Yes, yes, I know, this is only going to start arguments.
I don't pretend that this list is fair or carefully researched, it isn't based on surveys or exhaustive campaigns to try every known example of something. But after long years of eating out in Philly a few things have jumped out as outstanding.
So these are effectively just things I really enjoy: individual foods, restaurants, situations, that I think others would like too. Try them!
And sure, OK, if you want to tell me your faves, I'll check them out... email philadining
Best Cheesesteak: oh come on...there's no one answer to that!
If you happen to be able to visit during their extremely limited operating hours, and can find them (especially during construction) John's Roast Pork made the best cheesesteak I've ever had. Tony Luke's makes a good steak.
For an intro cheesesteak, like tourists trying their first one, it's Jim's. Jim's is in a location a visitor can find, offers indoor seating and a bathroom, and the steaks are generally pretty reliably good. In fact I'm still sometimes in the mood for a Jim's steak after 9 bazillion of them over the years. In fact their fried onions might be the best in town, caramelizing in a huge pile, infiltrated occasionally by grease and juice from the steaks grilling alongside. Neither the roll nor the meat is the best, but somehow the whole package can work. But, they are often plagued with ridiculous lines, they're not THAT great, I wouldn't wait more than, say 15 minutes for one. But perversely enough, you do want to wait in a bit of a line, at times when there's nobody waiting at all, the meat has often been sitting around on the grill, and can be dry and tough. So the trick is to go when they're medium-busy, when there's a line, but not one out the door and around the corner. This is a good rule at any of the big places, like Pat's and Geno's as well.
One thing - no matter where you go: eat it immediately!!! And I mean within seconds, don't take it anywhere, don't dawdle, don't stand in the french fry and drink line, eat the cheesesteak. Hot off the grill, it can be a beautiful thing, but it's getting worse by the millisecond, so find a spot to sit or stand, or better yet, do the patented cheesesteak lean (to avoid dripping grease, cheese and juices on your shirt) and eat the thing. Do NOT get it wrapped up to go. Some places like John's wrap it up no matter what - try to get them not to, the sandwich starts steaming and gets mushy. If you're not eating it within about 3 minutes max, you're not really eating a cheesesteak. It might be a marginally tasty junkfood item of some sort, but it is not a cheesesteak anymore. So don't delay. Oh, and get the whiz, trust me on this.
Best Sandwich you should have instead of a cheesesteak: DiNic's Roast Pork at Reading Terminal
Best Roast Pork Sandwich, pub division: Standard Tap
Best Roast Pork Sandwich, middle-of-the-night division: Tony Luke's. OK, they're pretty great any time...
Best Hoagie: Sarcone's
Best Burger: The consensus seems to be that the best one is to be found at the Good Dog on 15th street, but I haven't yet tried theirs. There are good ones to be had at almost any gastropub in town. The Royal Tavern burger is excellent, the Standard Tap is good, way out in Chester County, the Brandywine Prime burger is excellent.
Best Fries - fancy division: Matyson - Parmesan Truffle Fries
Best Fries - Pub Division: Royal Tavern
Best Fries - Belgian Division: Eulogy
Best Spring Rolls: Little Saigon
Best Pan-Fried Dumplings: Xiao Guan Garden
Best Steamed Dumplings: The Xiao Long Bao at Dim Sum Garden
Best Peking Duck, thin pancake division : Sang Kee
Best Peking Duck, puffy steamed bun division : Xiao Guan Garden
Best Noodle Soup: Roast pork, egg noodle soup at Sang Kee
Best Noodle Soup if you're all about the noodles: Nan Zhou Hand-Drawn Noodles
Best Hot and Sour Soup: tie - Szechuan Tasty House / Lee How Fook
Best Satay, upscale division: Nan
Best Satay, styrofoam plate division: Hardena
Best Satay, midnight division : Penang
Best salad that's really a dessert: Spring Ginger Salad at Rangoon
Best Burmese entree that
you weren't going to order because you thought it was something else:
Kung Pau Beef at Rangoon
Best Dim Sum: it was Lakeside Deli (now closed) currently up for grabs...
Best Szechuan Food: Tie - Szechuan Tasty House (Chinatown) and Han Dynasty (Exton)
Best Taiwanese Food: Han Dynasty (Exton) - runner up: Empress Garden (Chinatown)
Best Mussels (Belgian division): Monk's
Best Mussels (Suburban bistro division): Majolica
Best Mussels (Gastropub division): Grey Lodge
Best Pancakes: The Morning Glory
Best Crêpes: La Crêperie Cafe
Best Baguette: Artisan Boulanger and Patissier
Best restaurant overall: Osteria
Best nice restaurant to take a crowd of people with diverse tastes/dining requirements: White Dog Cafe
Best food at a place you didn't think would have even decent food: Standard Tap
Best restaurant that's
not even a restaurant: Studio Kitchen
(the journey is the destination, grassshopper, if you are meant to go, you will find it...)
Best Ronin Chef: Shola Olunloyo
Best Pizza, gourmet, really freaking expensive yet worth-it division: Osteria especially the Lombarda Pizza.
Best Pizza, Philly-style division: Marra's
Best Pizza that's actually worth the drive: Delorenzo's Hudson St, Trenton, NJ
Best pasta: pretty much anything at Osteria, get the Candele if they have it...
Best Pasta, non-Osteria division: Mushroom Pappardelle at Melograno; Gnocchi or Ravioli at Modo Mio
Best steak at a place you probably never thought of getting a steak: Melograno
Best Cocktails, innovative division: Chick's Bar, courtesy of bartendrix Katie Loeb
(full disclosure: Katie's a friend, but really, go get a weird drink.)
Best Cocktails, classic division: Southwark
Best Bistro-style French: Cochon
Best Tacos: Tie - The Tacos al Pastor at Taquitos de Puebla and Goat Tacos at Cantina los Caballitos
Best Gelato: Capogiro
Best old-fashioned ice cream: Bassett's in The Reading Terminal
Best Old-Fashioned Ice Cream shop experience: Franklin Fountain.
Best chocolate chip cookies: Famous 4th Street at The Reading Terminal
Best Hot Chocolate: Naked Chocolate Cafe
more to come (and some more links)