Explore Philadelphia

Local Dishes That Capture the Spirit of Philadelphia

Philadelphia puts a modern spin on the classic American favorites like sundaes, wings and beef.

As the city in which the United States was founded, Philly is a town as red, white and blue and they come—and this extends to the dining scene. Of course, we have tons of new-school fine dining spots for days and tasting menus that can compete with the country’s best, but on Independence Day, that most patriotic of holidays, you just want something… familiar. Which can mean something identifiably, undeniably American. Enter Philly’s ultimate burger, wings, sundae and more—the things we crave when the time comes to salute the flag with our mouths as well as our hands.

Savory Scallion Waffle from The Dutch

No disrespect to the waffle, but what makes this daytime dish at The Dutch, Pennsport’s perpetually sunny neo-diner, an American—nay, a Philadelphia—classic is the ivory flow of cream chipped beef on top. A Pennsylvania Dutch and Armed Forces staple that lives on in greasy spoons and upscale bruncheries alike, chipped beef consists of flecks of salted, dried meat suspended in thick white gravy. Served over toast, it often goes by the affectionate nickname S.O.S. (sh** on a shingle). At the Dutch, chefs Joncarl Lachman and Lee Styer (neighbors at their respective upscale East Passyunk restaurants, Noord and Fond) elevate the humble dish with quality ingredients and fine-dining execution. The slivered scallions pressed into waffle add a light, oniony tingle that balances out the gravy’s richness. It’s a perfect way to begin Independence Day. 1527 S. 4th St., Philadelphia, PA, 215.755.5600. 

The Dutch
The dining room at The Dutch is the perfect brunch spot. (Courtesy of The Dutch)

KQ Burger from Kensington Quarters

When Fishtown meatery Kensington Quarters launched lunch service last year, chef Damon Menapace wanted “an approachable dish that showcased the ground beef sold from the butcher shop.” He figured, what showcases (grass-fed, local, house-ground) beef better than a burger? “We had also been making them in the kitchen just for us to eat and they were damn good.” The elements of this award-winner are fairly classic: Menapace tops the thick, eight-ounce patty with Conabella Farm’s raw-milk cheddar, sweet-and-sour onions sautéed in beef fat, garlic-chile mayo and a house-baked sesame-seeded bun. “It’s a cross between pan au lait and brioche,” bakerspeak for rich, soft and straight-up delicious. 1310 Frankford Ave., Philadelphia, PA, 267.314.5086

Kensington Quarters
The KQ Burger from Kensington Quarters is topped with raw-milk cheddar and sweet-and-sour onions. (Courtesy of Kensington Quarters)

Black Garlic Wings from Cheu Noodle Bar

When Ben Puchowitz, chef and co-owner of Cheu Noodle Bar in Washington Square West, creates a new dish, he says, “it’s very rare for me to nail it on the first or second try.” The lavishly lacquered black garlic wings he and partner Shawn Darragh serve at their unorthodox Asian joint, are an exception. “I used to serve them as a staff meal at [my old restaurant] Matsyon and I knew that they would be great for [Cheu].” The glaze, composed primarily of soy sauce, brown sugar and sweet, funky, umami-rich black garlic, is so shiny you can check your make-up in it. Not very American ingredients, sure, but what’s more American than chicken wings? And in Philadelphia, Cheu’s are the undisputed best, thanks in part to the flavorful sauce and in part to the supremely crisp texture that comes from a proprietary three-step process involving buttermilk, cornstarch and a very hot fryer. 255 S. 10th St., Philadelphia, PA, 267.639.4136

Cheu Noodle Bar
The Black Garlic Wings at Cheu Noodle Bar put a nice spin on the classic American dish. (©Jessica Kourkounis)

Franklin Mint from The Franklin Fountain

The Berley Brothers, Ryan and Eric, run the most convincing old-time ice cream shop in town. And beyond the aesthetics (pressed tin ceilings, soda jerks in retro costumes, root beer dispensed from a vintage barrel), they take the traditional approach seriously, crafting ice cream from scratch with real ingredients like local black raspberries and honey from their rooftop hive. The Franklin Mint, named for Philly’s historic coin press, is one of the Fountain’s iconic sundaes. It’s exactly what you want to eat on hot summer day: snowballs of vanilla and mint-chip ice cream enrobed in sticky marshmallow sauce, splashed with refreshing crème de menthe and finished with fresh whipped cream a chocolate coin made at the Berley’s Shane Confectionery next door. 116 Market St., Philadelphia, PA, 215.627.1899

The Franklin Fountain
Nothing says "America" quite like a sundae. (Courtesy of The Franklin Fountain)