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Keystone Cravings: The Best Things to Eat in Pennsylvania

By: Katherine Rapin
August 11, 2022

Dive into the best of the Keystone State, including shoofly pie, hoagies and, of course, cheesesteaks.

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Prized P.A. Eats

There's a whole lot more to Pennsylvania's food-scape than cheesesteaks and soft pretzels. The cuisine of the Pennsylvania Dutch (a confusing misnomer since these settlers migrated from the region we now call Germany) lies between the hoagies of Philadelphia and the fry-topped salads of Pittsburgh. This list will lead you to unrivaled classics and to obscure destinations - like a chocolate company that predates Hershey's, a hole-in-the-wall pizza shop with the best 'white tray' you've never heard of, and a tiny bakery where Amish women still twist pretzels by hand.

Editor’s note: This guide was originally published in January 2017 and has been updated with the latest information on these restaurants.

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Pretzels

Southeastern Pennsylvania is home to Snyder’s of Hanover, as well as some of the oldest pretzel bakeries in the country. The snack has long been a staple among the Pennsylvania Dutch: immigrants from what is today southeastern Germany. There are still small-scale local bakeries throughout the region, where you can watch workers twist pretzels by hand. Head to Martin’s Pretzels in Akron and hope for one fresh from the oven, which will yield a slightly chewy interior.

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Italian Hoagie

Other places call it a sub, hero, grinder or torpedo; in Philly, it’s always the hoagie. Workers at the Navy Yard on Hog Island were called "hoggies" and got their favorite lunchtime sandwich named after them, or so the popular origin story goes. Ricci’s Hoagies has been serving build-your-own hoagies with sliced-to-order cold cuts since the '20s. Go for the classic Italian hoagie: Genoa salami, cooked salami and capocollo with provolone, tomatoes, pickled peppers, lettuce, onions, a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of oregano. Ricci’s also does an old-fashioned Italian, with prosciutto, soppressata, roasted peppers and sharp provolone.

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Tomato Pie

This pizza-ish snack is essentially crust with a smear of red sauce and a dusting of cheese. There’s a plethora of old Italian bakeries in south Philly — including Cacia’s, Francoluigi’s and Sarcone’s — that serve it at room temperature by the slice. If you want to try a new-school adaptation, go to Square Pie, where the pizza dough gets 72 hours to ferment, which gives the chewy crust a new depth of flavor. It’s served piping hot, topped with olive oil and grated Grana Padano. (Note: You won’t find "tomato pie" on the menu. It’s by request only.)

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