clock menu more-arrow no yes
Termini Bros
Termini Bros
Facebook

Philadelphia's 18 Most Iconic Dishes

The food that defines Philly

View as Map
Termini Bros
| Facebook

Everyone knows what you're supposed to eat in Philly. Pick a cheesesteak or hoagie (or both), stop for some water ice, buy a soft pretzel. But save room, because there's way more to Philly's food scene.

Like most cities with a booming restaurant culture, there are two camps: the old and the new, the traditional and the modern. And while Philadelphia is now a city nationally recognized for its modern Israeli and vegan delights, among other standouts, dig a little deeper to find iconic dishes rooted in Italian-American tradition, original-Americana recipes, and the contributions of a bustling immigrant community.

Note that the map points are listed alphabetically, not ranked.

Read More
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Lamb Shoulder at Zahav

Copy Link
237 Saint James Pl
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 625-8800
Visit Website
Zahav is a major point of Philly pride — a nationally renowned essential that's led the charge for exceptional Middle Eastern food in America — and this staple is its de facto signature dish. Despite limited availability, travel writers and food editors have deemed the pomegranate-braised, chickpea-strewn masterpiece reason enough to plan a trip to Philly.

2. Capretto at Vetri

Copy Link
1312 Spruce St
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 732-3478
Visit Website
While the rest of the tasting menu changes constantly around them, there are a few Vetri classics that people return for again and again, like this restrained dish of smoked goat. Like many of the best dishes (namely, the ever-changing pastas) at Vetri's flagship spot, it's unfussy and unadorned, but meticulously executed. It's just a little bit adventurous, but only because goat is not a menu staple around here — at its heart, it's just a rustic comfort food plate, whose crunchy skin holds the same sort of joys as Peking duck or porchetta. This capretto displays all the best parts of the Vetri vision, which has been such a force in shaping Philly food and making a name for the city beyond its borders.

3. Budino at Barbuzzo

Copy Link
110 S 13th St
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 546-9300
Visit Website
Pudding is one of life's most pure and simple joys, though this cult-status pudding is not exactly simple. Layered with salted caramel sauce, cookie crumbs, and whipped cream, the reputation of this signature dessert at Barbuzzo quickly outgrew its bounds. In the summer, devotees line up at Verde, another spot from Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran, for frozen budino pops or budino tacos. The scope of the phenomenon goes beyond the dish: It's representative of Turney and Safran's massive influence on the neighborhood and Philly food as a whole.

4. Stromboli at Stogie Joe's Tavern

Copy Link
1801 E Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148
(215) 463-3030
Visit Website
As the story goes, stromboli was invented here in 1950, at Romano's Pizzeria in Essington. But with all due respect to the innovators, the stromboli to seek out now is at Stogie Joe's on East Passyunk.

5. Square Pizza at Santucci's

Copy Link
901 S 10th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 825-5304
Visit Website
While the quality and variety of pizza styles to be found in Philly has exploded, classics like the square pie from Santucci's have been around (starting in the '50s in the Northeast), quietly flying in the face of the old "no good pizza in Philly" laments. The pie is well-charred in cast-iron pans and piled with "upside-down" toppings (i.e., the sauce is on top), and tasting the stuff is absolutely crucial to understanding Philly pizza.

6. Meatballs and Gravy at Villa Di Roma

Copy Link
936 S 9th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 592-1295
Visit Website
This welcoming 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, over ravioli, on a sandwich at lunch, even to grab and go and pass off as homemade — just get them.

7. Roast Pork Sandwich at John's Roast Pork

Copy Link
14 Snyder Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19148
(215) 463-1951
Visit Website
There are lots of worthwhile ones to try (see: DiNic's), but despite the fact that John's uses spinach in place of the traditional broccoli rabe, it's impossible to deny the iconic stature of this particular sandwich. (John's also happens to be one of the best places in the city to get a cheesesteak, for those not budging on that.) Eater also highly recommends trying the roast pork at Paesano's (called the Arista), George's, and High Street on Market.

