I am a foodie, and I am proud to be. I have traveled extensively, and always try the local specialties. After all, nothing would be more depressing than eating at Panera while in Tokyo. There is nothing wrong with Panera, but I can have that just as easily at home. So I was eager to explore the Philadelphia food scene on my trip there.

Philadelphia has a vibrant scene of casual eateries. If you like no frills casual awesome food, this is a destination you will love. My favorite places on this trip were all small establishments where diners order at the counter. I love that. Philadelphia food is very much like the rest of the city: straightforward and simple, but wonderful.

Here are a few of my favorite spots I tried. Please note that this is by no means a comprehensive list of the great food Philly has to offer. These are just meals that made me happy.

Falafel at Goldie

Michael Solomonov is the chef and owner of Zahav, Philadelphia’s top rated fine dining restaurant. He has also carved out an empire of fast and wonderful food all over the city. Goldie serves what I consider to be the best falafel I have ever had outside of Israel. That’s a bold statement, but one I stand by.

With your order, you will get your choice of sauce. The harissa – homemade here – was incredible, a perfect mix of smoky and spicy. Goldie also makes tahini milkshakes, and while I didn’t indulge, these vegan treats have received rave reviews!

Donuts at Federal Donuts

Another notch in the Solomonov empire, Federal Donuts is a wacky combination of donuts and fried chicken. As the story goes, the chef and his business partners had always wanted to open a donut shop. They were discussing names and logistics at a Korean fried chicken restaurant and thought, wow. We could do donuts for breakfast and chicken for lunch. The idea stuck, and it just works.

The chicken sandwich is perfect, but the donuts are truly elegant. Get a hot strawberry-lavender donut, served right out of the fryer with strawberry and lavender infused sugar coating it. Trust me, you will not regret it!

Cheesesteak at Cleavers

Gino’s and Pat’s are the traditional home of this Philadelphia food favorite, but I didn’t go there. Why? I don’t consider cheese whiz to be cheese. When I think of cheese and steak coming together in harmony, it is going to be real cheese.

Cleavers allows you to create your own cheesesteak, or you can go with one of their crowd favorites. I picked the Italian: steak, roasted red peppers, and spinach sitting on top of perfectly melted sharp provolone (you can’t see the cheese in the photo, but it’s there). Oh. My. Heaven. So good!

Pretzels at Miller’s Twist

Reading Terminal Market is the food hub of Philadelphia. (It is significantly larger than Grand Central Market in Los Angeles.) A local friend told me to find the Amish pretzel stand. It wasn’t hard to do, with a line extending several stalls back.

Miller’s sells all sorts of pretzels, but I opted for the original twist. It was buttery pretzely perfection, and I only wish I had ordered a second. Don’t skip this place if you find yourself in the Market.

The Philadelphia food scene is a wonderful mix of cultures, all done with that simple Philadelphia no frills style.

What are your favorite Philly eateries?

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