Celebrated Philly chef Mike Solomonov leads the way to his favorite hometown eats.
Even if you’re not among the 50,000 people headed to Philly for the Democratic National Convention this month, there’s another reason to put this destination on your travel radar. The City of Brotherly Love is home to some of the most exciting restaurants in the United States right now, so much so that food-obsessed New Yorkers have been known take the two-hour train ride south just for dinner. That explains the months of buzz leading up to the Manhattan opening of Dizengoff, an 18-seat temple to hummus from Mike Solomonov, one of Philadelphia’s most celebrated chefs. Yet even as he expands for the first time outside his hometown, the James Beard Award-winning maestro of Israeli cuisine is always keen to talk about the places that make Philly such a great food city. Check out Solomonov’s short list of hometown haunts.
“Last summer, we started making a fried chicken sandwich at Port FedNuts, our location at Spruce Street Harbor Park down on the water. On the sandwich: our buttermilk ranch fried chicken, American cheese, Rooster sauce, and dill pickles on a Martin’s potato roll. It is now a permanent staple at all of our FedNuts locations, and it’s one of my favorite sandwiches ever.”
George’s Sandwich Shop
“Philly has an abundance of great spots for a roast pork sandwich. I would go to George’s down on 9th Street in the Italian Market. The street itself is lined with old-school businesses, from a handmade pasta shop to butchers; there’s a place to buy spices and some red-sauce joints. There are also fresh produce stands lining the sidewalks. George’s is right on the corner, and I would recommend walking up to the street window and ordering there. Find a spot at a sidewalk table, and dig in.”
High Street on Market
“High Street is conveniently located in my neighborhood, Old City, just a few blocks from Zahav. The food is just delicious—dishes like squid ink bialy with smoked white fish. And every person there is kind. It is all a product of chef Eli Kulp and Ellen Yin. They make the magic happen.”
“My favorite bowl of pho, or Vietnamese beef noodle soup, is at Pho 75 down on Washington Street in South Philly. I could eat pho every day and be a very happy person. My business partner, Steve Cook, and I head here to clear our heads from the day-to-day bustle of running restaurants. It is a no frills, jam-packed kind of spot that feeds the soul.”
“I’m not one for lines, but for very certain things, you have to go for it. Pizza at Beddia is one of those things. The space is tiny, with only space for, I’d say, 10 people standing at the most. Chef/owner Joe Beddia makes incredible pie. His pizza is a true example of how working simply, with the best ingredients you can find, can really pay off. Go at 5:30 p.m., grab a drink around the corner or pop across the street to Stock for a pre-pizza banh mi sandwich, and then head back when it’s your turn at 7:30 p.m. You won’t regret it.”
“These guys are super-nice food truck owners who recently opened a brick-and-mortar spot at a prime location in Rittenhouse Square. I just had the chorizo tacos at their shiny new digs. Everything they do is fresh, and you can tell it’s run by good people.”
“The end of a great Saturday night at Zahav ends with a trip to Café Soho. Go for their spicy Korean fried chicken wings. It’s a car ride away in North Philly, but well worth the trip, especially late at night—you will undoubtedly sleep well.”
South Philly Barbacoa
“Besides Israeli cuisine, Mexican food speaks to me. This place is for the early risers who are willing to travel and not be hard-pressed to a schedule. They open before dawn, and I hear they sell out of lamb before noon. Bottom line: They serve serious, authentic tacos and barbacoa. They used to be a lunch cart, but now they have a storefront on 11th Street in South Philly.”
“I bring my sons to this Chinatown spot on Friday night for hand-drawn noodles, and then we go home and light the Shabbat candles. It’s become one of the things I look forward to the most. My son actually calls this place ‘Buddha soup and noodles’ because there’s a large Buddha that plants itself right by the door.”
“I’ve been coming here since I was a kid, and I just recently and randomly met the owner in an elevator. Go—bring your family—and order the barbecue platter.”