I spent my Fourth of July weekend in Philadelphia: home of the Liberty Bell, Benjamin Franklin, and Philly cheesesteaks. The city itself is a great blend of rich American history, along with modern-day culture. And funny enough, I didn’t even see the Liberty Bell this time around because there wasn’t enough time.
It’s only a two-hour bus ride from New York City and there are many affordable Airbnbs to experience staying in a less-touristy area. We stayed in Fishtown, which is just a few subway stops away from Center City, and could not have been any happier with our time there, even if it was just for a four-day weekend. Here are the four highlights from my short and much-needed getaway.
Elfreth’s Alley is America’s oldest residential neighborhood, meaning people still live there. Located in Old City, it first opened in 1706 as a cart path and was named after silversmith Jeremiah Elfreth. Residents and local historians worked to preserve it, and today it is recognized as a National Historic Landmark and can be enjoyed by the public. The cobblestone roads and brick buildings make it feel as though you have stepped back in time to the 18th century, and it was the perfect backdrop to snap a patriotic photo for Fourth of July. It is honestly one of the quaintest places I’ve ever been to, and I highly recommend walking through—along with the rest of Old City.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
We visited Philly on an ideal weekend because I learned that the first Sunday of the month is pay-what-you-wish admission to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. They currently have an exhibit called Wild: Michael Nichols on display through Sept. 17, 2017, showcasing rare photographs of animals and nature taken by Michael Nichols. Along with that, I very much enjoyed the Asian art galleries, Arms and Armor gallery, and Witness: Reality and Imagination in the Prints of Francisco Goya. And if you do not feel like browsing a museum, it is worth taking a photo on the museum’s Rocky Steps, where Rocky Balboa ran in the Rocky movies. Here’s me on the Rocky steps.
Hoagies, hoagies, hoagies
I’ve learned throughout the years that a hoagie has different names. In New York, they’re called heroes and in other parts of the country they’re called subs. Anyway, I am a believer in the hoagie. The last time I visited Philly three years ago, I wrote a blog post about eating an “authentic Philly cheesesteak.” This time around, I got my Philly cheesesteak fix from Joe’s Steaks + Soda Shop in Fishtown, and I shamelessly had cheesesteaks two days in a row: once with provolone cheese and once with Cheez Whiz. What I loved most about this restaurant was that they had a pickle bar in the back, where you can fill a container with sweet peppers, pepperoncinis, and, of course, PICKLES. What more can you ask for?
The most surprising sandwich I ate and thoroughly enjoyed, however, was the roast pork sandwich from DiNic’s at Reading Terminal Market in Center City. When I first heard that I had a try a roast pork sandwich in Philadelphia, I said, “Uh, no.” I tend to be picky with pork and did not see how it would be worth it. After all, Philly is known for cheesesteaks, not pork sandwiches. However, I am now a firm believer and feel so foolish for having my doubts. The pork is thinly sliced and has the same texture as roast beef. The sandwich also includes a broccoli rabe and extra-sharp provolone. All I could utter was WOW. We bought the sandwich at around 10am, which is ridiculously early to devour a meal like this, but it’s worth it. Arrive early and thank me later.
Also, it is worth mentioning that Reading Terminal Market itself is a must-see destination. It reminded me of Chelsea Market, but with more mom-and-pop-type vendors and not too overpriced. I also appreciated that there was an actual market to buy produce, so it is truly a market.
This was our main reason for visiting Philly: to snag one of only 40 pies at Pizzeria Beddia. Dubbed America’s Best Pizza by Bon Appetit, this pizzeria is the brainchild of pizza master and Philly native Joe Beddia. It is truly unlike any pizzeria in the country—it is cash only, pizzas are sold by the pie, there is no phone, only two employees, and it is open Wednesday through Saturday. People begin lining up at least an hour before it opens, too. We waited for two hours, but it was honestly a great time. People treated it like tailgating, they brought booze and lawn chairs and turned on some music. The two hours went by pretty quick.
Most importantly, though, the pizza was unreal. It was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted, from the crust to the cheese. We snagged two pies: one with half pepperoni-mushroom, half cheese, and the other a seasonal cream pizza with kale. Honestly, it was life-changing. The crust resembles sourdough bread with air bubbles in the middle and absorbs the olive oil drizzled on top perfectly; I love that he uses New Jersey tomatoes rather than the typical San Marzano tomatoes; the charring on the crust is the closest to resembling legitimate Neapolitan pizza (according to my boyfriend who lived in Napoli); and, my favorite part, how the olive oil is drizzled using a copper dispenser that resembled a watering can. There’s only so much I can say about it, but you just have to try it for yourself. Just a fair warning: it will ruin pizza for you forever.
Philadelphia is so close to New York, it’s almost a crime that I do not visit more often. I will absolutely be back sooner than later.