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Winter Holiday Food Traditions In Philadelphia


PHILADELPHIA, PA (November 2018)(CNBNewsnet)--Philadelphia does festive food and drink right. The proof: Wintertime lines out the doors of the city’s beloved mom-and-pop purveyors. Screen Shot 2018-06-20 at 14.33.24For decades, Philadelphia’s proudly diverse population has represented a variety of home-cooked holiday food traditions holidays, and each year, homesick Philadelphians coming home for the holidays fill their bellies with Polish kielbasa, Italian cannoli, chocolate coffee cinnamon pecan pie, jelly-filled sufaniyot, Mexican tamales, sweet pyraniki, German clear toy candies, butter pound cake and endless cheese plates. Here’s a field guide to eating through the holiday season in Philadelphia the authentic way:

Thanksgiving Turkey & Pies:

  • Cacia’s Bakery – Since the 1950s, this venerable deep South Philly bread maker has played a special role in local holiday dinners. Each Thanksgiving, the Cacia family offers their services—their massive, brick-lined bread oven, really—to anyone looking to have their birds roasted by the pros. Customers start lining up around 5 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning and pay $24 each to have their turkeys expertly tended. (They can do ham, pork and lamb too and have five more locations in New Jersey.) 1526 Ritner Street, (215) 334-1340,
  • Linvilla Orchards – The charming, family-run Delaware County orchard, farm, market and play zone offers more than 40 pie varieties, including fan favorites Dutch apple crumb and apple caramel walnut pies. 137 Knowlton Road, Media, (610) 876-7116,
  • Magpie – This petite, rustic, year-round pie shop typically sells more than 500 of their signature creations every Thanksgiving. Popular picks include caramel apple, signature butterscotch bourbon, crowd favorite chocolate coffee cinnamon pecan and classic pumpkin. 1622 South Street, (267) 519-2904,
  • Pie in the Sky – This annual fundraiser of the food-based non-profit MANNA sells 9,000-plus pies annually. Customers order in advance. Volunteers deliver the apple, pumpkin, pecan and sweet potato goods to spots all around town. (215) 496-2662,


  • Federal Donuts – James Beard Award winners Michael Solomonov and Steve Cook and team have perfected the art of the sufaniyot, the official miniature jelly doughnut of Hanukkah. The fried specialty will be available to pre-order through the website and available for pickup at three Federal Donut stores during the eight-night holiday (December 2-10). 1632 Sansom Street, (215) 665-1101; 540 South Street, (267) 761-4512; 701 N. 7th Street, (267) 928-3893,
  • Latkes To Go – With eight nights to celebrate, the Festival of Lights can leave little time for potato-pancake making. That’s why so many celebrants head to Queen Village mainstay Famous Fourth Street Delicatessen (700 S. 4th Street, (215) 922-3274, and neighboring Main Line institutions Murray’s Delicatessen (285 Montgomery Avenue, Bala Cynwyd, (610) 664-6995) and Hymie’s Delicatessen (342 Montgomery Avenue, Merion Station, (610) 668-3354,

South Philly Italian Christmas:

  • Claudio Specialty Foods – Wax balls of Grana Padana parmigiana and house-made Boccoini provolone hang from the ceiling of this classic, circa 1950 Italian foods shop, where, during the holidays, customers happily line up around Claudio’s perimeter for sliced-to-order capicola, prosciutto, soppressata, along with imported olives, olive oils, balsamic vinegars, pastas and fresh mozzarella made next door. 924-926 S. 9th Street, (215) 627-2320,
  • Di Bruno Bros. This longtime cheese shop has five hopping locations throughout Philly and its suburbs, but Di Bruno’s most immersive holiday experience can be found at its original, narrow 9th Street Italian Market flagship. Beginning right after Thanksgiving and culminating in the days preceding Christmas Eve (when people begin lining up before sunrise), customers wait patiently to stock up on specialty products to precede, enhance or conclude a special meal—think olives, antipasti and cured meats, plus some of the nearly 400 international cheeses the venerable store offers. 930 S. 9thStreet, (215) 922-2876,
  • Termini Bros. This elegant, old-school bakery opens as early at 6 a.m. on the days close to Christmas to feed fans its famous sweets—cakes, cookies (the pignoli is a Sicilian holiday favorite), biscotti and, of course, cannoli. 1523 S. 8th Street, (215) 334-1816,
  • Isgro Pasticceria – Unbelievable but true: The week of Christmas, neighbors will actually voluntarily move their cars to make room for Gus Isgro’s devoted clientele. Opening at 6:30 a.m. each morning, the staff turns the queue into a party—employees, often dressed as elves, weave through the crowd, handing out cordials, pastries, coffee and hot chocolate as customers wait patiently for their torrone, ricotta cookies and more. 1009 Christian Street, (215) 923-3092,

