Philly is such an amazing place for food. People there feel that it’s comparable or superior to New York! Though that’s a sure way to start a big argument, I will say that someone could pretty easily have a great restaurant meal every day in Philly for a year and still have a whole lot of great places left to try. Here are a few little victual vignettes.
Steaks of Cheese
It would almost be unfathomable to experience Philly cuisine without mentioning the venerable cheesesteak. We tried some early in our trip. For our first taste, we went to the famous Jim’s on South St. I ordered a steak “prov wit”, which, I was led to understand, means added provolone cheese with onions. Amusingly, the cook said “with what?”, so there went my attempt to use the local jargon. He probably felt he had to ask that because they get so many out-of-towners there. Anyway, the steak was finely chopped and quite tasty, and on that day the one steak was plenty for both of us. A couple days later we tried Tony Jr’s, and this time I ordered “wiz without”. Despite my cheese snobbery, I decided to go with Philly tradition and get Cheese Whiz. This proved to be a good decision – the whiz melted better than the provolone had at Jim’s, and this made for a nicer texture. I also left out onions, because I like them carmelized, and the onions at Jim’s had been barely cooked. Finally, we thought the bun was better at Tony’s, a nice slightly chewy Italian roll. So this was my preferred steak. It was fun doing the steak thing, but we had, oh, 10 more national cuisines to work on. It’s worth noting that Philly residents do not agree on which cheesesteak place is best, nor do they even agree on what’s the proper method of preparation.
I had heard very good things about Gianfranco Pizza Rustica. Near the end of our stay (sniff!), we happened to be right near the one on 11th street. It looks quite modest, very much like your typical pizze takeout place with a few tables. Not needing a full meal, I asked them what they’d recommend. They were non-commital, saying everything was good, and I ended up choosing a slice of broccoli pizza. They heated it for me, and just like the decor, it looked like any other broccoli slice. But then, whoa, the crust! Delicious, light, thin, just slightly crunchy without being at all carbony, a perfect texture in your mouth, I’ve never had better. The cheese and topping were excellent, and we both loved it. Next time I’m there, I’m going to have to get a very large pie. Or two. Or three. Those people were right!