8. Cannoli at Termini Bros

Copy Link
1523 S 8th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 334-1816
Visit Website
South Philly is rightly known for its picture-perfect family-run Italian bakeries, spilling over with sweets like torrone, lobster tails, and (when the season is right) zeppoli. So while, sure, good cannoli can be found in a number of other cities, the one at nearly-century-old Termini Bros. is both definitive and integral to the Philly experience.

9. Tamales at Mole Poblano

Copy Link
1144 South 9th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
215.465.1616
An early-morning stroll through the Italian Market can net butchered-to-order meat, fresh pasta, all types of cheese — and some of the city's very best tamales.

10. Pho at Thang Long

Copy Link
2534 Kensington Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19125
(215) 425-0078
Visit Website
A savory and aromatic bowl of pho has become a staple for many Philadelphians, whether you track it down around Washington Avenue or farther north at this Kensington gem. Thang Long does a superb job with both beef and chicken varieties.

11. Tacos at Prima Pizza Taqueria

Copy Link
1104 S 9th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 339-5000
Philadelphia might not be synonymous with Mexican food to those who don't live here, but the cuisine is an undeniable staple and one of the city's true strengths. Don't be fooled by the name here — the star at Prima Pizza is its tacos, which are stellar whether you go for tender chicken tinga, spicy chorizo, savory lengua, or anything else. The nopales served on the side are almost reason enough to visit on their own. As an added bonus, the place is open all day and doesn't shut down at night until at least 4 a.m.

12. Snapper Soup at The Olde Bar

Copy Link
125 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 253-3777
Visit Website
The hearty soup which once defined this city is made of the unusual combination of turtle meat, veggies, herbs, spices, hard-boiled egg, and sherry. And there was a while (over 140 years) where there was one name synonymous with the soup: Bookbinder's. So when Jose Garces reopened Bookbinder's as The Olde Bar, he made sure to bring back its namesake item, and he did so with a modernized version.

13. Pizza at Tacconelli's

Copy Link
2604 E Somerset St
Philadelphia, PA 19134
(215) 425-4983
Visit Website
Philly's got square pizzas and fried pizzas and tomato pies and stombolis, but there are few who can make a regular pizza like Tacconelli's. Extra-saucy, bubbly all around, charred in all the right places, and chewy like it ought to be, the Tacconelli's pie is one-of-a-kind — and a hot commodity at that. Ordering a pie might mean reserving the dough in advance, but it's that sort of forethought that makes one a true pro when eating out in Philly.

14. Roast Beef Sandwich at Nick's Old Original Roast Beef

Copy Link
2149 S 20th St
Philadelphia, PA 19145
(215) 463-4114
Visit Website
This densely stacked sandwich of thick-sliced roast beef drowning in its own intense beef gravy is messy. Its kaiser roll soaks up as much of the juice as it can, but it can only do so much before giving way to the crushing heavy load. But there's no doubt in the world that diners will be licking their fingers when the last bite is, sadly, gone.

15. Gambas al Ajillo at Amada

Copy Link
217 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 625-2450
Visit Website
Before tapas were a thing in restaurants all over the country, Jose Garces brought the Spanish concept to Old City. The Gambas al Ajillo (garlic shrimp) is still one of the most popular dishes at Amada. The shrimp are cooked in a mixture of olive oil, chopped garlic and red chile, and then finished with lemon juice, chopped parsley, and crispy garlic chips and served bubbling in a stone cazuela.

16. Oysters at Oyster House

Copy Link
1516 Sansom St
Philadelphia, PA 19102
(215) 567-7683
Visit Website
For the last three generations, the Mink family has been in the oyster business. Though Oyster House been in a few locations since the 1940s, the current iteration is polished, modern, and known for its happy hour dollar oysters. All of the seafood — including oysters from all over the country — are served within 24 hours of being taken out of the water.

17. Roast Pork Sandwich at DiNic's

Copy Link
1136 Arch St
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 923-1675
Visit Website
Yeah, yeah, Philly is known for cheesesteaks. But locals know a little secret: Get the roast pork instead. And there’s nowhere better to start than at DiNic’s in the Reading Terminal Market. The family-run business — with roots in South Philly — rubs its pork with Italian herbs and spices before roasting it for five hours. It gets sliced thin, topped with sharp provolone and broccoli rabe, and piled onto a Sarcone’s roll. No wonder it was named the Best Sandwich in America by the Travel Channel.

