Food Fanatic Road Trip: Philadelphia

Get a taste of local Philly flavor

As the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence, it seems only fitting that Philadelphia is experiencing a food revolution.

Superstar restaurateur Stephen Starr laid the groundwork along with pioneers Susanna Foo and Georges Perrier. Jose Garces launched his empire here, now seven restaurants strong, as he marches toward global domination. There’s also the much revered Marc Vetri, who once reduced the seating to 35 in his already small eponymous restaurant to showcase his antique meat slicer.

Last year, the City of Brotherly Love grabbed headlines for its impressive number of James Beard Foundation award nominees—an acknowledgment representing only a sliver of Philly’s tremendous talent.

Noodle shops are making a mark and the food truck scene is so big that Night Markets (a regular evening gathering of food trucks in a particular neighborhood) has entered its third year. You can’t toss a pint glass without hitting hotspots in Reading Terminal Market, Fishtown and Thirteenth Street. But don’t forget about Philadelphia’s oldest food emporium: the Italian Market.

Lastly, always make room for the city’s iconic cheesesteak and soft pretzels—then you can claim victory.


Jose Garces has turned around Philadelphia with his diverse restaurants, from Amada and Chifa to Tinto and Village Whiskey. The best one depends on what you’ve got a taste for.

Amis or Osteria
When a reservation is hard to come by or the wallet is too thin for Vetri, head to Marc Vetri’s Amis or Osteria for a visit to Italy without leaving Philadelphia.

El Rey
Don’t be fooled by the gritty appearance: this trendy Mexican taqueria belongs to restaurateur Stephen Starr’s empire. Swing by during happy hour for salty margaritas and tacos on the cheap.

Federal Donuts
Fried chicken and doughnuts co-exist harmoniously at this hot quick serve with fancy flavors like vanilla-lavender or cherry-almond served alongside piping hot fried chicken with a side of Japanese cucumber pickles.

Hop Sing Laundromat
This Chinatown speakeasy is worth the wait in the “holding area” and adhering to the rules (no photography or cell phones) for a seat in the city’s most exclusive cocktail bar.

Pizza Brain
Grab a slice and take in the 1,000-piece collection of pizza memorabilia (noted in Guinness World Records).

Tom Macrina is a Food Fanatic in-training for US Foods. He lives in Philadelphia, enjoys time with family and has too many culinary awards to list.

Food Fanatics undergo rigorous culinary, communications and consulting training to help chefs and other foodservice professionals meet business goals.