One final Premier Lacrosse weekend of the year, Championship Weekend. Once again the title game will be held at Subaru Park in Philadelphia. The city of brotherly love is a quietly underrated food city. Yes, of course I’ve got a few cheesesteak spots for you to hit. No, I won’t insult you with the obvious suggestions, nor will I ever entertain the question, “Pat’s or Geno’s?”
We’ve broken the guide up into a few categories. Cheesesteaks are their own category, this is Philadelphia after all. But if you are looking to have more than just a cheesesteak in Philly, we’ve got you covered.
There is no shortage of PLL players tied to the Philadelphia area. Michael Sowers and Grant Ament, start attackman for the Waterdogs and Archers respectively, call PA home. Jeff Conner and James Reilly hail from Pennsylvania. Chris Sabia is a PA guy who was at Penn State with Ament. Matt Whitcher attended York. Matt McMahon is also from PA, and played at Penn. Piper Bond is another Penn alum. Ryan Ambler is from Ardmore. Matt Moore hails from PA, as does Mike Sisselberger. The coaching staff for both teams have ties to the area. The list goes on and on, and that’s just for teams in the title game. A number of Philly natives in the PLL contributed recommendations for this guide. The locals never steer you wrong.
Note: You can catch this guide, along with a several other things to do in Philly other than eat, over at the PLL site.
Multiple locations including University City and Center City. As best as I can tell, all of the locations are excellent. Sabrina’s is great for a solo eater or if you are with the family. If you want to stick to the breakfast side of things, you can just get some eggs, the breakfast burrito, or a scramble; the home fries are outstanding. The challah bread french toast gets rave reviews. Keep it healthier and go for a breakfast bowl. If you tilt toward the lunch side of brunch, there are some great sandwich and burger options.
Cafe La Maude
816 North 4th Street. If we get some nice fall weather, sit outside for some brunch here. Particularly if you get to Philly on Saturday and have yourselves an eventful night out. Sunday morning brunch at Cafe La Maude is exactly what your body needs. Short Rib Eggs Benedict. Maybe some Huevos Rancheros. Or head towards the lebanese part of the menu with some Shakshuka, which is basically eggs, sausage, vegetables and some tahini sauce with bread. Sweet or savory, this is an excellent way to start your sunday.
248 S 11th St. If you want to just keep it simple and grab a sandwich/hoagie for lunch, this is a great choice. There are plenty of good options, ranging from a classic reuben to an italian combo, to a “Phoagie” (yes, a pho hoagie). They’ll make kids sandwiches too if you have little ones with you. Sometimes you just want a really well made sandwich for lunch, nothing crazy, and this is a great spot for it.
Lucky’s Last Chance
848 S 2nd Street. This is the spot for a burger or a hot dog. And I mean not just any burger. I’m talking about a burger that will change the way you see the world. You can get just a classic burger, lettuce, tomato, cheese, all that usual stuff. But let’s get adventurous. Get yourself a burger topped with a heaping helping of mac and cheese. If you want to go way outside the box, the PB & Bacon burger is an award winner (literally, a three time winner at Philly Burger Brawl). Yes, the PB stands for what you think it does. Peanut butter, cheese, bacon, and even a side of jelly for that burger if you want it. You can also get yourself some serious hot dogs here, and the fries are homemade. If Guy Fieri hasn’t been here yet, it’s gotta be coming up on the list. It just feels like it belongs in Flavortown.
1136 Arch Street. We’ve all had that feeling. I’m hungry but I don’t know what I want. Or the familiar, “what do you want for lunch? Whatever, I’ll have anything” conversation that rarely actually solves where you are going to eat. If you find yourself in one of those quandaries, Reading Terminal is where you should go. Because whatever you’re in the mood for, whether you know it yet or not, is there. Reading Terminal opened in 1893 (not a typo, it’s that old). It’s a massive indoor market with dozens of food vendors. Sandwiches, cheesesteaks, oysters, thai, vegan, craft beers, barbeque, greek, anything else you can think of. It’s a Wonka Factory of delicious food. It’s like it was built to handle those “I’m hungry but I don’t know what I want” moments. It’s also just a core part of the fabric of Philadelphia, a truly authentic experience.
Giorgio on Pine
1328 Pine St. One of the top Italian options around, it’s in Center City. They take the classics and nail them. The wheel isn’t getting reinvented here. Linguini and clams. Rigatoni with sausage and peppers. Gnocchi and a 12 hour beef ragout. Stuffed chicken. Veal with prosciutto. Timeless Italian favorites, done right. This spot is also BYOB, so make sure you stop off and grab a bottle or two of wine before you arrive. It’s not fancy, it’s perfectly done Italian comfort food.
Butcher and Singer
1500 Walnut Street. A classic steak house. It’s not really retro or vintage, but it can feel like a step back into a different time when you walk in. If you want to do one of those feel like a baller, possibly of the Tony Soprano or Jordan Belfort variety, and get yourself a serious steak dinner, this is the spot. The wine/drink list has a table of contents, it’s 32 pages long. This is a Stephen Starr restaurant folks, welcome to the big leagues. You want some decadence? Waiters with white jackets and bow ties? You want a gigantic porterhouse for two and a whole bunch of sides? Surf and Turf that will feel like a religious experience? Look no further.
