Sunday, February 26, 2012

Texas Weiners

Texas Weiners
1426 Snyder Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19145

I ate three wieners...2 Works w/ Cheese (hot dog, special sauce, chopped onion and whiz) and one Works w/o the cheese.  I only ordered the one w/o the cheese as my first go b/c I was lacking the courage, but then I stepped it up a little.  I was eyeing my dad's Texas Tommy (dog w/ bacon and cheese) but decided not to completely clog my arteries.  Of course I still tasted the dogs for the remainder of the afternoon!  Not surprised.

The dogs are sliced lengthwise and grilled, then placed in a soft, wide bun.  The grill in out in the open which I like b/c I want to see the action.

Fountain and bottled soda.  Fountain soda comes in a paper cup (I hate styrofoam) with shaved ice.  You never see that anymore!

Ample seating and classic diner waitress service, despite the small space.  This is a real South Philly joint you must check out.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fogo de Chao

Fogo de Chao
1337 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Lets start with when you walk into the door. Immediately you are greeted by very friendly hosts. I have always made reservations when I come here to eat (usually a week or 2 in advance because it fills up quick). If you are not seated immediately, there is a nice bar right at the entrance that will make any drink you can come up with.

Upon being seated, a very informative server will come to your table and give a nice little talk on how the restaurant works. There are so many different wines to select from that cover just about every wall in the restaurant. If you don't know what to choose and need some help, the server is very knowledgeable and helpful. If you want a soft-drink, beware, they are $3 a soda, and NOT free refills. This is the only negative I give the place.

Once your drink orders are taken, you will be invited up to the salad bar in which another server will hand you an enormous plate for salad. If you read most of the reviews below, they tell you to beware of the salad. This is true, but to some extent. There are so many fresh vegetables, cold cut meats and fish, and fresh cheeses. This is not an ordinary salad bar. You must at least try some of the delicious options they present you. Some people will say other "high-end" restaurants" have a better salad bar. All I can say is that this is the by far the best one I have seen and been to. By the way, you can come and just have the salad bar for half the cost of the full-course dinner.

When you get back to the table, there will be 4 deliciously-looking/tasting sides brought out to you. Cheese bread- its so light and fluffy and tasty. Try not to go overboard with eating them (although you easily could). Crispy polenta-I didn't try this until my last visit and I am upset it took so long for me to. Mashed potatoes- Pretty standard but yummy. Caramelized bananas- These are addicting and so sweet. They are a must try. I thought the idea of them sounded gross at first, but was so happy when I tried it.

Once you are ready to move on the meat portion, the real feast will begin. Once you do so, make sure you are ready because you will get bombarded by gaucho chefs, but in a good way. You may feel overwhelmed the first time you are there, but you will get used it and love it. Once that card goes green, you will fall into a meat heaven and never want to return. I am going to break down each meat and give my personal opinion of it so take it with a grain of salt. Most meats are rare-medium temp when served. :)

House Sirloin (PIcanha)- One of the best meats here, although I could probably
say this about all of the meats. So tender and juicy.

Top Sirloin- This meat is just a step behind the house sirloin, but not by much.

Bottom Sirloin- It is more of a charred steak and very salty and juicy. It is one of the only meats I don't care for that much (although I would eat it and enjoy it at any other restaurant)

Garlic Steak- It is the same cut as the house special with a garlic marinade. I do love garlic but for some reason found this too be a little too much for me. I know other people who absolutely loved it.

Fillet Mignon- This is hands down the best cut of meat. It is so tender and flavorful and perfect.

Fillet Wrapped in Bacon- Wow is this delicious. Just as tender and the regular but with added flavor. I am not a huge bacon eater, but absolutely adore this selection. If you really don't like bacon, still get it and remove the bacon. it still absorbs so much flavor in the meat but you get rid of the overwhelming taste of bacon and salt.

Rib Eye- I can't decide if I like this or the House sirloin better. The flavor is so rich and perfect. Its a beautiful looking piece of meat.

Leg of Lamb- I am not a big lamb fan.  But other family members who do like Lamb say this is the best.

Lamb Chops- Same as above.

Chicken Legs- The flavor is very different on these but so amazing. People say to not eat chicken at a place like this, but it is too delicious to pass up.

