Locals Share What Gives Philadelphia Its Distinct Flavor

Photo: Jeffsipper.com

Photo: Jeffsipper.com

Big cities mean tons of options, which unfortunately can be overwhelming when you’re hard pressed to find the best. To share what gives Philadelphia its distinct flavor, we’ve assembled an A-team of insiders: some of our favorite Krrb members and resident influencers with knowledge on where to go and what to pick up. Get ready to meet the team!


Marisa McClellan of Food in Jars is a food blogger, cookbook author and a canning teacher. Her books include Food in Jars, Preserving by the Pint, and Naturally Sweet Food in Jars. She has written for publications like Serious Eats and The Kitchn. She also co-hosts a podcast dedicated to living a food-focused life called Local Mouthful. Follow Marisa both in and out of the kitchen on Instagram.

Sara Murray of confetti & co. has an intense love for sparkle and shine, a minor obsession with baked goods and a major obsession with her affable dog Millie. After exploring multiple facets within the wedding industry, Sara knew that starting her boutique event planning company where she is the principal planner & designer was the perfect fit. Her Instagram is full of daily wedding inspiration.


Amber Burns of Ember + March is a digital marketer by day and lifestyle blogger by night (with many cups of coffee in between). Ember + March was created to inspire and motivate young women to set out to achieve everything that they dream of. Keep up with Amber on Instagram and Twitter!

Photo: 10best.com

Photo: 10best.com

How would you describe Philadelphia to someone who was visiting the city for the first time?
MM: I would tell them that Philadelphia is a walkable, accessible city with an amazing food scene and so much for both first time visitors and people who have been here many times before.
SM: Philadelphia is a vibrant city that feels warm and intimate. There’s a great deal of art, history and culture, but moreover, Philly is best known for its food!
AB: A city that’s great without comparison. I think because of it’s proximity to Washington DC and New York City, visitors have a tendency to compare Philly to its neighbors. But you truly cannot! It’s an incredibly unique series filled with opportunities and a liveliness of its own.

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Everyone knows about Philly Cheesesteaks and we’ve seen countless lists on the best ones in the city, but what’s your personal favorite spot?
MM: My advice is to skip the cheesesteak entirely and go to DiNic’s for the roast pork and greens. Made from long cooked pork, braised greens and sharp provolone, it’s many times better than any cheesesteak—anywhere.
SM: SHANK’S! I know it’s not the traditional Pats versus Genos answer but I love Shank’s so so much and their food just can’t be beat!
AB: Max’s cheesesteaks in North Philly are absolutely the best and worth the added calorie intake!

Waiting for dinner at Shank's Photo: Philly.eater.com

Besides cheesesteaks, what are your favorite restaurants, cafes and bars in the city that you think deserve a shoutout? Personally I’m a big fan of Federal Donuts!
MM: This is an incredible town for food. Dizengoff, Metropolitan Bakery, High Street on Market, Oyster House, Stargazy, and Vernick are just a handful of the spots I’d recommend.
SM: I really love Pizzeria Stella. My first Philadelphia apartment was right around the corner and I can’t get enough of their pasta pomodoro. It’s such a simple dish, but reminds me so much of my grandmother.
AB: I’m also a big fan of Federal Donuts! Philly’s food scene is so underrated! There are many talented chefs and awesome restaurants here, it’s hard to narrow down. I frequent Buena Onda tacos often for brunch, lunch and dinner. Pizzeria Vetri is also amazing (because wine and pizza are truly soulmates in my opinion). I’m big on coffee, and Philly has a great coffee scene, too. My favorites are Menagerie in Old City and Elixr in Rittenhouse. BarLy is my place of choice for its super cheap bites and daily happy hour specials.

