Philadelphia

The 13 Most Essential Philadelphia Food Experiences

Go big or go home.

Flickr/Wally Gobetz
Flickr/Wally Gobetz
Flickr/Wally Gobetz

With 2020 upending any plans you may have had for finally crossing something big off your bucket list, here is at least one list you can still work your way through this year. As Philadelphia’s dining scene continues to constantly change and evolve, there are a few things that will always be essential food experiences in this city. From those famous sandwiches to go to the most polished of city-mapping restaurants, here are our picks for your 12 most important bucket list food experiences in Philly.

@zahavrestaurant
@zahavrestaurant
@zahavrestaurant

Get the tasting menu at Zahav

Old City
Michael Solomonov’s award-winning Zahav has been one of the biggest things to put Philly’s foodie scene on the map. If you’re going to go, go all in with the standard multi-course menu that includes hummus, mezze, charcoal-cooked skewers, and the signature Zahav lamb shoulder, which is only available through the tasting menu. Finish it off with yet award-winning desserts, add a bottle of Israeli wine, and you have accomplished a major task in the Philly food bucket list. 
How to order: Make reservations up to two weeks in advance for outdoor dining in the covered and heated patio

Santucci's Original Square Pizza
Santucci’s Original Square Pizza
Santucci’s Original Square Pizza

Power rank the best square pizzas

Multiple locations
Philly certainly has a thing for square pies, and sometimes for upside down square pies-area staples like Santucci’s is a go-to right of passage for introductions. In that vein, it’s worth checking out Circles + Squares, Pizza Jawn, Emmy Squared, Alice, and Angelo’s, all of which offer their own takes on thick square pies. 
How to order: Order instructions vary

Moshulu
Moshulu
Moshulu

Set sail on the Moshulu

Penn’s Landing
Moshulu sits on one of the oldest and largest rigged sailing vessels still afloat, offering plenty of ambiance and novelty, but with the food to back it up. The menu revolves around refined American dishes and a seafood bent, ranging from ahi tuna poke to burgers to the towering seafood plateau of shrimp, sushi, and oysters. 
How to order: Reserve for outdoor dining

John Doukas/Shutterstock
John Doukas/Shutterstock
John Doukas/Shutterstock

Sigh. Have a cheesesteak

Multiple locations
You may have heard cheesesteaks are kind of the thing in Philly. Great. Do it right by skipping the flashier spots and opt instead for the quality options that are no less iconic. Joe’s Steaks + Soda, Dalessandro’s, and Philip’s Steaks can get you started. And, if you’re so inclined, brush up on your cheesesteak history.
How to order: Order instructions vary

James Kirkikis/Shutterstock
James Kirkikis/Shutterstock
James Kirkikis/Shutterstock

Or better yet, a roast beef sandwich 

Multiple locations
While everyone is busy debating the best cheesesteaks in town, keep your eyes on what many consider the actual signature sandwich of Philadelphia. DiNic’s and Nick’s Roast Beef are the two staple stops for this particular culinary venture, but most seasoned cheesesteak shops have a good roast beef or pork option, too.
How to order: Order instructions vary

End your meal with red velvet cake at Ms. Tootsie’s

Hawthorne
Much awarded Ms. Tootsie’s is best known for serving soul food classics, from lobster mac n’ cheese to fried catfish to wings and waffles. No matter what you get, it’s best to save at least a little room for a slice of ultra-rich red velvet cake. 
How to order: Order takeout online; Uber Eats for delivery/takeout

John's Water Ice
John’s Water Ice
John’s Water Ice

Speaking of dessert, indulge in water ice

Various locations
You’ll hear it mostly pronounced wooder ice, but this slushy treat gets most Philly locals through the hot summers. The traditionally Italian combination of ice, fruit, and sweeteners can be found all over the city including John’s, which has been around since the 1940s, Siddiq’s in West Philly, and more modern versions like Autumn Pear at D’Emilio’s
How to order: Order instructions vary

Federal Donuts
Federal Donuts
Federal Donuts

Get the perfect fried chicken-doughnut combo at Federal Donuts

Multiple locations
It’s a sweet-and-savory combo that can’t be ignored. Go in for a fried chicken sammie or wings to enjoy alongside one of the shop’s signature or “fancy” doughnuts, which means you can get everything from powdered strawberry lavender to vanilla bean crème brulee.
How to order: Online for takeout

Ralph's Italian Restaurant
Ralph’s Italian Restaurant
Ralph’s Italian Restaurant

Have the ultimate Italian dinner at Ralph’s

Bella Vista
It’s pretty much impossible to determine what the “best” Italian restaurant in Philly is, so let’s instead turn to the oldest. For more than a century, Ralph’s Italian Restaurant has been serving favorites in South Philly with the accolades to keep them strong. Think housemade pasta, mussels, veal parm, and beloved sausage and peppers.
How to order: Caviar for delivery, reserve for outdoor dining

