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A Savory Smorgasbord

Attendees coming to Pennsylvania can eat like locals do and enjoy all that makes the state’s cuisine endlessly interesting

By Robin O'Neal Smith

Family-style Amish spread at Plain & Fancy  Restaurant in the town of Bird-in-Hand
Family-style Amish spread at Plain & Fancy Restaurant in the town of Bird-in-Hand || Courtesy of Plain & Fancy Restaurant

For meeting-goers convening in the Keystone State, there’s a lot to look forward to in the food department. While Pennsylvania is, of course, known for its Philly cheesesteak, there is a whole lot more going on in the world of Pennsylvania’s food scene. Amid a melting pot of diverse cultures, attendees in Pennsylvania can sample culinary delights from around the world within the state’s borders. Pennsylvania’s Hungarian community, for example, has left a lasting impact on the state’s cuisine, with dishes such as chicken paprikash and goulash being popular favorites. The state is also home to a large Amish community, whose time-honored dishes like shoofly pie and apple butter are famous.

Attendees in the state also can enjoy its more traditional cuisine. Pennsylvania’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean makes it ideal for fresh seafood such as crab, oysters, and clams, and its many pub and street foods offer satisfying solutions to empty stomachs. Sampling an authentic Philly cheesesteak is a must-do for visitors to the state’s largest city.

Aside from traditional dishes, Pennsylvania also has a thriving farm-to-table movement. Many restaurants source their ingredients locally and support small-scale farmers—ensuring fresh, high-quality produce in their dishes and promoting sustainable and ethical practices in the food industry. With so many different flavors and influences, Pennsylvania’s dynamic culinary scene is truly a foodie’s paradise.

Keystone Classics

Chickie’s & Pete’s is an excellent option if you’re looking to host your corporate event or meeting in a sports-centered locale. It has been around since 1977—first opened in Philadelphia and now boasting 19 locations around the country—and is a staple sports bar stop. Be sure to order its famous CrabFries, crinkle-cut french fries seasoned with a secret blend of spices and fried until crispy. Chickie’s & Pete’s offers catering options as well as space for private events for celebrations of all kinds at select locations.

The iconic Philadelphia cheesesteak is said to have originated with brothers Pat and Harry Oliveiri at their hot dog stand near Philadelphia’s South Ninth Street Italian Market in the early 1930s. Attendees with free time in Philadelphia who want to form their opinion on who makes the best cheesesteak should head over to Passyunk Avenue in South Philly where they can try both Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks, famous for their decades-old rivalry.

Cheesesteak from Pat’s King of Steaks in South Philly
Cheesesteak from Pat’s King of Steaks in South Philly || Photo by K. Huff, courtesy of Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau

The unique private rooms and outdoor decks of Moshulu in Philadelphia—the world’s oldest and largest square-rigged sailing vessel still afloat, now transformed into a one-of-a-kind restaurant venue—might be perfect for your event of 16 to 200 attendees. Its Stateroom boasts rich wood walls, a mirrored ceiling, and room for up to 200 attendees, and the restaurant also has several deck venue options for those who want a little sea breeze. The menu offers fresh seafood galore with dishes like pan-seared mussels and the Captain’s Cut Swordfish.

The Captain’s Table aboard Moshulu in Philadelphia
The Captain’s Table aboard Moshulu in Philadelphia || Photo by Styled Pink Photography

A Cultural Experience

To truly dine like a Pennsylvanian, you must include Amish country—Pennsylvania has the largest Amish population of any state in the U.S. One such location is Amish favorite Plain & Fancy Restaurant in the town of Bird-in-Hand near Lancaster. Here, attendees will feast on made-from-scratch fried chicken, eye of round roast beef, chicken pot pie with homemade noodles, sausage, mashed potatoes, and more. Megan Weiss, director of marketing with Thomas E. Strauss Inc., says, “I always like to point out that Plain & Fancy is very close to American Music Theatre and Sight & Sound Theatres. It is also on Plain & Fancy Farm, which includes AmishView Inn & Suites, Aaron and Jessica’s Buggy Rides, and tour agency Amish Experience. Plus, the Plain & Fancy Country Store gives groups a place to shop for local items and gifts.”

If you seek an authentic and delicious Eastern European dining experience, consider Huszár Pittsburgh, a Hungarian restaurant in the Steel City. With its warm, inviting atmosphere and mouth-watering Hungarian dishes, it is the perfect place for a small group gathering of up to 50 people. Every bite, from savory goulash to traditional cabbage rolls, is a culinary adventure that will transport your taste buds straight to Hungary.

Wood-fired pizza and more at Philadelphia’s Barbuzzo
Wood-fired pizza and more at Philadelphia’s Barbuzzo || Courtesy of Bondfire Media

Barbuzzo, a Mediterranean kitchen and bar in Philadelphia, offers both brunch and dinner with menu items like shakshuka, Moroccan lamb pita, and lobster pappardelle pasta. Planners can book event space on its newly renovated second floor, a sophisticated area with room for up to 55 attendees seated and 85 reception-style. The space comes complete with its own kitchen and bar area and is entirely private.

With such diverse choices, it’s difficult to get bored while exploring Pennsylvania’s food scene. Meeting-goers dining in the Keystone State can experience its culture through food, making the experience all the more memorable.

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