Taste: How Philly Eats
Our exclusive survey of what Philadelphia diners want — and 72 inside tips on where to find it.
There's one thing four out of five people reading this magazine have in common: You love to eat out. How do we know? It's not just the months-long waiting lists for reservations at Buddakan and Amada. It's not the line wrapping around Jim's Steaks in the rain. We know 80 percent of you love to eat out because we asked you. That isn't all we wanted to know. With the help of Global Strategy Group, we set out to discover everything about the unique appetites of the Philadelphia diner. You told us how you choose a restaurant, what types of foods you crave, what you drink with dinner, and how often you really eat a cheesesteak. (Seventeen percent of you admit to an at-least-one-a-week habit.) And you told us that on average, you eat in a restaurant or order takeout more than four times a week. Now we'll tell you what you want to know. Turn the page for your guide to 57 restaurants — from hard-to-find neighborhood haunts to slip-the-hostess-a-$20 hot spots — and 15 markets that will satisfy the Philly appetite. You told us so.
71% consider yourselves to be health-conscious eaters
But you certainly don't want to go hungry. This may be the land of the cheesesteak — four percent of you eat one every day — but those who don't have Whiz running through their veins can find plenty of restaurants where it's possible to eat light and right without sacrificing flavor. — Maria Gallagher
The ladies who lunch stay slender by choosing Bliss's tuna carpaccio, the steamed chicken and wild mushroom dumpling, or the baby lettuce salad. This contemporary American restaurant with Asian accents is also known for accommodating ultra-picky customers with grace. During the South Beach/Atkins craze, the ordering system actually had a “no carb” button. 220 South Broad Street, 215-731-1100. More about Bliss
Stellar sushi is the draw at Bluefin. This small strip-mall restaurant next door to a hair salon has no ambience to speak of, except for the sight of a glistening 15-pound Scottish salmon being carried to the cutting board and filleted in a flash. For the purist, that's enough. 1017 Germantown Pike, Plymouth Meeting, 610-277-3917; sushibluefin.com.
Going without meat, fish or dairy products is hardly a penance at Horizons. Vegetables and soy-based proteins become positively fetching when transformed into chilled cucumber soup with avocado, bountiful paella or vegan cheesecake. 611 South 7th Street, 215-923-6117. More about Horizons
Jules Thin Crust
This pizza parlor proves that pie can actually be good for you. The extraordinary wafer-thin crusts at Jules never go soggy, even when piled with Greek salad, barbecued pulled pork, or chopped plum tomatoes and artichoke hearts. Customers with celiac disease can enjoy the gluten-free pizza without worry. Coming soon: a location in Newtown. 78 South Main Street, Doylestown, 215-345-8537; julesthincrust.com.
An extravagant raw bar is a wonderful way to indulge without succumbing to sauces or carbs. At Nineteen, look for the East and West Coast oysters served with mignonette, the tuna sashimi, and the house-cured salmon dressed with sherry vinaigrette and braised artichoke hearts. This splendid space is tailor-made for grand gestures like the seafood sampler for four that turns heads as it makes its way to its destination table. Park Hyatt at the Bellevue, 200 South Broad Street, 19th floor, 215-790-1919. More about Nineteen
A bowl of sunny chicken-lemongrass soup at Vietnam will brighten the grayest day. Follow it with the char-grilled beef wrapped in grape leaves, and you have a meal that's sensible as well as sustaining. The bill will be light, too. 221 North 11th Street, 215-592-1163. More about Vietnam
White Dog Cafe
Vegetables and salad greens are treated with respect at the White Dog Cafe, a longtime supporter of local farms. Artful salads and creative side dishes are a signature here. The “Vegetarian Roundup” corrals nearly every hot and room-_temperature side dish produced by the kitchen on any given evening, from white bean stew to roasted eggplant to braised local greens. 3420 Sansom Street, 215-386-9224. More about White Dog Cafe
31% occasionally order the chef's tasting menu
Those of you who do, know that tasting menus are the ultimate foodie indulgence. The experience can be a complete departure from the printed menu, or a progression of familiar dishes that summarize what the restaurant does best, but most exciting are the test runs for new ingredients or techniques. This is no time to be picky. If you trust the chef, the payoff can be the meal of a lifetime. — Maria Gallagher
