The Best Soft Pretzels You Can Find In Philadelphia

What gets Philadelphia in a twist more than cheesesteaks and hoagies? Quite literally, the soft pretzel. Marveling over the Liberty Bell or catching a ballgame just isn't feasible without one of these golden-brown bakes in your hand, and the practice credited to the Dutch Amish has resulted in an all-American snack food coast-to-coast. One of the first businesses to cause a nationwide fixation for the salty treat was The Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery in the 19th century, according to The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. 

Penciling in a pretzel break is key for eating in the City of Brotherly Love, and neighborhoods like Center City and Rittenhouse Square teem with traditional, loop-heavy braids (dunked in yellow mustard, of course). Think of them like the quintessential dollar slice in NYC — cheap and always accessible. But what you're about to see are pockets outside the typical tourist circuit that make a mean knot, too. With that being said, where do we start? From well-oiled bakehouses to the brew halls straight out of Munich, let's tangle through the best soft pretzels you can find in Philadelphia. 

Miller's Twist

Miller's Twist, a classic vendor at Reading Terminal Market, embraces doughy, butter-slick knots baked in the Amish tradition. They've made Philadelphia Magazine's "Best of Philly" round-up and top-most foodie destinations when it comes to dining in the great colonial city. Ever since Robert Miller took over the vacancy in section B10, it's been a whirlwind of carb-heavy delights, from concession-style twists to wraps filled with cheddar cheese. Marveling at the talented pretzel maestros behind the counter will no doubt stick in your brain if it's your first time in Philly. You'll never see that at a mall food court! 

For those who've never had the pleasure of trying a real soft pretzel, Miller's Twist is an excellent introduction. We think the menu is varied but sticks to a simple formula of solid combinations — your hot dogs, your cinnamon sticks, your breakfast wraps — and sticks the landing every time. Can't choose between a soft pretzel or Philly Cheesesteak? Opt for the best of both worlds with the Philly Cheesesteak Pretzel Roll-Up containing steak and gooey bursts of Provolone, or the Jalapeno Cheddar for something spicy.

Center City Pretzel Co.

Philly is a sightseer's paradise with all those monuments, and we're not just talking about statues of the Founding Fathers. Center City Pretzel Co., run by the Tonellis since 1981, offers what many believe to be the primordial Philadelphia soft pretzel. Today, people all over the country can sample the family's golden wares thanks to Goldbelly, but it's worth visiting the brick warehouse on Washington Avenue to see the magic for yourself: lining up to watch the massive oven crank out columns of expertly-crafted figure-eight twists, which are reportedly baked by the thousands — thousands! — each day. 

Now on its second generation of ownership, the baking operation continues to sling braided specialties that are hot, cheap, and served up around the clock. You'll never get a stale pretzel here, despite the long line of folks gathered at the door. For bucking tradition, sink your teeth into a "pragel," the shop's ingenious hybrid crossing a pretzel and bagel for the chewiest bite around. Otherwise, you can't go wrong nibbling on pretzel nuggets with an obligatory dip of spicy mustard. 

Tasty Twisters Bakery

Hand-held knots sprinkled with kosher salt are common, but far from the only variety to graze on in Philly. Ever have crispy pepperoni or Everything seasoning on a pretzel? These coat the nuggets and twists churning out of Tasty Twisters Bakery, the Roxborough staple that's happily fed the city for 100 years and counting. There's nothing fancy about this hole-in-the-wall that's, shall we say, a little rough-around-the-edges. And you know what? That's why it's so good. If you're throwing a tailgate bash that doesn't feature one of the shop's pretzel platters, hoagies aside, can it really be called a party? Not on our watch! 

With such a cheap menu, there's no excuse not to go wild. Buy them as nuggets and full-sized pretzels, dip 'em in mustard or cheese, or venture off the beaten trail for crafty takes that'll change your snacking game forever. Pretzel Bagels, complete with a whopping dollop of cream cheese? Don't mind if we do! And with a savory snack like pretzels, it's only natural to pair it with a sweet treat, which the bakery delivers with oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies. 

