Thursday, December 22, 2016

TOP 10 FOODS OF 2016 that I didn't write about for Saveur, yet.

Randomly reviving this old blog to give you the TEN BEST of 2016 - in no particular order - that didn't make it into my Hawks Illustrated America column for Saveur..... yet. And some honorable mentions that are only further down the list mostly because I don't have photos of them. Enjoy!


Holy mother of god. Potato Pizza aka "Pierogie Pizza" aka "Pagash" only served during Lent at a pizzeria slash coal mining museum near Scranton / Old Forge area. This is more than a gimmick. No joke in the top 5 pizzas of my entire life. (The other 5 being Pizzeria Beddia and I dunno, 4 other ones). Their regular menu pizzas were equally mind blowing. It's less than a 2 hour drive from Philly. DO IT. Look for this featured on in 2017.

106 Church St, Moscow, PA 18444



Double stacked thin and crispy scrapple, topped with egg, filled with cheese in a sort of omelette-esque fashion so it oozes out like a Jucy Lucy. All from a funny little store in the middle of nowhere Delaware that also serves as a notary public, and gun / ammo / fishing store, with proprietors that were much nicer than you might expect.. from a scrapple sandwich counter slash gun store. Hat tip to Mod Betty from Retroroadmap for the rec on this one.

24739 Springfield Rd, Georgetown, DE 19947



Living within a few blocks of South Philly's burgeoning Cambodia Town neighborhood, I get over here fairly often, and have been loving this Khmer bubble tea / street food spot right at 6th & Moyamensing. This "fire bomb" special was a sweet / spicy drink with chili dusted pineapple and mango in some sort of crazy (and delicious) frozen fruit-condensed milk smoothie situation. Also recommended- Cambo street corn, lemongrass stuffed wings, and Laos street sausage. Closed for winter- watch their IG (linked below) for opening info. 

600 W Moyamensing Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19148



My blurry, half-drunken photos don't really do this place any sort of justice. I'm holding off on too many details for a possible future piece, but I would put this place in the top 5 restaurant meals of my entire life. It's a maybe 8-seat husband and wife insanely authentic Southern Italian / Sicilian spot in Providence's old-school Italian neighborhood of Federal Hill. But this is not red gravy and meatballs. Nor is it really bells and whistles and gimmicks fine-dining Italian. It's dead simple, but also mind blowing. It feels close to what dining in Sicily or Calabria would really be like (haven't been there.. yet?). More later?

256 Atwells Ave, Providence, RI 02903



Stopped here as a sort of "hot-dog-quota-filling" that I do on road trips these days, preferring to enjoy them one or two at a time, rather than the schedule of 10-15 different hot dog places PER DAY that I sometimes endured during my heyday as a "hot dog person". Not expecting too much, Voss rocked my world. The dogs are short and fat Zweigle's brand - one of my favorites - with natural casing and cooked to a perfect crisp on a flat grill. What sends them over the edge is the mini butter toasted New England buns.


We tried both a "Coney" (standard beef and pork dog I believe) and a "White Hot" (a white colored veal-and pork-and maybe egg white regional weirdo, with maybe a hint of Nutmeg or Clove) and both were delicious. Equally incredible were the chili fries topped with "chopped cheese" which is a scattering of roughly chipped-up white cheddar cheese, that I learned about from the dude in front of me in line who ordered it. One of those simple things but just freaking genius. Also malted shakes. This place is worth a drive, one of the best dogs I've had in recent memory, for real. I believe they are also seasonal / closed for winter.

815 Oriskany Blvd, Yorkville, NY 13495



Tiny Amish-y bakery that happened to be on my route to go camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains. In a crummy small strip mall in the middle of NOWHERE. I think they have another Maryland location that's in the back of a house or something. I came for Pepperoni Rolls but they were out. 

But good lord, these donuts. Something like 60 cents a piece and just incredible. Very light and airy and the cream was almost like a marshmallow meringue cool whip situation, totally different from any other donut creme I've ever had. I think I ate about 7 of these. It's also a super weird self-serve setup where they have a stack of boxes and you just grab one and fill it yourself from these bakery racks of just-cooked donuts, then pay at the register or maybe just drop a 10 into a cardboard box. Also fresh farm eggs and assorted bakery / local dairy items, and this mini Coconut Creme pie. Delicious. 


16110 Everly Road, Hagerstown, MD 21740 (reviewed location)
106 W High St, Sharpsburg, MD 21782



The very French-Canadian town of Manchester, NH has been on my list for YEARS, mostly with my eyes set on Chez Vachon, a legendary authentic French-Canadian food spot famous for real poutine. Planned as a lunch stop on a marathon 9-hour drive from NH to Philadelphia, we missed Vachon by a few hours, and Red Arrow was a sort of last minute yelp backup plan that I wasn't excited about. It looked newer and shinier than Vachon, but when we got there I was pleasantly surprised- a real deal 24-hour urban lunch counter packed with people and yelling waitresses and cooks. And DAMN this French-Canadian Pork Pie, covered in gravy with a side of baked beans (and mac & cheese) was a stunner. So goddamn good.

Also a solid spot for poutine, made with real deal squeaky gobs of cheese curd and the same thick gravy. Delicious. They HAVE been featured on the old "Triple D" so it would probably never make it into the Saveur column. It's also a real experience to eat there, everyone from Obama to Ru Paul has been here, commemorated by plaques where they ate. Also, if they suss out that you are a "virgin" (have never been there before) the waitress interviews you, rings a bell, and "devirginizes" you by introducing you to everyone in the diner over a loudspeaker, with everyone in the diner raucously clapping and yelling. This happened at least 3 times when we there - including to us.....

