DiNic's Roast Pork Sandwich
DiNic's Roast Pork Sandwich | Flickr/Wally Gobetz
DiNic's Roast Pork Sandwich | Flickr/Wally Gobetz
All-Time Greats

The 15 Most Essential Philly Food Experiences

Check all the boxes.

Eating and drinking your way through a city is one of the best and most fun ways to experience it, and Philly is no exception. Every corner of this town is home to an amazing culinary experience, whether that means visiting a quaint hole-in-the-wall with the best red sauce you’ve ever tasted, scarfing down a cheesesteak or roast pork on the corner, or having an indulgent dinner with a sparkling view of the Delaware River or historic city skyline. From the spectacle to the simple, here are 15 of Philadelphia’s essential food experiences for locals and visitors alike.

Photo courtesy of Hiroki

Have an immersive Japanese dinner at Hiroki

Walk through the round wooden door, and you’ll be transported to an intimate dining experience that is a must for any Philly local or visitor. Hiroki exclusively serves an omakase menu by chef Hiroki Fujiyama, who trained under world-renowned chef Masaharu Morimoto. The six course menu runs for $145 and includes meat, sushi, dessert, and small plates inspired by the chef’s hometown of Kyoto, Japan.
How to reserve: Via Resy

Get serenaded at Victor Cafe

Who doesn’t like their pasta with a side of opera? To add to already-great Italian dining at Victor Cafe, every server doubles as a classically trained vocalist. So throughout your dinner, you’ll hear them belt it out for an experience that is truly one of a kind. 
How to reserve: Via OpenTable

Nab tickets to Feastival

Penn’s Landing
Every year (unless there’s, say, a global pandemic), Feastival is one of the most delicious events in Philadelphia, and definitely worth the splurge to experience at least once. Hosted by Audi and FringeArts, the event celebrates Philly’s food and art scenes so you can chow down on exclusive dishes from top area chefs while also watching a trapeze artist do their thing from the ceiling.
How to reserve: Keep an eye out online for tickets to the next event

Get the tasting menu at Zahav

Old City
Michael Solomonov’s award-winning Zahav has been one of the biggest things to put Philly’s foodie scene on the map. If you’re gonna go, go all in. Get the standard multi-course menu that includes hummus, mezze, charcoal-cooked skewers, and the signature Zahav lamb shoulder, which is only available through the tasting menu. Finish it off with yet more award-winning desserts, and you have accomplished a major task in the Philly food bucket list. 
How to reserve: Via Resy

Power rank the best square pizzas

Various locations
Philly certainly has a thing for square pies, and sometimes for upside down square pies—area staples like Santucci’s are a go-to right of passage for introductions. In that vein, it’s worth checking out Down North Pizza, Circles + Squares, Pizza Jawn, Alice, and Angelo’s, all of which offer their own take on square pies.
How to reserve: Check each spot’s website

Set sail on the Moshulu

Penn’s Landing
Moshulu sits on one of the oldest and largest rigged sailing vessels still afloat, offering plenty of ambiance and novelty, but with the food to back it up. The menu revolves around refined American dishes and a seafood bent, ranging from ahi tuna poke to burgers to the towering seafood plateau of shrimp, sushi, and oysters.
How to reserve: Via OpenTable

Philly Cheesesteak
Philly Cheesesteak | John Doukas/Shutterstock

Sigh. Have a cheesesteak.

Various locations
You may have heard cheesesteaks are kind of the thing in Philly. Great. Do it right by skipping the flashier spots and opt instead for the quality options that are no less iconic. Joe’s Steaks + Soda, Dalessandro’s, and Philip’s Steaks can get you started. And, if you’re so inclined, brush up on your cheesesteak history and check out the full list of cheesesteak destinations.
How to reserve: Check each spot’s website

Or better yet, a roast beef or pork sandwich

Various locations
While everyone is busy debating the best cheesesteaks in town, keep your eyes on what many consider the actual signature sandwich of Philadelphia. DiNic’s and Nick’s Roast Beef are the two staple stops for this particular culinary venture, but most seasoned cheesesteak shops have a good roast beef or pork option, too.
How to reserve: Check each spot’s website

Cool down with some water ice

Various locations
You’ll hear it mostly pronounced wooder ice, but this slushy treat gets most Philly locals through the hot sticky summers. The traditionally Italian combination of ice, fruit, and sweeteners can be found all over the city including John’s, which has been around since the 1940s, Siddiq’s in West Philly, and more modern versions like Autumn Pear at D’Emilio’s
How to reserve: Check each spot’s website

Get the perfect fried-chicken-and-doughnut combo at Federal Donuts

Multiple locations
It’s a sweet-and-savory combo that can’t be ignored. Go in for a fried chicken sammie or wings to enjoy alongside one of the shop’s signature or “fancy” doughnuts, which means you can get everything from powdered strawberry lavender to vanilla bean crème brulee.
How to reserve: Walk in or order pickup/delivery online

Have the ultimate Italian dinner at Ralph’s

Bella Vista
It’s pretty much impossible to determine what the “best” Italian restaurant in Philly is, so let’s instead turn to the oldest. For more than a century, Ralph’s Italian Restaurant has been serving favorites in South Philly with the accolades to keep them strong. Think housemade pasta, mussels, veal parm, and a beloved sausage and peppers dish.
How to reserve: Via OpenTable

Sample essential Ethiopian fare at Abyssinia

Spruce Hill
This West Philly favorite is a must for meat and veggie samplers that let you try a bit of everything. You can pair your injera up with beef, chicken, lentils, collard greens, and so much more, all perfectly plated for sharing (or devouring on your own). This is an ideal spot to finally reunite with friends over a big group dinner.
How to reserve: Request a reservation online or call 215-387-2424

Warm up with pho from Thang Long

Fishtown and Kensington
Visit either location and awaken all your senses with a fresh bowl of simmering pho, whether you opt for chicken, veggies, beef, shrimp, or sub the whole thing for some banh mi and spring rolls instead. The menu offers a few vegan-friendly options too.
How to reserve: Walk in, call 215-425-0078 for pickup, or order delivery via Uber Eats, Caviar, GrubHub, or DoorDash

Eat and drink the best of Belgium (and beyond) at Monk’s Cafe

This essential Philly bar is home to a massive Beer Bible that is extra amazing alongside its menu of elevated pub fare in the style of Belgium. Artisanal-quality burgers, pommes frites, mussels, and so many other delectable plates make Monk’s a must for any Philly visitor.
How to reserve: Walk in for indoor and outdoor dining; call 215-545-7005 for delivery and takeout

Feel Parisian at Parc

This long-running French restaurant right on Rittenhouse Square Park is a forever favorite for people-watching indoors and out. It’s an elevated French bistro that offers all the comfort foods inspired by French cuisine, from onion soup gratinée to delectable steak frites. For the best experience, go on a gorgeous day and sit outside.
How to reserve: Via OpenTable

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Marielle Mondon is a writer from Philadelphia. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @MarielleMondon.
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