Food & Drink
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50 Things You Need to Eat in Philadelphia Before You Die

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Steve's Prince of Steaks
Steve's Prince of Steaks's Cheesesteak | Trevor Raab/Thrillist
Steve's Prince of Steaks's Cheesesteak | Trevor Raab/Thrillist

Bad news: You’re going to die. Good news: There’s plenty of delicious Philly food to eat before you do. Just do us a favor and don’t eat everything on our Philadelphia food bucket list at one time, lest said list ironically becomes the reason you kick said bucket.

1. Brisket cheesesteak

Deke's BBQ

Manayunk

The sit-down iteration may be shuttered in Roxborough, but the carry-out storefront remains. It’s worth the visit to stock up on all the fixings of the ideal barbecue, no grill work or good weather required.

2. Tacos

Cantina Dos Segundos

Northern Liberties

Doubled up tortillas just mean double the love at Dos Segundos, where you can build your own tacos (goat is an option) and order late, making it the perfect place to go after a few hours at the bars.

3. Funfetti cake

Bud & Marilyn's

Gayborhood

The cake is a towering masterpiece that you should be commended for finishing (if you can). To sweeten the deal, pair the cake with Bud & Marilyn’s signature rosé slushie: the frose.

4. Salted caramel budino

Barbuzzo

Gayborhood

Save room for dessert after you wolf down an entire pizza drizzling with egg yolk, because Barbuzzo puts dark chocolate, vanilla bean, caramel, and sea salt all in a little jar that packs more flavor than its size suggests.

5. Regina pizza

Brigantessa

East Passyunk

Regina is one of the pizzas Brigantessa offers that sports the coveted Piennolo del Vesuvio tomatoes, which are just so much better than any tomato, ever. You can also eat the pizza sans cutter and just pull with your hands, which is totally acceptable here thanks to Napolini tradition.

federal donuts
Margo Wolf

6. Lavender donut and a side of chicken wings

Federal Donuts

Multiple locations

You can go to Federal for one of its simpler yet divine donuts, but the trip is a waste without at least a half-dozen donuts and a batch of fried chicken for the ride, too.

7. Bacon grease popcorn

The Khyber

Old City

One of the best ways to get your bacon fix in Philly… and still pretend to be a vegetarian.

8. Buffalo chicken wings

Moriarty's

Market East

What is there to say about these gigantic wings that hasn’t been said already? There’s a ton of wings options in Philly, but for the ultimate experience (and very generous portions), go no further than Moriarty’s.

9. Lemon water ice

John’s Water Ice

Bella Vista

Philly is one of the few places where the name “water ice” makes complete sense, and the only place you can get this authentic summer flavor.

The Cow and the Curd
The Cow and the Curd

10. Fried cheese curds

The Cow and the Curd

Roaming

Why would a food truck need to have anything else besides fried cheese curds?

11. Crabfries

Chickie's and Pete's

Multiple locations

These Crabfries are crisp, crunchy, and perfectly seasoned with Old Bay. Make sure to bathe these essentials in that creamy, cheesy, sort-of crabby sauce, and they will likely be the most pleasant thing to happen at a Phillie’s game or the PHL airport.

12. Main Street Tots

Lucky's Last Chance

Manayunk and Queen Village

It’s always okay to eat tater tots as a grown up, particularly when bathed in an Old Bay sauce and paired with a seasonal craft beer.

luke's lobster
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

13. Lobster roll

Luke's Lobster

Rittenhouse and Market East

The rolls at Luke’s are doused in buttery seasoning and packed into a perfectly crisp piece of bread (you can also opt for crab or shrimp). Plus, it’s BYOB!

14. Not So Basic mac & cheese

Mac Mart

Rittenhouse

We were thrilled when everyone’s favorite carb-centric food truck set up permanent shop at its Rittenhouse storefront, particularly since it made eating this cheesy macaroni covered in crispy bacon and potato chip crunch that much easier.