Philly Pretzel Factory

Locals have a habit of writing off Philly Pretzel Factory as another soulless chain, there's a lot of Brotherly Love in Dan DiZio and Len Lehman's longtime franchise. The company's 160+ shops are mostly focused in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, but when in Philly, you can witness the O.G. Pretzel Factory on Frankford Avenue churning out the tried-and-true staples of the past. 

As one of the few pretzel makers to expand out of the Quaker State, it's only expected that some secrets are held close to the chest, and this is true for the baking magic that happens back-of-house. Still, it's no secret these treats are homemade and fresh as can be — you'll immediately be hit by the smell of steaming-hot pretzels that gleam like gold out of the oven. Purchase big ones, small ones, hot dog wraps, and rivets (basically nuggets) stuffed with fillings like Philly Cheesesteak or Cheeseburger. There's also a pretty slammin' lineup providing the ultimate dunking potential. Your standalone pretzel or party platter would be naked without nacho cheese, honey mustard, marinara, butter cream, and brownie batter.  

Bru Craft & Wurst

Lederhosen and overflowing steins of ale — that's the German beer hall, baby. Philly has lots of 'em. And on Chestnut Street, where Bru Craft & Wurst has lured day-drinkers and merry-makers for over a decade, there's a proper soft pretzel lurking on the menu. Obviously, the extensive selection of imported brews — and inviting patio — explains how this local haunt stays popping. But in true beer garden style, the biggest ol' Bavarian knot will beckon your appetite forward like a Grimm Brothers' bread trail.   

While we can quibble all we want about pretzel terminology, a German-style twist still counts. And boy, does Bru Craft know its way around its browned edges. Tackle one of these baked baddies before the main courses come to the table. It's massive in size with a crackled, salty crust, and pillowy center. Of course, born-and-bred Philadelphians insist on mustard as the twist's side-dipper, but you'll be begging for seconds of the velvety Gouda cheese sauce that comes with it. Did we mention it's on the happy hour menu? For $5? Send a couple our way with a pitcher, and we'll be happy campers. 

Pretzel Workz

Pretzels as a snack? Booooring. How about a pasta-stuffed pretzel bowl or a pretzel bun burger? This is where Pretzel Workz comes in. The South Side kitchen, opened by Shakira Gray in 2015, breaks with the old guard by concocting belt-busting feasts out of the regional tradition. The shop's motto "We put the works on everything" is not an exaggeration when ingredients like crab meat, pepperoni, and spicy jerk chicken stuff, fill, and top the humble street food. 

Empty stomachs are encouraged, as every dish — built behind the counter by Gray herself, according to Localish — bursts with ... well, all the works. Isn't that the shop's promise? We're talking full-course, indulgent, stuff-you-silly entrees. Action News highlights a variety of options (just see the menu for yourself — it's longer than the Declaration of Independence), and one that's guaranteed to twist your tastebuds? A Seafood Alfredo number combining shrimp, crab, and spinach in a velvety cheese sauce and baked onto a pretzel. Wash down yours with a Water Ice in any flavor or check out the Banana Pudding Pretzel (with homemade pudding, mind you) for a tantalizing treat.

Frankford Hall

Chilled Magazine describes Frankford Hall as a European Biergarten hurled into the 21st century, and we're eager to agree. Although the Fishtown spot bubbles with German lagers and boatfuls of sauerkraut, the rustic digs and communal atmosphere basically mimic a trendy craft brewery. The Infatuation, whose high score says it all, remarks that the venue is festive enough for special celebrations, while also welcoming spur-of-the-moment group get-togethers thanks to its spacious seating. 

When in Germany (we can dream, can we?) it's just a matter of principle that there'll be beer flowing like the Rhine, as well as a tearable (but debatably shareable) Bavarian pretzel. And what do you know? The watering hole pulls through! Those in a snacking mood can nibble on a small-sized twist for $6, but if you're uninterested in splitting it with spaetzle and sausage, inhaling a $10 Giant pretzel is possible too. For the ultimate afternoon nibble, don't hesitate to take Manager Raymond Vlug's advice by knocking back an amber Oktoberfest Lager with it. There's a reason this combination's ruled for centuries! And of course, there's a Stroopwafel Milkshake on the menu. Of course.  

