When it comes to mornings, sleep takes priority over everything else. Makeup? Breakfast? Catching an earlier bus? These are all great things to do in an alternate universe where I’d rather not just get more sleep.
Sometimes, though, I convince myself that I don’t need that much sleep — and traveling accounts for almost all of those times. Cheaper flight? Of course I’ll wake up at 3AM. Stay up for a flight deal? Sleep is for the weak.
You know you’re still young when you and your travel companion can look at a list of last-minute flights and adventurously book the most inconvenient one. As it turns out, the most delicious way for two foodies to make their way to San Francisco is a double red-eye with a 12-hour stop in Philadelphia in between.
Who needs sleep when you have cheesesteaks, right?
“I’M SO GLAD TO BE ALIVE ON THIS PLANET AT THIS POINT IN HISTORY SO I COULD COME TO THIS CITY AND EAT THIS SANDWICH.”
Reading Terminal Market has been around since 1890, and after surveying a few different local strangers, we were led to Carmen’s for our first (and best!) cheesesteak of the day: “The Franklin.” The bread was freshly made by another vendor in the market, and the generous layer of meat was topped with local cream cheese.
From our chat with the owner, we learned that he is a real perfectionist about food, and it shows in the popularity of his stand. He had previously expanded into other states to create a larger franchise, but after realizing that he couldn’t scale the quality of his sandwiches as he’d envisioned, he scaled back down to keep the business local. I asked if I could get a half portion, and he said I could not, because it would be impossible to eat half without wanting more. When he followed up to ask me how it was, I sleepily blurted out the quote above.
Also in the Reading market: Flying Monkey is a bakery that specializes in whoopie pies, which were a brand new discovery for me! We opted for the award-winning “Classic Whoopie Pie.” It looks like an oversized macaron, but when you bite in, it’s like a rich sponge cake with a creamy filling.
Finally, the most vigorous sugar rush came courtesy of Franklin Ice Cream Bar. The serving sizes are HUGE, but everything was so delicious that we had no regrets. If you’re into salty-sweet combinations, the “Whirly Berly” is amazing. It has a dark chocolate base mixed with bits of cocoa, honey, and salted caramel.
Out of everything we ate in this city, these were my highlights. If I ever came to live in Philadelphia, my arteries would HATE ME because I would consume these three amazing finds on a regular basis and no one would be able to stop me.
- Want to hear a story? Find the “Once Upon a Nation” storytelling benches scattered around Old City! If you visit them all, you win a carousel ride.
- You don’t have to take an expensive tour to appreciate some history: Independence Hall offers free tours through the National Park Service. (We visited at a popular time, so we reserved online for a nominal fee of $1 each.) As someone who didn’t learn too much about American history in school, this was really interesting to me; there’s nothing like spending a sleepy afternoon hearing stories in old government buildings.
Things that I, a non-American, learned about America:
- Philadelphia used to be the capital of the USA. It is now the mural capital of the USA.
- Once upon a time, Benedict Arnold tried to escape his reputation and live out his retirement in Canada, but nobody liked him so eventually he just ran away.
- Thomas Jefferson did not sign the Constitution. He was in France.
- The Liberty Bell, in its current standing, cannot actually be rung.
Things that I, a constantly-evolving human, learned about myself:
- I’m going to have dark circles no matter what I do, so I might as well seize the day and eat my way through an entire city on no sleep.
In the end, this frenzied day in Philadelphia between flights was more than worth the sacrifice of sleep. It took a tall serving of caffeine and a series of public transit micro-naps to make it through the day, but I lived to tell the tale and I would do it again.
If you’re a foodie who likes “junk” food done really well — especially if you have a sweet tooth — I can’t recommend Philadelphia enough! Even a short visit is enough to put yourself into a satisfied food coma and swear to return! I’m already craving a Part Two.