PHILADELPHIA - Like a well-oiled machine, the kitchen crew at this city’s legendary cheese steak sandwich restaurant called By George! prepares each order in sync — flip the rib eye beef strips, squirt the Cheese Whiz, splash on some sauce, pile on the sautéed onions, pack it all into a bun and pass it down the line.
On the other side of the counter there’s a queue of hungry customers with no end in sight. I’m the one salivating at the end of the line.
Ahead of me stands Marie, a California transplant originally from Philly who is here to blast her taste buds back into a favourite treat from her youth.
“I used to eat them (Philly cheesesteak sandwiches) all the time,” she divulges about her love affair with a dish that’s as synonymous to Philadelphia as deep-dish pizza is to Chicago and pastrami sandwiches are to New York City.
By George!, which has been serving up the Philly comfort food for 25 years from its Reading Terminal Market location, is as much a landmark in the City of Brotherly Love as the Liberty Bell.
I finally inch to the front of the line, place my order, and bite into a sandwich and feel the heavenly juices run down my face.
Left: The Philly cheese steak sandwich is what put the city on the map but Philadelphia has much more to offer foodies. Right: The Reading Terminal Market is home to some of the best Philly restaurants.
The Reading Terminal Market is “Ground Zero” for the food scene in the birthplace of America. The ultimate foodie hangout is home to some of the city’s best ethnic restaurants and one of the cheapest places to eat.
The variety of food here is staggering and I can’t resist the croissants at the Market Bakery — they are delicious!
I also find out that the cheesesteak sandwich has a rival — the roast pork sandwiches served at DiNic’s is almost as famous as its beefy cousin. A regular customer at DiNic’s tells me “the broccoli rabe roast pork has now become the city’s new favourite sandwich.”
Philadelphia has few equals when it comes to great restaurants and some of America’s finest rooms have opened up here. Restaurateur Stephen Starr has the whole town talking with his collection of excellent dining options.
Above: Fine dining spots in Philly are making the city a culinary destination.
Starr’s Butcher and Singer steakhouse is one of the most impressive I’ve ever visited and the only thing better than the juicy Delmonico steak I’m served is the ambience that prevails here; waiters shake martinis tableside while Billie Holiday tunes resonate through the room.
The food scene even extends outdoors in Philadelphia. Talula’s Garden in Washington Square is a cosy culinary oasis featuring a wonderful haute cuisine menu where diners sit under vine-covered trellises.
Philadelphia really is an appetizing place to visit.
Loews Philadelphia Hotel www.loewshotels.com/philadelphia-hotel/ Talula’s Garden www.talulasgarden.com/main/word.shtml / By George! in the Reading Terminal Market, 1200 Filbert St.; Butcher and Singer www.butcherandsinger.com/ Big Bus Double Decker sightseeing https://www.phillytour.com/products-tours.php; Philadelphia City Pass: adults $62 U.S. includes admission to five attractions: www.citypass.com/philadelphia