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December 20, 2016

Why is Florida suddenly teeming with Philly-area food?

Cuisine Cheesesteaks
122016_Delcossteaks Bill S. /Facebook

Delco's Original Steaks & Hoagies in Dunedin, Florida.

If you gave most Philadelphians a choice today between the weather here and the mild sunny skies in Florida towns like Clearwater, is it even a question what people would say?

Apparently, more and more locals are following through on that fantasy, uprooting their lives in Philadelphia in order to find a more relaxing year-round place to call home in Florida.

Writing for CityLab, Lisa Rowan talks about how she was surprised to find her upbringing in Northeast Philadelphia increasingly reflected in the cuisine of Florida towns.

The main piece of evidence Rowan cites is an obscure place in Dunedin called Delco's Original Steaks & Hoagies. It's a clone of the original location up in Chadds Ford. After attending Phillies training camp in Clearwater in 1997, owner Ed Crowley decided to move to the Sunshine State. He brought the Amoroso's rolls, Tastykakes and soft pretzels with him.

So who’s filling Delco’s before the dinner rush even starts? It’s not the snowbirds waiting out winter in Florida. It’s the transplants who left Philly behind for good. “They’re here year-round,” Crowley says. “Some of them come in a couple days a week.”

PhillyGrub in Miami claims to have the city's best cheesesteak and there are three Philly Phlava restaurants in Tampa Bay. One of the owners said Philly-area transplants visit frquently and some even quiz the legitimacy of the Philadelphia atmosphere. Rita's Water Ice and Philly Pretzel Factory have also both found their way down to central and south Florida.

Whereas many cities have bars that serve as homes to out-of-town fans, the Philadelphia lifestyle could be starting to transcend sports and settle in as a complete cultural export. 

That brings us to the biggest Delaware Valley invasion in Florida, the arrival of Wawa in 2012. While there's no hard number available on how many Philly transplants are living in Florida, the kind of insanity witnessed at the opening of a Wawa in Palm Shores last May can only have come from one place.