What to Eat in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Besides the City's Famous Cheesesteak)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is home to the famous cheesesteak sandwich, but its culinary offerings are wonderfully varied.
You should take a break to sample what else this food-loving city has to offer. For authentic experiences, explore the city’s many diverse neighborhoods and tantalize your taste buds with a broad range of international cuisine.
The Chinese have had a presence in Philadelphia since 1860, and today its Chinatown is the third-largest in the United States. An ethnic quarter of that size usually means there are a good number of authentic restaurants to enjoy, including Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House, specializing in China’s famous hand-stretched pasta.
While you won’t see the chef stretching dough at this low-key restaurant, the noodles are nice and chewy, and the egg and vegetable option — a generously portioned bowl — makes for a refreshing, bargain-priced meal.
Chinatown in Philadelphia
Philadelphia’s Asian food scene isn’t limited to the cuisine of China. Philadelphia is home to a number of Malaysian restaurants that offer tropical, spicy dishes such as mango chicken and Indian mee goreng. Banana Leaf in Chinatown is one popular and inexpensive choice.
Enjoying an evening at Reading Terminal Market
Ice Cream and Gelato
For some of the best Italian-style gelato to be found outside Italy, choose between one of Capogiro Gelato’s three downtown Philadelphia locations. The Thai coconut milk flavor is delicious, and the fruit flavors are very nice as well — especially since many are made with locally sourced fruit from local Lancaster County farms.
If it’s an all-American scoop of vanilla or cookies-and-cream that you’re looking for, Bassett’s Ice Cream has been serving up classic favorites from behind its historic counter in the Reading Terminal Market since 1893. If you want to be decadent and go for a hot fudge sundae or banana split, Franklin Fountain, though less than a decade old, successfully recreates the old-fashioned ice cream parlor and soda fountain experience.
Delicious ice cream in Philadelphia
Unlike the coarse icy texture of snow cones, water ice is smooth and fruity, which makes for a refreshing way to cool off on a hot, humid Philadelphia summer day. There are a number of stands and shops selling the popular treat around the city, including Rita’s Water Ice and Philadelphia Water Ice franchises.
Experience a variety of foods at Reading Terminal Market
Yet another international cuisine is available in one of the city’s most renowned restaurants. Zahav celebrates the Israeli heritage of the head chef, and does so ingeniously. It’s best to come with friends so you can sample an array of the delicious Mediterranean-style small plates, including hummus, house-made merguez and sheep’s milk cheese, all prepared to perfection.
Friends dining in a Philadelphia restaurant
These days, the Italian Market on 9th Street is becoming increasingly Mexican, with Spanish music flowing from radios and restaurants offering tastes from south of the border. Just down the street from shops selling fresh pasta and cured meats, you can find tacos and quesadillas to rival any found in Southern California.
Brunch for a Bunch (or a Few)
It’s hard to pass up a good brunch spot. Sabrina’s Cafe, with two locations, is a local favorite. The menu is extensive, filled with an enticing array of sweet and savory morning dishes including stuffed caramelized challah French toast with vanilla bean maple syrup and the egg white frittata with turkey bacon, spinach, tomatoes and provolone.
Vegetarians are easily accommodated here — those who feel left out of the city’s cheesesteak craze can consider trying Sabrina’s meatless version made with seitan.