The restaurant's popular Iron Chef now does most of his cooking at the new Morimoto in Manhattan, but the omakase at Morimoto Philadelphia is still a grand gustatory experience. The meal often begins with otoro (fatty tuna) tartare topped with caviar, and has included live scallop carpaccio drizzled with hot oil, “Kobe” beef with foie gras, and raspberry-wasabi sorbet. The price starts at $100, usually for eight courses, and goes up from there, depending on the luxury level of the ingredients. 723 Chestnut Street, 215-413-9070. More about Morimoto
Even the degustazione menu itself — hand-painted by chef-owner Marc Vetri — is unique to your six- or eight-course tasting menu ($90 and $115, respectively, per person). Served only on Saturday nights during the fall, winter and spring, and on Friday nights during June, July and August, this spontaneous and seasonal dinner might feature almond tortellini with white truffle sauce, cauliflower flan, or roasted baby goat with soft polenta. 1312 Spruce Street, 215-732-3478. More about Vetri
The tasting menu at Fork is notable for its exceptional value. Fork's $40 bistro dinner, served every Wednesday, is a four-course affair that includes wine. The meal is served in a private room in the adjacent gourmet shop, Fork, Etc., and no reservations are accepted — it's first come, first served. Chef Thien Ngo often joins the group. The globally influenced menu is a departure from the restaurant's New American focus. 306 Market Street, 215-625-9425. More about Fork
Miniature BYOB Mercato offers four hearty courses for just $45 — appetizer, house-made pasta, entrée and dessert. No wonder this cash-only contemporary Italian is perennially packed. 1216 Spruce Street, 215-985-2962. More about Mercato
67% consider yourselves to be adventurous eaters who will try anything once
You're in luck: Nose-to-tail eating is the trend du jour, with chefs working overtime to convince us that offal isn't awful. Thrifty proteins and odd veggies have always had a place in ethnic cuisines, but until recently, sweetbreads were about as daring as American chefs cared to get. Now those chefs are daring us. — Maria Gallagher
Ansill's small-plates menu includes pickled lamb's tongue, venison tartare with a raw quail egg, and crostini topped with bone marrow or Spanish white anchovies. 627 South 3rd Street, 215-627-2485. More about Ansill
Bar Ferdinand chef Blake Joffe does braised oxtail as an occasional special, and plans to add braised pig's ears to his tapas menu. 1030 North 2nd Street, 215-923-1313. More about Bar Ferdinand
Chung King Garden
Chung King Garden in Chinatown specializes in hot and spicy Szechuan-style exotica — duck tongues, frog meat, freshwater eel, pig kidney, pig intestine. Order your offal from the menu, or from the assortment of cold dishes displayed near the entrance. 915 Arch Street, 215-627-3792; ckgarden.com.
Huitlacoche, the black corn fungus with a mushroom flavor that chefs coyly call “Mexican truffle,” appears in tiny turnovers atop a sweet corn soup at El Vez. 121 South 13th Street, 215-928-9800. More about El Vez
The Irish Coffee Shop
The Irish Coffee Shop has a traditional Irish breakfast platter that includes black pudding — a more palatable name for blood sausage. 8443 West Chester Pike, Upper Darby; 610-449-7449.
The Inn at St. Peter's Village
If you're looking for something a little different for dessert, head for the Inn at St. Peter's Village. Pastry chef Peter Scarola has served caramelized Bartlett pear “pearls” and saffron-and-peach-flavored parfaits — but the menu also has chocolate. Hot chocolate made with milk and dark Valrhona is paired with a chocolate-_hazelnut brioche sandwich and a house-made marshmallow. 3471 St. Peter's Road, St. Peter's Village, 610-469-2600. More about The Inn at St. Peter's Village
Paradiso is a contemporary Italian restaurant in most respects, but the braised tripe — that's cow's stomach — with fresh tomato sauce and parmesan is deliciously old-school. 1627 East Passyunk Avenue, 215-271-2066. More about Paradiso
At classic European restaurant Slate Bleu, the beefy ravioli tastes especially rich because chef Mark Matyas uses wine-braised oxtail for its filling. Doylestown Agricultural Works, 100 South Main Street, Doylestown, 215-348-0222. More about Slate Bleu
Snackbar chef Jonathan McDonald serves pork belly in broth with a poached egg, and sprinkles olive oil powder over crisp-skinned mackerel. The crushed wasabi peas that add crunch to caramelized apple wedges taste like peppery granola. 253 South 20th Street; 215-545-5655. More about Snackbar
Sol del Peru
Anyone up for grilled beef heart? Sol del Peru has it, served neatly on skewers. It tastes like smooth-textured steak. 57 Garrett Road, Upper Darby; 610-352-1232.
