You likely know Philadelphia for its role in the early years of the United States. From the Liberty Bell to Independence Hall, there are plenty of important historical landmarks in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is where the Founding Fathers came together and formed the union, but they likely didn’t expect that the founding of this historic city would lead to a host of famous foods from Philadelphia as well!
What’s Special About Philadelphia Food?
Philadelphia food has a diverse set of influences, which reflects its melting pot of cultures. In fact, you may hear Philadelphia called “the City of Brotherly Love.” This nickname comes from the city’s name, a combination of the Greek words for love and brother, created by the Quakers who founded Philadelphia.
This nickname is very fitting considering food from Philadelphia has a rich mix of influences from Italian, Irish, Jewish, and other cultures. This diverse combination has created lots of unique dishes that you’ll find among Philadelphia foods.
More broadly, Pennsylvania is known for its affinity for snack foods! From soft pretzels to Tastykake, tasty snacks are a part of the fabric of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia food. You’ll find them everywhere that matters, from sporting events and fairs to average street corners, which adds to the vibrancy of foods from Philadelphia!
Most Famous Food Of Philadelphia
What food is Philadelphia known for? Unsurprisingly, one that is named right after the city.
Without a doubt, the Philly Cheesesteak is the most famous food of Philadelphia. This sandwich consists of thinly-sliced beef, grilled onions, and provolone cheese, all melted together, on a hoagie roll.
The Philly cheesesteak was invented by Pat and Harry Olivieri. These brothers created the sandwich to have a new menu offering at their hotdog stand in the 1930s. This little stand grew into Pat’s King of Steaks, which is still in operation, and still serves this classic Philadelphia food.
Locals dispute who has the best of this food Philadelphia is known for, but the two top competitors are Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks. Stop in and try both if you want to weigh in on the debate around this Philadelphia food classic! If that isn’t enough for you, there are even tours dedicated to the Philly Cheesesteak; hop on a Segway Cheesesteak tour to get a full view of this famous food from Philadephia!
Popular Foods In Philadelphia: Meat Dishes
Roast Pork Sandwich
Roast Pork Sandwiches are a culinary gem of foods in Philadelphia and a beloved specialty in the area. These sandwiches have tender, slow-roasted pork, which is seasoned with herbs and spices. The sandwich is typically served on a long roll and topped with sharp provolone cheese and sauteed broccoli rabe.
Bringing together the juicy pork, tangy cheese, and slightly bitter greens makes a truly unique sandwich! If you want to experience this food from Philadelphia, you can grab it at a variety of restaurants! With such convenience of access, there is really no excuse not to enjoy this Philadelphia food classic during your visit!
Scrapple provides a different take on breakfast meat and is one of the traditional foods in Philadelphia breakfast. It is made by combining pork scraps and trimmings, along with cornmeal and spices, and then shaping the mixture into a loaf. The loaf is then sliced and fried until golden and crispy!
This makes it a delicious, savory breakfast meat that compliments any Philadephia food. Scrapple is normally served with eggs, toast, or in a breakfast sandwich. Try out this famous food in Philadelphia when looking for a filling breakfast!
If you’re taking a road trip to explore all the iconic Pennsylvania landmarks, make sure that you stop by WaWa! This is a chain of convenience stores and gas stations that originated in Pennsylvania. If you need a snack on the road, this is definitely the place to stop!
WaWa offers a variety of food options, from made-to-order sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, and classic road trip foods. If you’re craving a snack and a taste of a local Pennsylvania chain midway, Wawa is the stop for you!
Tasty Snack Foods In Philadelphia
Philly Soft Pretzels
Soft pretzels are undoubtedly among the notable foods from Philadelphia! This delicious snack is on menus all across the city but dates back to German immigrants in the area. As compared to a regular soft pretzel, this food of Philadelphia is longer, more doughy, and many say – more tasty!
The real way to spot a Philly pretzel is by its shape. Don’t expect the classic pretzel twist! Instead, you should be looking for an elongated figure-8 form that this famous Philadelphia food is known for and a side of mustard, of course!
Visit the Philly Pretzel Factory, Miller’s Twist, or basically any restaurant to get your hands on one of these incredible pretzels that are among the classic foods of Philadelphia. Reading Terminal Market is another good place to pick up a pretzel AND take on a fun Philly food tour, so you don’t miss out on any of the key Philadelphia foods!
