Philly is undeniably a food-lover's paradise. Gourmets, gourmands, and just plain gluttons will have no trouble finding something to suit their fancy. Cheap eats and fussier fare peacefully coexist in the city.
What trip would be complete without a gooey cheesesteak? Everyone's got an opinion on the best, and the rivalry between Geno's and Pat's King of Steaks, two catty-corner, 24-hour steak purveyors, is as heated as any in history. To be honest, I don't find much difference between them, though I'm a bit swayed by Pat's public napkin dispensers—this is some messy stuff. Be advised--these joints are the soup nazis of South Philly. Have your money ready, ask for sodas at the second window and whatever you do, order properly. A standard cheesesteak with onions is pronounced, "whiz wit." In other words, Cheese Whiz (the default cheese, which is nothing to laugh at) with onions. Oh, it'll all make sense once you get there. Head to S. Ninth Street and Passyunk Avenue, just south of the Italian Market.
With over 80 vendors hawking everything from fresh fruit and cheese to Peking duck and Amish apple tarts, Reading Terminal Market, in the Convention Center District off 12th and Arch streets, is a must for all. But plan your eating strategy wisely, as a stomach only has so much room. Tommy DeNic's stuffs a sandwich so well, cheesteaks should be shaking in their boots. Their roast pork with provolone is over-the-top tasty. Don't miss Beiler's Bakery--you'll kick yourself for not picking up a six-pack of sticky buns. Thinking I'd be back the next day, I eschewed items like the irresistible cakes at Braverman's and charming chocolates at Mueller's, molded into the shape of chicken drumsticks, the Liberty Bell, and E.T. (yes, the extraterrestrial). However, I was thwarted on my surefire route to sugar-induced coma by the market's lack of Sunday hours. Keep in mind, this is a Monday-through-Saturday place.