Friday, September 30, 2011

Cheesesteak Madness

cheesesteak with american from john's roast pork

big daddy from carmen's in bellmawr

dont be scared- donkey's is awesome and probably safer than where you live

Check out our Cheesesteak roundup over on Serious Eats. Definitely got some new favorites - Carmen's, Donkey's, Chinks... Philip's is still way up there. Something about the way these places do it... the instant you taste it you know you're eating one of the top 10 in the city, and it's sort of sad to ever go back to eating some pile of frozen "chopped and formed" steak that tastes like cardboard.

Serious Eats: Philadelphia Sandwich Tour: 10 Cheesesteaks We Love

donkey's steak on round del buono poppy seed rolls, beer is a dollar

quit worrying about the name and go eat one the best in the city

giant mint shake barely thinned down from ice cream, good luck

apparently chink's didnt serve whiz until 1 year ago.. delicious

philip's pepper steak... awesome

Of course the article got a lot of "why the hell didn't you go to Jim's or Tony Luke's" (yawn) plus a couple that I keep hearing about over and over that look damn good- Mama's Pizzeria in Bala Cynwyd (read about them on Roadfood) and Chick's Deli in Cherry Hill (read about them on Beef and Buns, awesome blog)

The future is definitely not "fancy" cheesesteaks on baguette with gruyere truffle wiz but instead ethnic cheesesteaks like the korean bulgogi "Koagies" and Mexican pizzeria cheesesteaks.... There's others out there too - some real some imagined - so if you know about some hole in the wall in the back of a Cambodian fish market that makes shrimp paste cheesesteaks feel free to let me know!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

$5.00 Fish Hoagie

Somewhere in West Philly...

All the sights along the Cheesesteak Highway.. we're working on a Cheesesteak round-up similar to last week's Hoagie slideshow looking for fresh Cheesesteak magic all over the city....

Almost stopped at this one but we had already eaten 3 or 4 different cheesesteaks that day. Love the hand lettering and wish I had the time to stop at every place like this in the city.

Q-Mart, Hot Dogs, and Spor's Luncheonette

Q-mart is an amazing flea/farmers market in Quakertown (hour outside the city) where I bought my first Venom LP and where you can still find Highlander daggers and ninja swords alongside old motors and tables full of bootleg natural health products sold out of cardboard boxes.

What I never really thought about was that Qmart is an absolute goldmine of amazing food. Pennsylvania Dutch-ish amazing butcher shops that kick the ass of anything in Reading Terminal or the Italian Market along with at least 3 stalls dedicated to nothing but fried foods like these home-made potato chips.

This pickle shop was a highlight, also these days Q-mart has a huge Latin american population which means tons of taco stands and a Puerto Rican restaurant that looked like the real deal.

Sure there is some sketchy stuff, like these hot dogs that I was SUPER excited about, located in the "indoor/outdoor" mart, a maze of makeshift buildings with semipermanent stalls filled with RC cars, more weapons, and piles of trash. One dog was topped with horseradish, cheese, mustard and onions, the other with pepperoni and cheese - a horrible trainwreck of lukewarm dogs cooked on a 7-11 style roller grill, stale buns, cold canned pizza sauce and not fresh giant chunks of onion. What a bummer.

Keep in mind this is not your fancy eco-yuppie farmers market.. not every place is going to be delicious, and there's a lot of people just selling canned beef stew, expired shampoo and cel phone covers that look like they fell off the back of a truck. But for every few of those there's an amazing food stand with people lined up by the dozens. We even found a better hot dog later on that I'm saving for Hot Dog Of The Week.

On the same trip my parents brought us to Spor's general store which has a restaurant in the back where they stop after every trip to Q-mart. If you were wondering where I get my obsession with strange, out of the way lunch shops in depressing small towns where I'm convinced some holy grail regional food item exists (but everyone else just sees a dumpy diner) now you know.

My parents spend practically every weekend combing Pennsylvania small towns looking for stuff like this and photographing everything. They probably have enough material to fill about 25 books but to them it's just for fun.

Spor's is close enough to Philly to have cheesesteaks on the menu but also pierogies and these amazing potato wedges coated in seasoned flour almost like fried chicken. There's actually a stall in Q-mart that makes the same thing that they call "Jo-Jo's" sold by the pound in grease soaked brown paper bags.. so maybe this is a regional thing but either way they are awesome. I'll definitely be back to Q-mart soon to try out some more stuff so keep your eyes peeled.

Quakertown Farmer's Market
201 Station Road Quakertown, PA 18951

Spor's Luncheonette
Trumbauersville, PA

Monday, September 19, 2011

Hoagie Madness

cumberland from slack's - boloney, ham, capicola, american cheese

For the past few weeks Caroline and myself plus a rotating cast of assistant eaters have been on a super intense hoagie tour working on this post for Serious Eats, not a "best of philly" but more like "a few of our favorites plus some we never tried before and heard were awesome and some unknown neighborhood spots we were saving for something like this".

