Trying to pick the 10 best sandwiches in Philadelphia is like trying to choose which drop in a martini gets you drunk. We’re nothing if not a sandwich town, and there are as many iconic classics as there are incredible newcomers to satisfy your between-the-bread needs. Both make showings below in a list that tries to be as diverse as it is delicious. Happy munching.
Pulled Pork Italiano at Tommy DiNic’s
GQ’s Alan Richman may have declared the roast pork sandwich at this Reading Terminal Market stand the best in all America (hence the never-ceasing lines that snake through market aisles), but those who’ve tried this alternate agree it’s better worth the pilgrimage. Provolone and rabe act as an angel-devil pair of creamy and sharp complements for the rich shreds of pork on the absorbent hoagie roll.
Insider Tip: Though the line does move impressively fast, if you can work it into your schedule, avoid lunchtime and get your pork fix either mid-morning (10-11 AM) or mid-afternoon (2:30-3:30 PM). Bonus: credit cards are accepted.
51 N. 12th St.; 215-923-6175
Panelle at Paesano’s Philly Style
Irishman Peter McAndrews makes some of the city’s best Italian food, and with partner Nathan Baynes, the chef also unlocked the secret to real-deal Philly sandwiches. It’s hard to go wrong with any of the original takes on the list, but this meat-free option will surprise and delight. A Sicilian chickpea pancake is rolled in a thin lavash wrapper with roasted tomato, pickled fennel and house “godzuki” sauce - a mix of sour cream, rosemary and hot sauce. It works, and you might even be able to finish it.
Insider Tip: If you can’t make it out, the Italian Market location will deliver seven days a week within a five-block radius. Or, there’s always GrubHub.
1017 S. Ninth St.; 215-440-0371
152 W. Girard Ave.; 267-886-9556
Roast Pork at John’s Roast Pork
Since 1930, Philadelphians in search of a juicy hand-held bite have flocked to this tiny shack at the far southeast corner of the city. Used to be you had to arrive before 3 PM on a weekday if you wanted the simple but delicious house-roasted pork seasoned with an old family recipe on a seeded roll, but third-generation owner John Bucci, Jr. relented and added Saturday hours (9 AM-4 PM).
Price: $6 small/$8 large
Insider Tip: Bring your appetite (or a friend) and also try the recently introduced roast beef sandwich, cooked in-house in a new oven dedicated to this purpose.
14 E. Snyder Ave.; 215-463-1951
Meatball Hoagie at Stogie Joe’s
In just six years on East Passyunk, this family-run Italian has created a new South Philly classic. Meatballs made in-house from veal, pork and beef are finished to order in a pan of marinara, ending up juicy and flavorful enough to stand up to the sharp provolone melted over the top on a soft, Liscio’s Kaiser roll.
Insider Tip: On your return visit, don’t miss the signature stromboli, house dough rolled up with sopressata, hot capicola, salami and pepper jack cheese.
1801 E. Passyunk Ave.; 215-463-3030
Vegetarian BBQ Beef Banh Mi at Kung Fu Hoagies
Food truck partners Paul Davis and Steve Renzi must use some kind of martial arts magic to turn the oxymoron “vegetarian beef” into a crave-worthy ingredient. Everyone might not love the well-spiced soy protein on its own, but combine it with BBQ sauce, cilantro, housemade pickles and jalapeños, on an extremely light roll, and the banh mi thit bo will satisfy any rabid carnivore.
Insider Tip: While the truck was originally a University City-only deal (it’s still there 11 AM-3 PM weekdays), you can now sometimes get your veggie banh mi in South Philly - Sundays it’s been popping up at East Passyunk and Dickinson from noon-4 PM.
The Italian at Santucci’s Original Square Pizza
Prime eating time for an Italian hoagie comes at least 20 minutes (and as long as several hours) after the layers of prosciutto, sopressata, capicola and sharp provolone have had time to marinate in their dressing of oil and vinegar. Excellent quality meats and a scattering of arugula in the version from this Italian Market pizzeria translate to a perfect meld of flavors that don’t sog down the seeded Sarcone’s roll.
Insider Tip: A single one of these sandwiches will easily make lunch for two, especially if you get the house fries (try the sweet potato version). For solo dining, opt for the always-fresh salad on the side instead.
901 S. Ninth St.; 215-825-5304
Fried Tomato Special at Chickie’s Italian Deli
Like a BLT on steroids, this hoagie sees a battered and fried tomato smacking up against bacon, lettuce, roasted peppers and your choice of cheese on a Sarcone’s seeded roll. Best in the summer when Jersey tomatoes are in their prime. Add the optional turkey to turn it into the most awesome club sandwich you’ve ever had.
Insider Tip: The South Philly corner deli is actually on the market right now, so hurry in to try the original location. Don’t worry too much, though, because owner Henry George told The Insider he plans to reopen nearby as soon as the sale goes through.
1014 Federal St.; 215-462-8040
Chicken Banh Mi at Rotisseur
Aaron Matzkin is a rotisserie master, turning Lancaster county birds into what might be the best chicken meat in Philly. He’s also an aficionado of Asian flavors, so when he dresses that poultry with togarashi spice and pairs it with house-pickled red cabbage, cilantro, cucumber, lime juice and jalapeño, the result is noteworthy. Icing on the sandwich? Shards of crispy chicken skin layered throughout.
Insider Tip: Side dishes are a strong point for this “fast slow food” Rittenhouse deli - housemade kale chips are a winning bet (just remember to bring a toothpick for afterwards).
102 S. 21st St.; 215-496-9494
Cauliflower Hoagie at Enjay’s Pizza
When Pitruco Pizza’s Jonah Fliegelman and Nathan Winkler-Rhoades set up shop inside UCity’s Smokey Joe’s, they had the chance to expand their menu beyond Neapolitan pies. That was a good thing. In our favorite of the new offerings, a scooped out house-baked roll holds surprisingly hearty fried cauliflower, matched with tangy pickled onions and a sweet-salty caper-raisin mayonnaise.
Insider Tip: Enjay’s has just introduced its first burger, served on a challah roll with tons of crisp lettuce and creamy special sauce. It’s available for $8, on Sundays only.
212 S. 40th St.; 215-222-0770
The Schmitter at McNally's Tavern
When a sandwich name is a registered trademark, you know it’s big-league. Grilled salami is the unique ingredient that elevates this combo above the rest, and it’s laid on top of thick sliced beef, tons of cheese, fried onions, tomato and special sauce on a Kaiser roll. It’s been served at the Chestnut Hill pub for more than 20 years.
Insider Tip: Don’t judge this classic by the version you get at Citizens Bank Park or Lincoln Financial Field. It’s a decent option if you’re hungry and stuck at a game, but the version at the original tavern is worth a visit.
8634 Germantown Ave.; 215-247-9736