70% get restaurant recommendations by word-of-mouth
Call it word-of-screen, but recently we've learned to listen to the city's pseudonymous bloggers. These food-savvy locals are insatiable, posting on their own sites about meals and market finds, or mixing it up on eGullet.com's Pennsylvania bulletin board, the place for the liveliest dinner debates in town. — Ashley Primis
This is the go-to guide if the latest news is what you crave. The site is a comprehensive roundup of what other local foodies are talking about, from restaurant openings to reviews, events and meal deals. Updated several times a day, this well-organized site is a time-saver (or time-waster; see the regular “Blind Item”) for everything food. foobooz.com.
Messy and Picky
Get both sides of the story with write-ups on food, service and ambience from friends Messy and Picky, complete with photos and star ratings. The pair usually review the city's favorite cheap eats — both gave Bella Vista's hip Morning Glory Diner three and a half stars — but only update the site about once a month. messyandpicky.com.
This all-encompassing site mixes wine picks (often Chairman's Selections) with culinary events, restaurant news, and details of the blogger's food adventures. He'll get to gems like recently opened Copper Bistro long before you do. Most info is updated weekly, and we look forward to the easy-to-use archives growing with age. philafoodie.blogspot.com.
71% do most of your grocery shopping at major chain supermarkets
There's hardly a need to go anywhere else. The area's biggest supermarkets are evolving to meet your high food standards by adding some serious specialty selections — the same stuff in the pricier gourmet markets only 10 percent of you frequent — to their ho-hum shelves. — Ashley Primis
For seafood: Acme
The protein counters here have the freshest swimmers and grazers around. Seasonal finds like king crab claws share ice with a variety of shrimp options and thick-cut fish fillets. Pick up inspiring ready-to-cook seafood like pistachio-coated rainbow trout and cornbread-dusted catfish. Meat comes in the form of bright red tenderloins, Angus filets, Australian lamb, and several short-rib options. acmemarkets.com.
For baked goods: Genuardi's
The carb-aholic's mecca. The bread selection here is impressive: ciabatta rolls and loafs, whole-wheat baguettes, onion-cheese kaiser rolls, Portuguese rolls and Italian round breads. The cake counter boasts crowd-_pleasers like dulce de leche cake, chocolate chip cheesecake, tiramisu, piña colada cake and Boston cream pie. genuardis.com.
For treats: Giant
This ever-expanding chain has everything party. Thank hosts with Asher's chocolates. Handpick toffee bites and wintery bark, as well as pretzels covered in M&Ms, white chocolate, and peanut butter morsels, all tied up in a white box. The section of drink mixers, like Martini Gold's lemon drop, Roses' mango twist and tangy Cajun Bloody Mary, gives boring booze a makeover. giantfood.com.
For drinks: Superfresh
Steer clear of everyday beverages with Bella Famiglia Italian sodas in flavors like pomegranate and blood orange, natural Old Peak lemonades and iced teas, and Pennsylvania Dutch brand orange cream and birch beer sodas, as well as mineral water from Gerolsteiner and springwater from Apollinaris. Then head over to the sweets aisle for worldly chocolates from Ferraro Rocher, Ghirardelli, Guylian, Toblerone and Droste. superfreshfood.com.
For ethnic: Wegmans
This is the place to go for those hard-to-find international cooking products. Sauces and noodles from all over Asia co-exist with jams from England, oatmeal from Ireland, tamales from Mexico and spices from Spain. Don't forget to check the frozen section for ethnic treats, too, like easy-appetizer Japanese dumplings shumai and gyoza. wegmans.com.
25% consider it important to try a new restaurant soon after it opens
So you're the reason we can never get a reservation at that new spot that hasn't even officially debuted. And you're the ones who tote an emergency bottle of wine to every two-day-old restaurant, just in case it doesn't have its liquor license yet. Well, hope you're hungry; this winter is full of highly anticipated openings. — April White
Fogo de Chao
From: The first local outpost of a Southern Brazilian-style chain.
Where: 1337 Chestnut Street, 215-636-9700; fogodechao.com.
What: Churrasco — all-you-can-eat slow-grilled meats sliced tableside.
When: Opened in December.
How to look like a regular already: Save room for the signature dessert, a goblet of papayas and vanilla ice cream gilded with black currant liqueur.
From: Former Angelina chef Jim Burke.
Where: 824 South 8th Street, 215-629-4980; jameson8th.com.
What: Modern American dishes with an Italian sensibility.
