Loaded Roast Pork from DiNic's at the Navy Yard
A for-real hidden gem in the Philadelphia Navy Yard that made some of our favorite sandwiches of this whole mess, these are so good we could have made up half the slideshow with DiNic's sandwiches. Their roast pork was really different; insanely tender mounds of pulled (rather than sliced) pork along with bits of crispy skin, more like carnitas than sandwich meat. We ordered one "loaded" with roasted peppers and cheese for an extra dollar. Similar to the possibly related DiNic's pulled pork in the Reading Terminal, but in our opinion much better and close to the best we've ever had. Some of the best bread of the trip too. No word on which bakery but they cut off the ends and feed them to the pigeons out back.
15 Kitty Hawk Avenue, Philadelphia Navy Yard (map)
Roast Pork from Nick's Roast Beef
Old Original Nick's Roast Beef is pretty much the best neighborhood bar any Philadelphian could ask for complete with wooden paneling, cheap beer, and tiny menu of mind-blowing sandwiches and fries. Options here are roast beef, roast pork, and roast turkey served from carving stations located behind the bar. Provolone and braised broccoli rabe are available to top any sandwich. Although the bar's name leads you to think that roast beef is the way to go here, and it is pretty fantastic, for our money pork's the winner here. It's sliced and slapped onto a gravy soaked kaiser roll, almost swimming in the meatiest gravy around flecked with the right amount of Italian herbs (which can be pretty great under the right circumstances). If you do visit, the turkey is worth a try too, hand carved and super juicy.
Gravy Fries from Nick's Roast Beef
We know this is a roundup of sandwiches but the Gravy Fries at Old Original Nick's Roast Beef are just to incredible not to include. These salty, skinny fries are doused with Nick's beef gravy, possibly the most genius of all fry toppers (worth noting in a town with a diehard allegiance to cheese fries covered in neon Whiz).
Unlike other gravy fries, the gravy that's scooped on to this little boat of fries is the stuff that comes from the bottoms of the hotel pans of roast beef sitting behind the bar. Totally beefy and chunky with countless little chards of roast beef resting on the fries, think of these fries as Philly poutine.
Veal Cutlet from Barrel's Fine Foods
Barrel's Fine Foods is a deep south Philly "red gravy" Italian restaurant with a full dining room in the back and a sandwich / take-out counter in the front. This super simple sandwich consisted of two layers of golden brown breaded veal cutlets, topped with a big pile of perfectly cooked (tender but not brown) broccoli rabe and roasted long hots, on a terrific crusty-yet-soft hoagie roll. Hoagies and cutlets without cheese, sauce, oil or mayo can be dry and boring but everything here was so flavorful and well balanced that it was right on. One of the biggest surprises on this arm of the sandwich tour.
Tripe from George's Sandwich Shop
Philadelphia is a pretty tame town when it comes to offal with one noteworthy exception. George's Sandwich Shop is a walk-up window in the Italian Market that offers a singularly game-changing Tripe Sandwich. For those put off by rubbery, unpleasant tripe experiences, George's slow-braises their tripe in tomato sauce until fork-tender, velvety and incredible. When ordering here don't forget to ask for dried chiles and long hots on your tripe, their slow heat is magic with the lightly gamey tripe, bringing to mind Sichuan flavors by way of Philadelphia.
Pork Sandwich from Porky's Point
This amazing barbed-wire topped ramshackle steel-counter stand in North Philly opened as a steak and hoagie shop years ago when the neighborhood was mostly Italian. Since then it's changed with the times and the menu is 99% Puerto Rican food.
Get the roast pork sandwich. The ultra tender pulled and chopped pork meat is similar to what you'd find at an island pig roast, but stuffed into a hoagie roll and covered in their spicy red tomato-based sauce that's the standard dressing for everything on the menu from mofungo to pig's ears. Incredible.
3824 North 5th Street Philadelphia, PA 19140 (map) 215-221-6243
Fish Cake from Pat's Steaks
The fish cake is an old-school Philadelphia staple. The breaded fish and potato cakes are cooked on a flat grill or deep-fried and served at hot dog stands on wiener buns or even with a hot dog to create the famous Philly Combo. Pat's has been serving fish cakes since they opened in the 1930s. The large consists of two fish cakes (crispy on the outside and soft in the middle) on a steak roll drowned in delicious cheese Wiz, or your choice of condiment. There's really nothing else like it in the world, and it's delicious. If you're scared think of it as a Baccala-potato fritter situation. With Wiz.
