If you’re anything like us, the first thing you do when planning a trip—perhaps even before booking a plane ticket—is figure out where you’re going to eat while you’re there. Museums, sightseeing, and shopping are all well and good, but food is often the main attraction. To make trip planning a little easier, we’re compiling lists of our can’t-miss pit stops in some of our favorite places. JBF Award winners, hole-in-the-wall favorites, America’s Classics, and one-hit wonders—we’ll give you a quick rundown of our absolute must-eats in each featured location.
We love a cheesesteak as much as the next guy, but there's so much more to the food scene in Philly. Here are a few of our favorite places to eat in the City of Brotherly Love:
This decidedly grown-up bar in Center City has a sexy, speakeasy vibe and a reputation for serving expertly made cocktails that don't mess around. What to expect: a curated selection of spirits, homemade syrups, sleek glassware, and hand-chipped ice matched to each drink. What not to expect: frilly cocktails, a light touch on the pour, and vodka, which the bar doesn't serve. Plus, customers are allowed in only when seats open up, so you're guaranteed a civilized, jostle-free drinking experience.
What to order: Don't be intimidated by the lengthy drinks menu: the knowledgeable bartenders will guide you through the offerings, which change several times a year, and are happy to create a custom quaff.
Savvy patrons know that getting a taste of Michael Solomonov’s incomparable doughnuts requires dedication—and an alarm clock. At his South Philly and Center City locations Solomonov’s “fancy” doughnuts (glazed yeast doughnuts in unconventional flavors—think brown sugar-grapefruit or vanilla-lavender) sell out by 9:30 AM (the chef also makes equally addictive cake-like doughnuts that are fried to order throughout the day). In the mood for something savory? The za’atar fried chicken is not to be missed.
What to order: Indian cinnamon, vanilla-lavender, and Appolonia Spice (cocoa powder and orange blossom) doughnuts; za’atar fried chicken.
A can't-miss for any serious cheese lover, this gourmet food shop has been a Philadelphia institution since the DiBruno brothers opened their first storefront in the city's 9th Street Italian Market in 1939. Today each of the shop's three locations boasts an impressive selection of imported cheeses and cured meats, friendly and well-informed staff, and generous samples to nibble on while you browse.
What to Order: We wouldn't leave without a tub of one of Di Bruno's handmade cheese spreads, like the Abbruzze, a creamy blend of aged cheddar, hot pepper, garlic, and herbs.
You can watch a game over at Marc Vetri’s low-key gastropub, but it’s certainly not your average sports bar. At Alla Spina (which means “from the tap”), the JBF Award winner offers an incredible selection of local and Italian microbrews and seasonal craft beers along with an array of creative, Italian-inflected pub fare.
What to order: Quattro pazzo (Pilsner, orange juice, prosecco, and aperol); mortadella hot dog; pig tails with fennel agrodolce; “schisola” polenta fritters stuffed with taleggio cheese; coconut cream pie éclair with blueberry sauce.
Cap off your Philadelphia wanderings with a cup of intensely flavorful, small-batch gelato at one of Capogiro's four Philly outposts. The much-heralded family-run shops blend Italian technique with pristine, locally sourced Pennsylvania ingredients to churn out inventive, hyper-seasonal gelatos.
What to order: Fior di latte (made with milk from an Amish family's herd of grass-fed cows); Sicilian pistachio.