Brauhaus Schmitz

Another beer garden, another delicious pretzel — isn't that how the saying goes?  Brauhaus Schmitz pours some of the biggest selection of German brews you'll find anywhere in America, plus Rhineland-approved dishes from potato pancakes to currywurst. The sausages were labeled a slam-dunk by Michael Symon on "Burgers, Brew & 'Que," while the festive-yet-casual atmosphere earned high marks from The Infatuation.  On top of that, the annual Oktoberfest and "Sommerfest" blow-outs add to the hype. 

Salted knots may be a fixture on every street corner in the Liberty City, but truly, you can't go wrong with the twists coming out of this Bavarian haunt. At $6 apiece, they're pillowy, chewy, and sprinkled with a hearty handful of salt, steam puffing with every generous tear. The menu shows that you get a tangy cheese sauce to go with it, but customer consensus appears to favor a different condiment for dunking purposes. One Yelp reviewer claimed, "Pretzel was exactly as you'd expect, but instead of beer cheese I used it as a vessel for the sweet mustard on the table — that stuff is delicious." 

Bernie's Pretzel Bakery

In neighboring Aldan, there are soft pretzels from a little place that are guaranteed to knock your socks off, and it's known as Bernie's Pretzel Bakery. Residents have been devouring its bite-sized wares since the early 1960s and according to a Quora user, the operation once peddled out of a community market called The Bazaar of All Nations. Eventually, it moved into a strip mall, created a new name, and the rest is history. What would that history be? Locals and out-of-towners flocking for fresh pretzels, even driving 30 minutes outside Philly just to grab some. 

"A great specialized bakery is how one happy reviewer described Bernie's, adding that planning your trip to converge with oven-fresh batches cranked out on the spot was necessary, saying "nothing beats the taste of a hot Bernie's pretzel." Can't argue with that! The store allegedly slings 6,000 golden-brown beauties a day, and these sculptures of pretzel dough — molded into nuggets, braids, and even letters of the alphabet –  are capable of charming even the staunchest of pretzel purists. 

Butcher Bar

There's a reason why Butcher Bar gobbles up the praise doled out by The Infatuation and Gayot. This is steak-and-potatoes grub, only grown up. Game meats and robust ingredients jazz up the typical bar fare with a gastronomical spin, and it's pretty dang sophisticated. Gourmands hanging around Rittenhouse Square have free reign to indulge, but if you have an appetite fit for a Viking, you'll have no issue getting your inner glutton on with plates like sloppy joe poutine or Korean short ribs. 

Although the eatery's carnivorous fare is the primary draw, Butcher Bar's take on the soft pretzel should pique anyone's interest. Unlike the scores of purveyors dotting Center City, the Cheddar Stuffed Pretzel Bread is an example of how the quick snack can be transformed into a palate-whetter. The savory take on monkey bread, featuring rivulets of sharp cheese and two dipping sauces (beer cheese and spicy mustard) is a tear-and-share gem. It's buttery and delicious, with an elevated air fit for splitting on a first date. Plus it's $5 when you pop in during happy hour. 

Rowhome Coffee

Can't get through the morning without a toasted pretzel? Rowhome Coffee has you — and the entire neighborhood — covered. In addition to pouring java from La Colombe, Hugh Moretta and Eli Shaika's coffeeshop goes whole-hog on pretzel-centric quick bites. Step aside, croissants and scones: only salty, knotted dough is accepted at this cafe. The charmingly homey storefronts (found in East Kensington and Fitler Square, respectively) aim to center the city's culinary traditions, which is why you'll never see generic frozen twists on the shelf but rather, fresh-baked wares from local legend Federal Pretzel.

Salted, Cinnamon Sugar, and Everything are the three core flavors offered at a time, and like the popular bagel of NYC, customers can opt for a schmear of tangy cream cheese or go the meal route with a sandwich. Folks lining up and down the block are likely grabbing The Sage Sausage Breakfast Sandwich, ordered more than any other menu item on account of the flavorful meat grilled with eggs and American cheese, but there are also fillings like deli turkey and roast beef. 