15. BRÜ Fries

BRÜ Craft & Wurst

Market East

Even before poutine shops starting popping up around Philly, BRÜ offered its own take covered in gravy, cheese, and bacon that pairs perfectly with a strong German beer.

16. Good Dog burger

Good Dog Bar

Rittenhouse

A half-pound sirloin burger stuffed with Roquefort and topped with caramelized onions on a brioche bun is the perfect thing to order when you show up here for a blind OKCupid date.

capogiro
Lexy Pierce Photography

17. All the gelato

Capogiro

Multiple locations

Eat this and for a fleeting moment you’ll believe living in Philly is just as good as living in Europe. You can’t stop with just one flavor.

18. Cheesesteak omelette

Jones

Market East

Stephen Starr gives you a classy version of this Philly staple... for breakfast with steak, onions, and even some fancy whiz.

19. 35-cent wings

McGillin's Olde Ale House

Gayborhood

We had you at 35 cents.

20. Square pizza

Santucci's Original Square Pizza

South Philly

The sky’s the limit when it comes to toppings on the thick, no-nonsense crust at Santucci’s. Go crazy.

21. Cannoli

Termini Brothers

Multiple locations

A cannoli from anywhere else simply isn’t the best cannoli it can be. Termini, at almost a century old, is a no-brainer destination for the delicacy.

22. Classic pie

Pizzeria Beddia

Fishtown

Yes, they only make 40 pies a night. Nope, you can’t call ahead. Yes, you may spend hours in line only to be sent away. But if you’re not? Totally worth it.

23. Robatayaki

Double Knot

Gayborhood

There are pages and pages of perfectly prepared veggie, seafood, and meat robatayaki options, so ordering off the chef’s tasting menu makes it easier to try as many as possible.

24. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

Waffles & Wedges

Rittenhouse

This is essentially a waffle with every sweet, nibbly bit you can imagine piled on top. You can also opt for savory or less extravagantly sweet options (including gluten-free) at W&W.

zahav lamb shoulder
Michael Persico

25. Lamb shoulder

Zahav

Society Hill

The pomegranate-braised, chickpea-strewn lamb is the best Middle Eastern dish you can eat in Philly, at one of the best restaurants -- if not the best -- we can call our own.

26. Vermicelli noodle bowls

Vietnam Cafe

Chinatown and University City

Whichever iteration you choose -- whether it’s crispy pork spring rolls or lemongrass steak -- it will warm even the coldest of hearts.

27. The Schmitter

McNally's Tavern

Chestnut Hill

Aside from the obvious cheesesteaks, this may well be the most famous sandwich in Philly. Repped everywhere, from our stadiums to this long-standing restaurant and bar, the steak and grilled salami sandwich has enough layers to put any old hoagie to shame.

28. Roast pork sandwich

Tommy DiNic's

Reading Terminal

Once named the Best Sandwich in America by the Travel Channel, this combo of otherworldly bread, sharp provolone, and, of course, DiNic’s signature roasted pork lives up to the hype.

dalessandro's cheesesteak
Trevor Raab/Thrillist

29. Cheesesteak

Dalessandro's

Roxborough

Quit squabbling about Pats vs. Genos -- you know this is where to get a real cheesesteak.

30. Yet more cheesesteaks

Steve's Prince of Steaks

Multiple locations

These are also an acceptable favorite.

31. Rolled ice cream

Sweet Charlie's

Washington Square

This place was the first of its kind to bring rolled ice cream to Philly, and the novelty is even better when you ask for a Tall Charlie: rolled ice cream served in a glazed donut bun.

32. Stuffed challah French toast

Sabrina's Cafe

Multiple locations

If you find yourself waiting for a table, find solace in what awaits you inside: thick French toast stuffed with bananas and vanilla.

