6 Iconic Philly Foods & Where To Devour Them

Philadelphia is a city full of history, sports, and must-eat dishes.

When exploring the city of Philadelphia, there is no way you can avoid trying a Philly cheesesteak. Whether you like Geno’s or Pat’s more, it is essential on your trip. Although perhaps the most popular dish in Philadelphia, there are many more iconic Philly foods to try when visiting the home of the Fresh Prince.

1. Philly Cheesesteak

Geno's Steaks
FACEBOOK Geno’s Steaks

Perhaps the most famous Philadelphian meal, a Philly Cheesesteak is a sandwich, usually in long wrapped with white bread – similar to a hoagie roll – consists of very thin steak topped with melted cheese or cheese whiz. Grilled onions, peppers, and sauteéd mushrooms are common toppings on a cheesesteak.

If you are in need of suggestions as to where to find the perfect Philly Cheesesteak while in the City of Brotherly Love, the aforementioned Geno’s Steaks or Pat’s King of Steaks is your best bet. There is a rivalry between the two steak shops, however, as they’re located right across from each other.

In order to help your decision, Geno’s serves thinly sliced steak while Pat’s serves cheesesteaks with chopped steak. This is seemingly the only difference between the signature steak shops, and you cannot go wrong with either! Or…try both!

2. Tomato Pie

Tomato Pie From Corropolese
Tomato Pie From Corropolese. Image by @corropolesebakery on Instagram

Tomato pie is an Italian dish with sweet, thick tomato sauce on top of deep-dish, doughy pizza crust topped with sprinkle parmesan and/or romano cheese. Tomato pie is only served cold or at room temperature.

The dish was brought to Philadelphia by Italian immigrants and began reaching fame in the early 1900s. Around that time, some of the current best locations to find tomato pie opened, including: Iannelli’s Bakery in 1910, and Gaeta’s in the mid-1900s.

Outside of Philadelphia, you can find authentic tomato pie at Corropolese Italian Bakery and Deli. This is another popular destination famous for its tomato pie near the Philly area: Norristown, Audubon, Limerick, and Douglassville which is a bit farther from the city, but the perfect option for a genuine tomato pie.

3. Hoagie

Hoagie From Marinucci's Deli
Hoagie From Marinucci’s Deli. Image by @marinuccisdeli on Instagram

A classic Philadelphia hoagie consists of Italian meats, cheese, and veggies on a long roll slightly crispy on the outside, but soft on the inside. To put it in better terms for those who do not use the word hoagie, it is similar to a sub sandwich, it just has a different name.

The name is said to have originated around World War I. Italian immigrants worked in a shipyard named Hog Island, and they would commonly eat sandwiches, which became known as “Hog Island Sandwiches,” on their lunch break. Eventually, the name was shortened to “hoggies.”

It is nearly impossible to find a bad hoagie shop in Philadelphia, but hare are some that are more popular: Marinucci’s Deli, Cosmi’s Deli, and Ricci’s Hoagies. The most popular chain to get a hoagie from would be an east coast favorite, Wawa.

4. Water Ice

D'Emilio's Water Ice
D’Emilio’s Water Ice. Image by @oldworldicetreats on Instagram

If you are not from Philadelphia and surrounding areas, chances are you do, in fact, know what water ice is, but you know it as Italian ice. The two frozen treats are the same thing, they just have different names. Water ice is a blend of ice, sugar, and flavoring. When it comes to flavoring, you can find a variety of choices, such as: chocolate, strawberry, mango, root beer, and many more. Although frozen, water ice has a creamy texture that is neither too icy nor too watery.

Some of the best places to order water ice are: D’Emilio’s Old World Ice Treats, Siddiq’s Real Fruit Water Ice, John’s Water Ice, and Pop’s Homemade Italian Ice. When in Philly, be sure to try this Philadelphian dessert after your Philly cheesesteak or hoagie.

5. Roast Pork Sandwich

Roast Pork Sandwich From DiNic's
Roast Pork Sandwich From DiNic’s. Image by @tommydinics on Instagram

The roast pork sandwich consists of thin roasted pork slices, melted provolone cheese, broccoli rabe, and long hot peppers; all put onto a kaiser roll.

This sandwich came to Philadelphia when Italian immigrants came to the south region of the city. It began in 1930, when Domenico Bucci, an Italian immigrant, sold pork sandwiches out of a shack which he built. Today, this shop has evolved into John’s Roast Pork, one of the most popular places to buy an Italian roast pork sandwich. On top of John’s, DiNic’s Roast Pork at the Reading Terminal market, Tony Luke’s, and High Street on Market serve some of the best roast pork sandwiches in Philly.

6. Philly Pretzels

Philly Pretzel From The Philly Pretzel Factory
Philly Pretzel From The Philly Pretzel Factory. Image by @phillypretzelfactory on Instagram

Philly pretzels are the perfect food for any occasion. They are the enhanced soft pretzel, as they are longer and thicker. Crispy on the outside, but chewy on the inside, these salty twists of dough spiked quickly in popularity in Philadelphia, but they did not originate in the city.

In the seventh century, pretzels, which were known as pretiolas in Italy, were given to children once they learned their prayers. These pretiolas eventually made their way into Germany and Austria, becoming known as “bretzels.” Through this, they arrived to the Pennsylvania Dutch, and the first pretzel bakery began in Lititz, Pennsylvania in the 1800s. Since Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Dutch were closely connected with trade, pretzels found their way into the city, and have remained ever since.

Although soft pretzels are sold all over Philadelphia, the best place to get a doughy twist would be the Philly Pretzel Factory, Center City Pretzel Co., or Miller’s Twist.

If you want to try the first pretzel bakery in America, Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery is still open and operating today in Lititz. They are even offering tours with pretzel-twisting lessons.

Kennedy Kollar

Content Associate

Kennedy is an entertainment junkie hailing from Pennsylvania. When she is traveling, you can find her searching for the best gluten-free foods as well as matcha and chai teas. She loves immersing herself in new cultures and wishes to visit the less-traveled hidden gems.

Jetset Times in your inbox

Sign-up for our newsletter

By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Policy and European users agree to the data transfer policy.