The Philadelphia Flyers. My hockey team. My favorite sports team. Are officially out of the playoffs. Recently I went to a Flyers game, actually the most important game of the season. If we won, we’d go to the playoffs, if we lost we’d probably not make the playoffs. I had planned the trip months in advance and the consequences surrounding the game were merely coincidence. Aside from seeing my favorite sports team, I saw my little sojourn to the City of Brotherly Love as an opportunity to highlight the amazing food served at the stadium. You see, usually stadium food sucks, but stadium food in Philly (while overpriced) is really freaking delicious. But before we get to the food, I need to explain my love of Philly to you, my readers.
Many of you may question why I like Philadelphia sports, especially as someone who was born in Maryland. To top it off I’ve never even lived in Philadelphia or Pennsylvania.
But the state of Pennsylvania and the city of Philadelphia hold something else in my heart that’s more important than where I was born. Philadelphia is where my parents met. Philadelphia is where there separate immigrant stories united to become one.
First let’s examine the insanity of my parents meeting in Philadelphia of all places. My parents did not know each other back in Iran. They both came from well to do families that had the ability to send their children anywhere in the world to study. My Dad had already studied in the U.S. through a foreign exchange program so returning to the States was a logical choice. But why Philly? Well Poppa Unmanly Chef wanted to go to MIT and he got in! But he had to wait a year, so rather than wait he opted to go to Drexel when an American guy was recruiting Iranian students to be engineers. He chose to become a engineer, fulfilling his manifest destiny as a Persian male.
Meanwhile my Mom came to Philly because her brother was already here and she was able to get into Drexel. Essentially immigrants will send their remaining children to the same location as the other ones went, that’s basic immigrant knowledge. Makes sense, if it’s safe and hospitable send more babies thataway!
A pushy professor and the fateful decision for both of my parents to attend Drexel rather than some other Philadelphia university, led them to one another. Growing up, the romance of the city itself filled my childhood memories. My parents would look back fondly on the memories they shared in the city and more importantly the delicious food. For example, my Mom for one thought WaWa was the only grocery store around (if you talk to anyone from Philly, they’ll say WaWa is all you need). Meanwhile, my Dad loves to recount all the delicious cheesesteaks he would eat and how he and my Mom would share one for dinner some nights.
Not everything was smooth sailing for them in Philadelphia, since they were together during the hostage crisis and Iranian Revolution, they faced ardent prejudice and racism from many. In one upsetting incident, my Mom was given an F for a paper simply because she was Iranian, when she complained to the Dean he simply through up his hands. Meanwhile, my Dad would be hounded with epithets being hurled at him and was often threatened by randos wanting to alienate their fellow human beings.
In spite of everything that they faced, Philadelphia, was always their home as they recalled it to us. For my Dad, Philadelphia sports has played an integral part in how he raised my brother and I. Weekends would be spent watching the Eagles, Flyers, or Sixers and when we weren’t watching Philly sports we were always talking Philly sports. My Dad would always fondly recall moments in Flyers history, about how they beat the Soviets or how they literally beat up everyone in the league. Because of this, Philadelphia and its sports teams will always have a special place in my heart.
With my love for Philadelphia now explained, we now arrive to the real point of the story, FOOD!
*If you’re jonesing for a good beer prior to the game, visit Xfinity Live and go to Victory Beer Hall, it’s got a great sports environment with delicious beer options.
Going to Philly for a sporting event is very satisfying for me, mostly because I live in a land where no Eagles or Flyers fans really exist. So to be surrounded by eighteen thousand other Philly fans is always somewhat surreal for me. Beyond that, going to a Flyers game is insanely convenient, it’s literally just a straight shot up I-95 from Maryland. And then when you get there, it’s the easiest place to park and to find parking, so no part of your brain space has to be consumed with those stressors.
Once you enter the Wells Fargo Center (the Flyers home arena), you’re bombarded with a litany of food options at every turn. The first obvious choice is to go straight for a cheesesteak but I’d recommend you wait to get a cheesesteak until after the game. If you MUST, the Campo’s Cheesesteak shack will probably satisfy your cheesesteak jones.
What makes a great Philly cheesesteak anyways? It starts and ends with the bread. I don’t know what it is, but the bread anywhere else but Philly or South Jersey just stinks when it comes to cheesesteaks and hoagies. The hoagie-roll bread typically comes from one of two sources, Liscio’s Bakery or Amoroso’s. Next is the cheese, purists will say provolone cheese, but I say always go with Cheese Whiz or American cheese. Why? The salty creaminess of the faux cheeses actually does wonders with the cheaper cut of meat. Whatever you do, just don’t be a idiot and order it with something stupid like Swiss. Also don’t get anything on your steak except onions. That means no lettuce, tomato, or any other nonsense. This is not Subway or some stupid standard sub shop. You will ruin your cheesesteak and I will have no sympathy for you. Also you order a cheesesteak in Philly by simply saying, ” (Cheese) Wit (or Wit-out)” meaning with onions or without. Order a whiz wit and you’ll leave a happy camper.
Let’s move on to the real star of the show when it comes to the food at Wells Fargo Center or any Philly stadium for that matter. The. Italian. Hoagie.
