I had a suggested assignment a couple of weeks ago to find the best $5 lunch in Philadelphia. I panicked. $5?? What can $5 get you in this city when it comes to food? The only answers I could come up with were food from street vendors (where $5 can actually buy you an entire lunch) and Wawa. Even “lunch” spots like the Wrap Shack on 18th Street and Pho 75, a fantastic Vietnamese noodle place in Chinatown, start at about $6 or $7. One of my favorite places is DiBruno’s near Rittenhouse Square, where you can get a sandwich or an assortment of picnic-type foods, but then you’re looking at at least $10 (assuming you have a normal sized appetite).
That assignment got me thinking about food in Philly. Granted, I think about food in Philly every day (and a lot every weekend), but this got me thinking a little more specifically: Why are there no cheap lunches in this city? The only conclusion I could come up with is that there is a huge market for delicious food and innovative restaurants here. The restaurant scene is one of the main aspects of Philadelphia’s character. So with so many skilled chefs and creative food entrepreneurs, the cheap lunch isn’t really something Philadelphians value. Well, okay, we value the cheap lunch, but we also know we can get some pretty darn good food at those street vendors. (A tip: A friend claims that the vendors who cook real pork bacon always have better food all around.)
Evidence of Philly’s food culture? A new marketing campaign focused on locally grown, sustainable food. It’s called HomeGrown, and it highlights the 46 farmers’ markets in the area and the 45,000 farms in and around Philadelphia. It also calls attention to restaurants that use fresh, local ingredients as much as possible, like the White Dog Cafe, Fork, and newcomer Noble.
So go forth: eat (local food), drink (local craft beers), and be merry.