18. Tomato Pie at Ianelli's Bakery

Copy Link
1151 E Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19147
This pizza-adjacent dish has a base not entirely unlike focaccia (though not entirely like, either), a slick of sweet red sauce, maybe a dusting of pecorino, and is typically served at room temperature. There are many worthy spots turning out this Philly staple, but you won't go wrong starting at Ianelli's.

Loading comments...

1. Lamb Shoulder at Zahav

237 Saint James Pl, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Zahav is a major point of Philly pride — a nationally renowned essential that's led the charge for exceptional Middle Eastern food in America — and this staple is its de facto signature dish. Despite limited availability, travel writers and food editors have deemed the pomegranate-braised, chickpea-strewn masterpiece reason enough to plan a trip to Philly.
237 Saint James Pl
Philadelphia, PA 19106

2. Capretto at Vetri

1312 Spruce St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
While the rest of the tasting menu changes constantly around them, there are a few Vetri classics that people return for again and again, like this restrained dish of smoked goat. Like many of the best dishes (namely, the ever-changing pastas) at Vetri's flagship spot, it's unfussy and unadorned, but meticulously executed. It's just a little bit adventurous, but only because goat is not a menu staple around here — at its heart, it's just a rustic comfort food plate, whose crunchy skin holds the same sort of joys as Peking duck or porchetta. This capretto displays all the best parts of the Vetri vision, which has been such a force in shaping Philly food and making a name for the city beyond its borders.
1312 Spruce St
Philadelphia, PA 19107

3. Budino at Barbuzzo

110 S 13th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Pudding is one of life's most pure and simple joys, though this cult-status pudding is not exactly simple. Layered with salted caramel sauce, cookie crumbs, and whipped cream, the reputation of this signature dessert at Barbuzzo quickly outgrew its bounds. In the summer, devotees line up at Verde, another spot from Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran, for frozen budino pops or budino tacos. The scope of the phenomenon goes beyond the dish: It's representative of Turney and Safran's massive influence on the neighborhood and Philly food as a whole.
110 S 13th St
Philadelphia, PA 19107

4. Stromboli at Stogie Joe's Tavern

1801 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19148
As the story goes, stromboli was invented here in 1950, at Romano's Pizzeria in Essington. But with all due respect to the innovators, the stromboli to seek out now is at Stogie Joe's on East Passyunk.
1801 E Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148

5. Square Pizza at Santucci's

901 S 10th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
While the quality and variety of pizza styles to be found in Philly has exploded, classics like the square pie from Santucci's have been around (starting in the '50s in the Northeast), quietly flying in the face of the old "no good pizza in Philly" laments. The pie is well-charred in cast-iron pans and piled with "upside-down" toppings (i.e., the sauce is on top), and tasting the stuff is absolutely crucial to understanding Philly pizza.
901 S 10th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147

6. Meatballs and Gravy at Villa Di Roma

936 S 9th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
This welcoming 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, over ravioli, on a sandwich at lunch, even to grab and go and pass off as homemade — just get them.
936 S 9th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147

7. Roast Pork Sandwich at John's Roast Pork

14 Snyder Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19148
There are lots of worthwhile ones to try (see: DiNic's), but despite the fact that John's uses spinach in place of the traditional broccoli rabe, it's impossible to deny the iconic stature of this particular sandwich. (John's also happens to be one of the best places in the city to get a cheesesteak, for those not budging on that.) Eater also highly recommends trying the roast pork at Paesano's (called the Arista), George's, and High Street on Market.
14 Snyder Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19148

8. Cannoli at Termini Bros

1523 S 8th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
South Philly is rightly known for its picture-perfect family-run Italian bakeries, spilling over with sweets like torrone, lobster tails, and (when the season is right) zeppoli. So while, sure, good cannoli can be found in a number of other cities, the one at nearly-century-old Termini Bros. is both definitive and integral to the Philly experience.
1523 S 8th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147

9. Tamales at Mole Poblano

1144 South 9th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147
An early-morning stroll through the Italian Market can net butchered-to-order meat, fresh pasta, all types of cheese — and some of the city's very best tamales.
1144 South 9th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147

