Philadelphia travel review: Culinary delights as Tina Miles visits home of Rocky and American history
SITTING in Alma de Cuba with a mojito in hand, it was the ideal way to spend a Saturday night. But this wasn’t an evening in my local Cuban-inspired restaurant.
In fact I had taken a flight to Philadelphia and, being a fan of Liverpool’s restaurant which shares the same name, it seemed like the perfect place to start the night’s activities.
The Stephen Starr restaurant, with its extensive cocktail menu and delicious Latin appetisers, did not disappoint.
The bar was set high for the rest of our trip. Luckily the city’s culinary scene exceeded any expectations.
It was my first visit to Philadelphia and other than the fact it was the birthplace of American Independence and its association with films such as Rocky and Philadelphia I didn’t have a clue what to expect.
I knew visiting the bronze statue of Sylvester Stallone near the foot of the famous ‘Rocky Steps’ the Philadelphia Museum of Art was a must.
And I couldn’t resist climbing the 72 steps and punching the air to re-enact one of Rocky Balboa’s scenes on camera to show my friends back home (pictured below).
Surrounded by tourists recreating the famous climb and keep-fit fanatics enduring gruelling boot camps, I took in the bird’s eye view of the city.
It was a mixture of old and new, towering skyscrapers framing the ornate City Hall crowned with another famous statue – Philadelphia’s founding father William Penn.
Nothing was too far away, especially if you pick a central place to stay, and a good way to see the city was to take a trolley tour, which made stops at the major attractions.
Our guide told us about the history of the city and dispelled one myth.
“You’ll be eating lots of Philadelphia cheese,” was most people’s reaction when I told them where I was going.
But I found out the brand of cream cheese was actually invented in 1872 by American dairymen William Lawrence in New York. It took its name from Philadelphia because it was once the capital of the United States.
Another thing I learnt is the natives can’t get enough of the calorie-busting Philly Cheesesteak.
I’d never come across the city’s staple – a long roll filled with beef and melted cheese. But, like the hot dog is to New York, no visit to Philly is complete without trying one.
I was introduced to the cheesesteak during a Flavours of Philly City Food Tour.
The walking tour ($39 per adult) made five stops at different eateries which locals frequent.
It was a sightseeing tour and lunch rolled into one and our group was keen to try all the Philly favourites – including an authentic cheesesteak with dripping beef, gooey Cheez Whiz and french fries.
My whopping half portion was a meal in itself but there was still tomato pie, soft and hard pretzels and cookies to try on the walks between bites.
The historic Reading Terminal Market – one of America’s oldest and largest farmers markets in the US – was a great place to pick up gifts such as tasty chocolate-covered hard pretzels.
Another ‘insider’s tour’ was the ‘Wok N Walk’ tour of Chinatown with Chef Joseph Poon (for $60 per person).