Philadelphia is a city known for its cheesesteaks and hoagie subs, but sometimes the best local food can come from unexpected places. Chef Mike Solomonov is a local expert who guides viewers on a food tour in the latest edition of Walk With T+L to discover some hidden gems across the city.
Solomonov’s first stop is Down North Pizza, which puts a spin on thin East coast pies by offering up a delectable deep dish thick crust instead. The square slice, loaded with toppings, resembles focaccia bread, and owner Muhammad Abdul-Hadi tells Solomonov about how the dough is really the star of the entire operation. Plus, viewers also learn about the mission of the pizza shop, as Abdul-Hadi explains how he hires formerly incarcerated individuals, and even lets employees live in the apartments above the restaurant.
Philadelphia, Solomonov says, is known for its water ice, a refreshing frozen treat much like Italian ice. At the next stop on the tour, Siddiq’s Real Fruit Water Ice, Solomonov samples some of the fresh flavors owner Siddiq Moore offers up. As someone who says he is health conscious, even when it comes to dessert, Siddiq makes all of his treats with real fruit — even hauling out a huge container of cantaloupes as proof. He says his mission was to bring the boardwalk to his community. The neighborhood even renamed the street after this local business.
Related: Philadelphia Travel Guide
As we head into the center city near South Philly, Solomonov warns viewers that even though he will be close to the Italian market, this is not a tour with any cheesesteaks. Instead, he visits Wing Phat Plaza, which looks like an unassuming strip mall, but is home to some of the best Vietnamese produce and markets in town. At Pho75, a giant bowl of pho — Solomonov customizes his with lots of lime and jalapeno — is paired with a sweet iced coffee made with condensed milk. The immigrant culture in Philly, he says, makes for great variety in the food.
Traveling to Rittenhouse Square, an area known for its many bars and restaurants, Solomonov settles on a.kitchen + bar, where chef Eli Collins offers up modern Bistro French cooking, with an emphasis on seasonal produce. But before digging in, Solomonov sits down with Ellen Yin, the owner of High Street Hospitality Group, to talk about how the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the restaurants in Philadelphia, and how the industry can still be challenging for women to establish themselves.
Finally, the tour wraps up in Queen Village, where Royal Sushi & Izakaya owner Jesse Ito prepares an intimate chef’s selection, known as an Omakase experience, for Solomonov to sample some of the best fish Japan has to offer. The chef plates up one piece at a time, and says the connection people have to their meal is important. “People want to feel the heart and soul of a restaurant,” he says. Instead of a mic drop, the meal ends with a chopstick drop from Solomonov, who concludes the Philadelphia food tour by encouraging visitors to stop by and dine at these local institutions next time they are in the city.
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