A variety of hummus dishes at Dizengoff Photo: Bonappetit.com

What is the music scene like in Philadelphia? Do you have any favorite bands or performers from the area?
MM: I don’t get out to see live music much these days, but when I do, I’m typically at the Tin Angel or World Cafe Live.
SM: I was actually in a band when I first moved to Philly and got a great sense of the music scene from playing a lot of shows. The music scene runs deep in Philly and there are so many great venues and local bands. My favorite is The Fire on Girard. It’s where I met my fiancé for the first time and where my band played some of it’s first shows. It will always hold a special place in my heart.
AB: There’s a bar in Midtown (around 13th and Chestnut) called TIME which hosts live Jazz bands which is awesome. I don’t follow the local music scene too closely, but there are some awesome Philly-based DJs in the city. And Philly is no stranger to hosting big time acts. Beyonce comes here almost annually.

If you were meeting up with friends what would the agenda look like?
MM: These days, my time with friends revolves mostly around food. Most of the people I see regularly are fellow food writers. We’ll meet up for dim sum at Nom Wah or get lunch at Stock in Fishtown.
SM: I’ve really been digging taking friends up and down Frankford Avenue; there are so many great shops and restaurants that it’s the perfect place to get a little bit of everything! From fun down at Barcade all the way up to Pizza Brain for a unique slice!
AB: On a nice weekend, we’ll probably start with brunch at either Green Eggs in Northern Liberties or Hickory Lane in Fairmount for an amazing and slightly boozy start to the day. Then we move on to shopping in Center City, dipping in and out of some local coffee shops and enjoy the outdoor dining options if the weather is nice enough. I love that Philly is a super walkable city (and bike-able, if that’s your thing). So you can really just wander freely and get into whatever tickles your fancy.

Photo: Phillymag.com

Do you have any favorite Philadelphia-based designers or shops that you frequent?
MM: I am a lifelong thrifter and lover of vintage, so I tend to hit consignment shops like Second Time Around first. When I need something for a particular event, I will go and wander up 3rd Street in Old City and hit shops like Lost + Found and Vagabond.
SM: I love Amelie’s Bark Shop on Passayunk. My dog Millie is like a third arm and always by my side, so having her privy to great homemade treats, a fantastic selection of wholesome dog foods and the cutest accessories feels like such a treat for me too! I love spoiling her and can’t get enough of this shop!
AB: I love supporting local makers and have really tried to do so more consciously lately. I love the Philadelphia Independents shop on North 3rd Street (also known as N3RD Street) in Old City between Market and Arch Streets). They carry only locally made goods and crafts featuring everything from home decor items to stationary and artwork.

Some local finds at Philadelphia Independent's Shop Photo: Popshopamerica.com

What is the fashion sense of your city? What are the trends in Philadelphia?
MM: I’m not really someone who pays attention to trends (one of the benefits of being in your late 30’s is that you get to the point where you just don’t care), but Philly strikes me as a city in which people can really do their own thing.
SM: Philadelphia is polished with an underlying tone of comfort and grunge, which I love. I think that’s one of the reasons i’ve fallen in love with this city so much, is that even the fanciest dressed folks seem to appreciate comfort and casualty in some way shape or form.
AB: Philly is definitely an interesting mix of styles, and goes neighborhood by neighborhood for sure. I think a general style consensus would be that everyone is wearing something that’s fueling their hustles. Philly is a city of movers and makers, everyone is doing something (or balancing doing many things) so every one is dressed to manage it all.

Photo: Phillymag.com

The historical vibes of Philadelphia are strong and homes often reflect those traditions. What are your favorite types of interior design that you see in your city?
MM: I love it when you see the classic city architecture combined with more modern furniture.
SM: I love brick, and this city offers a ton of it! Exposed brick indoors is just so charming, it’s what really drew me to our studio in Kensington!
AB: I lived in the Historic District for a year and loved that most of the apartments including my building were old factories that had been renovated to accommodate housing. You don’t have to look far in Philly to find stunning apartments will tall windows, high ceilings and that industrial look that is somehow tamed enough to make you feel right at home.

There is so much more to Philadelphia! We’ve scoured the city for the best local makers, as well as fabulous AirBnb stays and where to go locally to get your DIY on. And you don’t want to miss an opportunity to shop from local sellers in Philly.