33. $5 bargain breakfast

Honey's Sit & Eat

Graduate Hospital and Fishtown

Stop in for an early breakfast during the week and choose from two $4.95 breakfast options: two eggs with toast, coffee, and your choice of grits, latke, or home fries, or a short stack of pancakes and coffee with your choice of meat.

34. Rotolo

Pizzeria Vetri

Multiple locations

The rotolo is the coveted specialty at Pizzeria Vetri, partially because it’s trickier to find one in Philly than you’d think. Before making your pizza selection, start dinner off with this stuffed pasta sheet roll.

35. Garlic shrimp

Amada

Old City

Chef Garces was a pioneer for tapas in Philly, and this staple shrimp dish soaked in buttery garlic is an essential that’s been with his restaurant since the beginning.

36. Tomato pie

Iannelli's Bakery

East Passyunk

Tomato pie may not be for everybody, but if you’re in favor of the brick oven specialty, Iannelli’s is the place.

37. Duck rolls

Sang Kee Peking Duck House

Chinatown

Perfectly fried, juicy, and tender, these must-have duck rolls are some of the best in Chinatown.

38. The Arista

Paesano's Philly Style

Bella Vista

Paesano’s signature sandwich features pulled pork, broccoli rabe, Italian long hots, and sharp provolone -- just make sure to finish before the bun gets all soggy.

39. Gnocchi

Ralph's Italian Restaurant

Italian Market

The house-made Italian specialty just tastes better when it comes out of the longest-running Italian restaurant in the country.

Hai Street Kitchen & Co. US
Hai Street Kitchen

40. Sushi burrito

Hai Street Kitchen

Rittenhouse

Imagine a version of Chipotle that includes raw fish and tempura, and you have Hai Street. Pick and choose your sushi fixings and eat ‘em in a burrito on the go.

41. BBQ buffet

Sweet Lucy's Smokehouse

Mayfair

Load up on hickory-smoked BBQ cooked in a wood-burning pit. The buffet is fully stocked with beef brisket, pulled pork, mac & cheese, ribs… the list goes on.

42. Funnel cake

Famous 4th Street Delicatessen

Queen Village

It doesn’t have to be a carnival or a street fair for you to get your funnel cake on... simply head to the Fourth Street mainstay and eat that fried dough until a carnival does roll into town.

43. Spaghetti scoglio

L'angolo Restaurant

South Philly

One of the best Italian restaurants in the country, thanks very much, is exactly where you should sample Philly’s rich heritage in the form of mussels, clams, shrimp, and light red sauce.

44. Root beer float

Franklin Fountain

Old City

Philly gave the world ice cream sodas, and Franklin Fountain is living out the city’s legacy. Opt for your choice of soda or root beer, or even a spiked Yards version.

45. Stromboli

Stogie Joe's Tavern

East Passyunk

Perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned, and perfectly shareable (portions are quite generous and at a great value).

tastykakes
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

46. Tastykakes

Tastykakes

Just about everywhere

You may not know everything about this Philly treat, but you know they’re delicious.

47. Dandan Noodles

Han Dynasty

Various locations

This spicy dish is a staple at one of Old City’s best and most spacious places to eat, and these may be the best noodles of their kind in the entire city.

48. Tacos

Prima Pizza Taqueria Mexicana

East Passyunk

When you hear someone complaining about how there’s no good late-night food in Philly, just smile and get yourself some tacos at this somehow-not-a-bad-idea taco/pizza joint -- even if it’s past 2am.

49. Cream pops

Lil Pop Shop

West Philly and Rittenhouse

The Lil Pop Shop makes uniquely flavored pops -- think “Garden Mint Chocolate” -- with locally sourced ingredients, plus non-dairy options that are particularly enticing for the lactose weary.

50. Anything from Wawa after 1am

Wawa

Multiple locations

Be it a grilled cheese panini, a sloppily build-yourself-hoagie, or a house-brand pastry, there are no bad decisions at a Wawa. Special shout-out to the seasonal Thanksgiving Gobbler hoagie.

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