While there are dozens of traditional dishes to be found around Philadelphia, these 10 local specialties have stood the test of time and remain popular among Philadelphians to this day.
1. Philly Cheesesteak
The Philly cheesesteak is probably Philadelphia’s most well-known traditional dish and with good reason. It’s delicious, messy, filling, and iconic not to mention it was invented here in Philly! Philadelphians Pat and Harry Olivieri (originally owned a hot dog stand), are often credited with inventing the sandwich by serving chopped steak on an Italian roll in the early 1930s.
A cheesesteak consists of chopped steak topped with American cheese ,Whiz, or Provolone cheese, grilled onions, and sometimes even fried eggs. Cheesesteaks are typically served on a long Italian roll or a crusty French baguette.
Most Philadelphians head to Pat’s or Geno’s for their cheesesteaks .(we can argue about which is better later)
2. Roast Pork with Sauerkraut
As with many traditional dishes in Philly, there are a lot of versions of where it all started. Roast pork with sauerkraut is most commonly served as a sandwich on fresh Italian bread (although toasted Amoroso rolls are known by some to be even better).
Many Philadelphians have their own opinions on what makes a great roast pork sandwich: some people love adding coleslaw or potato salad, while others keep it simple and add nothing else at all.
But one thing that everyone agrees on is that there's nothing like enjoying roast pork with sauerkraut during one of steamy summer days.
3. Cream Cheese Soft Pretzels
Philly is famous for its soft pretzels, but with so many varieties on offer, deciding which one to try can be a bit overwhelming. Some prefer old-school pretzels, which are served straight from the oven with salt and butter.
Others like them dressed up in an assortment of sauces, including ketchup and brown mustard. But our pick has to be a traditional cream cheese variety: Philly’s take on New York’s cream cheese bagel (NYCB), where warm soft pretzels are dipped in a special water-based batter, baked until golden, and then topped with sweet/salty cream cheese before serving.
4. Arroz con Pollo
Arroz con pollo is a traditional rice and chicken dish that’s popular in coastal areas of South America.
The term arroz con pollo literally translates to rice with chicken, but it can also include tomato, onion, bell pepper, and cilantro.
The dish varies widely from region to region; one version is cooked in coconut milk and mayonnaise instead of tomato sauce, while another swaps out rice for grits. Add a fried egg on top for extra protein!
Traditional dish made from meat scraps or offal, known as pudding that is formed into a loaf and baked. Scrapple is noted for its odd appearance and distinctive odor; in addition to its traditional accompaniment of mustard, scrapple is often served with potatoes or fries.
Known for being greasy yet dry, it is considered by some people to be an acquired taste. The dish was created in 1851 when John James Ingalls (1810–1863) combined cornmeal and hog scraps left over from butchering into a pancake-like mixture, fried it in lard, pressed it into shape, and let it bake overnight. This process has not changed significantly since then.
6. Crab Cakes
It’s hard to believe that one of America’s most popular dishes originated right here in Philadelphia.
Yep, Philadelphians have been eating these savory crab cakes with a delicate blend of herbs and spices since the late 1800s or early 1900s and they’ve been a local favorite ever since.
Locals and tourists flocking to Old city and Queen Village for eating crab cakes.
This submarine sandwich, commonly known as a hoagie originated in the Philadelphia area. Hoagie is a bread roll sandwich filled high with deli meats (generally Italian deli meats such as ham or salami), cheese( generally provolone or mozzarella), fixings and dressing.
Hoagie was so popular in Philadelphia that former Philadelphia mayor (and later Pennsylvania governor) Ed Rendell declared the hoagie the "Official Sandwich of Philadelphia".
8. Irish Potato Candy
This sweet treat, found on street corners during St. Patrick’s Day season, is basically a yummy way to eat mashed potatoes! And no one knows why it’s called candy. Maybe because it tastes like dessert?
The main ingredients are potatoes, sugar, and syrup. Despite its odd name, it has nothing to do with Ireland—nor does St. Patrick's Day.
But we’re sure you won’t mind when you taste these sweet tubers! Grab some buddies and start popping away at these delicious sweets!
A stromboli is a type of turnover made with pizza dough. It can be served as a main dish or as a snack food.
Strombolis are usually filled with various combinations of cheese, sauce, and various toppings such as pepperoni or sausage.
The name stromboli comes from Italian stromboli, meaning round roll. It was created in 1943 by Vincent Santini, an Italian baker living in New York City, for banquets at The Edison Hotel.
They were so popular that he decided to put them on his regular menu under another name; thus, strombolis were born!
Despite being less well-known than other Italian specialties like pizza or pasta, a stromboli is nonetheless a delicious option for those with a hankering for authentic Italian food. Perfect as an appetizer or light meal, stromboli is sure to satisfy even picky eaters.
The tasty dish features strips of pan-fried dough stuffed with a variety of ingredients including pepperoni, salami, ham, and cheeses.
The dough is then rolled up and baked until golden brown. Head to South Philly’s Trattoria Carina in the late afternoon for an order of freshly made stromboli, hot out of the oven!
10. Vegetable Soup at Reading Terminal & Market
Reading Terminal & Market has been a Philly staple since 1893, and with over 60 shops in 1.5 million square feet of space, there’s no shortage of options for grabbing a quick bite or sampling local flavors.
You can almost always find some tasty, cheap eats at Reading Terminal Market – but if you have time, check out Marianne’s Soup & Bread .
Vegetable soup is one traditional meal that can be enjoyed at any time of year.
The best vegetable soups highlight fresh ingredients to create a delicious meal that could stand alone as a light lunch or side dish but also tastes great with bread.