Barbuzzo Budino Philadelphia

10 Iconic Philly Foods – Pack the Stretchy Pants and Indulge!

Posted on Posted in Dessert, Philly Food, Restaurants
Dessert Cart Davio's Philadelphia
The amazing, worth every extra hour in the gym Dessert Cart at Davio’s Philadelphia

For a first time visitor to Philadelphia, you will be overwhelmed (and surprised) by the amazing Philly foods available 24/7 (the pretzel bakeries and cheesesteaks are great midnight or 3 a.m. treats).  I always joke to bring your stretchy (fat) pants but the good part is that all of the food (and drink) calories are usually offset by the amount of easy walking you can do in Center City and along the Schuylkill River (running, walking and bike paths).  We are a foodie city (didn’t know that?  you should, we are a hidden gem of food) with a great range of restaurants, chefs, iconic foods, neighborhood institutions and local favorites.  No Philadelphia foods list will ever be the same – they will always include the cheesesteak, soft pretzel and water ice and then veer from there.

Now while I could probably write 100+ Foods to Eat in Philadelphia, let’s start with the most famous top 10+ that I usually suggest to first time visitors (not in order because that’s too hard).

Philly Foods – The Sandwiches

  1. Cheesesteak – No Philadelphia visit is complete without trying our famous (and beloved) cheesesteak sandwich. It really is that good – even bad cheesesteaks are usually ok.  But you are a visitor and the key is to find the good ones with the best bread.  I’d order a whiz without.
    1. Don’t bother with chicken, the only choice is the beef (it’s thinly sliced sirloin).
    2. Next do you want with (or without) onions
    3. Pick your cheese (or fake processed cheese that we love)
      • American
      • Cheese Whiz
      • Not Provolone as it screams “I’m not from here” and can lose you the election

Now where to go?  That’s the question that can start fights with everyone having a favorite.  If you are staying in downtown Philadelphia, then there are two options for me. (Note there are many vendor carts and pizza shops that also do good cheesesteaks if you can’t get to my favorites).

Jim’s Steaks on South Street

√ Campo’s in Old City

Davio’s – The luxury version of the cheesesteak, the cheesesteak spring rolls with spicy ketchup and onion straws. You can sit at the bar and enjoy these with the bar menu or opt for a table and a special meal of freshly made pastas like the truffle oil gnocchi or angel hair pasta.  The dessert cart is heavenly so leave room.

Philly Foods Cheesesteak Springroll Davio's
The posh cheesesteak spring roll at Davio’s with spicy ketchup and onion straws
  1. DiNic’s Roasted Pork Sandwich. The Food Channel named this America’s best sandwich and we smiled as we already knew it was a winner (after the cheesesteak of course).  Located in Reading Terminal across from the Convention Center be prepared to wait in line.  The roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe is massive so be prepared to share.
  2. Hot Turkey Platter at the PA Dutch Eating Place (Reading Terminal Market) – This Amish counter is worth the wait.  My all time favorite is the Hot Turkey Platter which is two slices of white bread (or one slice of bread for open face) with freshly sliced turkey covered in gravy with a side of mashed potatos or freshly cut fries (we are indulging, right!?).  It looks messy (it is) but it’s amazing!  Order with a fresh lemonade.
    Amish Hot Turkey Platter PA Dutch Eating Place
    PA Dutch Eating Place Reading Terminal Hot Turkey Platter


  3. Hoagie – You might call it a sub but here in Philly, it’s a hoagie. Please don’t think Subway is your hoagie option – go to Wawa or find a Primo’s Hoagies.

Philly Foods – The Sides with Beer

Go to any bar and ask for a Yuengling Lager.  This famous beer from Pottsville, PA can only be found locally. We also have many local craft breweries supplying the city with unique offerings (bring your growler to fill) and pop up beer gardens that you’ll be hard pressed to find someone ordering a Budweiser or Coors Light.  For the true craft beer fan, Philly Beer Week, is a reason to visit Philly in May/June.  What goes best with beer?  Pretzels and Fries!

  1. The Philadelphia Soft Pretzel (we love our carbs!). You will see soft pretzels available in a variety of stores and vendor carts (we have many bakeries so you will notice a difference). In Center City you will see (and smell) a plethora of Philadelphia Soft Pretzel Factories.  Walk inside the green & white stores and be enveloped by the aromas and all of a sudden you are scarfing down more pretzels than you intended.  These fresh out of the oven treats go best with a spicy brown or hot mustard (yellow mustard is really a NO in my opinion).   All are good just remember you are walking all of these calories off, right?
  2. Chickie’s & Pete’s Crab Fries – A special blend of old bay seasoning that tops your basket of crinkle cut fries (regular and/or sweet potato) that comes with melted cheese and/or honey. This is a special trip to South Philly, the Sports Stadiums or at the Philadelphia airport on your way home.  These are not to be missed (and are worth the added gym time).

