To say that the cheesesteak is not the best sandwich in Philadelphia is to dance close to the edge of blasphemy, but it’s true. The cheesesteak, created in 1930 by industrious brothers Harry and Pat Olivieri, is a sandwich that has overstayed its welcome in the minds of some Philadelphians. Sure, it’s a solid choice, and it undoubtedly propelled the city to culinary fame, but there are a host of options that are far superior to that other sandwich.
So, whether you call it a zep, hoagie, grinder, or sub, there are some serious contenders poised to dethrone the cheesesteak as the king of Philly sandwiches.
Eggplant parmigiana - Little Nonna’s
Only found on the lunch menu, this stunner is crafted with Japanese eggplant sauced with marinara, basil pesto, burrata, and a healthy topping of arugula-fennel salad. Expect to be wowed because this isn’t the average parm sandwich—chef Marcie Turney, co-owner of several Midtown Village eateries, is known for her otherworldly food.
1234 Locust St., Philadelphia, PA 19107 www.littlenonnas.com
Hot pastrami - Famous 4th Street Delicatessen
Philadelphia often plays the role of little brother to New York City when it comes to its culinary reputation. Pizza, bagels, sandwiches—if it’s edible, there’s surely a debate about which city makes the best. Admittedly, NYC is the undisputed king of Jewish deli sandwiches but the mile-high hot pastrami at this Philly icon holds its own against any of its Big Apple rivals. Nobody in the city is stacking sandos higher than this food lover’s destination.
700 S. 4th St., Philadelphia, PA 19147 www.famous4thstreetdelicatessen.com
Hot Pastrami sandwich at 4th Street Deli, image courtesy of _Roadfood
Fish hoagie - Gilben’s Bakery
Gilben’s bills itself as a bakery, but the real draw is the specialty sandwiches that pay homage to the rich flavours and cooking traditions of the American south—particularly the city of New Orleans. The fish hoagie fuses the Philly classic of fried whiting with the fixings of a Louisiana po’boy. Tender, cornmeal-crusted morsels of fish are drizzled with remoulade and tucked inside a toasted long roll, making for a pretty substantial. Call it soul food or comfort food—it’s all good.
7405 Stenton Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19150 www.gilbensbakery.com
Chicken cutlet Italiano - Shank’s Original
It should be noted that Philadelphia owes many of its delicious eats to its influential Italian-American population and some of the city’s best sandwiches are inspired by the flavours of 'The Boot'. The Chicken Cutlet Italiano at Shank’s is an obvious love letter to all things Italian; a generous portion of breaded chicken is served with either sautéed broccoli rabe or spinach and topped with melted sharp provolone. The sandwich is fully customisable as there are a fairly extensive number of options available, but save yourself the hassle of making too many decisions and go with the surefire winning combination of a seeded roll, sharp provolone, broccoli rabe, and Italian long hots (peppers).
901 S. Columbus Blvd. (Pier 40) Philadelphia, PA 19147 www.shanksoriginal.com
Falafel pita - Goldie
Everything Michael Solomonov, of Zahav fame, touches is gold(ie). The chef’s growing food empire recently welcomed its newest venture and, once again, elevated street fare gets a lift from a few creative touches. Straightforward falafel shares space with Israeli salad, cabbage, and tehina in a warm, homemade pita; a drizzling of sauce rounds out the whole thing (try the amba—a sauce made from pickled mango, garlic, and onion).
1526 Sansom St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19102 www.goldiefalafel.com