Exploring Philadelphia Through Its Favorite Foods

There is no question that one of the top reasons I travel is to explore the food in different places. There are some locations where this becomes even truer and Philadelphia is one of those places. I had never visited the city before and only had three days to get everything in. So the first thing I did after booking my flight was find a food tour so I could go exploring Philadelphia through its food and more.

It turned out to be the perfect plan. I had a chance to taste many of Philadelphia’s favorites, as well as learning about some of the history of the city. Our guide was friendly and well informed, making it a fun afternoon for us visitors and our local hosts as well.

Note: Thank you to City Food Tours for hosting me on this adventure. As always, all opinions remain my own. I hope this article on the best of Healdsburg is useful for you. 

Tasting Your Way Through the Classics

Most cities are known for one, maybe two, types of food. One of the great things about exploring Philadelphia is that they are home to a variety of classics.

The first one we got to try was the tomato pie. You might ask, isn’t that just pizza? I’d say the answer is yes, and no. It’s a specific type of crust, with a specific type of sauce, and traditionally nothing else. And it was delicious. As much as I love my cheese and topping the sauce and crust at Joe’s Pizza made it so you didn’t need anything else! Tomato pie style pizza with two people eating it in the background. Exploring Philadelphia through food.

Another Philadelphia classic I could have kept eating forever was their pretzels. Once you get into the city you’ll see them all over the place. Part of why is that the city produces 80% of the country’s pretzels. So you’ll want to pop into the Philly Pretzel Company and grab a tasty soft pretzel. Pretzels in case. Exploring Philadelphia through food.

Don’t worry, I’m not forgetting the city’s most popular classic. Instead, it will get its own section below.

Exploring the City’s History

Along the tour, we not only got around to exploring Philadelphia through the history of its classic foods but also by visiting some historic spots along the way.

One of these was the Macy’s City Center, also known as the Wanamaker Building. It opened in 1911 as one of the first department stores. Its architecture is absolutely beautiful and includes what at the time was one of the world’s largest organs that debuted at the St. Louis World Fair in 1904.

Old historical building with giant organ built in. Exploring Philadelphia through food. Exploring Philadelphia through food.

We also had a chance to walk into Del Frisco’s before it opened that day, this fancy steakhouse is stunning, not due to its food (although that’s supposed to be delicious) but because it’s housed in what was Philadelphia’s First Bank. You’ll definitely want to stop by, grab a bite at happy hour and head downstairs to see the massive original vault.

Enjoying Some Sweet Treats

Our last stop was making our way to Reading Terminal Market. A large public market where you can get just about anything you possibly crave. There are so many different things you can try here, we even bought everything we needed for a home cooked meal the next night. But our visit focused on desserts and you’ll want to make sure you don’t miss these spots on your visit.

We started with Famous 4th Street Cookies. I am a sucker for a good cookie and these were no exception. An absolutely delicoius and perfectly balance combination made their chocolate chip cookie melt in your mouth. It was a delicoius treat that I wish I had room for seconds.

Cookies in display. Exploring Philadelphia through food.

Now, who doesn’t love a good donut? Well, what you find at Beiler’s Bakery is a little different than what you normally see in your average donut store. There traditional dutch donuts were the moistest ones I’ve ever tried and the simple glazed variety was a perfect sweet treat to end the tour on.

Box of delicious old school dutch donuts. Exploring Philadelphia through food.

And, Of Course, Some Cheesesteaks!

Did you think they wouldn’t include a cheesesteak on the tour? Of course, they didn’t! We were taken to Pandora’s Lunch Box, which might not be on the big list of must eat cheesesteaks but I have to say I was impressed. They also gave us a chance to try a few different things.

There are many ways to order a cheesesteak but one thing you have to try in Philadelphia is cheese whiz. Is it cheese? Who knows. Is it tasty? Sure is! I loved that on the tour we got a chance to sit down and enjoy a style of cheesesteak and some fries where you really got an idea of what cheese whiz is.

Classic Philly cheese steak and cheesy fries. Exploring Philadelphia through food.

Now if you haven’t done much exploring in Philadelphia before, you’ll probably want to stop by a few other places to try cheesesteaks on your trip. The favorite I tried was at Campos, which is conveniently right next to Sonny’s which gives you a chance to taste these too delicious spots in one go.

The Tour For Exploring Philadelphia to See the City

So much to eat in so little time! That was one of the downsides to such a short to for exploring Philadelphia. Thankfully, I had a chance to explore some of the best spots with City Food Tours. With a great agenda, quality guide, and a group of friendly people it was the perfect way to get to know a little more about the city.

About Megan

Megan MacNee is the founder of Traveling Nine to Fiver. From nine to five she works in the non-profit world in California. She focuses on exploring the world from her own backyard to across the globe. You'll find her sharing about explorations through food, books, travel, and more.