Adrian Rubin, a Philadelphia native, shares 10 reasons why his home city has the best food scene on the East Coast. Rubin is a writer and photographer as well as an amateur chef. With extensive experience as a journalist as well as a photographer, he is well versed in sharing his vision with others. His desire to live a healthy lifestyle drives his decision-making process
10 Reasons Why Philly Has the Best Food Scene on the East Coast Right Now
1. A Long History with Food
Even in the seventeenth century, anyone who traveled through Philadelphia was in for an excellent meal. The Blue Anchor, opened in 1682, was one of Philly’s first culinary destinations. Serving local fish, this restaurant went down in history.
One restaurant from Philadelphia’s past that is still operating is City Tavern. This hot spot was founded in 1773 and boasts that the Founding Fathers ate there. The restaurant was rebuilt in its exact colonial style in 1975. Serving traditional dishes, City Tavern provides an important window into the culinary history of Philadelphia.
2. The Reading Terminal Market
Every great food city should have a thriving market, and Philadelphia is no exception. At the Reading Terminal Market, patrons can enjoy a wide variety of local specialties. The Reading Market takes patrons on a tour around the world without leaving Philly. The market serves not only street food snacks, but also serves full meals. There is plenty of seating and a fun and friendly atmosphere.
Chinese, Indian, and Middle Eastern food are some of the highlights of the market’s offerings. At the market, you can enjoy amazing Peking duck. You can also try the Middle Eastern specialty drink called lemonada, blending mint, lemon, and rosewater for a refreshing treat. Samosas are a fragrant bite from India with curried fillings.
The market boasts not only global specialties but also traditional foods from the Amish and Mennonite communities of Pennsylvania. Scrapple, another regional specialty, is a popular breakfast food. Scrapple is a historic dish made from minced pork and cornmeal. Have a huge apple dumpling for dessert.
Food from other regions in America is also available. A Cajun cafe serves alligator gumbo and muffuletta sandwiches.
The bakeries in Reading Market cater to both locals and visitors. You can sample outstanding donuts, bread, cakes, and pies, as well as Italian delicacies like cannoli. Locals can also shop for specialty groceries like meats, cheeses, produce, and fish. Try the Pennsylvania-made blue cheese and the fresh local apples.
New types of food are always coming to the Reading Terminal Market. A vegan deli recently opened in the Market, catering to anyone who wants to eat healthily. With more than 80 vendors, Reading Market truly has something for everyone.
3. Cheesesteak Vs. Roast Pork
While cheesesteak is nationally known as Philly’s official dish, the market has an even more historic favorite to serve. Philly foodies know that the roast pork sandwich is even better than the famous cheesesteak. While both sides have their adherents, you should try both and choose your own favorite.
4. Philly’s Amazing Craft Beer Scene
Philadelphia boasts some of the best craft breweries on the East Coast. There are so many great places to grab a pint, it would take weeks to get through them all. Some of the best breweries in Philly are Yards Brewing Company, Dock Street Brewing Company, and the Manayunk Brewery and Restaurant. Manayunk offers such unique pours as a Coconut Crunch chocolate porter.
5. A Vibrant Mix of Ethnic Dining
As a truly world-class city, Philadelphia has welcomed immigrants from all corners of the globe. Many of these immigrants opened restaurants, bringing their special cuisines to Philly diners. Hardena, an Indonesian restaurant, brings the unique and spicy flavors of Indonesia to Philly. Marrakesh, a Moroccan restaurant, brings diners a taste of Morocco as well as belly dancing on the weekends. Dizengoff, a famous Israeli spot, makes incredible homemade hummus and other specialties.
6. Local Ingredients
Philly restaurants take advantage of the farming communities of Pennsylvania when it comes to sourcing ingredients for their food. New American restaurants like Russet and the Hungry Pigeon use the freshest local ingredients available when creating their dishes. Menus change seasonally depending on what is on the market. You can find chefs from these restaurants checking out the produce at the Headhouse Farmer’s Market.
Other hot farm-to-table restaurants include Will BYOB, Fork, Cadence, and Standard Tap.
7. Explore Fine Dining
Philadelphia has a wide range of dining opportunities, from casual neighborhood spots all the way up to world-renowned fine dining. Historically, most of the fine dining restaurants in the city have been French. Le Chéri continues this delicious tradition with such dishes as pate, duck, escargot, and quenelle. Townsend has a beautiful combination of French techniques with local ingredients. The restaurant also has a renowned wine list.
Fine Italian restaurants also grace Philadelphia’s food scene. Vetri Cucina has an upscale feel with a tasting menu. With such refined dishes as almond tortellini with white truffle sauce, Vetri Cucina combines traditional ingredients in new ways. Osteria has a more relaxed setting but boasts amazing dishes like the polenta agnolotti with bone marrow butter.
8. The Best in Street Food and Food Trucks
When you’re in Philly, make sure that you take the time to walk around the neighborhoods and enjoy the local specialties on every street corner. Not only cheesesteaks and roast pork sandwiches can be found. Philly also specializes in soft pretzels, burgers, and pizza. Food trucks can be found all over the city, bringing delights like Polish food, tacos, and mac and cheese. There’s even a Hawaiian food truck, Poi Dog, which serves food that is hard to find on the East Coast like Hawaiian plate lunches.
The easiest place to find food trucks in Philly is Love Park, which features a rotating slate of food trucks from 11 AM to 3 PM on weekdays. Food trucks can also be found parked throughout the city, especially close to its university campuses.
9. Creative Cocktails
Beer isn’t the only specialty in Philly. While the city has had traditionally tough regulations on alcohol, these restrictions are beginning to lift. Creative cocktail bars have begun to spring up all over the city. Enjoy a unique cocktail with kombucha and salted orange at Martha. At Hop Sing Laundromat, enjoy the refined atmosphere while sipping classic cocktails. 1 Tippling Place has seasonal specialties like the Dragon’s Tear (vodka, lemon, honey, and strawberry) as well as a full slate of classic drinks. These are just a few of the dozens of cocktail bars you can explore. Many of these fun cocktail bars offer happy hour specials.
10. Broaden Your Palate
Anywhere you visit, a trip to Philadelphia will help you to broaden your palate. You’ll enjoy the best in street food, historical specialties, fine dining, beer, and cocktails. Exploring the different flavors Philly has to offer will keep you entertained for days. Along with the renowned historical sites and museums, the food scene of Philadelphia will enhance your trip and keep you coming back for more.
Get to Know Philly’s Food Scene
Adrian Rubin’s culinary expertise and trained palate will help you choose the best restaurants in Philadelphia. His fantastic recommendations can help you to plan a culinary outing in the city, bringing you from rustic food stands to the best in fine dining. Have a cheesesteak when you visit Philadelphia, but make sure that you take the time to explore more adventurous dining options. Whenever you visit Philly, expect to be taken on a world culinary journey.
With his partner, Adrian has traveled the world, visiting such countries as Egypt, Greece, Russia, and France. He collects culinary experiences and inspiration wherever he travels. His international experience makes him qualified to talk about Philadelphia in the context of other leaders in world cuisine.