Among the noteworthy foods in Philadephia, Tastykake is an iconic snack brand that has been around since 1914. Known for their delicious baked goods, Tastykake offers a wide array of treats, with everything from cupcakes and pies to Krimpets and Kandy Kakes.
The brand’s commitment to quality and freshness has made Tastykake a beloved staple in Philadelphia and a symbol of nostalgic indulgence. You can find this sweet treat in school lunches and accompanying coffees around Philadelphia. No matter how you enjoy it, Tastykake is a legendary food from Philadelphia!
Although you might have seen this tasty treat around the United States, it’s a traditional food of Philadelphia! This snack brand is known for its variety and quality among a wide range of potato chips. You can get them in classic flavors from Original to Sour Cream & Onion, as well as more innovative flavors like Old Bay Seasoning and BBQ.
The brand was founded in 1946, and it has remained a Philadelphia classic since. The brand’s dedication to quality and crispy chips, using locally sourced potatoes, has kept it a traditional Philadelphia food for many years. Skip the Lay’s on this trip, and try a bag of Herr’s Chips!
Famous Foods Of Philadelphia: Seafood Dishes
Mussels In Red Sauce
The Italian heritage within the city has given Philadelphia cuisine many great dishes! And one of the wonderful Italian food from Philadelphia is none other than mussels in red sauce! It features plump and juicy mussels in red sauce (marinara), which has grown to become a favorite dish for locals.
The tomato-based sauce features garlic, herbs, and a touch of spice, which gives it a rich flavor. This cultural Philadelphia dish is often enjoyed with a side of crusty bread, so you can soak up all the delicious sauce. If you’re a fan of seafood, this is something you shouldn’t miss!
Pepper Pot Soup
Pepper Pot soup is a traditional dish among foods from Philadelphia! This hearty and flavorful soup is made with tripe, various types of meat like beef or ham, vegetables, and spices. As the name suggests, Pepper Pot soup
can have a hot pepper addition which takes the spice level from mild to spicy.
It has a rich, comforting flavor, which is perfect for a cold evening. This dish is often associated with the city’s colonial roots and African-American heritage. If you want a taste of history, try out this historic food of Philadelphia!
Traditional Italian Foods In Philadelphia
Wedding soup is a beloved Italian-American classic, which has climbed to popularity among the foods in Philadelphia. It is a hearty soup typically made with a combination of chicken broth, meatballs, leafy greens, and small pieces of pasta. The Italian heritage in the greater Philadelphia area makes this a popular choice!
A little-known fact about Philadelphia: the name actually comes from an Italian phrase, meaning “married soup,” symbolizing the perfect marriage of flavors. It is a comfortable and flavorful soup, which can be found throughout Italian neighborhoods and restaurants. Enjoy it as a starter or meal, whatever you’re feeling!
This Italian pastry is a key part of food from Philadelphia, due to the Italian influences in the area. This sweet dessert or snack is made of crisp, fried pastry shells filled with a creamy, sweetened ricotta cheese blend. You can find amazing cannoli throughout the city’s Italian neighborhoods!
From traditional vanilla to chocolate chip or pistachio, there are many interesting twists and variations on the Italian classic as well.
If you want to try various cultural cuisines around Philadelphia, check out an Italian market food tour, where you’re bound to get a sense of the international influence on famous foods in Philadelphia!
Stromboli is a classic among the foods of Philadelphia, owing to the Italian-American heritage in the area. This is a rolled and baked pizza dough, filled with a delicious combination of Italian deli meats, cheeses, and vegetables. It is a hearty dish, which is great for a cold evening!
Most times, you’ll find stromboli served with a marinara sauce for dipping, which makes it even more delicious! You can find this famous Philadelphia food in tons of Italian restaurants around town. It’s a favorite among tourists and locals alike, so make sure you don’t miss out on it.
Tomato pie holds a special place in the landscape of Philadelphia cuisine. It is a square or rectangular pizza-like dish, with a thick, chewy crust topped with a generous amount of tangy tomato sauce. Though it might look like a traditional pizza, it has its own variations which make it a unique Philadelphia food.
What’s different about tomato pie? It is often served at room temperature, instead of steaming hot like a normal pizza! This makes it an ideal choice for picnics, parties, and casual gatherings around the Philadelphia area. Make sure you check it out if you want to try a famous food in Philadelphia!
