamed chipped beef, and thick slices of pie.

Czerw's Kielbasa

Port Richmond was a treasure trove of traditional Polish foods, with Czerw's being one of the oldest surviving shops. It originally opened in 1938 as a store called Philadelphia Provisions, and has been smoking its own kielbasa for 80 years. On Christmas and Easter, expect long lines and early sell-outs.

Tacconelli's Pizzeria

Originally founded as a bread bakery in the 1920s, Port Richmond staple Tacconelli's didn't start using its oven for pizza until the end of WWII. That pizza is now so beloved that people from all over the city still flock to the out-of-the-way location despite a number of inconveniences, including the requirement to call ahead to reserve dough. That doesn’t dissuade the many fans of these thin-crust pies.

Stock's Bakery

Family-owned since it opened in 1924, this Port Richmond bakery makes a variety of sweets, but the Stock’s name is by now pretty much synonymous with pound cake. Around Christmas, pound cake may be the only thing offered, as bakers scale up production for the busy season.

Reading Terminal Market

R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

There's no shortage of must-try foods within Reading Terminal Market, open since the 1890s. The sprawling market houses a mix of Philly icons, Pennsylvania Dutch classics, and new favorites. Hit up Beiler's for doughnuts, dig into DiNic's famous roast pork sandwiches, and grab a cone at Bassett's (which is America's oldest ice cream company, founded in 1861).

R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

McGillin's Olde Ale House

Irish pub McGillin's claims to be the oldest continuously operating tavern in Philadelphia, having opened its doors on narrow Drury Street in 1860. Today, it’s a popular venue from early to late and celebrates every holiday — big or small — with gusto (and themed drinks, food, and decor).

City Tavern

Philly's most famous historical restaurant is actually a Bicentennial-era replica — the original structure was damaged in a fire in 1834, and demolished in 1854 — but it's a painstakingly researched recreation of the tavern that originally occupied the location, which dated back to 1773 and played host to a who's-who of the Founding Fathers. It's also touristy, of course, but it’s worth going at least once.

Dirty Frank's

Philly would be nothing without its dive bars and Dirty Frank's is a prime example, chugging along at 13th and Pine since 1933. Originally just called Frank's, and at one point misguidedly renamed 347 bar, Dirty Frank's was a nickname that came along with the bar's second owner and stubbornly stuck. Thanks to cheap beer and citywide specials, it’s a popular hangout for a wide variety of characters.

Ralph's Italian Restaurant

As the story goes, Ralph's originally opened in 1900 at 9th and Montrose before the Dispigno family made the short move to their current location in 1915. And it remains in the family to this day, serving red gravy Italian-American staples that have long been the backbone of the Italian Market neighborhood.

Dante & Luigi's

Founded in 1899, Dante & Luigi's is a South Philly classic known for its Italian-American food. It’s more upscale than its nearby competitors, with white tablecloths, chandeliers, and more formal service, but it’s never stuffy. The storied spot was the scene of an attempted mob hit in the late '80s.

Sarcone's Bakery

The Sarcone's name is omnipresent around town, as serving hoagies or roast pork on Sarcone's bread is a real selling point for area sandwiches. A trip to the 9th Street landmark, which sells a lot more than just bread and rolls, is always a good bet. The small bakery opens up early and closes by mid-afternoon or whenever it sells out (which can happen pretty quickly on weekends), so don't wait. Grab some tomato pie, pepperoni bread, or fresh loaves — it's all worthwhile.

Isgro Pastries

Tenth and Christian is typically one of Philly's best-smelling intersections, thanks to Isgro. Holding court since 1904, this tiny shop fills up quickly on weekends with shoppers seeking out cannoli, butter cookies, rum cakes, torrone, and more.

Palizzi Social Club

palizzi Jason Varney

Originally opened a century ago, Palizzi was designed as a members-only joint, serving cocktails and food in a South Philly row home to immigrants from Vasto, Italy, and their families. Last year, chef Joey Baldino — of local favorite Zeppoli in Collingswood — inherited the club from his uncle. Palizzi is still members-only, but Baldino broadened the criteria to allow more diners to enjoy spaghetti with crabs, calamari with peas, and escarole and beans in a charmingly retro space.