The wooden stools at the lunch counter offered no space to rest a designer handbag or hang a cashmere coat. The focus at DiNic's, a deli in Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market, was on one thing only: a roll heaped with provolone, juicy roasted meat and shredded rabe - the sole nod to health in this interpretation of the famous Philly cheese steak.
My lunch partner, elbow-to-grease-dripping-elbow with locals in navy anoraks that hugged their roll-like proportions, asked: "Is this a blue-collar town?"
Well, yes. Philadelphia is still the working-class city where the boxing epic "Rocky" was set. It lacks the finance or glamour of neighbours DC or New York, and MBA candidates at Wharton, the prestigious business school, say they avoid straying too far from the safety of campus.
But city officials are trying to change that image with multi-million dollar ad campaigns to show the world that Philly is about much more than cheese steaks.
The city that was briefly the nation's capital is today ranked America's 22nd-best convention centre - putting it a long way behind hubs like Las Vegas or Orlando, but certainly not at the bottom of the pack.
Gentrification is pushing out old wig stores and stop-n-shops in favour of Cole Haan outlets and luxury apartments.
A gourmet scene is growing with restaurants serving delicacies like truffle-egg toast. One resident proudly told me Shake Shack was opening in Philly as he escorted me to The Ranstead Room, a trendy lounge marked merely by a door with two red Rs in an alleyway.
At the newly-opened Hotel Monaco,Etro toiletries and rooms outfitted with pillows printed with poetry that evoked New York more than old Philly. But the prices, thankfully, were grounded in the city's roots.