Fish Hoagie from Bizini's Seafood Steaks and Hoagies
Even though Bizini's is sandwiched between the Germantown and Hunting Park neighborhoods in Philadelphia, there's something about its patio and umbrella'd picnic table seating and seafood-heavy menu that gives this steak and hoagie shop a bit of a seaside feel (even if it is in North Philly). Fried fish (we went with flounder) is the way to go here, especially in a Fish Hoagie featuring an expertly fried flounder filet coated with a crackly layer of seasoned breadcrumbs and fried until flaky and tender. As far as toppings go, lettuce and tomato are a given but instead of mayo go with creamy, pickle studded tartar sauce. Fries here are of the frozen ilk, vastly improved with a few shakes of Old Bay.
1800 Lindley Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19141 (map) 215-329-6465
Chicken Cutlet Hoagie from Shank's Original
Picnic tables by busy intersections or standup metal counters suffice for dining ambiance at many Philly sandwich joints, but Shank's sets itself apart with riverview seating. OK, well the panoramic view of Camden, New Jersey, isn't all that spectacular but watching the freighters dock is pretty exciting. Ambience aside, come to Shank's for their Chicken Cutlet Hoagie and chances are you won't be paying all that much attention to the view.
The chicken cutlet here is giant in comparison to the anemic, pounded flat versions that other places pass off. The chicken breast—a breaded, fried, and generously seasoned cutlet—is nestled into a long, unseeded roll from Aversa Bakery and topped with slices of white American, shredded lettuce, tomato, and plenty of mayo. This cutlet hoagie tastes like what a sandwich from Chik-fil-A can only dream of being.
Hot Sausage from Rocco's at Home Depot
Walking up to the entrances of most Home Depots begins with the scent of sawdust. Here in Philly we're met with the aromas of sweet and spicy sausages and caramelizing onions thanks to Rocco's Italian Sausage. The friendliest grill guys greet you with little samples of the Maglio's sausage that's slowly browning in big spirals on the flat top. After that it's just a matter of deciding whether you want to go spicy or sweet and choosing your toppings.
We went with spicy sausage, ultra sweet onions, and a squirt of spicy mustard for big sandwich with two lengths of hot but not killer sausage. Great fuel before a trip into the Depot. Oh and if you're a steak and sausage envious New Yorker, it's worth noting that Rocco's has a location at the Long Island City Home Depot in Queens!
Hot Beef and Cheese from Cherry Street Tavern
The Hot Beef and Cheese at Cherry Street Tavern is served in a bar-dining room that's filled with Philly history. They've been serving pints and sandwiches since the early 1900s and even remodeled into a makeshift barbershop to ride out prohibition. But even during those dry years, Cherry Street specialized in more than just haircuts.
On a menu that features all sorts of perfectly dated plates like liverwurst sandwiches and a pepperoni, cheese and crackers appetizer, the hot beef and cheese is a standout. Piled thick onto a chewy kaiser roll, the beef is hand carved and piled on with plenty of jus-like gravy and melty sharp provolone. And for a bit of heat sandwiches are served with sides of pickled cherry peppers and a ramekin of horseradish. Also worth a mention is their off the menu roast pork sandwich.
129 N. 22nd St., Philadelphia, PA 19103 (map) 215-561-5683
Meatball Sandwich from Vincenzo's Cafe
Vincenzo's is a neighborhood luncheonette and deli with a tiny lunch counter packed with locals. The meatballs are slow-cooked in sauce for hours, south Philly grandma-style,and so tender they almost disintegrate when you bite into the sandwich. Topped with sautéed broccoli rabe, provolone and a bit of red "gravy" (that's tomato sauce in south Philly speak) it's exactly the sort of soulful, satisfying flavor you want from a meatball sandwich.
1626 South 9th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19148; 215-463-6811
Roast Beef from John's Roast Pork
One of the funniest things about this leg of our Philadelphia sandwich tour is that our favorite roast beef was from a place that specializes in pork, and our favorite pork from a place that's known for its beef. Legendary for their award-winning cheesesteaks and roast pork—both of which are phenomenal—we thought the roast beef sandwich at John's Roast Pork was even better. The beef is cooked on the premises, sliced and warmed in its own juice and then loaded into a half loaf of Italian bread with provolone cheese, also delicious topped with greens or a side of roasted long-hots. Ridiculously tender meat with a real deep flavor, dripping with natural jus that soaks into the fresh Carnangi Bakery bread that's just sturdy enough to hold it all together. Probably the closest to Chicago-style Italian Beef you're gonna find in Philly.