Polish Christmas In Port Richmond:

  • Czerw’s Kielbasy – The northern River Wards have always featured a healthy population of Polish immigrants, concentrated mostly in the Port Richmond neighborhood. Here, several long-running businesses brace for huge hits around the holiday season. Smoking meat the old-world way since 1938, Czerw’s supplies families multiple variations on its classic kielbasa, plus hearty mainstays of the Polish table, like pierogi and golabki (stuffed cabbage)—the latter is made by the owner’s 87-year-old 3370 Tilton Street, (215) 423-1707,
  • Swiacki Meats – The deal is similar at Swiacki, which is also renowned for its kielbasa and kabanosy (think a Polish Slim Jim). The Swiacki family also peddles Christmastime staples like chrusciki (“angel wings”), slivers of sweet dough fried to a crisp and doused in powdered sugar. 3623 Salmon Street, (215) 634-0820,
  • Stock’s Bakery – And for dessert? Stock’s absolutely unbeatable pound cake (or, get this: butter cake). Regulars know to expect serious lines at this Port Richmond institution. The good news is, they move fast. 2614 E. Lehigh Avenue, (215) 634-7344,

Mexican Christmas (Tamales):

  • Mole Poblano – Masa lovingly wrapped in cornhusks or banana leaves, tamales are a year-round favorite throughout Mexico, Central America and South America, but they tend to be bought and sold with increased fervor during the holiday season. In the 9th Street Italian Market, bright Mole Poblano does an incredible variation on tamales soaked in their titular sauce. 1144 S. 9th Street, (215) 465-1616,
  • Pura Vida This Northern Liberties spot specializes in Guatemalan tamales de chipilín, made with the indigenous edible leaf that’s so important to Latin American cooking. 527 Fairmount Avenue, (215) 922-6433
  • Tamalex – For Honduran-style tamales, fatter and heartier than their Mexican counterparts, Tamalex is worth the trip. 1163 S. 7th Street, (215) 465-1665,

German Christmas Candies:

  • Shane Confectionery – America’s oldest continuously run confectionery and candy shop (since 1863) feels like a trip back in time, thanks to the meticulously restored 1911 storefront with period attired clerks and timeless confections. Winter holdiays at Shane are all the more festive when the store is decked out in evergreens and selling carefully crafted chocolate assortments, ornate German cookies, gem-colored clear toy candy (Victorian sugar sculptures) and rich drinking chocolate, made to order. 110 Market Street, (215) 922-1048,

Russian Christmas:

  • In Northeast Philadelphia, home to a large population of Russian, Ukrainian and other Eastern European immigrants, families fill their holiday tables with a number of special dishes, from blinchiki (crepes) and pirozhki (meat or vegetable pies) to cold salad spreads and sweets like pyraniki, a wintry-spiced Christmas cookie. The region’s native-run groceries and stores accommodate pre-orders and special requests for these dishes and more during the holiday season, including Bell’s Market, 8354 Bustleton Avenue, (215) 342-6016, bellsmarketnetMaxi Gastronome, 842 Red Lion Road, (215) 698-5828; and the multi-location NetCost Market, 2417 Welsh Road, (215) 795-3773, 11701 Bustleton Avenue, (267) 672-2500,

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