The Best Roast Pork Sandwiches In Philadelphia

Slow-roasted pork, slightly bitter broccoli rabe, and melted provolone. Who’s hungry?
The Best Roast Pork Sandwiches In Philadelphia image

photo credit: NICOLE GUGLIELMO

In this sandwich-obsessed town, people argue about which version reigns supreme: the cheesesteak, the hoagie, the bánh mì, or the roast pork. But like Godfather I and Godfather II, there’s a time and a place for each one. In the case of roast pork, we’re eternally grateful to whoever first decided to put juicy, slow-roasted pork, garlicky broccoli rabe (or spinach), and provolone on an Italian roll. And these 13 Philly spots have perfected the classic combination.


photo credit: NICOLE GUGLIELMO


South Philly

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John’s is the roast pork shop in town. They’ve been making very good versions in the same counter-service shop in South Philly since 1930. The thinly sliced, slightly spicy meat is dripping with pan juices, while the roll stays firm enough on the outside to hold everything together. It’s simply a miracle. 

Paesano’s in the Italian Market shop does sandwiches better than most places. But people don't talk about it for some reason. You'll start, once you eat the "Arista" sandwich with incredibly juicy pork, thick-cut provolone, tender broccoli rabe, and pillowy bread. It's the platonic ideal of softness and crunch. And you can sit down in the restaurant to eat it—rare for roast pork spots.

The small deli and market in Fishtown serves a roast pork with some surprising updates. Specifically, they layer braised pork shoulder, provolone chianti spread, long hot relish, and broccoli rabe on a seeded roll. It’s comically large, and has roughly a 50:50 meat-to-vegetable ratio. So you’ll get as much tender pork as you do sauteed, salty green bits. And the sweet, nutty provolone chianti spread makes it unlike any other roast pork in the city. 

photo credit: NICOLE GUGLIELMO

Tommy DiNic’s makes two versions of roast pork: one with sliced meat and another with Italian-style pulled pork. Though we prefer the latter, both are beautiful messes topped with broccoli rabe, provolone, and long hots. You're going to wait in line at this busy Reading Terminal Market spot. But the sandwich is worth the patience. If there's no seating in RTM, you can take this thing to go without worrying it'll sog and fall apart.

If you think roast pork sandwiches are good no matter the quality of the ingredients, go to Dattilo's in the Northeast to see how much better the sandwich can taste when the deli gives a f*ck. Their pork is thick cut, while the crunchy broccoli rabe and slices of sharp provolone give a sweet, earthy balance to the salty meat. Plan a walk or a picnic at Pennypack Park nearby.

At Jaxx Steaks in Dickinson Narrows, every sandwich is solid, especially those on their soft Italian rolls. But it’s the roast pork that we could consume in 20 seconds or less if you timed us. Here’s the deal: tender cuts of pork, bits of sharp provolone sprinkled all over, and a cup of oniony broth to drench the entire sandwich. It’s gorgeous.

Most people come to South Street’s Woodrow’s only for the cheesesteak. We used to make that mistake, too. But after trying a couple roast pork sandwiches, it's difficult to stick to chopped steak and cheese on a roll. The roast pork here is different than anywhere else in the city: the pork is pulled, the broccoli rabe is diced, the provolone is aged and shredded, there are bits of long hots tossed throughout the whole mix, and a long hot aioli is spread on the bread. It really works.

George’s Sandwich Shop has been on South 9th Street since 1936. They're known for veal tripe sandwiches, but if you ask us, the PBR sandwich—their roast pork—is the one to get here. It comes on long Italian roll that's crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, and generously portioned (but never overstuffed). And the provolone and broccoli rabe appropriately cuts through the pork.

When we’ve finally convinced our one wavering friend to try a roast pork for the first time, we take them to Shank’s on the waterfront. And after they give it a try, we usually get a heartfelt apology in the form of a scented candle or new house plant for taking so long to have some sense. Their sandwich has everything we want in a traditional roast pork: a hefty combo of thick-cut meat, tender vegetables with a peppery kick, and melted cheese on a sesame seed roll.

This South Philly corner spot combines slow-roasted, shredded pork loin, slightly crunchy broccoli rabe, and broken bits of provolone that look like puzzle pieces. We suggest you go early because it’s the kind of place that can sell out any day of the week. Everyone knows that this small mountain of meat, cheese, and sauteed veggies is more comforting than sitting by a fire on a 20-degree day. 

Jack’s Place is a family-run corner deli in the Northeast that consistently demonstrates the power of bread, meat, and cheese. The pile of meat, broccoli rabe, and bright peppers looks like it’s too much for the soft toasted bun to hold. But the firmness of the bread holds the juiciness all together. Get here early—this place closes each day when they run out of rolls.

At Dickinson Narrows’ Cosmi’s Deli, juicy slabs of pork are layered with your choice of marinated broccoli or spinach, sweet provolone cheese, and packed in a seeded or seedless hoagie roll. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure roast pork experience—go with rabe and a seeded roll for slight bitterness and a nutty crunch, and spinach and a regular roll for something richer.

Whether you’re team spinach or team broccoli rabe, the roast pork at Fishtown's Johnny Hots is so good that any sandwich argument will quiet down. For just $10, you get a generous amount of perfectly salty meat balanced out by the slightly sweet, soft roll. You have to pay for add-ons ($1 each for sharp provolone, broccoli rabe, or spinach), and they have a shocking amount of topping options. But stick with something classic.

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