Monday 19 March 2018

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 (, 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 ( is where you'll find locals lining the block. Cutting back on meat? A vegan cheesesteak is available at Blackbird Pizzeria (, while I grabbed my gluten-free variant at Paesano's (

Guilty Pleasure

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

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 (, a Mexican cantina with the vibe of a Google cafeteria. Hola, tacos!

Top Tip

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 (; $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; $119), a full-day tour taking in foodie landmarks, launches in 2017.

Photo Op

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 ( 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 (; 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!

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