When: Opened last month.
How to look like a regular already: Don't make requests. Trust the kitchen. Bitter chocolate does belong in a duck ragu.
From: The team behind Nectar.
Where: 789 East Lancaster Avenue, Villanova; 866-907-6242.
What: A two-level Main Line restaurant and lounge. On the breakfast-lunch-_dinner menus: small plates that nod to local ingredients, plus homemade breads and charcuterie.
When: February or March.
How to look like a regular already: Ask for one of the booths overlooking the main bar.
From: Marc Vetri and former super-sous-chef Jeffrey Michaud.
Where: 640 North Broad Street; 215-763-0920.
What: Back-to-basics Italian — there's a wood-burning oven — with an emphasis on house-made ingredients, from bread to chocolate.
When: Hopefully this month or next.
How to look like a regular already: Order the spaghetti lobster. This special from the early years at Vetri is on the menu here.
From: Ex-Le Bec and current Gayle chef Daniel Stern.
Where: Cira Center, 2929 Arch Street, 215-922-3839; raerestaurant.com.
What: Creative New American dishes (think both beef brisket and bone-_marrow ravioli) from an open kitchen.
When: Opened in December.
How to look like a regular already: Order Stern's veal stew, which scored a spot among Food & Wine's top 10 restaurant dishes in December.
From: Amada chef/entrepreneur Jose Garces.
Where: 114 South 20th Street; 215-665-9150.
What: An intimate Spanish wine bar, with a menu of Basque-style tapas, known as pintxos.
When: Sometime this month.
How to look like a regular already: Order the instant fave, duck confit montadito, with decadent Fabri cherries.
From: Marigold Kitchen mastermind Steven Cook and Vetri-trained Dionicio Jimenez.
Where: 408 South 2nd Street, 215-238-7280; xochitlphilly.com.
What: Mexican, with an emphasis on offbeat tequila-spiked cocktails like the El Chavo, with vanilla, tamarind and lemongrass flavors.
When: Probably January.
How to look like a regular already: Pronounce it right. That's “so-cheet.” It means “flower.”
21% consider seafood to be your favorite cuisine
It's no surprise that we who grew up celebrating birthdays at Bookie's and summering at the Shore have a fondness for anything that swims. What is a pleasant surprise is the incredible array of seafood preparations. We've come a long way since the uniquely Philadelphian fried-oyster-and-chicken-salad combo (which you can still find on the menu at Sansom Street Oyster House). — Jessica Blatt, Maria Gallagher, Lauren McCutcheon, Ashley Primis, April White
Crabcake at Bobby Flay Steak
With snow-white nuggets of Maryland crabmeat, indulgent chunks of sweet Maine lobster, and a subtle pinch of horseradish at its core, the luxurious lobster crabcake at Bobby Flay Steak needs no embellishing. But casino restaurants aren't into understatement, so Flay gilds his creation with two flattering sauces: a silken saffron aioli, and a puree of bright, tart roasted tomatillos. The Borgata, 1 Borgata Way, Atlantic City, 609-317-1000. More about Bobby Flay Steak
Mange Tout at the Fountain
Restaurant This whole-fish “mange tout” — French for “eat it all” — appears sporadically on the Fountain's weekend menu (and can always be requested in advance). Often red snapper or sea bass, the catch is deboned, stuffed with ingredients like wild mushrooms, cilantro-specked shrimp mousse, or cabbage and black truffles, and cooked to the chef's whim. Four Seasons, 1 Logan Square, 215-963-1500. More about the Fountain
Salmon Napoleon at La Bohème Restaurant de Poissons
Anyone who's tucked into classic skate at Olivier de Saint Martin's Caribou Cafe trusts the chef with fish. Now de Saint Martin has taken over nearby La Bohème, where he lets fresh cockles, mussels and bay scallops speak for their own selves in a 30-second fricassee. He stuffs lobsters with paella. And it's hard to beat his salmon napoleon, the impossibly tender fish layered with a rich saffron sauce bearing up leeks and bacon. 246 South 11th Street; 215-351-9901. More about La Bohème
Oyster Hot Pot at Lee How Fook
This tiny, contemporary Chinatown BYOB works a special magic with fried fish. Lee How Fook's airy, addictive salt-baked squid is the neighborhood's finest, but the sizzling oyster hot pot — brimming with fried oysters with sublimely light, golden exteriors and perfectly hot and amazingly tender insides — is doubtless the best in town. 219 North 11th Street, 215-925-7266; leehowfook.com.