10. Pho at Thang Long

2534 Kensington Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19125
A savory and aromatic bowl of pho has become a staple for many Philadelphians, whether you track it down around Washington Avenue or farther north at this Kensington gem. Thang Long does a superb job with both beef and chicken varieties.
2534 Kensington Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19125

11. Tacos at Prima Pizza Taqueria

1104 S 9th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Philadelphia might not be synonymous with Mexican food to those who don't live here, but the cuisine is an undeniable staple and one of the city's true strengths. Don't be fooled by the name here — the star at Prima Pizza is its tacos, which are stellar whether you go for tender chicken tinga, spicy chorizo, savory lengua, or anything else. The nopales served on the side are almost reason enough to visit on their own. As an added bonus, the place is open all day and doesn't shut down at night until at least 4 a.m.
1104 S 9th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147

12. Snapper Soup at The Olde Bar

125 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19106
The hearty soup which once defined this city is made of the unusual combination of turtle meat, veggies, herbs, spices, hard-boiled egg, and sherry. And there was a while (over 140 years) where there was one name synonymous with the soup: Bookbinder's. So when Jose Garces reopened Bookbinder's as The Olde Bar, he made sure to bring back its namesake item, and he did so with a modernized version.
125 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19106

13. Pizza at Tacconelli's

2604 E Somerset St, Philadelphia, PA 19134
Philly's got square pizzas and fried pizzas and tomato pies and stombolis, but there are few who can make a regular pizza like Tacconelli's. Extra-saucy, bubbly all around, charred in all the right places, and chewy like it ought to be, the Tacconelli's pie is one-of-a-kind — and a hot commodity at that. Ordering a pie might mean reserving the dough in advance, but it's that sort of forethought that makes one a true pro when eating out in Philly.
2604 E Somerset St
Philadelphia, PA 19134

14. Roast Beef Sandwich at Nick's Old Original Roast Beef

2149 S 20th St, Philadelphia, PA 19145
This densely stacked sandwich of thick-sliced roast beef drowning in its own intense beef gravy is messy. Its kaiser roll soaks up as much of the juice as it can, but it can only do so much before giving way to the crushing heavy load. But there's no doubt in the world that diners will be licking their fingers when the last bite is, sadly, gone.
2149 S 20th St
Philadelphia, PA 19145

15. Gambas al Ajillo at Amada

217 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Before tapas were a thing in restaurants all over the country, Jose Garces brought the Spanish concept to Old City. The Gambas al Ajillo (garlic shrimp) is still one of the most popular dishes at Amada. The shrimp are cooked in a mixture of olive oil, chopped garlic and red chile, and then finished with lemon juice, chopped parsley, and crispy garlic chips and served bubbling in a stone cazuela.
217 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Related Maps

16. Oysters at Oyster House

1516 Sansom St, Philadelphia, PA 19102
For the last three generations, the Mink family has been in the oyster business. Though Oyster House been in a few locations since the 1940s, the current iteration is polished, modern, and known for its happy hour dollar oysters. All of the seafood — including oysters from all over the country — are served within 24 hours of being taken out of the water.
1516 Sansom St
Philadelphia, PA 19102

17. Roast Pork Sandwich at DiNic's

1136 Arch St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Yeah, yeah, Philly is known for cheesesteaks. But locals know a little secret: Get the roast pork instead. And there’s nowhere better to start than at DiNic’s in the Reading Terminal Market. The family-run business — with roots in South Philly — rubs its pork with Italian herbs and spices before roasting it for five hours. It gets sliced thin, topped with sharp provolone and broccoli rabe, and piled onto a Sarcone’s roll. No wonder it was named the Best Sandwich in America by the Travel Channel.
1136 Arch St
Philadelphia, PA 19107

18. Tomato Pie at Ianelli's Bakery

1151 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19147
This pizza-adjacent dish has a base not entirely unlike focaccia (though not entirely like, either), a slick of sweet red sauce, maybe a dusting of pecorino, and is typically served at room temperature. There are many worthy spots turning out this Philly staple, but you won't go wrong starting at Ianelli's.
1151 E Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19147

Related Maps