The political focus of the United States turns to Philadelphia this week. It’s that city where it’s always sunny, where Elton John sings about the freedom and where countless visitors run up the steps of the Art Museum like Rocky.
Having grown up outside of the city, I’ve always had a strong affiliation for it. I love championing it as an international destination. It ranks as the 13th most-visited city in the nation by foreign tourists, which could be better. It’s not as sexy or exotic as NYC, Washington D.C., Orlando, Las Vegas, San Francisco, the Grand Canyon or Los Angeles. On top of that, Philly gets a bad rap for its insane sports fans, the Brooklyn South/6th Borough of New York storyline and for having a truly deplorable airport.
For my international readers, I would like to highlight how Philadelphia is the sandwich capital of the world, which I hope the tourism bureau would get behind. They like to show it’s historical landmarks, family-friendly activities and romantic weekends for couples. Nah, it’s all about the sandwiches.
Yes, the Philly Cheesesteak and its brother from another sandwich, the roast pork with broccoli rabe, are what tourists seek out. I wouldn’t fault a group of Japanese tourists heading straight from the airport to visit Pat’s King of Steaks or the Reading Terminal Market.
For me, the Italian Hoagie is what represents the city best and it’s rich Italian-American heritage. You have prosciutto, capacola, salami, provolone, veggies, oil, vinegar and spices on soft and crusty torpedo roll. Hit up any stand in the Italian market and you’ll satisfy your fix.
If you have a foreign friend coming in and you want to do as the locals do, I say take them to Wawa. Mashable had a story about the Cult of Wawa, which explains the local devotion to the convenience store chain. It’s a comfort zone where you know you’ll get a great deal on gasoline, a 10-inch sandwich you build for $6 that beats anything Subway can do, an array of candy and junk food and each location is clean and filled with friendly staffers.
My take is that I take my coffee seriously. I go out of my way to avoid Starbucks, embrace micro-roasters and seek out the pretentious hipster barista who makes latte art. For some reason, Wawa coffee is fucking amazing. It’s low on acidity, doesn’t taste burnt or artificial, drinks easily and the flavor is bold without being over-powering.
I highly endorse taking selfies in front of a Wawa in Philadelphia and baffle your friends back in other parts of the world.