Everyone knows what you’re supposed to eat in Philadelphia. A cheesesteak, right? Of course. But there’s way more to Philly’s always-evolving food scene. The city’s most iconic dishes are rooted in Italian-American traditions, original Americana recipes, and the contributions of its many immigrant communities. Yes, get a cheesesteak or two — but this map highlights many more classic Philly dishes everyone needs to try.Read More
25 Restaurants Offering Philly’s Most Iconic Dishes
The best places for cheesesteaks, injera, pho, water ice, and more of the most iconic foods in Philly
1. Wings at Cafe Soho
At the moody, K-Pop video lit dining room of Cafe Soho, opt for double fried wings or boneless, then choose from a menu of sauces ranging from classic soy garlic to sweet chili and spicy, and add an extra order of pickled daikon. Cafe Soho is accepting orders over the phone or online, so be sure to give them a call at (215) 224-6800 before heading north to West Cheltenham Avenue.
2. Jerk Chicken at Jamaican D's Caribbean & American Restaurant
Caribbean platters of jerk chicken, fried whiting, curry chicken, and oxtail are all to-die-for at this Chelten Avenue destination. You basically can’t go wrong with anything you order (by phone or on Grubhub), but don’t be intimidated by the lines. It’s just one more sign that Jamaican D’s is a beloved hotspot for some of the tastiest mac and cheese, collard greens, and plantains in the city.
3. Peking Duck at Sang Kee Peking Duck House
The Chinatown spot that claims to have first introduced Peking duck to Philly back in the 1980s is still the place to go for the Chinese specialty. These ducks have a crisp mahogany skin and come with pancakes, steamed buns, scallions, and hoisin. Dine in, or order online for pickup and delivery through all the typical outlets.
4. Empanadas at Jezabel’s Argentine Café & Catering
No trip to Philadelphia is complete without a visit to Jezabel’s in West Philly, where chef Jezabel Careaga offers some of the best empanadas outside of northwest Argentina, where Careaga is from. Order an empanada pack with eight assorted empanadas of your choosing — meat, vegetarian, or vegan — and enjoy with the spicy sauce of the day. Alfajores for dessert are not to be missed, either. Preorder online.
5. Combo Platter at Abyssinia
Philadelphia, PA 19104
In West Philly, homey Ethiopian restaurant Abyssinia has convenient meat or vegetable platters on its menu that are perfect for sampling several dishes. Use the injera to scoop up lentils, collard greens, spicy berbere chicken, tender cubes of beef, and more.
Also in West Philly, Dahlak has been a reliable option for Eritrean-Ethiopian fare for decades.
6. Scrapple at Down Home Diner
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Scrapple: It’s a weird and beloved Pennsylvania thing. The Pennsylvania Dutch breakfast staple combines pork scraps, cornmeal, and heavy seasoning into a loaf which gets sliced and pan-fried. Try it at Down Home Diner in the iconic Reading Terminal Market, either for breakfast or on top of a burger if you’re feeling adventurous. Order online in advance or dine in.
7. Ice Cream at Bassetts Ice Cream
Bassets has been making ice cream in Philadelphia since 1861, and packing pints out of their Reading Terminal location since the market’s debut in 1893. Unlike other ice cream companies who have chosen to modernize with lavish mix ins and out there flavors, this family run creamery keeps it simple with a straightforward line up of flavors ranging from simple chocolate chip and French vanilla to throwback scoops like rum raisin and butter pecan.
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8. Oysters at Oyster House
For the last three generations, the Mink family has been in the oyster business. The current location of Oyster House, which has been around since the 1940s, is polished, modern, and known for its happy hour oysters. All of the seafood is served within 24 hours of being taken out of the water.
9. Lamb Shoulder at Zahav
As a nationally renowned restaurant that’s been part of the charge for exceptional Israeli food in America, Zahav is a major point of Philly pride. The lamb, braised in pomegranate molasses and strewn with chickpeas, is one of the restaurant’s signature dishes. Reservations for via Resy.
10. Cheesesteak at Angelo's Pizzeria
There’s plenty of debate about where to eat a cheesesteak, but the point is simple: Eat one. For better or for worse, there is no more iconic food in this city than the cheesesteak. Angelo’s makes a showstopper version, as do a couple dozen other places in town. The key factors are a fresh, locally baked roll, flavorful (if moderately greasy) meat, Cheez Whiz (or American), and (optional) sautéed onions. Call to order for pickup.
11. Shaw Muang Dumplings at Kalaya Thai Kitchen
It’s difficult to pick only one dish at Kalaya Thai Kitchen in South Philly as the most iconic of all the excellent offerings, but when forced, there’s no doubt that the shaw muang dumplings top the list. The flower-shaped dumplings are dyed lightly blue with butterfly pea flower and they taste as good as they look. The ground chicken filling is spiced perfectly and the cilantro and red chili add flavor for days.
12. Square Pizza at Santucci’s (multiple locations)
The square pie from Santucci’s has been a Philly favorite for many years, starting in the 1950s in Northeast Philly. The pizza is well-charred in cast-iron pans and piled with “upside-down” toppings, meaning the sauce is on top. Order online or dine in.
