Jose Garces' Philadelphia

Loews Philadelphia Hotel

Restaurateur and chef Jose Garces shares his favorite spots to eat, drink, and sightsee in Philadelphia, like where to go for a classic roast pork sandwich and the best park trails for a gorgeous walk. Garces, a Food Network Iron Chef, owns more than 12 restaurants across the country, nine of which are in Philly (plus one food truck). He also owns a farm located in Bucks County outside the city.

What neighborhood do you live in and how long have you lived there? I’ve lived in Logan Square since 2008. It’s right near all of the museums, and has perfect neighborhood vibes—my block is beautifully tree-lined—but is also conveniently close to Center City.

Where do you put up friends visiting town? Our friends at the Loews Philadelphia always provide a comfortable home base for guests, and its central location is ideal for sightseeing (1200 Market St.; 215-627-1200;

Where is the best place to find your hometown’s signature dish? Many consider the cheesesteak to be Philadelphia’s signature dish, but the namesake roast pork sandwich at John’s Roast Pork is the real deal. Nestled deep in South Philly, it’s an absolute institution: They just celebrated their 85th anniversary. Just be sure to get there early, since they don't keep late night hours (14 E. Snyder Ave.; 215-463-1951;

What is your favorite restaurant to take visitors? Philadelphia is full of some of the best old-school Italian restaurants anywhere, and Dante & Luigi’s is one of my top picks in the category. There’s something on the menu for everyone. I find myself craving their linguine with clams in white wine sauce (762 S. 10th St.; 215-922-9501;

Where can you find the best cocktails? Hop Sing Laundromat. Be aware that there are rules for entry (no cell phones, no photos, dress code), but the cocktails there are delicious (1029 Race St.;

Beer list? My friend Marc Vetri’s Italian gastropub has a thoughtful yet extensive list that includes some Italian beers you don’t see anywhere else (1410 Mt. Vernon St.; 215-600-0017;

Wine list? I’m really proud of the wine list at my restaurant in the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Volvér. Curated by our sommelier Gordana Kostovski, our list features a selection of over 1,500 bottles from around the globe, with a strong focus on sparkling wines (300 S. Broad St.; 215-670-2303;

Where would you choose to splurge on a night out? Vernick Food & Drink. Chef Greg Vernick’s cooking is elegant, but never fussy or overwrought. Be sure to check out his toast creations (2031 Walnut St.; 267-639-6644;

What is your go-to after-hours bar? Pass–I have kids. I don’t do after-hours!

What’s the best way to spend a Saturday afternoon in town? Head to The Barnes Foundation on the Parkway to peruse their unbelievable collection of art. From there, if the weather is suitable, make your way to the paths on Kelly Drive for a walk or bike ride to contemplate and reflect on all of the masterpieces you’ve just seen (2025 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy.; 215-278-7200;

What is your Sunday morning routine in your neighborhood? At my house, Sunday morning means bagels and smoked fish. It’s not exactly in my neighborhood, but the short trip over to Famous 4th Street Delicatessen in Queen Village is always worthwhile (700 S. 4th St.; 215-922-3274; They offer a good variety of smoked fish—my favorites are the kippered salmon and the pastrami salmon—and a platter comes with all of the proper accompaniments. If I’m staying in my neighborhood, I’ll head to Spread for a stellar sandwich on one of their Montreal-style bagels (262 S. 20th St.; 215-545-0626;

Where is the best brunch? Sabrina’s is a Philadelphia brunch staple. I’d suggest arriving early or checking it out during the week, since the wait for a table on the weekends can be pretty substantial. The huevos rancheros are always perfect, and my kids love the mile-high stuffed challah French toast. (Various locations;

Where do you go for the perfect cup of coffee? Local guys Jonathan Adams and Damien Pileggi of Rival Bros. do it right! (2400 Lombard St.;

What’s your favorite view in town (that tourists might not know about)? Even though tourists definitely know about it, my favorite view is the one from the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, looking down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway straight to City Hall. On a clear, sunny day, Center City’s skyscrapers just sparkle. Since I live nearby, I often use the museum's famous steps as a part of my workout, and despite having seen it hundreds of times, this view never gets old. When the Pope visits Philadelphia this upcoming September, he’ll be holding mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, too, which speaks to the grandeur of the view (2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy.).

What’s your favorite path or trail to follow on a walk? The trails off Forbidden Drive in Wissahickon Valley Park are gorgeous, with leafy paths, streams, and an old bridge here and there. You wouldn’t believe you’re just 30 minutes outside of the bustle of the city.

What are your favorite offbeat cultural attractions? Magic Gardens. Artist Isaiah Zagar’s mosaic murals can be seen all around Philadelphia, but this is the epicenter. The name says it all: “magic” really sums up the vibe of this spot (1020 South St.; 215-733-0390; On the other end of the spectrum is the Mütter Museum, where you’ll find medical oddities and instruments (19 S. 22nd St.; 215-563-3737;

What’s your favorite shop or boutique? For me, custom is the way to go, and Wayne Glassman from Wayne Edwards Workshop is my tailor. I love the options that are available with custom clothes, where I can choose the monogram style down to the fabric lining my shirt cuffs and collars (1710 Sansom St. 2nd Floor;

What’s the best-kept local secret? The Ranstead Room. This tiny speakeasy is dark and intimate, and they serve expertly mixed cocktails (2013 Ranstead St.).

Image Credits: © Daniel Krieger for Volver, Sabrina's Cafe, Vernick

In our Hometown Guides series, we're seeking the best restaurants, bars, vistas, and things to do in a given place from the people who know best—the artists, designers, chefs, and store-owners who live there. See more Hometown Guides »