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What's Hot in Cleveland and Philadelphia

Two of America's second cities are about to take center stage. Here's how Cleveland and Philly stack rank, using Foursquare location intelligence.

Written by Sarah Spagnolo on Jul 16, 2016 - Read time: 4 min - Read Later

Public Square in Cleveland, OH

Cleveland's new Public Square, which was redone just in time for next week's Republican National Convention.

It's tough to compare these two cities directly: Cleveland is about half the size of Philadelphia. So, unsurprisingly, Philly, with almost 12,000 restaurants, has about 3.5x the amount of eateries as Cleveland does. But both destinations have a reputation of being on the rise for foodies.

Our data shows that Cleveland's most distinctive dishes include those of Eastern European origin like pierogi and chicken paprikash. That's because Ohio is home to more than 400K Poles, and more than half of this population lives in Greater Cleveland. When it comes to drinks, dark beers and stouts are the most popular here.

You guessed it: cheesesteaks take the top slot for the predominant taste in Philly. But what is interesting is how often Foursquare and Swarm users go for variations on this famed sandwich and talk about chicken cheesesteaks and regular steak sandwiches, as well as hoagies and subs. According to our Swarm data, Pat's King of Steaks, is the most popular place to get the famed dish in Philly this year. To wash down those cheesesteaks, Philly drinkers go for draft beer when they go out.

2016 has been a banner year for Cleveland, though it's a city that's been quietly on the rise for decades. Recently, the city has seen an uptick in development, most notably with the June 30th opening of the city's Public Square. We're noticing that most of the restaurants that are trending now are located right smack downtown, and range from BBQ joints to coffee shops to soul food. At Mabel's BBQ, Foursquare users leave tips about the melt-in-your-mouth fatty brisket and the cracklin' potatoes and poppy seed coleslaw.

Though Philadelphia's food scene is decidedly hot, it's not about destination restaurants, really. Instead the story is about neighborhood spots throughout the city that shine. Assembly, with a rooftop bar in Logan Square, is one to try right now, as is Root Restaurant, in Fishtown. And ice cream shops, like Sweet Charlie's in Center City East.

The story in Cleveland is all about the brand-new Public Square in downtown; it's seen an immediate surge in Swarm check-ins. As it's only an eight-minute walk from the Quicken Loans Arena, this popularity will continue well into next week.

Most of Philly's popular destinations are about a 15-minute ride from the Wells Fargo Center. That includes the summertime outdoor village Spruce Street Harbor Park — complete with a floating restaurant, beer garden, and hammocks — and the outdoor art installation on South Street called the Magic Gardens. And of course, there's always the Liberty Bell Center (it's free, but you'll have to wait in line or fight to get a great photo).


  • Cleveland tourists often descend for sporting events. Quicken Loans Arena, home to the Cavaliers, is hot this year, as is Progressive Field, ballpark of the Cleveland Indians. The 8.4-ranked Intercontinental is a favorite for travelers, as is TownHall, an American restaurant in the neighborhood of Ohio City.
  • Locals gravitate toward the arenas and stadiums, but are also likely to be found at outdoor spots like Edgewater Park Reservation, on the coast of Lake Erie, or at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, which just last month opened the $4.1 million Rosebrough Tiger Passage.
  • The landmark Heinen's Grocery Store in Downtown, with its historic Rotunda, is popular with both locals and tourists, and will likely be a favorite during the RNC thanks to its grab-and-go options.


  • In the City of Brotherly Love, the top places for tourists include 30th Street Station, one of the busiest train stations in the U.S., which made news last month after Amtrak and other companies unveiled a development plan to improve the station and its surrounding area. The second most popular spot for tourists? The Reading Terminal Mall. This points to how transformative food tourism — and dynamic food markets — can be to a destination.
  • Locals visit 30th Street Station and the Reading Terminal Mall as well, but are more likely to be at Rittenhouse Square, Dilworth Park and Trader Joe's in Center City Park than the tourists. Delegates and media looking for a break should try Dilworth for its lush lawn and fountain.

Cleveland has about half the number of hotels that they do in Philly. Both cities tend to see more tourists in the earlier parts of the summer (May and June) with a slight decrease in July and August, followed by an uptick again in early fall.

In terms of recent development, in the past four years, eight Center City Philadelphia hotels have opened, renovated or rebranded, with eight more projected to open by the end of 2017. By the end of 2016, Cleveland will have added six new downtown hotels since 2012.


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