New York can have its bagels, Chicago its hot dogs, LA its churros and I will even spot NOLA its delectable beignets. For me, Philly’s signature on-the-go edible blows them all out of the water. I’m not talking about cheesesteaks or even wudder ice, but pretzels. You can find Philly soft pretzels on just about every corner in the city and everyone has their favorite place to pick them up. The city even has a park named after the doughy treats!
Like any signature city snack, there’s significant debate about which variety is the very best. There are a few different styles you can find, so here’s a crash course for next time you’re in town.
1. Philly Soft Pretzel
This is the traditional version. A slab of pretzels shaped in figure 8s, baked and sold in multiples of twos. Fresh, soft and chewy, there is just the right amount of coarse salt. Walk on by the ones that look moist, as they have been sitting around too long, but just try to resist a batch of these fresh out of the oven. All these beauties need is a squirt of yellow mustard (forget about Grey Poupon). To this day, I am convinced these pretzels actually taste better when they are bought and then wrapped in a brown paper bag, which many mom-and-pop shops provide.
2. Pennsylvania Dutch Buttered Pretzels
This pretzel version is chewy but sweet with a thin crisp exterior and a coating of sweet butter. You can find these at any Amish market throughout the region but my favorite are from Miller’s Twist in the Reading Terminal Market. These pretzels are probably familiar no matter where you are from as they are the style made by the Auntie Anne’s chain and now available throughout the US and 22 other countries. That chain started as a market stand in the Downingtown, Pennsylvania Farmer’s Market, right outside of Philadelphia, so if you’ve ever enjoyed them, you have Pennsylvania to thank.
3. Stuffed Pretzels
Considering how great the pretzels are by themselves, it only makes sense to fill them with delicious shit. There are cheesesteak pretzels, dessert pretzels and a slew of other filled versions throughout the city, but breakfast pretzels are my fave. With combos like: bacon, egg & cheese; sage turkey sausage and egg; and just regular egg & cheese, there’s any option for everyone. Well, every non-vegan, non-dieting person. These ones are not as chewy as their counterparts, but that first bite into the salty, crispy exterior as the steam escapes is something worth enjoying whenever possible.
ESers: Which pretzel style is your favorite? How do you think the Philly pretzel stacks up to other city’s hallmark eats?