Wednesday 26 July 2017

Foodie Philly: There's more to Philadelphia than Rocky's Steps

American holidays

City of lights: Philadelphia skyline and the Schuylkill River at night
City of lights: Philadelphia skyline and the Schuylkill River at night
Philladelphia, USA
Philly's cheesesteak
Museum of the American Revolution, Philadelphia
Rocky Steps, outside Phialdelphia Museum of Art, USA. Photo: Deposit
Thomas Breathnach

Thomas Breathnach

There's a lot more to Philadelphia than Rocky's steps, says a happily satiated Thomas Breathnach.

Set the mood

The sun is setting in Philly and rush hour is meeting happy hour. At Beiler's Bakery at Reading Terminal Market (readingterminalmarket.org), a bonneted Amish girl parcels up batches of Bismarck doughnuts for the awaiting masses. Outside, on still-frosty sidewalks, the salty aroma of fresh pretzels lures commuters to the city's food trucks. Across the downtown taprooms, regulars neck IPAs to the sounds of old-school jazz rap and blues.

Welcome to the City of Brotherly Love... and bring an appetite. Philadelphia is the Northeast's perfect food stop.

Cheap Kicks

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Philly's cheesesteak

New York's got cheesecake; Philly's got cheesesteak. The sacred sandwich is revered almost as much as the local Eagles football team here, offering the best way to eat local on a budget. So what's the 411? Think shaved rib-eye steak, smothered in melted cheese, all loaded into a soft hoagie roll.

The home of Philly's best cheesesteak is a hot topic, but Geno's on South Street (genosteaks.com) is where you'll find locals lining the block. Cutting back on meat? A vegan cheesesteak is available at Blackbird Pizzeria (blackbirdpizzeria.com), while I grabbed my gluten-free variant at Paesano's (paesanosphillystyle.com).

Guilty Pleasure

When it comes to fine dining, it's hard not to stumble upon local restaurateur Stephan Starr's on-point eateries (starr-restaurant.com).

The Continental Mid-town is a funk-fuelled neo-diner offering everything from spicy martinis to lobster mac and cheese, while The Dandelion English pub is his happening homage to Philly's vibrant tavern culture.

For a trending new it-spot, join the hipsterati at Mission Taqueria (missiontaqueria.com), a Mexican cantina with the vibe of a Google cafeteria. Hola, tacos!

Top Tip

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Museum of the American Revolution, Philadelphia

History buff? The Museum of the American Revolution, Philly's new landmark attraction, opens on April 19 of this year (amrevmuseum.org; $19). The American Revolution began more than a decade before the "shot heard 'round the world" - this experience is colonial and revolutionary America placed under the museum microscope.

Insider intel

Philadelphia is home to a smorgasbord of native dishes, with influences from the so-called Pennsylvania Dutch (but really German) to the buona cucina of Italian immigrants.

Sample tomato pie (think pizza, hold the cheese), the porchetta sandwich - a roast pork sandwich served with broccoli rabe - and water ice, a slushy dessert similar to Italian granita.

Total Philly (urban adventures.com; $119), a full-day tour taking in foodie landmarks, launches in 2017.

Photo Op

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Elfreth's Alley, the nation's oldest street (circa 1702), in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Photo: Getty

The 'Rocky Steps' of the Liberty Bell might be Philly's most famous attraction, but for a real Instagram moment, make a detour for Elfreth's Alley. America's oldest residential street, the colonial terrace is a photograph waiting to happen.

Get me there

American Airlines (aa.com) offers the only direct ticket from Dublin to Philadelphia (you can connect from NYC or Washington DC with a two-hour train ride).

I stayed at Kimpton Hotel Palomar (hotelpalomar-philadelphia.com; from €75pps), a boutique bolthole in Art Deco wrap amid the brownstones of Rittenhouse Square. My queen room was slickly appointed with irreverent touches (animal print bath robes, for example), and a deep-sink bathtub overlooked the Philly skyline. A complimentary wine hour is hosted nightly in the lobby too - cheers to that!

For more, see discoverphl.com.

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