Bad-tasting water = good-tasting food.
That was the conclusion we reached during a cheese steak-eating expedition through Philadelphia when we took a break to visit Center City Pretzel Company. By this point in the day, we had eaten enough cheese steaks that appetite was becoming only a distant memory. But the aroma, then the taste of big, soft, freshly-made pretzels proved irresistible. There is a certain brackish tang to the flavor of the pretzel, especially to its tan skin, that is like no other – a flavor that some experts attribute to the Philadelphia water in which they are boiled before being baked. Whatever the cause, these pretzels, hot from the bakery, are superb. They are supplied to vendors throughout the city, but by the time they get to where they’re going, in most cases they have lost their freshness and their sparkle.
When you get a pretzel at Center City, it will likely be warm, especially if you arrive early in the day. (It opens at 4am.) It is dense, chewy, and full flavored – a true bread-lover’s pretzel – and it is of course sprinkled with coarse salt. Some connoisseurs like to have a little mustard as a condiment. As far as we’re concerned, one (or a few) of these big softies need nothing to attain street-food perfection.