16 Foods And Drinks You Have To Try In Philadelphia

While Philadelphia's professional sporting success is a constant roller coaster ride of extreme highs and lowly lows, its dining scene remains in a perpetual state of excellence. There are plenty of standout local food and drink staples you just have to try. From local beverages to unique desserts to award-winning restaurants, the city's food scene has so much to offer for every palate and price point. 

And if you are from the Philly area and you didn't realize some of these items were unique to the region (cough, cough, we grew up thinking most of these items were as commonplace as a cheeseburger), this list will be a fun chance for you to go "no way is that a regional thing." Trust us, they all are. Here is a list of foods and drinks you have to try in Philadelphia because we have some items that will knock it out of the park like J.T. Realmuto (pun intended).

Water ice

One time, when we were blissfully unaware of just how niche water ice is to the Philly area, we suggested getting water ice for dessert to a bunch of non-Philadelphians. The verdict: They had absolutely no idea what we were talking about. They even said, "Isn't water ice as a name redundant? You're just saying two forms of water twice."

We were stunned because, as we've established, growing up with Rita's, Philadelphia Water Ice Factory, and Polish Water Ice, we never thought anything of the name. To all the water ice haters: no, it's not Italian Ice, no, it's not shave ice, and, no it's not a snow cone. Water ice is a refreshing dessert all its own and always hits the spot. You can find it with fresh chunks of fruit in it, or even in fun flavors like root beer and Swedish Fish. If you ever find yourself at Citizen's Bank Park (home of the Phillies), check out the Philadelphia Water Ice Factory stand in the stadium. You won't regret it.


If you ask any random American what they think of when they think of iconic Philly food, they'll probably say cheesesteaks. And they're not wrong for that; cheesesteaks are rightfully iconic, delicious, entertaining, and an experience.

Wiz wit, or wiz witout? That is the question. No, seriously, that is the question you'll be asked when you walk up to an (authentic) cheesesteak spot in Philly. Whether you go to Pat's King of Steak's or Geno's Steaks, the rivalry between the two may be palpable, and the folks there each claim the cheesesteaks are very different at each place, but the lingo is standard. Wiz wit means, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, a cheesesteak with cheese wiz and onions. If you don't want the onions on there, you say wiz witout. Even if you're not an onions fan, you would be remiss to order it wiz witout, because the caramelized onions add a lot of flavor to the sandwich. Cheesesteaks are a staple in Philly and the surrounding area, and you can get one at lots of places, but if you want the true experience, you have to go to either Pat's King of Steaks or Geno's Steaks in the Italian Market area of Philly. Luckily, if you want to try both and compare, they're conveniently located right across from each other on the street (talk about a classic rivalry).


Crabfries — perfect as a tasty appetizer, when you don't want plain old fries on the side of your burger, or as the final bite to cap a fun night out. If you've never heard of crabfries, just based on the name, you might be thinking they're fries with pieces of jumbo lump crab on top — but you'd be dead wrong. Instead, the popular crab seasoning Old Bay (other spices may also join the mix) is sprinkled onto french fries which are tossed until every fry is coated. The basket of fries usually comes with a cheese sauce side to dip them in, but they're delicious without that. 

The origin of the dish is pretty interesting. According to Chickie's & Pete's, in 1977, Pete (of the restaurant's namesake) needed a crabby-esque dish to serve in the off-season. While the crabfries were invented specifically at Chickie's & Pete's, most diners, a lot of bars and pubs, and even chains like P.J. Whelihan's serve their own versions. But none quite compare to the original. Maybe it's because the folks there have had so many years to perfect the recipe, but either way, if you're near Chickie's & Pete's (if you're in Philly, you probably are; there are many locations), you have to stop in. And, if you're catching a game at Citizen's Bank Park, there's a Chickie's & Pete's right in the stadium — don't be deterred by the long line, it moves fast and it's so worth it.


Nothing is more quintessentially Philly than stopping at Wawa on the way to the shore and grabbing a hoagie, a bag of chips, and a drink. If you're not from around here, you may call a hoagie a sub, and while many think they are the same exact thing, there are some subtle differences that set them apart in quality. 

