Philadelphia was named the best city to visit in 2020. Here are the best things to eat there, according to a local.

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Philadelphia has desserts, brunches, and dinners that you can’t miss. Yelp/Carolina S.
  • National Geographic just named Philadelphia, Pennsylvania the best city to visit in 2020.
  • I’ve lived right by Philadelphia for my entire life – h ere are the 18 things you absolutely must eat while in this bustling city.
  • Visitors should eat dinner at Zahav, an award-winning Israeli restaurant.
  • They should also get a cheesesteak from Jim’s Steaks or try vegan food at Charlie Was a Sinner.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more.

Since I grew up right near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and even lived there, it’s safe to say I’ve been enjoying the city’s robust food scene first hand for my entire life.

In addition, National Geographic just named Philly the best city to visit in 2020 – and I’m confident that one of the biggest reasons is because of its diverse and scrumptious food offerings.

From the French fare at Parc to the sweet treats at Federal Doughnuts, here are 18 things you must eat in the City of Brotherly Love.


Eat dinner at Zahav, an award-winning Israeli restaurant.

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The place has vegetarian-friendly dishes, too. Yelp/Lillie M.

A big winner at the 2019 James-Beard awards, Zahav is one of the crown jewels of the Philadelphia dining scene.

Open only for dinner, this Israeli spot is known for its hummus. Available in three varieties, it’s served with homemade laffa bread, a type of flatbread.

In addition to the chickpea dip, Zahav’s menu includes small plates, such as halloumi cheese and fried cauliflower, and grilled specialties ranging from eggplant to Romanian beef kebabs.


Cool off with ice cream from The Franklin Fountain.

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Cherry-butter-almond ice cream with cherries from The Franklin Fountain. Yelp/ Nick R.

During the warmer months, the lines at this old-fashioned ice-cream parlor and soda counter can stretch around the block.

Offering traditional (strawberry and vanilla-bean) and unusual (banana and mint-chewing-gum) flavours, The Franklin Fountain also churns out non-dairy and sugar-free scoops, as well as seasonal sorbets.

If you’re thirsty, you can choose from a selection of 25 soda flavours or indulge in an ice-cream float.

Those visiting Philly in the winter can order a toasty treat, like a hot-chocolate float (hot chocolate with a scoop of ice cream) or a “hot milkshake” (ice cream blended with warmed baked goods and toppings).


Try anything from the Reading Terminal Market.

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You can get dinner, lunch, dessert, or snacks here. Yelp/Chris E.

Dating back to the late 19th century, this lively food hall is housed in a train shed once owned by the Reading Railroad Company.

From gyros and crepes to gourmet cheese and fresh produce,Reading Terminal Market has it all – and everything is worth trying here.

In addition to food vendors, you’ll also find merchants selling items such as soap, linens, and books.

A few noteworthy stalls include Miller’s Twist, an Amish stand rolling out hot, buttery pretzels, and DiNic’s, whose roast pork sandwich was named the best sandwich in America on Travel Channel’s show “Man vs. Food.”


For a French-bistro experience, head to Parc.

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A mushroom tart from Parc. Yelp/Wendy W.

At Parc, a French restaurant with a cosy, romantic interior, you’ll almost feel like you’re in Paris.

The menu features classic dishes such as salad niçoise, steak frites, and quiche Lorraine. Dinner can be pricey, but Parc also serves breakfast, lunch, and weekend brunch.

When the weather is nice, sit at one of the outdoor tables facing Rittenhouse Square for even more of a Parisian vibe.


Try the square pies at Santucci’s.

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Santucci’s white pizza with broccoli rabe. Yelp/Maggie L.

New York may reign as pizza king, but Philly has plenty of pizza purveyors to call its own.

Santucci’s, a staple of the Italian-Market neighbourhood, has been serving its signature square pies for decades. You’ll want to come here hungry, since a small pizza is made up of four hefty pieces.

Santucci’s has a few other outposts in the city, as well as several at the Jersey Shore.


Doughnut lovers can’t miss the treats at Federal Doughnuts.

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An array of treats from Federal Doughnuts. Yelp/Carolina S.

For doughnut lovers visiting Philly, the confections at local chain Federal Doughnuts are a must.

The “hot fresh” doughnuts, available in three flavours, are made right when you order.

Although you can’t go wrong with any of the options, the strawberry-lavender flavour stands out. It’s rich and sweet, but not too sugary.

There are also coated “fancy” doughnuts, which come in flavours like carrot cake and caramel key lime.

In addition to dessert, Federal Doughnuts serves fried chicken, wings, and breakfast sandwiches, if you’re in the mood for something savoury.


Get a cheesesteak from Jim’s Steaks.

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Jim’s Steaks is known for having tasty sandwiches. Yelp/Danielle O.

No trip to Philly would be complete without sampling the food the city is best known for – cheesesteak.

Although Geno’s and Pat’s may have more name recognition (and a famous rivalry, to boot), the sandwiches from Jim’s, a shop on South Street, stand out with finely chopped steak and an even meat-to-cheese ratio.

If you want to eat like a local, order your cheesesteak “Whiz wit” (with Cheez Whiz and fried onions).


Have a barbecue feast at Fette Sau.

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A platter of broccoli salad, brisket, baked beans, hot links, and potato rolls. Yelp/Ben F.

