Nothing’s better than a good, old-fashioned road trip — especially the kind that’s centered around food. So when our executive sous chef, Ben, and JV hit the road last month to partake in the EPIC Cochon event in Philadelphia (remember that huge, saddle-cut of pork?), they made sure to leave enough time to check out some of the city’s best places to dine. From the classic Philly Cheese Steak to modern Israeli cuisine, Ben and JV didn’t seem to miss a beat … and now, you’ll know exactly where to make reservations the next time you’re headed to the East Coast.
“Philly is awesome. I mean, the whole city is just great,” said JV. “And because they’re so close to New York, they have really high standards and know they gotta put out good food, but it’s also pretty cheap, so it’s accessible to anyone.”
First stop: Zahav. Modern Israeli cuisine that left JV wanting more: “Of all the places we ate, Zahav was just incredible.” Some dishes include: Turkish Hummus with butter and grilled garlic, served warm; Crispy Lamb’s Tongue with snap peas, smoked grapes, pistachio tehina and peaches; Moroccan Chicken with charmoula, freekah and pickled cabbage, and Spiced Peanut Basboosa – a dessert of semolina cake, Turkish coffee ice cream and peanut praline.
Next up: Pat’s King of Steaks. If you’re looking for that classic Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich, this is the place to go. It’s been family-owned and operated since 1930, they’re the “originators and inventors” of the Philly Cheese Steak, and there’s just one location (that’s open 24/7 to boot) — so, you know it’s gotta be good.
A new take on chicken and waffles, perhaps? Go to Federal Donuts. Gourmet fried chicken. Donuts. Coffee. Two locations. Enough said. Well, wait … you also get to pick your own seasoning and glaze for the chicken (like chili-garlic), every order is served with Japanese cucumber pickles and a honey donut, and if you don’t want chicken, they have lots of “fancy” flavored donuts like strawberry-ginger and banana cream pie. Okay, now — enough said.
Also, don’t miss while in Philly:
Osteria – Homemade Italian pastas, thin crust pizzas, wood grilled meats and fish. Standout dish: Swordfish speck with grilled figs, pine nuts and basil. “The swordfish was sliced so thin, it almost looked like Lardo … and the way they overlapped the fish created this stunning contrast in color, almost like stripes.”
Brauhaus Schmitz – Philadelphia’s only authentic German Bierhall & Restaurant.
Serpico – Ingredient-driven, seasonal menu that features global cuisine with a playful touch. “There’s definitely an Asian twist to the menu … super well-refined, light and beautiful.”
Fante’s Kitchen Shop – Every kitchen gizmo and gadget imaginable can be found here. “This is the store where we get our Chitarra from … we were only there about an hour, but we could’ve stayed all day. It was like being a kid in a candy store. The only reason we left is because I had to go to the bathroom.” – JV
Visiting Pittsburgh, too?
Spoon – Local, farm-to-table, modern American cuisine.
Meat & Potatoes – Gastropub. Open 7 days a week.
On their way back to Chicago, they paid a visit to JV’s hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, for a baseball game and some more good eats.
While there, they were blown away by the Duck Mortadella at The Greenhouse Tavern, a dish soon to be featured on Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods. They also stopped by Slyman’s Restaurant, home of the biggest and “best” corned beef, and according to JV, it was. “Seriously, the best corned beef on Earth. Hands down.”
We know how overwhelming it can be when traveling to new cities, trying to find the “best” spots to dine; so hopefully, our list here will help you make some good choices the next time you’re headed to Philly … or Cleveland.