As one of the TPC staff told me, “Philly is a food city.” And she was right–Philly is a great city for enjoying food. I don’t think I’ve been to a bad restaurant so far — a few overpriced ones, maybe, but the food has been good everywhere.
Sandwiches are big here. There’s the cheesesteak, of course, but there’s also the roast pork sandwich from DiNic’s, the amazing grilled cheeses at Meltkraft, the egg sandwiches you can find at nearly every bodega and corner cafe. Brunch is also popular, and there seems to be no shortage of places to get it. For breakfast burritos and tasty huevos rancheros, the hipster-y Cafe Lift (two blocks from our loft) is one of my favorites. For super creative and fun breakfasts, Sabrina’s Cafe is the way to go (when we were there they even had a special girl-band-themed menu).
In my opinion, the crown jewel of Philly food culture is Reading Terminal Market, a large indoor market with dozens of restaurants, delis, grocers, and other specialty food purveyors. I’m slowly working my way through the market, and I might even be able to try everything before my time is up. The record so far:
- Salami sandwich with lettuce, herb mayo, and pickles at Wursthaus Schmitz
- “Brielle” grilled cheese with brie, cranberry sauce, caramelized onions, and pine nuts at Meltkraft (A-MA-ZING)
- Italian hoagie with fresh mozzarella, roasted peppers, artichoke, and basil from Mezze
- Roast pork sandwich with provolone from DiNic’s
- Grilled cheese with spinach, goat cheese, and caramelized onion at Molly Malloy’s (see a pattern yet?)
- Veggie eggs benedict at Pearl’s Oyster Bar
- Salad, hummus, pita, and tabbouleh from Kamal’s
- Chocolate chip cannoli from Termini Bros. Bakery
- Hand-rolled apple fritter from Beiler’s (my first hand-rolled donut…so good)
- Chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies from 4th Street Cookie Co. (made me actually appreciate oatmeal raisin for once)
- Fresh-squeezed orange pineapple juice from Lancaster County Dairy
- Warm baguette from Market Bakery (ate it with fresh mozzarella and pesto from Claudio’s…mmmm)
Some other tasty spots around the city? King of Tandoor for Indian food, Bufad for pizza, and Citi Market for my favorite cheap, fast sandwiches around the corner from TPC.
To be honest, though, I haven’t eaten out a ton here in Philly because I’m on a pretty strict food budget. I’ll typically buy groceries every weekend, which uses up most of my budget, and I might have $10-20 left over for eating out during the week. I’ll usually get myself something to go on Tuesday nights becuase I have to go straight from work to class, but I try to keep it as cheap and fast as possible. My favorite spot so far to pick up a quick dinner? Le Bus bakery, near Rittenhouse Square, is just a tiny hole in the wall, but recently I got a container of vegetarian chili and a poppyseed bagel (a filling dinner) there for only $4.50. $4.50!!! Compared to the $9 I spent on a sharp cheddar and chutney panini at Metropolitan Bakery around the corner, it was the deal of the century.
As I’ve mentioned before, despite the abundance of tasty restaurants in Philly, grocery shopping is a major hassle. Though we live on the edge of Center City in a pretty busy area, the closest grocery store is Whole Foods (a 20-minute walk). Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Whole Foods, but it’s earned its nickname (“Whole Paycheck”) for good reason. Plus, 20 minutes is about the furthest I’m willing to walk to get groceries on a regular basis. Though Reading Terminal is closer (10-minute walk), it has limited hours and selection. The best place for groceries is by far Trader Joe’s, which has a good selection and reasonable prices, but it’s a 35-minute walk. I typically go there every 3 weeks or so to pick up some of my favorite items, but as I’ve learned, carrying 30 lbs of groceries home is a pretty miserable task. Though there are a few other grocery stores in Center City, they all require a subway, taxi, or bus ride from where we live, which effectively eliminates any savings on food prices.
Nevertheless, I’ve been making it work. And I have to say, I think I’ve made myself some pretty damn good meals, considering our tiny kitchen, limited supplies, and the trek to the grocery store, including curry, vegetarian chili, pasta primavera, baked eggs in tomato sauce, broccoli and tofu stir fry… Yum! But now I’ve gone and made myself hungry again… *sigh*