As a lifetime Philadelphian I’ve consumed more than my fare share of pretzels. Even with the knowledge that Philadelphians eat more than 12 times as many pretzels as the average American, I feel I consume more than all but the most zealous Philadelphia pretzel eaters. And it has been that way for a long time. In Catholic grade school, the soft pretzel was as much a part of any school day as prayer. I’ve had a pretzel with mustard for breakfast more often than any bowl of cereal. I still don’t blink at the thought of ordering a pretzel from any street vendor, though I’ve become suspicious of the watered-down mustard coming out of the squirt bottles (that’s why there are always mustard packets in my desk drawer). And I believe a certain amount of Philadelphia’s culture vanished when Herb Denenberg aired his hidden camera report on pretzel vendors, but that was disgusting.
Hot dogs are having a moment.
In case you don’t already have it marked in red on your calendar, this Saturday is National Hot Dog Day–the one day of the year set aside by wiser, fatter men than me for the appreciation and glorification of that most American of tube-shaped meats. And since Philly is currently ranked as the 6th most wiener-ific city in America (an honor received for our consumption-by-volume, coming in just behind Chicago but well ahead of Harrisburg/Scranton–the only other Pennsylvania area to make the top 10), you just know there are going to be celebrations.
First, the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile will be making a special stop in Philly. Why special? Because this ain’t the regular old Wienermobile, but the “first-ever, special edition Wienermobile Food Truck.” Yes, for the first time in the history of driveable tubesteaks, the Wienermobile will be dispensing actual hot dogs–1,000 of them, courtesy of Oscar Mayer and Hawk Krall, the local artist, food writer and all-around hot dog fanatic. Krall designed the dogs himself (well, the toppings, anyway) and he and the Wiener Truck will be down at Penn Square TODAY starting at 11:30.
Want more? Click through the jump for more National Hot Dog Day events and a list of our five favorite dogs in town.
I’ve just completed a ten-day detox that saw my normal intake of burgers, pork sandwiches, fried chicken, pizza, pretzels and alcohol plummet to zero. After ten-days of vegan eating and three days that saw nothing more than lettuce, apples, pears and cruciferous vegetables cross my lips, I’ve happily shed more than a few pounds and hopefully going forward will have a healthier perspective on what to eat. But that doesn’t mean I’m not ready for my return to a fuller palate of food. After ten-days without meat, sugars, bread and alcohol, what would you eat first?
For those of you out there who’d already marked down May 13 as the day to pull on the lederhosen and dust off that Tyrolean hat for the debut of Frankford Hall–Stephen Starr’s dive into the sudden beer garden fad that has seized this city–I have some bad news. Releases have now gone out from Starr HQ saying that the opening has been pushed back a week and that now Frankford Hall won’t be unlocking the doors until the 17th.
…especially here, in the land of the pretzel, where a man of little means and less imagination can always find a twist of dough, sprinkled with salt, slather it in mustard and call it a meal. Pretzels are to Philadelphia what pizza is to New York and the po’boy is to New Orleans: that local treasure, common as air, which is just completely fucked up the minute it is carried outside the city limits by someone wanting to make a buck off regional nostalgia and the blind loyalty of expatriate souls. You ever tried to get a soft pretzel in Utah, Texas or Buffalo? I have. It didn’t go well at all.
Anyway, today actually is National Pretzel Day (in case you missed it, yesterday was National Zucchini Bread Day, tomorrow is National Prime Rib Day, and April also happens to be both National Grilled Cheese Month and National Soy Foods Awareness Month), and to celebrate, every single Philly Pretzel Factory is giving away a free soft pretzel to anyone who walks through the doors. No purchase necessary, no secret codes or handshakes. Just walk in and bam! Free pretzel for you. Locations can be found here, on the Philly Pretzel Factory website.
In which the new food editor wanders around his brand-new home and eats whatever strikes his fancy…
How you feel about any city in the world can be summed up most succinctly by the thing you need like breath the minute you step off the plane (or train or cab or horse) that brung ya. Landing in Paris, at Charles de Gaulle, it might be bread–good, crusty loaves of the stuff, alive with yeast and still warm in their bags. When I fly into New Mexico, I am instantly stricken with an urge for green chile that’s almost dangerous in its ferocity. Be the body standing between me and that first bowl of verde after too long away and, motherfucker, you best be quick getting out of my way or I’ll bite you.
Going home to Rochester, I want a sloppy mess of a Schaller’s burger with extra hot sauce. In Vegas it’s a double-double from In-N-Out, a fistful of nickels and a map to the nearest low-end house of ill-repute. And in Chicago (a city I have my own problems with that don’t need to be detailed here), I want nothing more than a west-running ticket, a short layover and to get gone.
But Philadelphia? Well, Philadelphia is complicated for me. Philadelphia and I have what you’d call a complex relationship.
Budget Travel names Philadelphia 4th in the world for street food.
The nation’s first capital is also home to some of its oldest and most beloved portable fare: soft pretzels, Italian ices, and, of course, cheesesteaks, now being reimagined in Vietnamese and Mexican versions.
The top 5 looked like this:
- Portland, OR
- Los Angeles, CA
- Ensenada, Mexico
- Philadelphia, PA
- Puerto Rico
World’s Best Street Food [CNN.com/Budget Travel]
With all this beer talk it would be wrong not to mention beer’s BFF, the pretzel. Today’s Metro highlights some of the better pretzels around town.
Beer and Pretzels: So Happy Together [Metro Philadelphia]