Oysters at Oceanaire
The freshly shucked oysters at Oceanaire are served up as oysters should be but too often aren't: ice-cold, and left alone to marinate in their own liquor. There's a small ramekin of sharp mignonette, and another of tomato-y cocktail sauce, but oysters like small, meaty Blue Points and salty Cape Mays are best enjoyed straight up, from a seat at Oceanaire's bar. 700 Walnut Street, 215-625-8862. More about Oceanaire
Skate at Alison at Blue Bell
An instant classic when Alison Barshak debuted it at her cash-only BYOB, this globe-_trotting take on mild skate is seared with chili powder and served with a jicama, orange and avocado salad. The waitstaff will warn you: The dish has a butter sauce. But what could be bad about that? 721 Skippack Pike, Blue Bell, 215-641-2660. More about Alison at Blue Bell
Lobster Roll at Philadelphia Fish & Co.
The first thing you'll notice about this “Traditional Maine Lobster Roll” is its serious cred: It's served on a butter-seared hot dog bun, the way lobster rolls should be. Hunks of claw and tail meat are in perfect proportion with mayo, a squeeze of lemon, and just a bit of chopped celery. The menu lists it as a starter, but paired with mashed Yukon Gold potatoes and a Yuengling, it's the Maine event. 207 Chestnut Street, 215-625-8605. More about Philadelphia Fish & Co.
Tuna Tartare at SeaBlue
Chef Michael Mina's four-ounce tuna tartare will change your perspective on the familiar dish. Prepared tableside, this version is cleverly informed by Korean — not Japanese — cuisine, with Scotch bonnets, peppermint and chopped garlic making for a spicy, flavor-amped version of wasabi, and quail egg, pine nuts and warm sesame oil adding bi bim bap-ish richness. The Borgata, 1 Borgata Way, Atlantic City, 609-317-8220. More about SeaBlue
Grilled Octopus at Water Works Restaurant
The gold standard of grilled octopus has always been Dmitri's (the one in Queen Village, of course). Those tender tentacles are a classic, charred and served with lemon. We didn't know that recipe could be improved upon until we encountered the Water Works' terrifically tender Mexican twist to the eight-limbed creature, marinated in cilantro-flecked olive oil. 640 Water Works Drive, 215-236-9000. More about Water Works Restaurant
54% have never tried scrapple
What's stopping you? The gray breakfast bricks are no scarier than Italian sausage. It's as much about the texture as the taste. Scrapple fans know what they want in the perfect slowly pan-fried slice: a uniformly crisp exterior, and a soft, creamy interior. Think of scrapple as a Pennsylvania Dutch terrine, fashioned from pork stock, corn meal, flour, spices and pig parts. Really want to know? Livers, skins, hearts, sometimes snouts.
Rapa, of Bridgeville, Delaware, makes a hot-and-spicy version, and another with bacon. Ernst Illg Meats of Chalfont makes a distinctively seasoned pork scrapple that tastes like German sausage. Godshall's Quality Meats of Telford makes a very appealing mild version with just a hint of pepper — a gentle intro for first-timers. And believe it or not, ketchup, hot sauce, maple syrup and apple butter are all compatible condiments.
Each brand has its loyalists, of course. Hatfield (as in the Montgomery County town) is the house scrapple at the Down Home Diner in the Reading Terminal Market. The market's popular Dutch Eating Place's breakfast menu serves Souderton-made Leidy's. Chestnut Hill's Trolley Car Diner offers Delaware's Habbersett. Hank's Place in Chadds Ford fries up Frank's from nearby Chatham, and Ponzio's prefers Rapa. — Maria Gallagher
25% of Pennsylvania wine buyers shop for their alcohol in New Jersey and Delaware
It's technically illegal — transporting wine or liquor into PA can add up to hundreds of dollars in fines — but buying wine in Jersey and Delaware is a must for a quarter of you, who cringe at the mere thought of civil servants selling wine. Some border-crossers are looking for a better selection or more knowledgeable service, but most are motivated by price. — Marnie Old
Three reasons to break the law
After nearly 20 years as the sommelier at Le Bec-Fin, Greg Moore set up shop with his brother Dave over the bridge in Pennsauken. Moore Brothers Wine Company specializes in food-oriented European wines from small, artisan wine growers. The stores are far ahead of their time in many ways, including the fact they're kept at a chilly 56 degrees — ideal wine-cellar temperature. By focusing tightly on a few regions and wineries, Moore's expert staffers can offer spectacular wines at fair prices. Now 10 years old, Moore Brothers is more popular than ever and has locations in Wilmington and Manhattan. 7200 North Park Drive, Pennsauken, 888-686-6673, and 1416 North DuPont Street, Wilmington, 877-316-6673; moorebrothers.com.