Sample essential Ethiopian fare at Abyssinia

Spruce Hill
This West Philly favorite is a must for meat and veggie samplers that let you try a bit of everything. You can pair your injera up with beef, chicken, lentils, collard greens, and so much more, all perfectly plated for sharing (or devouring on your own).
How to order: Call 215-387-2424 for pickup; Uber Eats for delivery

Warm up with pho from Thang Long

Fishtown, Kensington
Visit either location and awaken all your senses with a fresh bowl of simmering pho, whether you opt for chicken, veggies, beef, shrimp, or sub the whole thing for some banh mi and spring rolls instead. The menu offers a few vegan-friendly options too.
How to order: Call 215-425-0078 for pickup; Uber Eats, Caviar, GrubHub, DoorDash for delivery

Monk's Cafe
Monk’s Cafe
Monk’s Cafe

Eat and drink the best of Belgium (and beyond) at Monk’s Cafe

Rittenhouse
This essential Philly bar is home to a massive Beer Bible that is extra amazing alongside its menu of elevated pub fare in the style of Belgium. Artisanal-quality burgers, pommes frites, mussels, and so many other delectable plates make Monk’s a must for any Philly visitor.
How to order: Walk up for outdoor dining; call 215-545-7005 for takeout

Parc
Parc
Parc

Feel Parisian at Parc

Rittenhouse
This long-running French restaurant right on Rittenhouse Square Park is a forever spot for people watching indoors and out. During Covid times, Parc has even been offering picnic baskets that sample the best of what Parc has to offer, in portable form — think cheese, baguette, croissants, and a bottle of rosé.
How to order: Reservations for indoor/outdoor dining; call 215-545-2263 for pickup; Caviar or DoorDash for pickup/deliverySign up here for our daily Philly email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.

Marielle Mondon is a writer from Philadelphia. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @MarielleMondon.

Philadelphia

Museum Exhibits in Philly to Check Out Before They Disappear

Get in some culture (and selfies) at the best art exhibits in Philadelphia.

Photo courtesy of Disney
Photo courtesy of Disney
Photo courtesy of Disney

From the historical to the artistic, Philadelphia is jam packed with museums. Art aficionados of all ages can get lost inside the likes of tourist-friendly museums like the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Museum of the American Revolution or feast their eyes on unique exhibitions at institutions like the Fabric Workshop and Museum and the Museum for Art In Wood.

Between big-ticket exhibitions honouring the House of Mouse to collections showcasing the legacy of a prominent Black family in early America, there’s plenty of material to dig into. After you’ve planned a date night and rounded up friends to explore the city, here are the most exciting museum exhibits in Philly right now-before they’re gone for good.

Photo courtesy of Disney
Photo courtesy of Disney
Photo courtesy of Disney

The Franklin Institute

Exhibition: Disney 100: The Exhibition
Mickey Mouse, you look good for your age. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of Disney is a retrospective exhibition, which got its world premiere right here in Philly. Between rarely-seen artworks and artifacts, costumes and props, and interactive installations where you can listen to hit Disney songs, the exhibit is a Disney lover’s wish-upon-a-star-come-true.
Dates: Until August 27, 2023
How to visit: The museum is open Monday through Sunday. Tickets are available online and at the door.

Photo by Ramon Torres, courtesy of ANS
Photo by Ramon Torres, courtesy of ANS
Photo by Ramon Torres, courtesy of ANS

Academy of Natural Sciences

Exhibition: Conversations With Birds
No, not an allusion to the Eagles, this exhibition is dedicated to actual birds, their migration patterns, and humans’ relationship with avian creatures. Expect avian photography and video by local birders and wildlife photographers along with an interactive exhibit showing five migratory birds that pass through the Philadelphia region on their seasonal passage between North and South America.
Dates: Until May 21, 2023
How to visit: The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday. Tickets are available online or at the door.

The Barnes Foundation

Exhibition: Sue Williamson & Lebohang Kganye: Tell Me What You Remember
The work of two contemporary South African artists-Sue Williamson and Lebohang Kganye-are shown side by side, offering a cross-generational dialogue. Both artists utilize video installations, photographs, sculptural installations, and textiles “to consider how the stories our elders tell us shape family narratives and personal identities.”
Dates: Until May 21, 2023
How to visit: The museum is open Thursday through Monday. Advanced tickets are recommended.

Photo by Jonathan Horowitz
Photo by Jonathan Horowitz
Photo by Jonathan Horowitz

Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History

Exhibition: The Future Will Follow the Past: An Exhibition by Jonathan Horowitz
Exploring the rapid change of societal issues in America since 2020-antisemitism, racial violence, immigration, women’s rights, LGBTQIA+ rights-Jonathan Horowitz designed installations inspired by recent occurrences. His works explore specific events like the infamous far-right rally from white supremacists in Charlottesville as well as recent themes in American history, like attacks on those within the BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities.
Dates: Until July 4, 2023
How to visit: The museum is open Friday through Sunday. Admission is available online and at the door.