According to The Washington Post, the roll is crucial in perfecting the hoagie. Some people prefer their hoagie with deli meat, cheese, salt, pepper, vinegar, oil, mayo, lettuce, tomato, onions, and peppers. Any variation or combination of those ingredients will probably be good. The hoagie is the perfect simple yet satisfying lunch. If you're new in the area or just in town for the World Series or simply sightseeing, you have to try out an authentic Philly hoagie (beyond Wawa, we recommend grabbing a sandwich at beloved local mini-chain PrimoHoagies)  and compare it to what you've had before. You'll taste the difference.

Craft beer

Was craft beer invented in Philly? No. But do we know how to make it our own? Of course. With copious amounts of local breweries, bars, pubs, and more, there is a lot of space for a thriving craft beer market in this region. According to Visit Philadelphia, there's even a craft beer crawl featuring over 100 different breweries just in the city alone. It's sufficient to say that if you wanna go to a local brewery and watch game three you won't have a problem finding one.

Some of our favorite spots in the city include Dock Street Brewery (serving up cold beer and hot pizza) and Triple Bottom Brewing (nothing tastes bad there, even the darkest of lagers on the lightest of palates). Grabbing a local beer at a brewery or sports bar to watch the Phillies, Eagles, or Flyers is almost as fun as catching a game in person.


It has a cute name with slightly disturbing ingredients, and yet you can find it on almost any diner or breakfast spot menu. It's scrapple, and it's not going away anytime soon. There's even a national holiday to commemorate it — November 9 is National Scrapple Day, according to the Farmer's Almanac. Scrapple is a breakfast meat made up of the leftover pig trimmings that don't get used in other meats like bacon, sausage, and pork roll. If it sounds unappetizing to you, think of it like this: It's both more sustainable and more respectful to the animal if you use up all the parts and don't let anything go to waste, and scrapple is a representation of that.

Like any other breakfast meat, you can find scrapple at most diners and breakfast joints in Philly, Pennsylvania, and South Jersey. It's regional to this area because the Farmer's Almanac notes that it was created by German colonists in the 18th century in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Though it is a very resourceful meat, it's definitely not for everyone. But, if you're curious, it is very salty and is usually put on a breakfast sandwich with eggs and cheese, or on the side.

Philly soft pretzels

Seen at every big family event, brought to kids' sporting games, seen at ballparks, and a staple in the appetizer arena, Philly soft pretzels are popular for a reason. Sure, you've probably had a soft pretzel before, but no version is quite like the ones you'll find in and around the City of Brotherly Love. According to Billy Penn, Reading (a town in Pennsylvania), calls itself the pretzel capital of the United States. Not only that, but there used to be a pretzel museum in Philly, and you can get a really good soft pretzel from any convenience store to a nice sit-down restaurant.

Simply put, soft pretzels are just a thing in Philly. They're pretty filling, and you can jazz them up with any side you like. If you want to try the chain version that you know will hit every time (and not risk it with a hit-or-miss Wawa soft pretzel), go to the Philly Pretzel Factory. You can grab the traditional twisted dough pretzel with a lot of salt on it (feel free to scrape some of it off; no one will be offended), or you could grab our personal favorite from the Philly Pretzel Factory: the rivet shaker with a side of the cinnamon dip. Rivets are basically mini pretzels without being twisted, and they are the perfect bite-sized snack. And the cinnamon dip, well, it's creamy and delicious and you'll absolutely want to get it.

Tomato pie

The tomato pie is a variant of pizza, but it's pretty different. The core ingredients are the same, yes, but it's the preparation that makes these two dishes distinctly different. A plain cheese pizza, as we're sure you know, is a circular dough baked with tomato sauce, spices, and a melted blend of cheeses on top, ranging from mozzarella to cheddar. 

Tomato pie, on the other hand, is comprised of square dough, with pieces cut into squares. There's a much thicker layer of tomato sauce on top, and instead of melted cheese, there is grated parmesan dusted on top after the pie has cooked. The caveat? It's typically served cold. It may sound foreign to you, and though hits differently than regular pizza, it works. Corrpolese, famous for its tomato pies, even does specialty parmesan designs. If you're curious about the phenomenon that is tomato pie, there are three Corrpolese locations right outside of Philly in the King of Prussia area, or you could grab a slice (square?) at many different local spots in the city.