Serious Eats - 10 Amazing Philadelphia Hoagies You Should Eat

"the avalanche" from juliano's deli

I'm sure the comments section will rage with angry Philadelphians "any list that doesn't include Big Joey's Hoagie Hut on Street road is total BS!" And honestly even though we ate a LOT of hoagies - more than twice what's on this list, a lot didn't make the cut - It still feels incomplete, especially because when get started with something like this people start telling you about all sorts of places, so there's at least 25 more legendary delis and hidden gems that should be on here.

And if you're wondering "where the hell is Johns Roast Pork you idiot" keep in mind there's two more of these coming, Cheesesteaks and Miscellaneous sandwiches which will probably be 99% roast pork and maybe a chicken cutlet. We're leaving banh mi, po-boys, and anything fancy for future articles.

italian from mike & matts - 12th & mifflin

It's probably too much detail for Serious Eats (or anywhere for that matter) but I feel like you could break Philadelphia Hoagies down into several sub-categories and have 5-10 great examples of each.

• Old Italian seeded - roll style
Cosmi's, Chickie's, P&S

• American Salad-Oil style
Slack's, Lee's, etc

• Italian / Jewish Deli Fusion
Koch's and every jewish deli that also makes hoagies

• Asian deli/grocery flower shop style
Delicious Bites, Jay's Deli, countless center city corner shops

• Norristown Zeps
Micro-regional variation, very different than a Hoagie

• In the cut
Fish hoagies, Gooey Louie's, Hoagie City..

rose's special sicilian from carmen's in bell mawr NJ

I definitely came out with a new favorite.. Carmen's, in JERSEY of all places, was the one that really blew my mind, combining the best of both worlds, meaning the legit italian meats that you would find in South Philly, but on a softer Del Buono roll similar to White House in Atlantic City.

koch's jewish tongue hoagie

The best EXPERIENCE had to be Koch's deli, that I can't believe more people don't talk about, we waited about 45 minutes for two hoagies, with the dude telling filthy jokes about "I give you my tongue" and giving us free samples the whole time, he literally plopped a mound of potato salad right into my hand (can I get a napkin?), along with tongue, brisket, corned beef, the whole time he's going on about how you can't get anything else like it Philly, his sandwiches are better than Katz's in New York, so on and so forth.

There was a group of people who I'm pretty sure were just there for the show, along with one really pissed off girl who kept saying "I'm just here for a sandwich" and muttered something about not eating red meat (why would you go there?!?!?!) And also, the sandwich was amazing.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tammy & Johnny's Fried Chicken

After eating some rough fried chicken at Bojangles somewhere along Virginia's Eastern Shore, about 5 miles down the road we saw this place packed to the gills with people lined up for chicken & burgers and made sure to stop in on the way home. It's definitely an eclectic, no-frills spot, with some framed articles along the walls (I think it's been there since the 50's or 60's) but also sort of a strange odor in the dining room and a lot of neck tattoos.

The menu can be a challenge to decipher, I think we ordered the "hunter's combo" which means a burger with cheese and a drink? Chicken is ordered as a "boat" or "dinner" and there's also "Bbq" which I'm assuming means a sandwich (didn't try it). The burger was nothing special, your average gray fast food style burger. Cole slaw was sort of watery and sad and I was worried we had another loser on our hands.

But then- holy s&*%, the fried chicken .... this is what everyone was lined up for. Ultra crispy, well seasoned medium-thick breading and probably some of the juiciest (as in not dried out, not even the breast, like every other fried chicken) perfectly cooked fried chicken I've ever had. Don't mess around with burgers or sides or anything else, just get a bucket of chicken and maybe some sweet tea. Fries are pretty good too.

Tammy & Johnny's
27352 Lankford Hwy (route 13)
Melfa, VA 23410

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bojangles Failure

Last time I was down south it was for hot dogs, literally stopping at 6 or 7 places a day with no time (or appetite) to stop at every awesome BBQ place and all the beautiful looking southern fast food chains that still look like 1970 like Bojangles. If you ever find yourself in the position of traveling the country eating only one food item for weeks at a time you'll see that everything, ANYTHING else looks like the best thing in the world.

Last weekend we were heading South (well, Delaware to Virgina Beach at least) and stopped at the first Bojangles we saw. I was pretty psyched as fried chicken is up there with my favorite stuff and Philly is really almost totally devoid of the real thing. I got even more excited when I saw the signs for the "$1.29 Fried Bologna Biscuit".

To make a long story short, like most places I talk up to my girlfriend for 8 hours to convince her to go there, it sucked. The Bologna meat tasted kind of sketchy, chicken not that crispy, sides had no flavor. We would have been better off at the Popeyes on Broad & Snyder. Even the BISCUITS are better at Popeye's. The only thing slightly "southern" about the experience was when I asked for hot sauce the guy gave me 12 PACKETS and asked if I wanted more.

Most of you are probably thinking "of course it sucked, it's fast food" but there's something about regional mini-chains that fascinates me, like the Greek-themed pastrami burger joints in Utah I've been reading up on for a freelance project. And I haven't ruled Bojangles out, maybe the good ones are further south??