Philadelphia  has always had a healthy dose of reliably good cuisine. But, beginning with the “restaurant renaissance” of the 1990s, the food scene evolved into one of the best, and most talked-about, in the country, with new and exciting eateries continuing to pop up in Center City and beyond.
Centuries-old mom-and-pop eateries share the streets with stylish bistros and fine-dining restaurants by world-renowned restaurateurs, including Georges Perrier (Le Bec-Fin  and Brasserie Perrier ), Susanna Foo , and Morimoto . Cozy neighborhood BYOBs  have loyal followings, offering locals an inexpensive way to dine out. And dining in the many gastro-pubs—bars offering high-quality cuisine rather than deep-fried frozen apps—is more appealing than ever thanks to the smoking ban passed in 2007.
With some exceptions at the very high end, mostly around Rittenhouse, and the trendy end, mostly in Old City, anything goes as far as dress, including jeans and sneakers. There are always a few fashionistas in the house, but the dining scene is generally laid-back and casual, and jackets and ties are a rarity.
It goes without saying that the Philadelphia  food scene extends far beyond cheesesteaks. That said, unless you’re a strict vegetarian, there is no excuse for not sampling at least one of the greasy delights while you’re in town. They’re just not the same anywhere else.
Philly’s other culinary trademarks include hoagies, soft pretzels, and water ice, which are also requirements for any food lover to try. And no visit to Philadelphia is complete without a stop at the Reading Terminal Market  or Italian Market, for a vast variety of affordable ethnic cuisine and a unique atmosphere.
The amount of healthy options has also increased, with many restaurants focusing on fresh, locally grown ingredients—which isn’t hard considering the many nearby farms in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. As an example of how far the city has come in this department, in 2000 Philadelphia was named the “fattest city in America” by Men’s Fitness magazine. Just seven years later, Cooking Light magazine named it one of the 10 healthiest U.S. cities, citing the number of highly rated restaurants, the wealth of farmers markets, and the city’s prime walkability.
Speaking of national media attention, in 2004, national foodie magazine Saveur named Philadelphia “America’s most underrated food town.” Philly has since received much overdue attention for its unique cuisine. But don’t take anyone else’s word for it—go out and see for yourself. Beyond the select sampling I’ve included to help get you started, there are approximately 4,000 others for you to discover on your own.