The Endless Road Trip: Philadelphia’s Top 10 Eats 5. Pretzels, Pretzels Everywhere

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.

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Cheesesteaks Gone Wild!

Being a native Philadelphian, I wouldn’t dare say that we got bored with cheesesteaks (not possible), but we’re always looking for ways to make good things better — and easier to eat in a social setting with a fork. These seven insane creations mean you can spend a weekend in Philadelphia and eat a different kind of cheesesteak spinoff at every meal.

1. Cheesesteak Fries

This happens to be my personal favorite of all the non-traditional cheesesteak varieties. The wonderful, wonderful combination was introduced to me by a former roommate when we went out to watch the Phillies at The Fieldhouse. Cheesesteak meat, fried onions and cheez whiz are piled on these long, crinkle cut fries that hold the meat and cheese so perfectly. I mean, doesn’t a fried potato increase the goodness of anything by ten thousand percent?

2. The Philly Taco

Also known as South Street Sushi (which I prefer…I mean, it’s not really a taco, right?) is a legend. So what is it? Head to South Street in Philly a buy a gigantic slice of Lorenzo’s pizza. Then head to neighboring Ishkabibble’s and order cheese fries, cheese on the side. This taco is best pulled-off when with a group. Enter Jim’s cheesesteak: send one person to order a cheesesteak, send the rest of the group upstairs with the remaining ingredients.

To assemble: Cover your cheesesteak with fries, and the accompanying cheese, then wrap the whole thing, taco-style, in the slice of pizza. Consume.

I guess it can be any cheesesteak, pizza and fries combination, but these three places are all a block away from each other, and Lorenzo’s slices are just the right size for the sandwich.

More >> Watch the Philly Taco How-To Video.

3. Cheesesteak Egg Rolls

It might look like vomit, but this is a must-eat. Hell, I live in Philadelphia and I find myself craving these weekly. Imagine all of the goodness of a cheesesteak (meat, cheese, fried onions, maybe peppers and mushrooms)….deep fried in a crispy wrapper. You can find these at many restaurants in the city, but my favorite version is from Old Eagle Tavern — served with sriracha ketchup. More on the version pictured — from Smokin’ Betty’s — at la vie en route.

Photo: (la vie en route)

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Scrapple For Everyone: Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market to Expand

The little slice of heaven that is know as Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market is slated for an upgrade.

Business has been booming at Philly’s Shangri-La of gastronomic delights thanks to the overall growth in interest of food and more recently by the expansion of the nearby Convention Center. The folks who run one of the preeminent indoor food experiences in the country are going to shuffle some of the vendors around and move some storage areas underground to free up some space.

Storage areas along “Avenue D,” the aisle closest to 11th Street, will move to the basement to make room for up to five new retailers, which have yet to be named. Veteran tenants – the Spice Terminal, L. Halteman Family Country Foods, Flying Monkey Bakery, Spataro’s, and DiNic’s – will move to new spaces.

New faces are always welcome, but perhaps the biggest impact will be the relocation of a few of the big names. DiNic’s, in particular, is the proud purveyor of what I believe to be the best damn sandwich in Philadelphia.  Yes, I’m a cheesesteak man until I die, but the roast pork with sharp provolone and broccoli rabe is otherworldly.

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That Spätzle Feeling

Spatzle

It goes without saying that cooking should be fun. I know what you’re thinking:  I have LOTS of fun!  Eating, maybe. But the truth is preparing a meal can be a stressful act, especially when trying to impress someone with that big ambitious dish. Which makes it that much more rewarding when you find a dish where the process is just as much fun as the outcome. If you’re looking to bring a little more enjoyment into the kitchen, spätzle is the thing for you.

A recent trip to Reading Terminal Market (i.e. Foodie Paradise) here in Philly got me in a German/Eastern Europe mood and I picked up some kielbasa and sauerkraut from AJ Pickle Patch.  Needing a suitable starch to go along with this meat & cabbage feast, I decided to have a go at homemade spätzle.

The ingredients are simple, but it’s all about technique for this one…

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