Chicken Wrapped in Bacon- So flavorful. Better than the chicken legs.
Sausage- I never tried this! I am not a fan of sausage which is why I never did.

Parmesan Pork- Only tried this for the first time my last visit there. It was surprisingly delicious. The Parmesan is not overwhelming and adds a nice texture to the meat

Pork/Beef Ribs- Both ribs are very good but nothing out of this world.

That being said, i suggest you still try all the cuts at first, and if you have room ( I always do), you can start being selective by saying yes to only the ones that stuck out to you.

Dessert is a must no matter how full you are. The Papaya Cream is breathtaking. I would never think to try it, but am so glad I did. The molten chocolate cake is so delicious. This ice cream is very creamy and thick.

Overall, this is hands down my favorite restaurant. You will feel like royalty in the way the staff treats and serves you. Its a must-try dinner.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

City Pizza

City Pizza
100 Snyder Ave,  
Philadelphia 19148

I had heard tell from a few of the locals in the South Philly neighborhood I teach in that City Pizza was the best slice you can find in the city. I kind of shrugged it off as local opinion.Then I heard that a friend who lives way up in Fishtown will journey down to get a pie when he is able.  I knew I had to try it.

I had promised my class that we would have a pizza party if they achieved a certain number of books read for the month of April. When I asked them where I should get the pizza from , they answered in a resounding "City!, Nobody gets pizza from nowhere else around here!" (they do talk like that some days) .

So I placed our order the day before, then had to add one more pie later that evening. The pizzas arrived exactly on time the next day, were piping hot, and they even cut me a break in the price.

We all dug in and it smelled and looked super delicious. The first bite was amazing, the sauce, cheese , and crust were all amazing. Just big enough to be folded (the correct way pizza is made) , not too greasy (Lorenzo's is a little drippy in my opinion some days) , and just a great slice all around. Ever since I've been mentioning it to my friends if they happen to be down in Mummer's territory.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Victor's Cafe

Victor's Cafe
1303 Dickinson St.
Philadelphia, PA 19147

This place is FANTASTIC.

I have to be completely honest about my original draw to this restaurant. My mother loves Rocky Balboa, so I took to a Google search to find out where "Adrian's Restaurant" was located in the city. I scoped out the website and saw that it seemed like an inviting, South Philly Italian restaurant. We had been to Ralph's and a few others in the city but nothing really blew us away.

We called at about 6PM on a Saturday night, and the two of us were able to get a 7:30 reservation-- not without a quick moment of speculation. So if you're planning on a visit, especially with anymore than two people, call ahead.

The place appears very quaint from the typical South Philly street on Dickinson. Once inside, the place was thriving: the wait staff criss-crossed the restaurant, preparing tables and serving the other patrons, a mild-mannered round young man bellowing out some famous aria I couldn't identify, the owners (or management?) were answering a phone that seemingly rang every other minute. Following the performance we were promptly seated and given menus and the specials by are server Jason.

If there were one complaint, it would be that the wait staff is apparently responsible for every function of the restaurant outside of the kitchen. You will see these guys clean and prep tables, serve food, sing, get nagged by customers for photos, and I counted no less than four happy birthday promenades, complete with four-part harmony.

The food was fantastic. If you're ordering a salad, two can split one--  though I had no problem housing my baby arugula salad by myself. The salad was the best I have ever eaten. Perfectly aged balsamic vinegar, a nice Italian cheese that I cant remember, sliced pears, walnuts- truly a perfect match. The penne dish was tasty, adorned with tender chicken, tomatoes, parsley and mozzarella. I could see where some may be critical of this dish, however I felt it was perfectly balanced and filling. My mother had the scallops and shrimp pasta dish. The scallops were perfectly tender, not at all chewy nor over-cooked.

The ambiance of this place is truly what makes it. You can really feel the "living history" the moment you set foot inside. The owners told us of the history of the property, which takes its name from its opening in 1918 as a RCA Victor record store. The place would make a great date to really impress. Upstairs is a cozy bar you can slip away to after your meal.

All in all, a great place. I will be back.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

South Street Diner

South Street Diner
140 South St
Philadelphia, PA 19147

Here's the deal. South Street Diner is a diner. On South Street. If you're going there expecting Tavern on the Green, you're just stupid.