Mart Soft Pretzels

Okay, you got us — Mart Soft Pretzels is actually in New Jersey, not Philadelphia. So how the heck did it find its way onto our list? Once you're done exploring Center City, it's just a 10-mile drive, and residents are happy to cross state lines. These nibbles are a glorious treat. "Easily the best pretzels in the entire universe," is how one fan described them, and if you think the location is disqualifying, allow Philadelphia Magazine set the record straight. Must be doing something right if locals are willing to burn extra gas, right?

We're not about to question the judgment of locals who've insisted on the Mart variety's superiority. Obviously, they're soft — it's a soft pretzel — but the chewy snap of that toasted brown shell? Heavenly. The family-operated bakery has spent half a century perfecting its recipe, and it's not stopping anytime soon. Hit up Cinnaminson for fresh-baked knots of all sizes, and around every half hour, you'll be greeted by that warm, inviting smell of pretzels whisked straight out of the oven. No wonder East Coasters have been coming for decades!

Taffets Bakery

Clearly, Philadelphians are spoiled with bouncy, bountiful twists of dough and mustard to wash it down with. But what happens if — gasp — you're allergic to gluten? Indulging in artisanal baguettes, boules, and yes, pretzels is possible with a trip to Taffets Bakery. One way the shop's provisions were described to The 9th Street Beat just so happens to apply to the Sourdough Pretzel: "You won't believe it's gluten-free."

 That so, it doesn't simply sell a good gluten-free pretzel — it sells a good pretzel, period. Not cardboard-y, not bland. The fermented dough has a nice, low-key tang, with the salt adding that extra spark to set your tastebuds flying. The Gluten & Dairy-Free Review Blog notes the pretzels contain an identical leavener to other loaves on the shelf, so it's a good teaser for other goodies you'll undoubtedly feel tempted by. Omar Taffets' wares have always centered dietary restrictions from the start, so gobbling down whatever you want worry-free is encouraged. May we suggest a cookie or some imported pasta for the pantry?  

White Dog Cafe

Between Kennett Square Mushroom Soup and Spicy Lamb Bolognese, White Dog Cafe's farm-fresh approach (and an adorable pup theme) has called to locals craving quality over quantity. The local chain has been a place for breaking bread throughout the Quaker State since 1983. And speaking of bread, the University City location (where else?) offers a particularly Philly-approved menu item. Can you guess what it is? If you said pretzels, that's almost correct. It's pretzel bread. Even better! 

Rather than the typical loaf of Rye or Pumpernickel, this is an appetizer entirely composed of crusty pretzel dough. Garnished with sesame seeds with tangy flourishes of pickles and mustard on the side, a sultry spinach-artichoke dip meant for spreading onto a slice (or two, or three) brings it all together. Diners who have a soft spot for this starter have a hard time trying anything else off the menu. A Yelp reviewer called the pretzel bread "a can't miss," adding "I would go back just for that and a drink!" Plus, it's dished out for every meal, brunch included. 

Metropolitan Bakery

"What a perfect snack." If that doesn't nail Metropolitan Bakery's Fennel Pretzel to a T, we don't know what does! Visiting this vendor has been a Philly tradition since 1993, and its artisanal goodies range from homemade granola to rustic loaves. One such treasure is a delectably different twist speckled with kosher salt and fennel seeds. Take a gander at that browned crust. The light dash of seasonings. The not-too-flat or unwieldy shape. Why, it's pretzel perfection! 

We're not going to lie, pretzels slung out of food carts or ballparks definitely hit the spot. But knowing Metropolitan Bakery's emphasis on gourmet ingredients, we don't have to tell you this snack will be a huge step up from the concessions circuit. Customers regularly line up for it, so there's a lot of hype. Unsurprisingly, it's a hot ticket item that tends to sell out, and part of that has to do with its availability at one location (Rittenhouse Square) once a week (only on Saturdays). So plan accordingly, and you might walk off with one of the best soft pretzels in Philly proper.