The flavor-savvy guides of Chew Philly Food Tours acquaint both visiting and veteran Philadelphia taste buds with the dishes that encapsulate the city's culinary heritage. During each 2.5-hour journey, groups visit family-owned restaurants, bakeries, and grocery stores? many of which have been around for decades?where merchants show off their specialties to curious palates.
Tidbits about local architecture, city history, and the philly cheesesteak's historic boxing victory against Chicago-style pizza spring from tour guides as tasters proceed with their 1.5-mile jaunt, which keeps feet moving at a moderate pace to accommodate guests of all ages and fitness levels.
Housed in a beautiful stone, one-story mill factory building, Bourbon Blue serves its New Orleans-inflected cuisine with style. Inside, a large iron chandelier and old-style pendant lights with smoky yellow glass hang from the tall peaked ceiling. Patrons can grab a seat at the large semi-circular bar or at one of the tables, and opt for a Cajun-style dish such as jambalaya, a quesadilla with alligator sausage or blackened filet mignon tips. There are also plenty of straightforward American dishes, from a burger topped with blue cheese, bacon and mushrooms to pan-seared salmon). In warm weather, one of the best seats in Manayunk is on Bourbon Blue’s deck overlooking the canal and the newly constructed performing arts center.
Sweet Elizabeth’s Cakes in Manayunk focuses mostly on from-scratch custom-designed specialty cakes that look like daydreams. An enormous bunch of balloons travels up the side of one birthday cake; the word “love” is written repeatedly on another cake. No shortening makes its way into the cakes, and the buttercream icing uses only real butter. Even those not planning a big event, can still enjoy Sweet Elizabeth’s sweet creations. The shop is a great stop for cupcakes and coffee. Cupcake flavors change monthly, and may include key lime with a graham cracker crust, red velvet topped with candied beets or a chocolate bacon with buttercream chocolate icing.
Off the beaten path in a small shop, Tasty Twisters's family of bakers hand-twists dough into soft pretzels daily, forging traditional pretzels, pretzel twists, pretzel bagels, and pretzel nuggets dusted in garlic, salt, cinnamon-sugar, or fingerprint powder. Their ovens also add a golden-brown finish to custom pretzels, which can be fashioned into unique shapes, letters, or numbers for guests in need of themed treats. For bigger groups, staffers load party platters with pretzel nuggets and cups overflowing with cheese and mustard dipping sauce.
In 1988, Auntie Anne's founders Anne and Jonas Beiler purchased a Pennsylvania farmers'-market stand, where they experimented with dough until they created a pretzel that seemed to strike the perfect chord with their customers. Today, at their more than 1,350 locations worldwide, the pretzel makers still hand roll the original recipe but have added to the menu with inventive options such as the eight signature dipping sauces. The team constantly explores new uses for the pretzel dough, such as wrapping it around hot dogs and slicing it into bite-size nuggets. To transform the snack into a meal, they accompany it with specialty drinks, including frozen-lemonade desserts.
When not twisting dough, Auntie Anne's team partners with the national charitable organization Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which raises funds to fight childhood cancer. Auntie Anne's also reaches out to the community through fundraising opportunities.
Cheerful light-orange and robin’s-egg-blue walls greet customers at the High Point Café, a cute espresso bar and pastry shop serving crepes and baked goods to West Mount Airy patrons. Sit at one of its handful of tables to dig into a rotating collection of savory crêpes, which might include anything from ham, cheese and spinach to turkey and caramelized onions. Sweeter-sized versions tackle chocolate sauce, lemon zest and endless sprinkles of powdered sugar. Popular pastry options include brioche breads and dense scones, though customers often opt for a slice of quiche, all of which can be enjoyed beneath the original artworks hanging on those brightly colored walls.