Philadelphia is well known as a sandwich town, but with all the hoagie-cheesesteak-meatball chatter, seafood options often get short shrift. Fact is, there are plenty of delicious handheld marine meals to be had, and a roundup of some of the best offers a great way to survey the city’s dining landscape.
Ask anyone in the country: Philly food is on the rise, and our hottest dining rooms regularly notch spots on national top 10 lists. Eli Kulp and Ellen Yin’s innovative Old City cafe is a prime example, and when you come in for breakfast and lunch, you can experience the depth and talent of the kitchen with this house-baked pretzel roll layered with beet-cured salmon and housemadecelery cream cheese ($9).
See Also: Maryland crab on toast at Vernick Food & Drink
Call it a tavern, a bar and grille, a beer haven or anything else — this is the kind of restaurant you’ll run into most often in Philadelphia. In the baguette-wrapped, ocean-kissed take on a BLT at Dave Garry and Heather Gleason’s Pennsport spot, the main ingredient changes often, but whether it’s soft-shell crab or buttermilk shrimp, the resulting combo is huge and satisfying (market price).
See Also: Oyster po’ boy at Khyber Pass Pub
Shacks that don’t offer indoor seating have been a staple of William Penn’s town almost forever — maybe even since Colonial times. Though this Delaware Avenue construction-worker favorite recently moved into slightly more upscale digs, its fish cake sando hasn’t lost any of its punch. Get it on an Italian roll alone with pepper hash ($3), or mashed on top of a hot dog in a regional classic ($5).
See Also: Tuna hoagie at John’s Roast Pork
French restaurants are on the rise in the city d’amitié fraternelle, and hot newcomers include Peter Woolsey’s sprawling FringeArts spot. He and chef de cuisine Nich Bazik are doing this classic Provençal favorite, essentially a niçoise salad on bread with tuna confit, egg, peppers, radish and tomatoes ($8).
See Also: Salmon tartine at Parc
Philadelphians love their weekend recovery meals as much as American eaters anywhere, and will stand in line to pack into the iconic Sunday-morning spots. Slide over to this Bella Vista classic on a weekday afternoon instead for easy access to this glorious mess of mayo-bathed chopped shrimp served on a sliced croissant ($9).
See Also: Tuna melt at Honey’s Sit 'n Eat
We’re lucky enough to have several ultrasuccessful restaurateurs each running multiple establishments impressive enough to stand on their own. At Stephen Starr’s British pub in Rittenhouse, everything good about British restraint comes through in this simple but perfect layering of crisply breaded flounder, tartar sauce and gem lettuce on toasted ciabatta bread ($16).
See Also: Swordfish BLT at Alla Spina
Though they aren’t as dominant as they were last decade, BYO dining rooms are still extremely popular here (thanks, antiquated state-run liquor laws!). The Dutch-Nordic theme of the menu at Joncarl Lachman’s gem just off East Passyunk is epitomized in his broodjes haring appetizer, a trio of mini herring sliders served on potato rolls ($9).
See Also: Taco de pescado at Cafe Ynez
There aren’t that many in Philadelphia proper, but taverns that double as breweries surround the city like jewels on a crown. At any of the 10 locations of this Delaware-based mini-chain, including the one in Chestnut Hill, you can get a huge, jumbo lump patty topped with rémoulade on a sesame seed bun, served with fries or salad ($14.95).
See Also: Smoked salmon sandwich at Barren Hill Tavern