Words cannot describe the pure heaven that is your first bite into this sandwich. A combination of Italian cold-cuts (Salami, Ham,Pepperoni, and Prosciutto) are then surrounded by perfect hoagie bread and cheese. At a Flyers game the sandwiches already come pre-loaded with meats so they can pump out sandwiches at a high rate of speed, to me the perfect Italian hoagie is the following combination: onions, tomatoes, salt & pepper, oregano, a touch of oil & vinegar, mayo, & provolone. No lettuce. There are certainly better options in and around Philly, but as you are in a food vacuum, Lee’s Hoagie House delivers just what you need prior to observing grown men the beat the crap out of one another for a vulcanized piece of rubber.
The next piece of information has been a newer phenomenon at least from my observations, the pizza at Flyers games. Lorenzo’s Pizza offers gigantic, I mean GIGANTIC slices of cheese pizza. Their pizza seems to always make it on T.V. during a game as a child or senior citizen tries to wrap their mouth around these gargantuan slices of pizza.
The quality of the pizza I am told is slightly above average, but it’s a tourist attraction and this stuff seems to be being eaten by everyone when you’re at a Flyers game. I’m told that if you’re drunk that this stuff pretty much tastes like pizza gold, so there’s that. So if greasy cheese pizza is your thing, this is probably the way to go. (You’re better off eating a hoagie and a cheesesteak, but hey that’s just me).
Another staple of any Philly sporting event is Crab Fries. Coming from Maryland, crab fries don’t really have any real novelty to me since they’re everywhere, but the Crab Fries at Chickie’s and Pete’s is supposedly famous. Now whether they actually invented them, that’s up for debate, but what can’t be debated is how delicious these damn things are. They’re topped with a healthy serving of crab seasoning (i.e. Old Bay) and then served with a delicious cream cheese sauce that is heavenly. The crinkle cut fries are said to hold the seasoning on them better, which makes sense, more surface area equals more yum yum. When you bite into the fries your mouth is bombarded with a delicious combination of flavors that always accompanies crab seasoning. This is a must get .
Beyond these staples you have plenty of other options available to you when you go to a Flyers game, but in my opinion nothing else is as quintessentially Philly as these.
So the games over (we won), now what do you do? As a tradition in our family, after every game we attend we always go to get a cheesesteak. Now in Philly, where you go to get your cheesesteak is somewhat of a touchy subject. No matter who you talk to, you can basically never be right in your choice. Some people will spout that Pat’s is the best (it’s good), or Geno’s is the best, or better yet Jim’s is the best. No matter what you choose, you basically can’t make a wrong decision. Cheesteak is delicious no matter what, even if it’s a crappy Steakums sandwich.
In my family, we always go to Tony Luke’s after a game, for a few reasons. One we think it tastes the best and two, it’s so convenient to get to after a game. It’s 10 minutes away and it’s a straight shot away from the stadium, plus the parking situation is fairly manageable depending on how crowded it is.
When you walk into Tony Luke’s just follow my instructions from above.
DO NOT order a cheesesteak hoagie, it’s not the same and it doesn’t taste nearly as good as a regular cheesesteak.
Now remember, cheesesteaks are a sloppy messy food, you want them to be. You don’t want some fancy cheesesteak made with aged gouda and kobe beef (while that would be tasty). No, a true Philly cheesesteak experience should have some top round or rib-eye in it, and then it needs to be doused in delicious cheese sauce. Order your steak, take a seat and enjoy the deliciousness that you’re about to experience. But keep this little gem in your back pocket as well, per a well place Philly food source the best sandwich in Philly isn’t even the cheesesteak it’s the roast pork sandwich. Per my source he states, “The best Philly sandwich is not the cheesesteak but pork Italiano. Roast pork in its own garlicky juices on a long roll topped with greens and sharp provolone.”
If Tony Luke’s is not your thing, my source inside Philly had the following recommendations:
1. Primo’s Hoagies (numerous locations) these people make all kinds of hoagies. The secret is in the roll and these guys have great rolls. Meat is not stacked high but it’s high quality and very flavorful.
2. John’s Roast Pork- Check the hours. They close when they run out of rolls and on Sundays. Family run place for decades, they serve cheesesteaks, roast pork, and roast beef (also egg sandwiches)- not to be missed!
3. Ralph’s- Run by the same family for over 100 years (second longest in the nation), go here for Italian standards. The eggplant parm and veal parm are always great and you won’t leave hungry.
4. Los Jimenez- If you have a craving for Mexican food, this is it! A former line chef from the famous Vetri restaurant group opened his own spot showcasing family recipes and warm hospitality. Plan to take food out because seating is VERY limited.
I love Philly because the city and it’s citizens have never apologized for who they are (except when they throw things), and Philly sports are the same way. While other cities may claim Philly sports fans are classless, I’d have to disagree wholeheartedly. Philly fans are passionate and more importantly, intelligent fans, who are in tune with their teams and when they fall flat on their face Philly fans are not afraid to let them hear it. I will always feel an odd kinship with city of Philadelphia, as the child of immigrant parents the fact that Philly is what my parents called home first means a lot to me. Meanwhile, Philly sports will always be special to me due to the vivid memories they helped create during my childhood, whether good or bad, Philly sports helped shape who I am.
That’s a wrap folks, I hope you’ve enjoyed my mini guide through Philly stadium food.