Total Wine & More
For sheer scale of selection, Total Wine & More is the region's standout retail store. Located just 200 feet over the state line where I-95 crosses into Delaware, this tax-free wine haven is minutes from Center City Philly. Any wine lover will feel like a kid in a candy store browsing its inventory, which features more than 8,000 wines and spirits from around the world. While the number of offerings is staggering, the spacious store's well-organized layout makes it easy to find the styles you're looking for. Sales staff are always nearby, ready to offer helpful service. 691 Naamans Road, Claymont, 302-792-1322; totalwine.com.
A wine store franchise with a simple concept: “100 great wines for $25 or less.” The small stores are helpfully organized by how the wines taste, rather than by confusing regions or grapes. Ample descriptions are given for each bottle, including the ingenious Vino 100 Wine Barometer, rating dryness and body. Emphasizing value for the dollar and designed for easy navigation, Vino 100 takes the stress out of wine shopping. Independence Mall, 1601 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 302-655-8466, and the Quarter at the Tropicana, South Brighton Avenue and the Boardwalk, Atlantic City, 609-441-9500; vino100.com.
The best reason to stay in PA
Wine & Spirits Shoppe #4608
Pennsylvania wine shoppers have come to love the new “Premium Collection Stores,” of which Bryn Mawr leads the pack. Opened in 2003, the Wine & Spirits Shoppe on Lancaster Avenue is a prototype for a range of innovations being introduced in select PLCB stores statewide. Specialty wines are housed in a glass-enclosed, climate-controlled room, and cared for by some of the state's most knowledgeable staff. Customers can access rare auction wines on the state's e-commerce site, or search the entire PLCB inventory instantly at a computer kiosk. And if you're into those deeply discounted “Chairman's Selections,” you'll love buying your bottles at the same shop as former PLCB chairman Jonathan Newman, a Bryn Mawr native. 922 West Lancaster Avenue, Bryn Mawr, 610-581-4560; lcb.state.pa.us.
43% eat a soft pretzel at least once a week
If you're going to eat so many soft pretzels, we want you to have the best. Our panel blind-tasted fresh pretzels — the chewy type you get from a vendor, not those soft Amish-style ones — from 16 area bakeries. We found only one incredibly bad pretzel (No, Wawa, no!), lots of mediocre ones, and three that we could eat every day — in fact, 16 percent of you do. — Victor Fiorillo
These pretzels are squished and malformed — ugly, even. But appearance doesn't count when it comes to street food. Federal's pretzels were just doughy enough, with a perfect amount of salt and a distinguishable, almost-burnt oven flavor that we enjoyed. Federal, which claims to have brought the soft pretzel to Philadelphia in 1922, has been using the same oil-burning brick oven since 1933. But the responsibility of shaping the pretzels was recently given over to machines, allowing Federal to expand to the airport and both stadiums while keeping up with the dozens of street vendors who sell its twists. (Note: We didn't try the chocolate-covered soft pretzel. Sacrilege.) 636 Federal Street; 215-467-0505.
South Jersey Soft Pretzels
When we called South Jersey Soft Pretzels to see if they made stalwart “South Philly”-style pretzels, we were promptly lectured that they don't make “South Philly” pretzels, they make “South Jersey” pretzels. We'd say it's ridiculous to question Philly's ownership of this type of pretzel, except that two of the three pretzels we liked best were from across the bridge. (For shame, Philly!) This 30-year-old bakery, which started on Ocean City's boards, is still a family business where the pretzels are shaped by hand. The very chewy pretzels are heavy and sized for a snack-and-a-half. To get in on the day's first batch, show up at 4:30 a.m., when they open the doors. You likely won't find these on the left side of the Delaware. 912 North White Horse Pike, Stratford; 856-435-5055.
These pretzels were an institution at the decrepit Pennsauken Mart, where they were made daily for 40 years until the Mart closed a year ago. Fortunately, Mart Pretzels reopened in nearby Cinnaminson. The pretzels look and taste homemade and are some of the saltiest we tried, with plenty of sodium both inside and on the crust. They're big, but the airy dough makes this an easy — and very tasty — eat. 202 North Route 130, Cinnaminson; 856-829-0012.