Philadelphia, PA - Philadelphia is well known for producing culinary gems that have become international classics. Still, there are certain staples that most residents and visitors to Philadelphia must try at least once.
One such dish is the cheesesteak, an iconic sandwich created with thinly-sliced steak and melted cheese on a long hoagie roll. It has quickly become a favorite among Philadelphians and visitors alike. Check out our list below of Philadelphia's Iconic foods to try next time you're in town.
1. Philly Cheesesteak
Philly Cheesesteaks have long been considered an iconic menu item in Philadelphia. They are revered as one of the greatest worldwide. These hearty sandwiches consist of thinly-sliced beef steak topped with melted cheese on a long hoagie roll. Making a Philly cheesesteak involves several steps, but all have the same essential components: thinly sliced beef steak topped with American cheese and optional extras like fried onions, hot or sweet peppers, or sauteed mushrooms.
An essential ingredient to crafting an excellent Philly cheesesteak is thinly sliced ribeye steak that ensures tender and succulent bites of meat.
Your best choice would be Amoroso rolls for an ideal Philly cheesesteak experience; these soft rolls do not become sticky like hot dog buns.
As for the meat, most cheesesteak enthusiasts tend to use thinly sliced ribeye. You could also opt for chicken instead, though ribeye provides superior marbling.
2. Roast Pork Sandwich
People everywhere know of Philly's world-famous cheesesteak sandwich. Still, not as many recognize its lesser-known but nonetheless, iconic roast pork sandwich as it arguably remains Philadelphia's premier hot meat and cheese offering.
A classic Italian-American sandwich is similar to a hoagie; the roast pork sandwich features slow-roasted pork on a seeded roll with sharp provolone cheese and garlicky broccoli rabe for an unforgettable combination that is both complex, slightly bittersweet, and satisfyingly savory - an instant hometown hero!
Pork is marinated with salt, sugar, thyme, rosemary, and garlic before lightly searing, creating an easy yet succulent sandwich!
John's Roast Pork in South Philadelphia has long been considered one of the city's best sandwiches, making this hyper-regional eatery a favorite among residents and visitors.
Hoagies, long sandwiches made of Italian bread filled with meat, cheese, and other fillings that may include vegetables or salad, are one of Philadelphia's signature sandwiches and one which Mayor Ed Rendell declared official in 1992.
Hoagie sandwiches date back to World War I at Philadelphia's Hog Island shipyard. Other theories suggest they may have originated further north, although none is definitive. Italian immigrant workers would bring large Italian sandwiches with cured meats and antipasto salad as lunch for workers who participated in the war effort.
Many scholars credit street vendors known as "hokey-pokey men" from the early 20th century with inventing the hoagie as snacks; they cut long loaves of bread in half and stuff them with antipasto salad and meats before selling them as street foods.
No matter its source, hoagies have become a beloved staple in America. Due to its immense popularity, an entire industry of sandwich shops dedicated solely to this food has come up in Philadelphia; several such as Primo's Hoagie and Lee's Hoagie House, stand out for providing tasty hoagies.
4. Philly Soft Pretzels
Soft pretzels have long been an iconic food of Philadelphia - whether as an iconic symbol at baseball games, an appetizer in restaurants and cafes, or a treat during summer fairs and carnivals. Their bite-sized form makes them great snacks when strolling through parks with friends or family.
Pretzels first made their way to America during the 18th century as immigrants from Austria and Germany brought with them their beloved "bretzel" recipes. By the 19th century, these doughy treats became an irresistibly tasty staple of daily life.
Soon, street vendors were hooked on this irresistibly salty snack and began spreading it all across their cities. A few decades later, the first commercial pretzel factory opened for business in Lititz, Pennsylvania.
Soft pretzel bakeries in Philadelphia now provide these tasty snacks from easy recipes. Hand-twisted, they're an iconic Philly treat and among the best gluten-free options, baked in dedicated gluten-free ovens.
5. Water Ice
Water Ice is an irresistibly refreshing treat available in various flavors. Unlike its sugar-laden counterparts, such as ice cream or snow cones, however, water ice contains little added sugar!
Philadelphia has many mom-and-pop water ice stands that have served customers this tasty frozen treat. Many have even been serving this treat for generations!
John's on 7th Street and Pop's on Oregon Ave. have become staples since their openings early last century.
They offer an assortment of toppings such as lemon shavings, candied lemons, and fudge chunks - catering to locals and tourists alike - and participating in charity events throughout the year.
Origins of this frozen treat remain obscure, although food historian Liz Williams suggests its creation as an antidote for heat in summer months. Ice and fruit were combined as an effective cooling strategy that quickly became known among ancient Sicily's population.
Tastykake, an iconic food product of Philadelphia since 1914, remains an integral part of Philadelphia culture as a national staple.
But despite their iconic status in Philadelphia, Tastykakes have faced many difficulties. When globalization hit hard in 2010, Tastykakes' founders made significant decisions, like moving their bakery operations to an advanced facility at Navy Yard to keep up with globalization and remain relevant in a highly competitive business climate.
After a decade of mismanagement by former CEO Charlie Watts, Pizzi launched the company into a new era by replacing management and recruiting experienced executives to fill empty positions under Watts's tenure. He also invested money into marketing and technology initiatives which Watts had neglected.
Pizzi clarified that his main objective was to keep Tastykake based in Philadelphia. Employees rallied behind this new mission statement as they worked to preserve Tastykake's local roots while adapting to an ever-evolving global marketplace.
Something is energizing and inspiring about seeing a hot pan brimming with breakfast meat sizzling away in the morning, tempting people out of bed and eagerly awaiting breakfast. From its aromatic cooking aromas, delicious sizzle, and freshly brewed coffee brewing in the background, all come together for an excellent morning meal experience.
Scrapple, initially created in Pennsylvania and made with pork parts, is an incredibly delicious breakfast meal that has gained immense popularity throughout its native state. Common thickening agents for scrapple include cornmeal or buckwheat meal, spiced with sage and pepper for extra flavor.
There's no secret formula when it comes to creating this dish. Still, typical ingredients typically include pork stock, skins, skinned pig lungs, pork hearts, wheat flour, corn meal, and spices or binding agents like liver.
8. Tomato Pie
Tomato Pie has long been a comforting meal since it first emerged at the turn of the 20th century, initially as an act of thrift and resourcefulness and later becoming a mainstay in Italian-American communities around Philadelphia.
South Philadelphia boasts some of the oldest bakeries still operating today that serve this classic treat; Sarcone's, for example, has been working continuously since 1918 on South Ninth Street and stands as an icon there.
Start your tomato pie by slicing tomatoes thinly and covering them in salt for 10 minutes to let any extra moisture escape and dry off before baking.
Once the tomatoes are done, prepare the filling. Combine shredded cheese, mayonnaise, and fresh basil in a medium bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper as desired.
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