Saturday, November 28, 2009

Oregon Diner

Philadelphia comfort food all the way. South Philly waitresses, thick milkshakes, homemade soup, two dollar old-fashioned cocktails.

The mashed potatoes next to my chicken croquettes might have been from a box. But there was about a pound of them covered in delicious gravy. And my 7 dollar dinner came with a bowl of homemade escarole soup.

Meatballs I had on my next visit were also definitely homemade. The burger was another hit, a real hand formed patty and pretty juicy, didn't taste like it had seen a freezer. Killer milkshakes and giant slices of banana cream pie for a few bucks.

Dying to try their creamed chipped beef on toast, my last few plates of that have been pretty rough. Lots of great SOS out in Amish Country but not much in the city. Might have to drop the 16 bucks and try out the 10 Arts version.

John's Roast Pork

Believe it or not I had never actually eaten at John's Roast Pork until a week ago. Tried plenty of times, but usually got there 15 minutes after they closed the doors. One day this summer I even rode down there at 10 am and there's a big sign on the door, "on vacation".

Finally caught them when they were open and have to say John's lives up to the hype, especially the roast pork. It has a unique flavor like they might throw some cloves or something in the mix. I would rank John's a notch or two above Tony Luke's, whose famous roast pork is decent but fails to knock my socks off ..although their Texas Tommy is amazing. I would say John's and George's on 9th street are in the running for best Roast Pork that I've had.

John's cheesesteak -winner of "best" many times over- was decent. Heaping piles of meat on seeded Sarcone's bread, very similar to Cosmi's Steak. I love Sarcone's Bread, especially for hoagies but I have to say I prefer a cheesesteak with a medium amount of meat and a softer Amoroso long roll, just sturdy enough that it doesn't fall apart.

Steve's Prince of Steaks comes close to a perfect cheesesteak for me, at least in the bread department, although I prefer the meat more thinly sliced. It's tough to pick a favorite, there's a handful of places that consistently do Roast Pork and Steaks really well, after that it comes down to personal preference and/or neighborhood loyalty.

But if you were wondering if it's worth it to take an extra hour for lunch, or wait in a long line to get John's Roast Pork before they close, the answer is definitely YES.

Thanksgiving Empanadas

So if you aren't sick of turkey yet... Last week I whipped up some turkey empanadas with dried cranberries simmered in red wine, cinnamon, chiles, bay leaf, etc... The cranberries by themselves were pretty amazing, tasted like mexican christmas.

I assumed I could find Goya empanada wrappers no problem but after going to half the mexican grocery stores in Philadelphia, I found lots of amazing stuff but no Goya Discos. I realized I'd better bust out the flour and rolling pin.

I'm not too much of a pastry / measuring guy so I was worried but turns out empanada dough is super easy. Flour, salt, fat, water & vinegar. I used half butter and half bacon fat for the shortening, and to my surprise the dough turned out great on the first try. If you've ever made pierogies it's almost the same.

I made enough filling for about 4000 empanadas and was up until 2am thanksgiving eve rolling out dough so now I have a bunch in the freezer. My mom made her classic pennsylvania dutch side dishes of pepper hash and potato filling and some amazing cranberry/orange relish.

Rolling out the empanadas I listened to some great thanksgiving-related Jean Sheperd podcasts. Best known as the author & narrator of A Christmas Story, Sheperd got started in radio and nearly all of his shows are documented in a podcast that you can subscribe to with itunes.

Thanksgiving Dog

Hot Dog Of The Week for Serious Eats.

Dirty Franks Hot Dog Palace in Ohio was serving these up last week but it's also a great idea for leftovers...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Rincon Bakeries

In Puerto Rico last weekend for a wedding. Rincon is a real deal rustic surfing village with stray dogs and dudes selling coconuts and empenadas out of trucks on the side of the road.

I tried some streetmeat but what did it for me were the bakeries - sort of like bodegas, where you can grab coffee, cigarettes, 6 packs of beer - plus there's a full-on bakery in the back cranking out fresh bread, sandwiches and pastries every day.

Puntas Bakery is close to the beach on Rt 413 (the main drag of Rincon) and plastered in surfing stickers. I was a little worried when I saw a philly cheesesteak on the menu. Went for a combination pork-beef-chicken sandwich and an egg & cheese with bacon. Delicious. The sandwiches are made on the bakeries' own pan de agua (water bread) and pressed. Pretty much exactly like a cuban without the pickles or mustard but plenty of butter and mayonnaise.

Punta Mar Bakery, a little further down 413, had more seating, no cheesesteaks and an amazing pineapple turnover. Another delicious sandwich with shredded chicken, sliced ham and cheese. I could eat these things every day for the rest of my life. Also an assortment of ribs and meats under a heat lamp. Amazing.

Hot Dog Of The Week - Pastrami Dog

Latest Hot Dog Of The Week for Serious Eats. Grab one at Famous 4th Street Deli (pictured below). About halfway through I took my side of slaw and just dumped it right on the dog. It will blow your mind.

They also make a knish dog. Check out the new location on 19th St. just north of Chestnut.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


I briefly had a layover in Hawaii to visit my parents for dinner on my way to Korea, and I had a taste of why I am the eater I am. Here is a quick photo I took of the deli counter at FoodLand ( yes isn't that the best name for a grocery store?) and the poke ( a variety of seafoody salads) portion of the deli counter. Probably the only place in America where perfectly normal people walk up to the deli counter to get seasoned sea snails and kimchee crab for there afterwork snack or on the way to the beach.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Hot Dog Of The Week- 24th & Passyunk

Down on Passyunk Avenue west, between 23rd and 24th streets, right in front of the Dunkin' Donuts this guy sells probably the best hot dogs in Philadelphia. Actually the thing to get is the hot sausage on Jersey's finest Del Buono Bakery long roll. He's got all kinds of toppings but go for the homemade pepper hash.