Photo by Hoda Tawakol
Photo by Hoda Tawakol
Photo by Hoda Tawakol

The Museum for Art In Wood

Exhibition: The Mashrabiya Project
The newly renamed Museum for Art in Wood (formerly The Center for Art In Wood) celebrates the rebrand with a brand new project. Focusing on mashrabiya, the traditional Islamic architectural design, The Mashrabiya Project is a first of its kind effort in the U.S. to examine this aesthetic. As a part of the larger mission, a new exhibition Seeing Through Space features newly-commissioned, never-before-seen works by six female-identifying artists.
Dates: Until July 23, 2023
How to visit: The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday. Tickets are not required.

Photo by Carlos Avenda├▒o
Photo by Carlos Avenda├▒o
Photo by Carlos Avenda├▒o

Fabric Workshop and Museum

Exhibition: Henry Taylor: Nothing Change, Nothing Strange
Combining painting and sculpture, Henry Taylor utilized recycled objects in this exhibition, the product of an 18-month residency. The entire second floor of the museum houses the large scale assemblages, tapestries, and textiles. Think: 30-foot billowing canvases and towering totems created from compressed blocks of paint buckets, vinyl home siding, and black plastic planters.
Dates: Until July 23, 2023
How to visit: The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday. Walk up admission is available but advanced registration is encouraged.

Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Exhibition: Judith Joy Ross
More than 200 photographs from renowned portrait photographer Judith Joy Ross will be on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, chronicling her career from the 1980s to today. Her black-and-white portraits are intimate reflections of everyday Americans, and this show features work from all her major projects, plus, never-before-seen images.
Dates: April 24 to August 6, 2023
How to visit: The museum is open Thursday through Monday. Advanced tickets are recommended.

American Swedish Historical Museum

Exhibition: Radically Marimekko
Famous for their bright and bold fabrics, Finnish textiles, clothing, and home furnishings, the company Marimekko is showcased at this special exhibit. Drawing attention to Finnish design, the collection traces the brand’s path from industrial art house to fashion icon.
Dates: March 30 to September 24, 2023
How to visit: The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday. Walk up admission is available.

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and African American Museum in Philadelphia

Exhibition: Rising Sun: Artists in an Uncertain America
A collaboration between the African American Museum in Philadelphia and PAFA, Rising Sun showcases new work from 20 artists examining the question of Is the sun rising or setting on the experiment of American democracy? With pieces shown in both museums, visitors can reflect on, challenge, and expand their view of democracy through art.
Dates: March 23 to October 8, 2023
How to visit: The African American Museum in Philadelphia is open Thursday through Sunday; admission is available online and at the door. PAFA is open Thursday through Sunday; admission can be purchased in advance or at the door.

Museum of the American Revolution
Museum of the American Revolution
Museum of the American Revolution

Museum of the American Revolution

Exhibition: Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia
James Forten may not be a familiar name within early American history, but this new exhibit at the Museum of the American Revolution is looking to change that. Telling the story of Forten and his family through 100 historical artifacts, Black Founders explores the Forten family’s roles in the Revolutionary War, business in Philadelphia, and the abolitionist movement.
Dates: Until November 26, 2023
How to visit: The museum is open daily. Admission is available online and at the door.

National Constitution Center
National Constitution Center
National Constitution Center

National Constitution Center

Exhibition: The 19th Amendment: How Women Won The Vote
That lofty document known as the Constitution and its values, interpretations, and amendments are explored in great detail at the National Constitution Center, naturally. This semi-permanent exhibit examines the 19th Amendment-the one which granted women the right to vote-and the road to its ratification. Out of the near 100 artifacts, expect to see a rare printing of the Declaration of Sentiments from the first women’s convention at Seneca Falls, a ballot box used to collect women’s votes in the late 1800s, Pennsylvania’s ratification copy of the 19th Amendment, and various “Votes for Women” ephemera.
Dates: Semi-permanent, no end date announced
How to visit: The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday. Advanced tickets are recommended.

M├╝tter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
M├╝tter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
M├╝tter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

M├╝tter Museum

Exhibition: Spit Spreads Death
Eerily topical, the M├╝tter’s latest special exhibit, Spit Spreads Death, an exhibit about the 1918 flu pandemic, opened in the fall of 2019, less than six months before the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The exhibit traces the disease’s spread throughout Philadelphia neighbourhoods a century ago and how the pandemic impacted the city with artifacts like photos, newspaper clippings, and more.
Dates: Now through 2024
How to visit: The museum is open Wednesday through Monday. Advanced tickets are required.

Get the latest from Thrillist Australia delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.

Allie Volpe┬áis a writer based in Philadelphia. She hasn’t slept in days. Follow her on Twitter:┬á@allieevolpe.

Related

Our Best Stories, Delivered Daily
The best decision you'll make all day.