Restaurants in Philadelphia

The cuisine of Philadelphia has been shaped by the history of the city and by the mixture of ethnicities that has developed over time. During the 18th century, Philadelphia was at the center of politics creating the new United States of America; taverns became popular as major meeting places between politicians and businessmen who were leading the independence and government of the nation. As the 19th century began, the Reading Terminal Market and Italian Market, two of Philadelphias landmarks, were established. It was during this time that many of Philadelphias signature dishes, such as the cheesesteak and the hoagie, were created. Although the early portion of the 20th century saw a decline in restaurant patronage, a culinary renaissance occurred in the 1970s that continues today.Early Philadelphia Taverns and MarketsTaverns dominated the restaurant scene of Philadelphia in the 18th century, ranging in types from illegal shops on the waterfront to upper-class taverns for government officials. Nearly 120 licensed taverns dotted the city by 1752, and many more illegal establishments could be found as well. Many legal taverns were the unofficial meeting places for members of the First Continental Congress. Although the majority of the original buildings have since been destroyed, taverns continue to be popular in Philadelphia. During the 19th century, nearly 200 breweries were operating near the city and were making Philadelphia one of the greatest brewing locations in the nation. Prohibition brought an end to many of these breweries, but today several microbreweries have re-established themselves as international champions. Locally produced beers and microbrews have regained their popularity in the city, and with these beverages has come the evolution of more taverns.In addition to the continued popularity of taverns in Philadelphia, the advent of the Italian Market and the Reading Terminal Market in the 19th century has influenced the cuisine of the city. South Philadelphia in the 1800s featured a large population of Italian immigrants. The Italian Market was established along part of south 9th Street near the end of the century. Still in existence today, the market originally housed grocery shops, cheese shops, butcher shops, and bakeries in addition to some cafes and restaurants. In the time since its inception, the Italian Market has become more ethnically mixed, especially following an influx of immigrants in the 20th century. Today, the market features a fair number restaurants and shops that cater to Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, and Latin American customers looking for ethnic foods, but the dominant culture continues to be Italian.Meant to attract local food vendors as the Italian Market did, the Reading Terminal Market was opened in 1892. Local restaurants and produce sellers leased basement space to store perishable foods, and the market allowed local growers and producers to sell their wares. Despite flourishing during the difficult eras of the Great Depression and World War II, the Reading Terminal Market began to decline in the 1950s and 1960s. Today, the market houses culinary treats and merchandise that remain unique to the city and unavailable at most other locations. Modern Philadelphia CuisineThe population of the city began to decline in the mid-20th century as residents emigrated to the suburbs. However, Philadelphias restaurants began a renaissance in the 1970s with the introduction of French restaurants Le Panetiere and Le Bec-Fin. Upscale establishment Four Seasons Fountain Restaurant was opened in 1983, and more ethnic and fast-food locations became popular throughout the city.Philadelphia has developed a reputation for culinary excellence thanks to the restaurants of Zagat-honored Stephen Starr and Iron Chef Jose Garces. Famous restaurateurs like these men are able to operate establishments in close proximity to smaller chef-owned locations and mom-and-pop enterprises that have been passed through generations.Popular dining locations in Philadelphia range from Rittenhouse Square to the Old City to Chinatown. The Italian influence of the 18th century continues in many of these establishments, but Asian- and French-inspired cuisine remains popular in fine dining. Additionally, casual dining in pizzerias, delis, and taverns continues to fare well.Vendors rose in popularity on the streets of Philadelphia in the 1970s. These street sellers began marketing hot dogs, cheesesteaks, and breakfast sandwiches all over the city. Although frequent legal battles over ordinances and restrictions between the vendors and local business have raged throughout the years, these vendors have become commonplace and nationally recognized for the quality of their foods. Iconic Philadelphia FoodsMany of the cultural and ethnic mixtures of the immigrant population of Philadelphia have created some of the most iconic foods in the city. The Philly cheesesteak, traditionally made from sliced beef and melted cheese on an Italian roll, was created by hot dog vendors who tried mixing their American specialty with the Italian influence of the city.The hoagie is another sandwich born from the combination of American and Italian cuisines in Philadelphia. At the time of World War I, many Italian men were working in the citys shipyard known as Hog Island. These workers would layer sliced meats, cheeses, and lettuce on two slices of Italian bread; this concoction became known as the “Hog Island” sandwich, later shortened to the “hoagie.” The hoagie was named the official sandwich of Philadelphia in 1992.A soup combining tripe, meat, and vegetables was created sometime during the American Revolutionary War. Known as Philadelphia Pepper Pot, this soup along with Snapper Soup, a thick brown turtle stew, are delicacies in the city and can be found in many area bars and seafood restaurants.The soft pretzel became associated with Philadelphia when the Pennsylvania Dutch brought it to the area from France. Although the soft pretzel was not invented in the city, many vendors sell them on street corners throughout the city. Soft pretzels have also become a staple of the taverns and bars of the city as a snack with beer.Soda pop was invented in Philadelphia before its popularity spread throughout the country. Root beer, vanilla cream, and black cherry beverages were created and marketed in the city, and they continue to be a non-alcoholic alternative to the citys beer industry.
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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Restaurants



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