Get there early - he's probably gone by 5pm, weekdays only, and the line gets long. This is for a reason.. He's been there maybe 10 years cranking out good dogs. There's also supposedly a Carribean food truck down there but I didn't see it. There was another cart with fish sandwiches and fish cakes and a guy selling bootleg T-shirts in a vacant parking lot.

Found some old (1913) recipes for Pepper Hash via Google Books. It really started as more of a pickling process. I always thought it was exclusively Pennsylvania Dutch (German) because my grandmother made it, and the PA dutch certainly made it but it wasn't exclusive to their cooking. But it seemed to hit its height of popularity in the Philadelphia area served with fish dishes and eventually hot dogs.

Anyway you can read the whole article on Serious Eats.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

More Philly Hot Dog Research

Gus' Hot Dog Cart on 5th & South

While "researching" half the hot dogs in Philadelphia over the past few weeks I came across a few surprises and a bit closer to my goal of trying every fish cake combo in the city.

Gus' Hot Dog Cart on 5th & south is a great stand and one of the few street vendors to serve the notorious combo. Steamed jumbo dog, grilled fish cake & mustard on a half of a hoagie roll. Gus' location is appropriate because he's about a block away from where Levis' hot dogs- birthplace of the fish cake combo - was located.

Fish Cake Combo from Gus' Cart

I also hit Johnny's Hots for the first time. I was a little stuffed from Gus' combo so I just got a dog with pepper hash. It was OK but didn't blow me away quite like the truck on 24th & passyunk. The bun was interesting though, more tooth than your standard bun - holds up to mounds of toppings - but not too bready or tough. I think the thing to get is the sausage- next time.

Hot Dog with Pepper Hash from Johnny's Hots

Bubby's Brisket and Bugsy's Weiner

Bubby's Brisket and Bugsy's Weiner, a newer place on 15th street just north of Arch also does the combo, here the fish cakes are deep fried and served on top of a split dog on a steak roll. Great fish cakes, deep fried might be the way to go - but 2 of them plus the big roll is sort of an overwhelming amount of starch.

Deep Fried Fish Cake Combo from Bubby's Brisket

I finished it at home with extra mustard and hot sauce and a jug of iced tea. Also tried their plain hot dog which was a decent standard split & grilled dog. A casual walk-up take out joint catering to the local lunch crowd, nothing spectacular but probably the only place less than 5 years old that has the combo, good to see them keeping it alive.

Cross-section of Bubby's combo

I still don't really get why the only people who have any chance of eating decent hot dogs in Philly are construction and dock workers having them for breakfast. Moe's, Johnny's Hots, Passyunk Guy, Texas Weiners, all closed by 5, some as early as 3.

Little Pete's Texas Tommy to go

Little Pete's - a great place for a milkshake or a reuben at 4 in the morning - has a killer Texas Tommy as well. Toasted bun, split dog, lots of bacon and melted american cheese, came with a bag of chips and a neatly wrapped pickle. Tony Luke's also has a terrific Texas Tommy with wiz, and something called the Texas Smoked Hot that I wrote about a couple weeks ago, both of which are up there with my favorite Philly hot dogs.

Shiny Foil and Crispy Bacon

There's a few local hot dogs out there I'm still itching to try - Michael's Deli on 4th and Wolf apparently has a jumbo double Philly Combo with 2 hot dogs and 2 fish cakes on a full size italian roll. Also something called the Animal Farm which is a combo cheesesteak with beef, chicken, piles of bacon and cheese. I think after that it might be time for "salad of the week"...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Danish Hot Dogs

Copenhagen is home to some of the greatest hot dog carts I think in the world. The Polser the the original fast food of Copenhagen and the carts are everywhere.The traditional Danish hot dog is a seperate sausage with a roll that you dip into a blob of mustard or Ketchup.

But to me a Danish hot dog is the baguette like bread pocket filled with mustard and mayonnaise that perfectly fits a long skinny hot dog.Which is ingenious because you can put as many condiments as you like and it's very neat and you can walk around.

All the hotdog carts toast your roll, have 3 different kinds of mustard and you can get a side of pickles and deep fried onions. I'm craving one right now. The best part is that you get to stand in line with these beautiful Danish supermodel looking people who are also getting a hotdog.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Philly Hot Dogs Of The Week

Out hitting the streets searching for hot dogs worthy of "hot dog of the week" illustrations. I don't know if Philly Dirty Water Dog is really a regional style but you know what I'm talking about. When you forget breakfast and stop at a food cart on the way to work and grab a 1/4 pound hot dog on a cheesesteak roll that you devour on the street while the dirty water steam is still rolling off the dog.

And then the Texas Tommy. My mom used to make these (and maybe yours did too).A big thing in ladies magazines in the 50's & 60's but pretty sure the name Texas Tommy is a local thing because these suckers are on almost every sandwich, deli and diner menu in Philadelphia.

I never really thought of the Texas Tommy as a Philly thing but it's hard to find them anywhere else. Mother Burger in NYC has a "Kobe Beef" Texas Tommy that's 9 dollars. Johnnie's Dog House in Delaware and a few spots in Jersey have them, but like most Philadelphia classics, the Texas Tommy is best consumed leaning against a gleaming stainless steel ledge or diner counter.

If you really want to get into it check out the full articles here-
Serious Eats - Philly Dirty Water Dog
Serious Eats - Texas Tommy