Desserts And Sweet Foods In Philadelphia
Originally developed as a ration bar for WWI, this tasty candy bar is now a solidly local favorite in Philadelphia and beyond! These delectable candy bars have a chewy, nougat-like center, crafted with roasted peanuts and a layer of rich, molasses-flavored chocolate. If you’re a sweets lover, you’ll want to grab a box of these to take home with you!
Of all the foods of Philadelphia, this one is special as it constitutes a balance of sweet and salty flavor palettes. Because of their historic value, peanut chews are a satisfying and nostalgic treat, which spans generations of Philadelphians. Pick up some of this food from Philadelphia, for your sweet-toothed friends back home!
Irish Potato Candy
If you’re expecting this candy to be made of Irish potatoes, you’d be wrong! Despite the name, this classic among foods in Philadelphia is made of a mixture of coconut cream and confectioner’s sugar. These sweet pockets are rolled into small, potato-like shapes and coated in cinnamon to give them a potato-like appearance.
These delightful, nostalgic candies are often enjoyed around St. Patrick’s Day in Philadelphia, though you can find them at any time of year. It is a unique candy in the area and a fun part of Philadelphia cuisine. Get a taste of this near-Irish classic, next time you visit the city!
Shoofly Pie is a classic dessert in the whole state. One of the fun facts about Pennsylvania is that this dessert pulls on Philadelphia’s culinary Dutch heritage. It is a rich, molasses-based pie that features a crumbly and sweet bottom layer, made with flour, butter, and brown sugar, topped with a gooey filling of molasses, eggs, and spices.
Imagine this whole delicious creation served with a dusting of powdered sugar or whipped cream on top. You’ll be able to see this classic food of Philadelphia from a mile away. There are also distinct flavors and textures of Shoofly pie all around the state, making it a beloved dessert option!
We’ve got one more simple yet famous Philadelphia food to share with anyone with a sweet tooth! Butter cake is a decadent and indulgent dessert, which has a deep history in Pennsylvania cuisine. It is a soft, buttery cake, topped with a sweet and gooey butter, sugar glaze.
Although this cake sounds basic, it has creamy flavors and a moist texture that make it stand out among foods in Philadelphia. You can enjoy butter cake on its own or with a side of vanilla ice cream, either way, you really can’t go wrong with this time-honored treat.
Foods In Philadelphia: Cool Treats And Drinks
If you find yourself in Philly on a hot day, make sure you check out a classic in Philadelphia cuisine, “water ice.” This spin on Italian ice or shaved ice has become so iconic in the area that it is something that Philadelphia is known for. It is a refreshing treat with just three ingredients: water, sugar, and fruit.
In terms of taste, it’s more icy than Italian ice but smoother than shaved ice. When you taste it, you’ll understand. Stop by Rose’s Water Ice or Siddiq’s Real Fruit Water Ice for some of the best water ice in town!
A perfect complement while chilling on the beautiful beaches of Pennsylvania during a warm summer day.
Okay, so calling this a cool treat is a bit of a stretch! This is an alcoholic beverage, which is definitely part of Philadelphia cuisine! It typically consists of a shot of whisky, often whatever the local favorite is, paired with a beer.
The Citywide Special is a popular choice among locals and visitors since it offers a budget-friendly way to combine a shot and a beer. You can grab this traditional Philadelphia drink at lots of bars around the city. It provides a symbol of camaraderie and is a great way to enjoy part of what makes Philadelphia unique!
Birch Beer holds a special place among famous drinks and foods in Philadelphia since it is a regional favorite. It is a carbonated soft drink with a special flavor, reminiscent of wintergreen or rootbeer.
You’ll see Birch Beer in traditional and red varieties, with the red offering a slightly sweeter taste. This bubbly beverage makes a great treat on its own, but is also a great complement to the foods of Philadelphia or as a mixer for a cocktail. No matter how you enjoy it, make sure you try out this Philadelphia classic.
FAMOUS FOODS IN THE US
Sampling Famous Foods In Philadelphia
Although many people visit Philadelphia for its historical significance, visitors shouldn’t miss out on the foods in Philadelphia either! While there are standout Philadelphia food classics, like the Philly Cheesesteak and water ice, there are many other foods from Philadelphia worth a mention like water ice or peanut chews.
With so many cultures in the city of brotherly love, it’s no wonder the food of Philadelphia is so diverse. Take advantage of that and go on a fun culinary adventure while in Philly.