As you may or may not know, Philly is near and dear to my heart. As a military brat, I moved around a lot – every 3-4 years or so. My grandparents lived outside of Philadelphia while I was growing up, so Christmases and summer breaks were often spent there; it was a sort of “homebase.” A little after I graduated college, I decided to make Philly home for real, and moved there. The next several years were spent making friends, having my first (and second!) full-time job, going through a number of personal struggles, and soaking up as much of Philadelphia as possible.
Now that I’m not longer living in the city, I try to make it back as often as I can. When I feel homesick, it’s for the people, culture, neighborhoods, and foods of my favorite city.
I visited recently and made it a point to eat all of my favorite things and to try a few new spots. Philadelphia is a great city for food, so I wanted to share some of my favorites with you:
- Chickie’s & Pete’s Crab Fries. Crinkle-cut fries tossed in a secret spice blend and served with a warm cheese dipping sauce, grab these at one of several Chickie’s & Pete’s locations or at a kiosk if you have a layover at the Philadelphia International Airport.
- Mix Brick Oven Pizza’s Buffalo Chicken Pizza. Mozzarella, grilled chicken, hot sauce, and blue cheese dressing (which I hate on its own) make for the perfect slice at my favorite casual pizza joint.
- Tsuki Sushi’s Sushi! The picture shows a spicy crab roll and one of the featured/limited-time specials called the Black Diamond, but you can select three rolls (from a list of 36 options) and pay $12 – a great deal.
- Federal Donuts’ Strawberry Lavender Donut. Federal Donuts features three awesome menu items: coffee, donuts, and fried chicken. Treat yourself to a warm, sugared donut.
- Bonchon’s Korean Fried Chicken. Bonchon’s twice-fried chicken is amazing and comes in two sauces: soy garlic or spicy. The picture shows soy garlic, because the spicy sauce is very spicy and I’m a wuss. You’ve been warned!
- Spread Bagelry’s Standard. My picture shows egg whites and bacon on a sesame seed bagel. There are plenty of other options at this Montreal-style wood oven bagel shop. (Does it come close to New York bagels? No, but it’s a close second.)
- Ice Land’s Bananatella. Rolled ice cream is everywhere in Chinatown. Ice Land was the first time I tried rolled ice cream, and I enjoyed it! The Bananatella is comprised of vanilla ice cream, Nutella, and real bananas. You don’t have to order one of the listed combos – you can come up with your own custom concoction – and have fun watching!
- Nomad Roman’s Spicy Soppressata Pizza. Nomad is my favorite sit-down pizza place in the city and this is my favorite pie: tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, soppressata, oregano, garlic, red pepper, parmigiano, sea salt, and a little bit of honey to offset the spiciness.
- Insomnia Cookies’ Cookies! Insomnia started as a late night food truck/cookie delivery service on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus and is rapidly expanding throughout the East coast (my college town in Virginia has one!) and with good reason! My go-to’s are chocolate chip and white chocolate macadamia nut.
- Oishii Poke’s Poke Bowls. Poke is all the rage and Philly has a great spot in Chinatown that offers poke bowls, salads, and sushi burritos. This picture shows my “Poke Your Way” bowl, with white rice, crabmeat, ahi tuna, corn, edamame, lettuce, seaweed salad, crab salad, tobiko, sesame seeds, dried seaweed, and fish flakes. I asked for spicy aioli on the side and requested sesame oil and soy sauce poured over my bowl.
- Big Gay Ice Cream’s Salty Pimp. This is soft-serve done right: vanilla ice cream, dulce de leche (literally injected into the ice cream), a bit of sea salt, with a chocolate shell. (The cone is served with a convenient drip guard in case you’re messy like me.)
- Primo Hoagies’ Italian Hoagie. Ask any Philadelphian what their favorite hoagie spot is, and you’re sure to get varying answers. Primo happens to be mine, and I always get the Italian: the prosciutto, provolone, hot capacola, and genoa salami are perfect on a sesame seed hoagie roll. Add lettuce, tomato, and/or onion, but you better get oil and not mayo!
(Notice anything missing? “Sarah,” you might be wondering, “what about cheesesteaks? Isn’t the city known for Philly cheesesteak sandwiches?” Well, yes, the city is known for cheesesteaks [the word “sandwich” is not necessary, by the way] and yes, there are plenty of places to get one. I very rarely ate cheesesteaks and don’t especially miss them, so when I visit I don’t make a point of having one.)
This list isn’t by any means exhaustive. These places are all extremely casual and have very reasonable price points. There are plenty of more upscale sit-down restaurants, gastropubs, and other quick eats that I can write about, so you’ll just have to stay tuned!