If you are taking a gastronomic tour, Philadelphia should top your bucket list. Its ultimate fusion of Italian, Mediterranean, Asian, European, and Continental cuisines makes it a one-stop-shop for foodies. Every Philly food serving has its share of historical accounts that it is impossible for anybody to run out of pep talks. In fact, there is no better place to eat authentic Philly cheesesteak than in this part of Pennsylvania, where the combination of cold and humid temperatures transforms the land into perfect lush green landscapes.
Based on VisitPhilly.com statistics, about 11.6 million leisure tourists visited Philadelphia in 2013, a massive 350 percent increase since 1999. The Philadelphian culture represents a number of ethnicities, which piqued curiosities among the locals and visitors. So for the benefit of anyone who intends to experience the Philadelphian food at its finest, below is a list of 10 iconic restaurants in town that will certainly be forever engraved in your gastronomic memoir.
Philadelphia gave birth to the famous Philly cheesesteak in the 1930s when Pat and Harry Olivieri first served the Italian chopped steak in a roll. Back then, the Philly cheesesteak had no cheese at all. It was only when Joe Lorenza, a branch manager of Pat’s King of Steaks in Ridge Avenue, added provolone cheese that the Philly cheesesteak had its name a household staple. The hunt for the best cheesesteak would not be complete without stopping by at Geno’s on South 9th Street.
For those looking for a classic Philly gastronomical experience, Jerry’s Bar offers some of the best local and seasonal dishes in town. The pub’s timeless appeal is even better with the culture of winery, a plus point for locals and tourists on Laurel Street. Owner Bill Proud incorporated mellow live jazz for a more relaxing effect.
Yes, Benny Lai’s flagship restaurant caters Vietnamese food suited for the Philly palate. One the best selling recipes is the trio barbecue platter, which is an assortment of pork meatballs, beef wrapped in grape leaves, and char-grilled chicken. Vietnam is also known for its vermicelli noodle that has since been an essential part Philadelphian staple food.
Anybody who thinks that Philadelphia is lacking of authentic European bistro has never been to Noord Eetcafe. Chef-owner Joncarl Lachman successfully incorporated a full menu of Dutch cuisine like smoked fish and bitterballen or braised and fried meatballs garnished with nutmeg and mustard. A dining experience at Noord Eetcafe takes you on a gastronomic trip to Northern Europe.
The infamous Stephen Starr is on to another magnificent collaboration with Peter Serpico. Following Starr’s style, Serpico’s sleek and dark ambience welcomes foodies from around the world to socialize and devour its Italian-American fine dining. Among the best sellers are the chilled dashi soup, deep fried duck leg on potato wraps, and the corn ravioli.
When Chef Michael Solomonov built Zahav, the initial intention was to introduce Israeli cuisine to this side of America. It is quite hard to find similar restaurants in the area and eight years since its inception, Zahav still serves the best kebabs and mezze plates in town. Solomonov’s menu is surprisingly simple, but it does not discount some of the best sellers like the grilled duck hearts and crispy haloumi that are ideal for Thanksgiving parties.
Cheu Noodle Bar
The Cheu Noodle Bar on 10th Street is the haven for Asian food lovers. The ramen noodle is particularly handmade, so you are certain you get the freshest noodle available. They also serve other traditional Asian foods like Szechuan long beans and barbecued pig tails at a starting price of US$9.
Another Starr masterpiece, the Fette Sau is a barbecue restaurant featuring the industrial communal side of Northern Europe. Meats are sourced from local smoke-in farms while all orders are sold by the pound. Aside from meat-based main course, they also serve side dishes like burnt-end baked beans, potato chips, pickles, and broccoli salad, which is better with beer or whisky.
After his cooking stint in the reality show Top Chef, Nick Elmi now works at the renowned French-American restaurant on Passyunk Avenue. His winning chilled tuna and horseradish at Rittenhouse Tavern is now available at Laurel.
It is hard to miss Federal Donuts at South 2nd Street especially with its quaint pastries and flavorful chicken bowls. Chef Solomonov is known for his revolutionary donuts with unique flavors such as banana cream pie, strawberry-ginger, and cookies and cream among many others.
Finally, a walk to the town’s Center City spoils you with French fine dining like Le Cheri, which is famous for Pierre Calmels’ cooking. The western side of Philadelphia is home to Easter 38 and Marigold Kitchen. Both restaurants are on their sophomore year. Take a trip to Philadelphia either to see sights or eat real good food. It is an ideal location for family gatherings or even if you just want your own gastronomic pleasure.