Pork roll

This is where things get competitive. It's an intense rivalry, and this question will let you know which region you're really from: Pork roll or Taylor Ham? In South Jersey and Philly, it's called pork roll. In North Jersey, it's called Taylor Ham. CBS News notes that the origin of this debate lies with the very man who created the product, John Taylor. The story goes that the actual name of the product is pork roll, while the brand he created is called Taylor Ham. Now, we're on the pork roll side of things, so we think of it like this: Philadelphians call it pork roll because that's what they've grown up calling it. Plus, calling it Taylor Ham would be like calling ice cream Ben & Jerry's all the time. Not all ice cream is Ben & Jerry's, and while people would generally know what you mean if you referred to ice cream exclusively as Ben & Jerry's, it's still just not the name of the actual product.

Whatever you choose to call it, pork roll is another type of breakfast meat like sausage, bacon, and scrapple that is served in a round shape and can be put on breakfast sandwiches or as a side. Like most breakfast meats, it's salty and made from a pig. If you're thinking it sounds akin to bologna, you're on the right track. Pork roll, however, gets the edge since it isn't slippery like bologna — it has some grit to it and the flavor is more complex.

Stateside Vodka Soda

Stateside Vodka Soda is a pretty new Philly staple, but it deserves to be on this list nonetheless. The brand was started in 2013 by two brothers who literally said, "Hey, do you want to start a vodka company?" "Yes." That's the most Philly origin story we've ever heard of. The reason the Stateside Vodka company has landed itself on this list is because of how swiftly its permeated Philly culture. Seriously, the vodka soda canned seltzers are at almost every local bar and restaurant (even in South Jersey), the distillery is a fun experience where you can take a tour, and the brand is so quintessentially Philly you'd find it hard pressed not to support it. Oh, and the products the company makes are so good. 

The seltzers come in many different flavors, including lemon cucumber mint, black cherry, pineapple, and orange, and there's even an iced tea range. Our favorite flavor is orange, but they're all very tasty. If you prefer your vodka straight-up and not in a seltzer, Stateside Vodka also sells bottles of vodka online and in person at the brand's very own bar on Philly's North Hancock street (we highly recommend stopping to experience the fun). You can also follow the brand on Instagram, where you can keep tabs on the new seltzer flavors and innovative ideas the folks at Stateside Vodka are cooking up.

Chicken pot pie

Few foodie spots in Philly are more iconic than the Reading Terminal Market, and it's well-known for plenty of good reasons. It's a unique concept as an underground market with an almost ridiculous amount of eateries and small shops where you can buy everything from soap to souvenirs. Most notably are the 12 different shops owned by the Pennsylvania Dutch (the Amish) including bakeries, delis, a dairy spot, a cheese spot, and more. But our favorite spot is called the Dutch Eating Place.

Within the fame of the market itself, this eatery is one of the most famous spots in the market. The folks there are serving up hearty breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, but the item you can't miss is the chicken pot pie. You can get a decent chicken pot pie at many places in the area, but it's to die for at the Dutch Eating Place. What makes it special are the dumplings that are cooked into the filling of the pie, adding some oomph to a well-known dinner item. There are plenty of tables in the market, so you won't have to worry about transporting your pot pie very far.

Estia Chips

Estia is a wonderful Greek restaurant that has a few locations throughout Pennsylvania and South Jersey. It's a more upscale place serving items like lobster, prawns, lamb shank, filet mignon, and incredible original cocktails, but what sets it apart is a simple yet effective appetizer: the Estia chips.

Estia chips are thinly-sliced discs of zucchini and eggplant that are fried, and then you dip them in a delicious tzatziki sauce. These suckers are so delicious, it's ridiculous. And, sadly, you can only get them at Estia, so if you want to go there, we suggest making a reservation, as it's quite a popular dinner spot. If you don't want to splurge on a fancy lobster dinner with a glass of wine, you can always sit at the bar and have your Estia chips and your beverage of choice. If you do want the sit-down experience, though, the menu offers items at a variety of price points, with plenty of options (including the chips) that won't break the bank. We're big fans of the pasta a la Grecca, which is rigatoni with oven-roasted tomato sauce and feta cheese. Do yourself a favor and try one of the signature cocktails, like the Escape from Hades or Dionysus.

