Even though most of the 2 billion pounds of pumpkins grown each year in the U.S. are used for jack-o-lanterns, foods with “pumpkin” in the name are an autumn staple.
This is about more than just spiced lattes — although those can be totally satisfying, we’re not knocking the basic comfort of a PSL. In Philly, pumpkin and its fall cousins infuse all kinds of creative treats.
At least two local restaurants know pumpkin goes well with chicken, another pairs it with scallops, and one serves an arancini that tastes just like Thanksgiving. There’s pumpkin ice cream and donuts, cakes and beer, and even a couple of fantastic cocktails fashioned with the orange gourd.
Read on for a list of 10 fantastic pumpkin dishes to eat right now in Philly.
The popular shop’s autumn specialty flavor has hints of both fall spices and coffee. It’s covered in cinnamon-coffee streusel, drizzled with vanilla cream and rolled in pumpkin glaze. Like all of Federal Donuts’ “fancy” offerings, the pumpkin spice is $2.75.
112 N. 9th St. (Chinatown)
Pumpkin is a common base for dishes from South and Southeast Asian cultures, like the Burmese cuisine at this Chinatown staple. The soup is brothy with notes of garlic and lots of sweet squash swirling around, a rich mixture that’s yours for just $4. Add to the meal with the pumpkin chicken, a plate of tender stewed meat in a pumpkin puree with a bowl of white rice for $12.50.
8235 Germantown Ave. (Chestnut Hill)
Chefs at this Northwest Philly music and dinner destination whip locally grown pumpkin into a fresh, light sauce that makes the base for their cranberry-orange glazed scallop dish. Pink-purple pomegranate seeds add visual and textural pop to the plate, which offers sweet, savory, salty, bitter and tart tastes all in one bite. The appetizer is $17 for two scallops — pricey, but loaded with flavor.
1029 Germantown Ave. (Northern Liberties)
Who knew the best use for pumpkin puree wasn’t pie — but drinks? The Great Pumpkin sees champagne poured over a base of the squash spiked with cinnamon and sage, with the end result pleasantly bubbly and not too sweet. Don’t forget to stir the bright orange drink to make sure the puree doesn’t all sink to the bottom.
1516 Tasker St. (Newbold)
Whichever you choose between levels of mild, medium, hot, and “Thai hot,” this sauce-heavy bowl of chicken and veggies still holds on to that light pumpkin sweetness. Beneath a sprinkling of basil, the stew comes filled with huge chunks of bell peppers and kabocha squash — aka Japanese pumpkin — for a hearty, filling, bowl at $13.
931 N 2nd St. (Northern Liberties)
This Northern Liberties tavern puts a beguiling autumn twist on a Mexican classic. The lime is still star, but the pumpkin syrup used in the drink tones down the tequila, making the marg a much sweeter treat. Cantina also offers a seasonal cranberry margarita without the pumpkin add-in, also available for the deal price of $8.50.
110 S 13th St. (Center City)
Risotto tangled with butternut squash — one of pumpkin’s best fall relatives — is lightly packed into balls and fried around a center of endlessly gooey, smoked mozzarella. What we’re saying is this Midtown Village appetizer is instant comfort food. Don’t sleep on the cranberry mostarda, a tart and sweet sauce spread out beneath the parmesan-topped arancini. The starter is $10 for four pieces.
This non-dairy ice cream from the unorthodox dessert shop is light on the pumpkin, heavy on the coffee. A scoop tastes almost just like an iced latte, with the faintest hint of warm cinnamon spice. Little Baby’s actually has four different ice creams along this theme, with the others being pumpkin curry, pumpkin napoleon with puff pastry, and chocolate ganache with pumpkin speculoos. Flavors rotate among the various locations, so options will vary.
Beer distributors around Philly
This Yardley beermaker distributes all over the Philly region, so next time you’re picking up brews, seek out this option that’s so good and unique it’ll win over even the most adamant “pumpkin” beer haters.The notes of cinnamon and nutmeg are there, but only in very subtle form, and the molasses that’s included adds flavor instead of weighing the body down with sugar. The end result is a brightly-colored glass of 6% ABV brew that’s tart and only lightly sweet.
51 N. 12th Street (Reading Terminal Market)
This Reading Terminal bakery is known for its over the top creations, and this seasonal specialty is no different. The $7 slice is massive, stacked with layers of cream cheese icing, pumpkin cake, vanilla swirl cake, more icing, caramel sauce filling, more cake, a thick layer of buttercream and a salted caramel-pecan- pretzel candy on top. This intensely sweet slice is not for the faint of heart, but if you have an insatiable sweet tooth, you’ll be in fall pumpkin heaven.