Located in the hip Fishtown neighbourhood, Fette Sau (German for “fat pig”) is a lively barbecue joint with indoor and outdoor communal seating.

The place specialises in smoked meat, from brisket and pulled pork to chicken and ribs, but the restaurant’s side dishes are just as tasty. The mac and cheese and mashed sweet potatoes are especially delicious.

Since you order meat by the pound, it’s typically more cost-effective to split a platter with some friends.


The tacos at South Philly Barbacoa have been featured on Netflix’s “Chef’s Table.”

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Lamb and pork tacos from South Philly Barbacoa. Yelp/Kay Ashley M.

Featured on the Netflix series “Chef’s Table,” South Philly Barbacoa is known for its tacos (including tortillas filled with the eponymous marinated lamb dish) and activist owners, who regularly advocate for undocumented workers.

As with traditional barbacoa restaurants in Mexico, this South Philly business is only open three days a week (Saturday, Sunday, and Monday).


For a hearty brunch, stop by Sabrina’s.

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The eatery’s stuffed challah French toast. Yelp/Leslie K.

With three locations in the city and two in the suburbs, Sabrina’s Cafe is a brunch mainstay.

The generous omelets and quirky breakfast specials (including meals inspired by unusual tourist attractions) are a highlight, and so are signature dishes like panko-encrusted tater tots and stuffed challah French toast.


Sate Kampar is a popular spot for Malaysian food.

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The place also serves brunch meals. Yelp/Kenneth L.

For a taste of Malaysia, check out Sate Kampar.

This restaurant serves its namesake, sate (marinated meat skewers), as well as other specialties like nasi ulam (rice salad with shredded fish and toasted coconut) and rendang daging (braised beef with spices and coconut cream).


At Double Knot, you can grab coffee during the day and enjoy sushi at night.

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Double Knot also serves lunch. Yelp/Sari A.

By day, Double Knot is a cafe that serves local coffee from Elixr and a simple menu of noodles, salads, banh mis (a Vietnamese type of sandwich), and rice bowls.

At night, the restaurant opens up its underground izakaya, or Japanese bar, where you can order sushi, sashimi, and robatayaki (foods grilled over hot charcoal).


Head to Khyber Pass Pub for Southern eats.

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Khyber Pass Pub’s macaroni and cheese. Yelp/John K.

If you want some food that tastes truly home-cooked, Khyber Pass Pub is a great choice.

Po-boys, hickory-smoked barbecue platters, and fried green tomatoes are on the dinner menu, but the restaurant’s Cajun brunch fare is equally enticing.

The eatery’s beignets are great for sharing, and the West-Louisiana hash comes loaded with brisket, sweet potatoes, and collard greens.


Eat spaghetti at Cry Baby Pasta, which is named after a John-Waters film.

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The spaghetti Pomodoro is a popular choice. Yelp/Mike C.

Pasta is the main event at Cry Baby, an Italian restaurant named after a John-Waters film.

From rigatoni with vodka sauce and pancetta to savoury, piquant spaghetti cacio pepe, the eatery’s offerings are straightforward and flavorful.

Start your meal off with a bruschetta (the mushroom toast with smoked ricotta is pleasantly tangy and earthy) or split a small plate, like meatballs or grilled carrots.


There are great vegetarian options at Abyssinia, an Ethiopian restaurant.

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There’s also a bar above the restaurant. Yelp/HangWhaP

Abyssinia, an Ethiopian restaurant, is a quintessential part of the West-Philly food scene.

Although there is lamb, beef, and poultry on the menu, the vegetarian platter is satisfying whether or not you eat meat.

This combo features items such as ye’misir wot (split lentils with berbere sauce) and ye’kik alicha (yellow split peas in an onion and herb sauce). Each item is placed on top of injera, a type of flatbread made from teff flour.

Above the restaurant, there’s a bar called Fiume. If you order a meal from Abyssinia, they will bring it to you upstairs.


For vegan eats with speakeasy vibes, visit Charlie Was a Sinner.

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You can order charred shishito peppers. Yelp/Andrea R.

Between the heavy curtains by the door and the dim lighting, walking into Charlie Was a Sinner feels like entering a speakeasy.

Everything on the menu is vegan, from ricotta that’s so creamy even dairy-lovers will be duped to risotto studded with lobster mushrooms, asparagus, and chives.

The place’s inventive cocktails are worth trying, too.


Famous 4th Street Deli is a classic Jewish eatery.

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Pastrami and corned beef sandwiches from Famous 4th Street Deli. Yelp/Rachel O.

Serving classic Jewish eats like matzah-ball soup, Reubens, and bagels and lox, Famous 4th Street Deli has been around since 1923.

Even today, the restaurant’s black and white tile gives the place an old-school ambiance.

Don’t forget to stop by the bakery counter on the way out. There, you can pick up cheesecake, apple strudel, and other goodies.


The desserts at John’s Water Ice are refreshing and tasty.

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John’s also has blueberry-cheesecake ice cream. Yelp/Nick D.

Whether you pronounce it “water ice” or “wooder ice,” there’s no question that the frozen stuff at John’s is refreshing.

Daily flavours include lemon, cherry, chocolate, and pineapple. In addition to water ice, John’s sells ice cream and gelati (an Italian frozen dessert).

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