61 Lowell St, Manchester, NH 03101



Another one from Cambodiatown, a few blocks from my house. Khmer Kitchen a few blocks north gets all the love thanks to a Craig Laban review a few years ago, and it's delicious - but I Heart Cambodia is right up there, and a little cheaper, less busy, and closer to my house. They also really NAIL fish dishes like this whole fried fish with ginger- thick batter on a whole fried fish that pulls off in flaky chunks, lacquered in some sort of sour-spicy-sweet ginger sauce. Delicious.

Khmer Kitchen is still king when it comes to mainstays like Prohok Ktis (a sort of Khmer bolognese dip) but I actually prefer Cambodia's noodle dishes and aromatic stir fry's that aren't afraid to go hard with the spice or the funk. They also serve beer and booze - and are located right in the heart of the wild 7th street strip next to a Honduran restaurant and a bunch of Ben Eine murals. They closed briefly or changed ownership or something maybe a year ago, and the food has been 100% on point since then.

2207 S 7th St, Philadelphia, PA 19148



I've passed this colorful water ice spot in the semi-dicey zone of West Snyder avenue in south philly probably a zillion times, and never thought much of it. And I practically lived on the scary, food-poisoning-y Pizza Pretzels from "Murder Mart" (One Stop) on Frankford when I was working on the Pizza Brain mural a few years back (before their kitchen was open) and never really thought of Pizza Pretzels as anything other than, well... something from a corner store that might give you food poisoning.

But Chuck's kills it in both the Water Ice and Pizza Pretzel department, always hopping on hot summer nights with people walking and driving up for a cheap sugar and cheese fix. The professionals know to order their pretzel "chopped" into small bites and/or topped with beef pepperoni - so instead of just a pretzel with some crap on it you get something more like South Philly Poutine. So fucking good. I can't believe I slept on this spot for YEARS.

1835 W Snyder Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19145


So my friend asks "Hey do you want some pierogies? This Ukrainian church near my house does them once a year and I'm picking some up". Yes of course. What happens next is maybe THE BEST PIEROGIES I HAVE EVER EATEN IN MY LIFE. 

They are very simple, just potato and maybe farmers cheese? But somehow just mind blowing. I've had pierogies from A LOT OF different sources in my life- Port Richmond Polish places, NEPA Kielbasa shops, Dive bars in Upstate NY, Russian supermarkets, Eastern European restaurants in NYC, etc etc. And I really think these are the best. Just a perfect balance of everything you want it to be.

They come in a plastic to-go container swimming in butter so they don't stick together. I ate one right out of the package and it was delicious. The ones above I fried and jazzed up with more butter and some onions and a handful of chives.This sheet is all the info I have, and it looks like they are done for the year. Track them down next year for the holidays and I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

Also tried one topped with creme fraiche and caviar (from Net Cost in the Northeast), didn't suck.

Swarthmore, PA



• Food Underground's FRIZWIT
Just ate this the other day. So goddamn good. Part of a very rare breed of "gourmet" cheesesteaks WITHOUT ANY BULLSHIT. Just super high quality meat (from Primal Supply), cooked onions, and a homemade cheese sauce, made with local cheese and maybe some fancy stuff, but it looks and feels like whiz, on a standard steak roll. The whole thing eats exactly like a standard cheesesteak - just 10x better. Plus homemade hot sauce made from their garden peppers. Thumbs up.

• Double Knot
Not the daytime fare (which I haven't tried), or the upstairs stuff (which is basically just Sampan) but the "secret" downstairs restaurant, helmed by Kevin Yanaga. Insanely good Izakaya fare - skewers, sushi, various raw things - all incredibly delicious. Like so good you wonder why anyone would ever eat upstairs, but you're also paying at least twice as much, and you get to avoid the sort of club-douche vibe that happens upstairs. Whiskey and cocktails are also stellar, also not cheap. A good place to blow a couple hundred dollars and not even feel bad about it one bit. Worry about your student loans / gas bill next month, it's worth it.

• Pastaficio
Definitely my new jam for hoagies. Sorry Cosmi's, been with you for years but I needed to switch it up. Tried them years ago and it was just OK. Not sure if I ordered the wrong thing or if they stepped it up or what. You can never go wrong with anything topped with their homemade mozz like the "Maria Hoagie" which is cold roast beef, broccoli rabe and seasoned slabs of homemade mozz. It's also maybe the closest thing in Philly to these Jersey Heroes I was raving about a while ago.

• John's Place

No caviar here. I've been coming up this way a bit going back and forth to 990 Spring Garden, and also my fiancé works across the street. She is a little skeptical of this place but I love it for that sort of greasy "old Philadelphia" vibe. It's the closest you are gonna find to Little Pete's up this way in 2016.

Food is nothing crazy, but they do a solid grilled cheese and a cup of chicken soup for like 2 bucks. A funny mural of Italy on the wall, along with some dusty old photos of the city hall or whatever, nice waitresses who fill up your coffee and a steady stream of office workers and neighborhood people.

It's not really about the food but I have a love for these sorts of places, my favorite was the old "Spring Garden Restaurant" near the art museum that was inside a grocery / lottery store in the basement of a geriatric condominium and looked like food poisoning mixed with a David Lynch movie.



Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

YES! All of these... so so so good. Happy to say I was there for ALMOST all, with the exception of the donuts. Enoteca Umberto will always be one of my most favorite meals ever, the entire night - amazing. I think a trip to Ferri's during Lent should become our new annual tradition.

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