13. Water Ice at John's Water Ice
While Philly has many places to get good water ice, John’s in Bella Vista is a longstanding favorite. The cold treat is made with only water, fruit, and sugar, just like when the South Philly takeout shop opened in 1945. Open for walk-ups or call ahead.
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14. Meatballs and Gravy at Villa Di Roma
This retro Italian Market stalwart is beloved for many reasons, not the least of which is its famous meatballs and gravy (otherwise known as red sauce). Get them over spaghetti, atop ravioli, on a sandwich at lunch, even to grab and go and pass off as homemade — just get them.
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15. Tacos at Taqueria La Prima
Philadelphia, PA 19147
The tender chicken tinga, spicy chorizo, and savory lengua are all stellar at Taqueria La Prima in the Italian Market, and the nopales, when available, are almost reason enough to visit on their own. As an added bonus, the tiny, no-frills eatery is open all day and doesn’t stop serving until late night. (It’s the same spot that used to be called Prima Pizza.)
16. Soft Pretzel at Center City Pretzel
Ask any true Philadelphian about soft pretzels and they’ll tell you about how they considered them a basic food group when they were growing up, about the guys at every intersection selling them in brown paper bags, and about how they used to be much cheaper. Well, the guys at the intersections are mostly gone and the prices have gone up, but pretzels are still part of the standard diet here in Philly. The good ones are almost-crunchy on the outside, doughy-soft in the middle, and baked to a rich, golden brown. Center City Pretzel opens its bakery doors at 6 a.m. to serve the hungry masses, and get its wholesale orders out the door. For more than three decades, this bakery has been going strong and still makes its pretzels with just the basic ingredients: flour, yeast, water — plus that crunchy salt on top. Just make sure to get there early — they close at 10 on Saturdays and 11 every other day but Sunday.
17. Banh Mi at Ba Le Bakery
In the rest of the country, these pâté, butter and veggie filled baguettes are known as banh mi, but in Philly they’re commonly referred to as Vietnamese hoagies, because, well, it’s Philly. Ba Le has been baking since 1998 and their order by number menu full of charcuterie, chicken and prawn packed banh mi garnished with spears of cucumber, carrot, daikon, a sprig of cilantro, and racy rounds of jalapeño. You can preorder in advance.
18. Tacos at South Philly Barbacoa
Cristina Martinez’s lamb barbacoa tacos regularly draw national attention to this casual Italian Market eatery. The lamb is marinated and cooked overnight before tender chunks, chopped to order, are served on house-made tortillas. South Philly Barbacoa is open weekends, from 5 a.m., for takeout.
19. Pho Saigon
Philadelphia, PA 19147
There are two Pho Saigons in Philly — one in the Northeast on Bustleton Avenue and the other in a shopping center right by the entrance to I-95. Either destination will hit the spot with one of Philly’s most revered dishes: a rich, hot bowl of pho, topped with all the necessary herbs and stewed in a lovely bowl of broth. Are you a morning pho kind of person? You can get Pho Saigon’s famous noodle soup starting at 9 a.m.
20. Cannoli at Termini Brothers Bakery (multiple locations)
South Philly is known for its picture-perfect family-run Italian bakeries, spilling over with sweets like torrone, lobster tails, zeppoli, and cannoli. One must-try spot is the century-old Termini Brothers Bakery, where the cannoli is integral to the Philly experience.
21. Gudeg Jackfruit Stew at Hardena
This unassuming South Philly corner has been serving incredible Indonesian food for the past 20 years. Stop by for takeout on any given day for savory stews like fish in yellow curry and tender braised beef rendang, but its the vegan gudeg jackfruit stew that has the most devoted fans. Real Philadelphians know that the stew is unctuous and rich and unlike anything else you can get in Philly. Don’t skimp on the housemade sambal. The gudeg is only available on Saturday and Sundays so be prepared.
22. Cheesesteak Torta at Café y Chocolate
Residents of Philadelphia can argue ad nauseam about where to find city’s best steak, but there’s no doubt that this cozy Mexican breakfast and lunch spot does does one of the more intriguing takes on the famed sandwich. Cafe y Chocolate brightens the steak and cheese combo with serrano peppers, chipotle mustard, and fresh pico de gallo.
23. Roast Beef Sandwich at Old Original Nick’s Roast Beef (multiple locations)
Grab extra napkins because this densely stacked sandwich with thick-sliced roast beef drowning in its own intense beef gravy is messy. But the kaiser roll soaking up some of the juice is one of the best parts of the well-loved South Philly sandwich.
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24. Roast Pork Sandwich at John's Roast Pork
Philadelphia may be best known for cheesesteaks, but locals know a little secret: Get the roast pork instead. The no-frills John’s Roast Pork in South Philly has been perfecting the sandwich since 1930, even earning a James Beard Award as an American Classic. And if you must have a cheesesteak too, this is an excellent place to get one.
25. Tomato Pie at Cacia's Bakery
Depending on geographic location, the words tomato pie mean different things to different people. In Philadelphia, it’s a stripped down take on pizza — Italian bakery-made dough, tomato sauce, and depending on who’s asking, a pit of cheese. With a vibrant, lightly sweet tomato sauce and soft crust, Cacia’s textbook tomato pie is offered by the rectangular slice, alongside banana pepper and American topped pieces of pizzaz and white broccoli pie.
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