    Crab Fries Philly Airport Chickie's & Pete's
    The famous crab fries combo – regular and sweet potato (worth the calories) at Chickie’s & Pete’s at PHL

Philly Foods – The Sweet Treats

  1. Philly Water Ice – This is usually a confusing one for visitors. It’s not shaved ice, it’s not a snow cone with flavored syrup.  It’s an icy treat to make the humid summers seem bearable.  It might be closer to a sorbet but not as creamy.  Made with fresh fruit and a variety of flavors, pair it with the salty soft pretzel and memories of my youth are returning.  Rita’s Water Ice can be found by its red and white striped awning throughout the city.
  2. The Philly Desserts – I’ve written an entire dessert guide about my favorite Philly desserts that you can enjoy locally and send home as a reminder of your trip. Here are just a few of the highlights near the Convention Center and at Reading Terminal Market:
    1. The Barbuzzo Budino – salted caramel, cream lined with a cookie crumble base (Barbuzzo -13th Street near Sansom)
      Barbuzzo Budino Philadelphia
      The famous budino – a sea salted caramel, cookie, whipped creme delight at Barbuzzo


    2. Termini Bakery Cannoli’s (famous Italian pastry at Reading Terminal Market first aisle)
    3. Metropolitan Bakery Sour Cherry Sea Salted Chocolate Chip Cookie (enough said – find in the back corner of Reading Terminal Market)
    4. Asher’s Chocolates (I’m addicted to the chocolate covered pretzels – available at the PA General Store at Reading Terminal Market)

      Asher's Chocolate Covered Pretzels
      Asher’s Chocolate Covered Pretzels at the Pennsylvania General Store
    5. John & Kira’s Chocolates – Husband/wife team producing hand crafted chocolates (love the sea salted caramel bees) and candies.  Worth the extra cost trust me! (available at the PA General Store in Reading Terminal Market)
      John & Kiras Chocolate Philadelphia
      John & Kira’s Chocolates



  3. Donuts at Federal Donuts – This is your foodie version of the donut. Federal Donut sells two foods – fried chicken and donuts.  A weird combination that is a winning one.  While we all love our Dunkin Donuts, Federal Donuts becomes the gourmet version for our grown up foodie tastes. With flavors like Vanilla Spice, Strawberry Lavender, Blueberry Marscapone, Chocolate Peanut Butter and of course, the old standard, Old Fashioned Glazed you will find a favorite. You can get a hot, cooked to order donut or try one of the fancy ones (this is a great example of when to wear your fat pants).

    Blue Star Donuts Portland
    Blue Star Donuts in Portland has boutique donuts and now we can get our foodie donut fix at Federal Donuts in Philly
  4. Capogiro Gelato & Sorbet – a husband/wife team creating small batch locally sourced gelatos and sorbets. They give you free tastes and are a luxury treat throughout the city.  When its raspberry season I would go daily (lots of walking folks!), others enjoy the dark chocolate and Dulce de Leche.  The sorbet options (dairy free) are unique in fruit & vegetable flavors. (13th & Sansom, across from Barbuzzo)Capogiro Gelato Sorbet Philadelphia

Philly Foods – Vegetarian, Vegan, Coffee

  • Vegetarians and Vegans Philly Foods – Philadelphia has a variety of food options to satisfy your veggie needs. Top spots include Vedge, Mama’s Vegetarian and Sweet Freedom Bakery.
  • Coffee  – La Columbe is the top spot but coffee (and tea) is quite competitive with a plethora of neighborhood coffee shops vying to feed your caffeine fix.

    Philly Foods - Coffee
    Coffee in Philadelphia deserves it’s own top 10 list!

Philly Foods – Wawa:

  • WAWA is an Institution in Philadelphia (yes, it’s a funny name but just go with it). Don’t look for the 7-11, just find the Wawa for all of your Philly Foods like Hoagies, Herr’s Potato Chips, Tastykakes (Butterscotch Krimpets are the best) and Wawa coffee.

    Wawa at Broad & Walnut
    Wawa is a Philadelphia institution – the Broad & Walnut location is perfect

There‘s no calories reading this post but there sure are indulgent calories in trying these Philly foods.  But that’s what vacation is for to indulge in local favorites for special memories.  Hopefully you’ll find a few options above to enjoy during your visit.  Just remember to pack those stretchy pants!

If you are a local, comment below with your favorite Philly Foods that you’d recommend to a visitor.

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