Pomegranate lamb shoulder

James Beard Award-winner Zahav is a Philadelphia sensation that you have to experience at least once in your life. While the menu does change pretty frequently, updating with the current seasons and available ingredients, the pomegranate lamb shoulder is a staple you can always get there, and for good reason.

Even if you're not a fan of lamb or have never had it before, the way the chefs at Zahav prepare this feast will make you a fan. This Israeli restaurant was opened in 2008, and its owners have since expanded into many other foodie ventures, including owning Federal Donuts (so good), Goldie, and Abe Fisher, all wonderful spots in the Philly area. But Zahav is special, not just because of its (many) accolades, but because the owner is the chef. Mike Solomonov started Zahav with entrepreneur Steve Cook and Solomonov is still the chef at the restaurant to this day. That dedication and care for the food and businesses add a lot to the experience. When you eat there, you know whatever lands on your plate will be a labor of love. And the Zahav lamb shoulder, which is brined, smoked, and then braised in a stunning sweet and sour pomegranate molasses, is the must-order.  


There is a plethora of delicious and unique Mexican and Latin restaurants and eateries in Philadelphia, but none are as popular as South Philly Barbacoa. Everyone who goes there gives it rave reviews because its namesake specialty is just that good. The slow-simmered goat, which is available by the kilo with all the fixings and as an a la carte taco, is so spectacular, Chef and owner Christina Martinez got the "Chef's Table" treatment, with her cooking and inspiring backstory highlighted on a Volume 5 episode of the Netflix series.

There may be a long line, but it moves quickly and is totally worth the wait, as this might be the best barbacoa you've had in your life. South Philly Barbacoa is a family-owned joint that's been open since 2014, according to Philly Voice. The tacos and sides are amazing and made fresh on the premises, so you know anything you get is going to be good. Keep in mind that this is a weekend-only affair, but Martinez also opened another restaurant right next door called Casa Mexico which operates every day. 

Roast pork sandwich

The roast pork sandwich is as common as a cheesesteak or a cheeseburger around these parts, and it's so delicious that it'll leave you wondering why it's not more of a thing in other places. If you're a local, you'll know that Tony Luke's is known for serving up a good roast pork sandwich. The restaurant started in South Philly but has since expanded to have a few more locations in South Jersey and Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1992, and the folks there even make their own bread to put the sandwich ingredients on, which just makes it that much better. No one likes a stale roll, and Tony Luke's ensures that never happens there.

A roast pork sandwich, if you're unfamiliar, is a fresh roll with roast pork, onions, peppers, and cheese, all toasted and ready for your consumption. At Tony Luke's specifically, its roast pork sandwich is made with the bread, roast pork, spices, and a broccoli rabe on top. But you can always customize your sandwich to have the ingredients you want.


Philadelphia has played host to plenty of famous films but none are as notable as "Rocky" and its many sequels and spinoffs. Sylvester Stallone's portrayal of Rocky Balboa is just so iconic that there's a Rocky statue outside of the Philadelphia Art Museum. (The art museum's steps are even called the Rocky steps on Google Maps, and fans of the movie try to find all the spots in the city where certain scenes were filmed.) Well, in the 2006 movie "Rocky Balboa," Rocky opens up a restaurant called Adrian's. That restaurant was actually filmed in a real-life, functioning, and famous restaurant called the Victor Cafe.

The legendary spot is well-known beyond the Rocky franchise, though. It serves up amazing Italian food, and the schtick is that there are live opera singers in the restaurant. It's truly an experience, but it's not the Victor Cafe without ending the night with a creamy tiramisu. The layers of mascarpone cream and coffee-soaked ladyfingers are made with care and offer a mouthwatering end to your meal. If you're in need of good Italian food, there are many wonderful spots in the city, but if you want to end the night with the best tiramisu in the area, you have to hit the Victor Cafe.