Good Dog Bar
224 South 15th street. No reservations here, first come first serve, but it’s a three story building so don’t expect a big wait. This could be a lunch spot too; you’re coming here to get a burger. Plenty of good food, but the burger is rated as one of the best in Philadelphia, and a few PLL pros supported that claim to me. You can get just a classic burger and be happy, but try the Good Dog. Half pound burger, stuffed with blue cheese, topped with onions. The beer and drinks list is great, of course with plenty of local brews and some classics. $5 gets you the Philly special: a 12 oz can of Yards Philly Standard and a shot of bourbon. If you have a four legged traveler with you, well behaved dogs (on a leash) are welcome at Good Dog, even sitting inside. They’ll get treats and some water.
736 South 9th Street. Every single person I asked for recs said Angelo’s. Every single one. Some for pizza, some for other food, some for cheesesteaks, it sounds like Angelo’s just doesn’t miss. I list it under pizza because technically it is a pizza place, but the sandwiches look dynamite. Dave Portnoy did a pizza review of Angelo’s a few years ago, and they scored a 9.1. Barstool says it’s the best pizza in the city, and they eat a lot of pizza. Cash only, carry out only, no slices.
2604 E. Somerset Street. I am from Connecticut, so to be raving about the pizza scene somewhere else feels somewhat sacrilegious. But when you do it right, you do it right. Tacconelli’s does it right. Brick oven that was built before WWII. They’ve been around for decades, family owned the entire time. There’s no giant menu with a bunch of speciality options (looking at you, pineapple fans). The menu has four pizzas. Tomato pie, regular pie, white pie, margarita pie. It has a very short list of topping options.That’s it. Call ahead to reserve your dough. They aren’t just cranking out pizzas one after another and sending them out the door, they are getting your call for dough, taking your pizza order, and making your pizza. Every pie is made to order. Because everything is made to order there can be wait times, it’s worth it.
600 Wendover St, considered by many to be the best of the best for cheesesteaks. You will notice that neither Pat’s or Geno’s appears in the cheesesteak section here. That’s because not a single person from Philadelphia recommended going to them. Avoid the really touristy stuff unless for some reason you want the tourist experience I guess. I love Dalessandro’s. I visit every time I’m in Philadelphia. The bread is fresh. The sliced rib eye is delicious. You don’t feel like a total slug after eating one of their sandwiches because they aren’t full of grease or anything like that. The hardcore locals might point you to some deeper hole in the wall type spots, they also might not. Plenty of even the most local of locals swear by this place. You can bet you’ll like what you get to eat from Dalessandros. Word is Archers’ DC and Philly legend Coach Tony Resch gets his cheesesteaks here.
John’s Roast Pork
14 East Snyder Avenue, a little further out since it’s tucked away in southeast Philly, so more of a trip than some of these other options, but worth the trip. John’s Lunch is cash only, and basically lunch only. This place is coming up on 100 years in business, all family run. If you want some authentic Philly, be it a cheesesteak or a roast pork sandwich, this place doesn’t miss. They are closed on Sunday’s so if you are in Philly for the weekend with the plan to head to the PLL on Sunday, visit John’s on Saturday.
630 South Street. A little bit of a non-traditional cheesesteak, but in the best way. Be warned, these sandwiches are not small. Finding ways to make your cheesesteak stand out in Philly isn’t easy, but Woodrow’s does it. For the uninitiated, the cheese of choice in a Philly cheesesteak is, traditionally, cheese whiz. That’s right, that glow in the dark orange delicious stuff. Woodrow’s makes their own whiz, and they take it to a new level by making it with truffle oil. Get a Woodrow’s Whiz Wit (Whiz Wit meaning their Whiz and with onions), throw some cherry peppers on there, and experience the cheese steak in a whole new way. If you’re all cheesesteak’d out after some time in Philly, Woodrow’s does some other excellent sandwiches as well and is still worth the trip.
Multiple locations, the original is the Bustleton location in north Philly, 7200 Bustleton Avenue. A classic, traditional cheesesteak that will go toe to toe with most any other place in Philadelphia. I don’t know what they do with the bread on these, but it’s crazy good. They just take the traditional cheesesteak and do it really, really well. If you want your time in Philly to include at least one traditional, classic cheesesteak, then Steve’s might be a stop for you. It likely won’t have the wait that Dalessandro’s might, but you’ll still get a heck of a hoagie.
1310 Drury St. This is the oldest continually operating pub in Philadelphia. It’s been running since 1860. They have about 30 beers on draft, including a namesake Ale, Lager, and IPA. If you are a beer connoisseur and like to sample the beers from the region, they keep a number of local microbrews here on tap, including some well known brewers like Dogfish Head and more small batch breweries. The beer list changes frequently so the only real way to know what’s available is to show up. The food is also traditional pub fare, and pretty good. They also pack people in for sports, so if you want to catch college football Saturday with a beer and some friends, this could be the spot.
247 S 17th Street. Another great pub, not too far from McGillin’s, this one is in Rittenhouse Square. If you’re looking to bar hop, you could start here and just explore the area, because there are plenty of bars around and something for everyone. Lots of classic pub food here that is delicious, and an extensive beer list. Like McGillin’s, plenty of the local breweries are available here. One of my favorite breweries is Victory Brewing, based in Philly, and they have a few beers available at Black Sheep.
2120 Fairmount Ave. Classic American bar. It’s a big space, a solid beer list, and a menu full of classics. I swung through Urban Saloon when I was in Philadelphia for the NCAA championship back in May and very much enjoyed myself. They are also a supporter of lacrosse big-J journalist Jordie from Barstool, hosting pop up BBQ events for Meat Sweats BBQ. If Jordie is doing BBQ this weekend in Philly, check it out, and if not, swing by Urban Saloon anyway for a friendly, fun bar experience.