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12 Foods You Have to Try in Philadelphia Before You Die

Food + Drink
by Janny Hoedemaker May 17, 2017

IF YOU’RE PLANNING a trip to Philadelphia, here are the 12 foods that you will have to try.

Warm Soft Pretzels

The ONLY way to eat soft pretzels is warm. If they’re crispy on the outside while still soft and doughy on the inside, you’ve got a winner. Choose one with plenty of salt and don’t forget the mustard topping. You can find them at Center City Pretzel Co., Philadelphia Soft Pretzels Inc., Philly Pretzel Factory or at any of the silver street carts that have the umbrellas.

Water Ice

Like a snow cone, but the ice is much finer and the flavor is mixed throughout. The flavors are endless and the colors are vibrant. Check out Jimmy’s Water Ice, Tranzilli Real Italian Water Ice, and John’s Water Ice. I love lemon, blueberry, and mango.

Cheese Steak

Try this iconic steak sandwich from three different places: Pat’s, Geno’s and Steve’s. You’ll have to taste them all to decide which is best. You can order a ‘Whiz Wit,’ or a ‘Whiz Without,’ i.e. a steak with Whiz cheese and fried onions or one with Whiz cheese and no onions. Know which you want before you get to the window or else you might get a lot of sass.


Scrapple, which originated with Pennsylvania Dutch farmers, is chopped meat scraps, buckwheat flour and corn meal, packaged in a square, and is usually cut into slices, pan fried, and eaten for breakfast. The best way to have it is crispy and dipped in ketchup. For the best scrapple, try the Dutch Eating Place, Shoo Fry, or the Grill Smuckers.

Wawa Sandwich

A Wawa is basically a convenience store on steroids, but the best part is their made-to-order station where customers can use a touch screen to order a hoagie or club sandwich and get them at any hour of the day. This is the go-to spot all over the town for drunk food, but my two favorite Wawas are located on Broad and Walnut streets.

Pork Roll

This comes in round thick slices and is best cooked pan fried. You can find pork roll sandwiches at nearly every breakfast place, but the best spots are South Street Philly Bagels, Grill Smuckers, or Manhattan Bagel.

Crab Fries

No crab meat here. These fries are sprinkled with a seasoning mixed with Old Bay (typically used to spice crabs) and have a special cheese dip on the side. They can only be had at Chickie & Pete’s, a Philadelphia institution with locations in in the airport, south Philadelphia, Robbins Avenue, and Roosevelt Boulevard.

Roast Pork Sandwich

Visit Reading Terminal Market and find DiNic’s, a small vendor selling roast pork sandwiches. These hand-carved treats are considered to be the best of their kind in the city — maybe the entire country — by foodies and Man vs. Food.


This line of neatly packaged cakes and pastries are sold in every gas station and convenience store around Philadelphia. Try Butterscotch Krimpets, the Kandy Kakes, cupcakes, Kandy Bar, Honey Buns, Snowballs and Chocolate Bells.

Irish Potato Candy

They got their start here. They look like potatoes, but are made from coconut cream and coconut flakes balled together and covered in cinnamon. They are most popular around St. Patrick’s Day. You can find them at Reading Terminal Market.

Italian Hoagie

Philly is known for its Italian food. This classic comes on a soft Italian roll and has oil, oregano, salt, pepper, raw onion, tomato, ham, capicola, salami, lettuce, provolone, vinegar and pepper. While you can get one of these at Wawa, the best places for Philly Italian Hoagies are Paesano’s, Cosmi’s Deli and Sarcone’s Deli.

Shoo-Fly Pie

Philadelphia and the surrounding Lancaster County have a big Pennsylvania Dutch population, and they’re famous for their baked and homemade goods. Try the Shoo-Fly Pie at the Amish stand in the Reading Terminal Market. This traditional pie is made with molasses and is best eaten with a strong black coffee.

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