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Philadelphia Dining

Regional Specialties
Philadelphia Dining
Local fare and diverse international flavors are dished up in food trucks, diners, and five-star venues around town: Philadelphia offers something for all tastes.
By Sue Manuel, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by age fotostock
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    Regional Specialties
    Regional Specialties
    No visit to Philly would be complete without trying a cheesesteak, a hoagie, and a soft pretzel. Go to South Philly, where the cheesesteak originated, to eat at Pat’s King of Steaks or Geno’s. Other legendary sandwich spots are Tony Luke’s, Jim’s Steaks, and Campo’s Deli. Hoagies are made at nearly every corner deli, and Primo Hoagies offers creative combinations at several locations around the city. Another regional treat, the soft pretzel, tastes best when freshly baked, of course; locals wait in line at Miller’s Twist in the Reading Terminal Market for warm and buttery pretzels direct from the oven.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Fine Dining with Philly's Top Chefs
    Fine Dining with Philly's Top Chefs
    Visitors can expect an unforgettable experience at any of the various restaurants run by Philly’s award-winning chefs. Diners reserve months in advance for a table at Greg Vernick's eponymous spot, Vernick Food & Drink, which serves New American cuisine in a brownstone near Rittenhouse Square. Michael Solomonov’s Zahav dishes up modern Israeli cuisine in Society Hill. Husband-and-wife proprietors Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby create inventive vegan courses and heavenly desserts at Vedge. Stephen Starr has a group of unique theme restaurants, including the French bistro Parc and the English pub Dandelion, as well as Alma de Cuba.
    Photo courtesy of Parc
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    Unique Philly Eats
    Unique Philly Eats
    Philly offers a wide selection of unique and offbeat foodie destinations. Chef Marcie Turney crafts artistic chocolates by hand in the back of the boutique Verde on 13th Street in Midtown Village. Locals in the know visit Sazon on Spring Garden Street for Robert Campbell’s gourmet truffles and rich drinking chocolate. Pizza fans flock to Pizza Brain, billed as the world's first pizza museum and restaurant, with its vast collection of pizza-themed toys and memorabilia. Take in the glorious views from Assembly Rooftop Lounge while sipping champagne or craft cocktails. Enjoy the stellar deep-fried combination of fresh hot doughnuts and fried chicken at Federal Donuts.
    Photo by Sue Manuel
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    Sunday Brunching
    Sunday Brunching
    Locals here are serious about Sunday brunch, so make reservations or prepare to stand in line. For hearty servings of flapjacks, try the signature red-velvet pancakes at any of the Green Eggs Cafés, or the whole-wheat pancakes at Sabrina’s Café. For brunch with cocktails, Italian gastropub Alla Spina and Talula’s Garden are both worth the splurge. In Center City, excellent options for brunch include the Sidecar Bar & Grille, where you can get a craft beer. Consider Farmicia for simple, fresh food in historic Old City, or the Red Owl Tavern adjacent to Hotel Monaco.
    Photo courtesy of Sabrina’s Cafe
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    The Philly Craft-Beer Scene
    The Philly Craft-Beer Scene
    In a city where breweries have existed since colonial times, where American lager was born, and where one neighborhood was named Brewerytown thanks to the local industry, there is no shortage of craft-beer makers. Yards Brewing Co. and Philadelphia Brewing are two large-scale local breweries that offer tours. On a smaller scale, try Crime & Punishment in Brewerytown, Dock Street in the Cedar Park section of West Philly, or the Manayunk Brewery and Restaurant, situated in a former textile mill along the picturesque Manayunk Canal. Two stand-alone bars that feature outstanding beer selections are Monk’s Café in Center City and Standard Tap in Northern Liberties.
    Photo courtesy of Standard Tap
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    Philly's International Flavors
    Philly's International Flavors
    Visitors can choose from an endless array of world flavors during their trip to the City of Brotherly Love, starting in Chinatown, where dining highlights include Vietnam Restaurant, Pho Xe Lua, and Rangoon Burmese Restaurant. Other cuisines available in Chinatown include Korean, Malaysian, and Thai. The West Philly area is known for Indian, Thai, Ethiopian, and Laotian eateries. In Old City, the top-rated Zahav serves modern Israeli fare, while creative tapas can be enjoyed at Amada. Sample Venezuelan arepas (corn patties) at Puyero, and Cuban ropa vieja (shredded beef) at Alma de Cuba. In Rittenhouse, Dizengoff plates delicious variations of Israeli hummus.
    Photo courtesy of Mike Regan/Zahav
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    The Reading Terminal Market
    The Reading Terminal Market

    One of the most exciting and vibrant food destinations in Philadelphia, the historic indoor Reading Terminal Market provides dozens of options for foodies, ranging from standard regional fare like cheesesteaks and hoagies to artisanal grilled-cheese sandwiches, soul food, Cajun cooking, Mexican classics, and more. The market is a regular spot for locals for grocery shopping or lunch meetings; visitors interested in exploring without crowds should consider arriving as early in the day as possible. Not-to-be-missed treats include decadent doughnuts and whoopie pies from Beiler’s Bakery, freshly baked soft pretzels at Miller’s Twist, ice cream from Bassetts, and the exceptional cheeses and Philly bread offered by the Fair Food Farmstand.

    Photo by Graham Tiller