Philadelphia Essentials

Explore local favorites in the City of Brotherly Love.

Food and Drink Essentials: Best Places to...


John’s Roast Pork
14 East Snyder Ave. (215) 463-1951
Not just roast pork, John’s cheesesteaks have won high praise from food critics and just folks alike. Order a large, which packs everything into an excellent seeded roll from Carangi’s Bakery. Go for lunch; it closes at 3 p.m. daily except Sunday.

Steve's Prince of Steaks
7200 Bustleton Ave. (215) 338-0985
They trim off the fat before they fry the steaks and offer raw and fried onions, but charge extra for the provolone.

Chink’s Steaks
6200 Torresdale Ave. (215) 535-9405
Just the fragrance of fried onions can fill you up, but hang in there for the steaks, so juicy and the rolls, so perfect. Wash it down with a banana shake, if you are so inclined.

In Philadelphia, you got Acmes, SuperFresh, Pathmark and ShopRight, Wawas and 7-Elevens, and in the summer, just about every neighborhood (even in the City Hall Plaza), you’ve got farmers’ markets. That's where the native-born shop (Acme is pronounced Ac-a-me, by the way).

Whole Foods
Then, you’ve got Whole Foods, of which there are two -- Ninth and South streets (215-733-9788) and 2001 Pennsylvania Ave. (215-557-0015) -- where everything is organic and good for you, but very pricey. They also are great places to meet your kind of people, if you’re the kind of people who shop there.

The adventurous with cars drive over the Benjamin Franklin Bridge to the Garden State Park Shopping Center at Route 70 and Haddonfield Road, where the region’s only Wegman’s has become a mecca for those who don’t leave choice to chance.

Reading Terminal Market
12th and Arch Streets, (215) 922-2317
Any “Fluffian,” as the natives call themselves, knows that the best produce, seafood and meats are at the terminal, which has been around since the 1890s, was renovated in the 1980s and 1990s, and serves as the lunchroom for downtown workers as well. Six butchers, six seafood vendors, a whole region of Amish purveyors, Bassett’s Ice Cream and the Down Home Diner, as well as cooking classes, Italian bakeries (the Termini cannoli!), kitchen equipment and concerts. Everything is fresh from the regional market in South Philly every day.

Italian Market
If you like shopping out-of-doors and you like Italian, it’s the Ninth Street Market, also known as the Italian Market, which is in and around Ninth and Christian Streets in South Philly. While there is now a Vietnamese and Cambodian presence at the market, the cheeses hanging in the window, the handmade sausage and pasta, and the cannoli (Termini’s main bakery is here) make the market the place Italian-American families still shop from Tuesday through Sunday.

You really should eat at one of the neighborhood’s three dozen restaurants -- Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Cambodia -- even Ray’s Coffee & Tea Shop is Taiwanese. Then there are the curio shops, and, of course, the supermarkets filled with bok choi and rabbits and ducks hanging in the windows.

When Starbucks are on every corner, a latte is not hard to find. Here are three exceptional alternatives:

The Latte Lounge
816 N. 4th St. (215) 629-9808
Plenty of ambience, fine pastries, poetry readings and, of course, tasty coffee. It’s a hole in the wall, but the clientele is pretty funky.

The Chestnut Hill Coffee Co.
8620 Germantown Ave. (215) 248-8800
The owner is from Seattle, and so his is head barista, and they roast their own. While other coffee concoctions are worth a try, if you are only a one-time visitor, it’s better latte than never.

Chapterhouse Cafe & Gallery
620 S. Ninth St. (215) 238-2626
The "Black and Tan" latte is worth a try, made with espresso, steamed milk, chocolate and peanut butter. They have the old-fashioned kind if you are a traditionalist.


Planet Hoagie
1211 Walnut St. (215) 928-8883
A hoagie is the Philly word for “hero,” “grinder” and “sub.” Planet Hoagie has 60 variations on the theme, among them sun-dried tomatoes, cured Italian meats and roasted eggplant; chicken cutlet with sharp provolone and broccoli rabe, or Italian tuna, roasted eggplant, sharp provolone, and roasted peppers.


Hershel’s East Side Deli
Reading Terminal Market, 12th and Arch Streets, (215) 922-6220
Humungus sandwiches, including a Reuben stacked with corned beef, sauerkraut, Russian dressing and Swiss cheese, and Dr. Brown’s sodas in celery and black cherry are huge draws for diners. Go just before lunch hour or just after, or you’ll wait a lifetime for service.


Brasserie Perrier
1619 Walnut St. (215) 568-3000
Chef Georges Perrier brings some of what made his five-start Le Bec Fin -- the only Philadelphia restaurant so honored by the Mobil Travel Guide -- to his brasserie, which opened in 1997. As the city’s business elite deal around you, you can go a la carte or explore the various permutations of Perrier’s $32 prix fixe lunch, including the herb crepe, braised chicken, wild mushrooms, frisee.


The Fountain at the Four Seasons
One Logan Square (215) 963-1500
It doesn’t get any more romantic than this, or much more expensive than this either, but the food here continues to be superb, the dining intimate and, in the winter, when there is a roaring fire in the fireplace, l’amour, l’amour. What makes some refer to Philadelphia as “the Paris of America” runs right by the hotel: Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Dinner done and it’s still too early to go home, take a stroll down the Parkway to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, walk up what tourists call “the Rocky Steps,” turn around, look at the city below and hold hands.

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