It really is the only place of it's kind in Philly proper. Sure, there are other late night diners around town, but this is the only one that is relatively central to those of us living in Queen Village/Center City/South Philly etc...

It's 24 hours, with a reasonably expansive menu. It's priced moderately. They have RELIABLE free internet access (I'm writing you from their connection now while streaming on Netflix.) The staff isn't a bunch of shiny happy clowns, but they are never outright rude either. Again, this is all kind of standard diner stuff.

The place is clean, it's fairly inviting decor wise, and to their credit they recently renovated the bathrooms in a big way. They're actually NICE. And there are a ton of eateries in Philly that are super fancy but have filthy, dilapidated restrooms.

The bottom line is that South Street Diner is a DINER. Diner food, diner people, diner atmosphere....but on the higher end in terms of food, price, experience et. al.

Recent meal:
1 coffee
1 unsweeted iced tea
"Hungry Man" breakfast: 3 chocolate chip pancakes, home fries, toast, bacon and scrambled eggs

total cost (WITH TIP): $20.00 - my only gripe here is that I added a pancake to the meal (normally comes with two) and the added pancake cost $3.00 - that's kind of insane.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Le Bec-Fin

Le Bec-Fin
1523 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19102

I came here for their lunch menu during restaurant week.  I found the ambiance to be pleasant - the chandeliers were a bit much but the servers did take my and my friend's coats at the door and they do try to maximize the "Frenchness" of their venue.  We ordered the following dishes:

Cauliflower veloute (creamy soup)
Snails in garlic and butter sauce (with hazelnuts)

Main Course:
Le Bec-Fin burger with pommes frites

Key lime tart
Creme brulee

I probably shouldn't have gone with the Le Bec-fin burger since you can get a burger practically anywhere, but I figured it might be more gourmet at a French restaurant, plus I was really hungry so I wanted something with more volume.  The beef paddy wasn't as obscenely large as it would have been at an American grill and it came with nice lettuce leaves and caramelized onions.  The bun was buttery and smooth.

I did not enjoy the snails.  They tasted like mushrooms and would have been bland had they not been soaked in butter and garlic.  And honestly, can anything taste poor when flavored with butter (pure fat)?

My friend's cauliflower soup had a creamy, smooth texture and tasted very good.  Her salmon was basically sushi-grade salmon (filet) seasoned with salt.  It was prepared well but it wasn't anything out of this world.

The desserts were also pretty standard considering that we were at a French establishment.  The creme brulee was pretty generously sized.  I didn't like the crust on the key lime tart - more crust than actual tart.

I think $20/head for a 3-course lunch at a premium French restaurant is a good deal, so I guess we got what we paid for.  If you want something more impressive, I guess try this place during the regular, non-promotional time (not restaurant week, since they won't put their best items on the menu during this time).

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Ristorante La Veranda

Ristorante La Veranda
31 N Columbus Blvd
Philadelphia, PA 19106

We were placed in a private room by ourselves - a group of about 35  - and the service was excellent.  We had a round of appetizers that included proscuitto with melon, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese (the real stuff), various grilled vegetables (their house antipasti) and a great seafood antipasti with calamari and shrimp.

Then they served us a pasta course with a trio of pastas on a single plate: gnocchi with a wonderfully pungent Gorgonzola sauce, bow tie pasta with a rich lobster vodka cream-tomato sauce and penne with a spicy arribiata sauce.  The Gorgonzola and arrabiata sauces were my favorites, with the lobster/vodka/cream/tomato sauce leaving a little something to be desired.

Being a large group, our entree choices were limited to filet mignon, grilled swordfish, chicken cacciatore, a salmon dish, and a grilled veal chop.  Since most of the others I can easily make at home, I went with the grilled veal chop and it was a wise choice - it was nearly an inch and a half thick, included the t-bone and was perfectly cooked with a charred outside that complemented the tender inside and was enhanced by what I believe was a light marinade of Italian herbs.  The marinade/herbs enhanced the flavor of the meat, giving it highlights, but didn't overpower it.

The dessert was standard issue cannoli, tortes and eclair puffs, though the eclairs were drizzled with a lovely dark chocolate glaze.

Again, I can only speak from my experience with a group, but based on that experience, I would give this place a shot for dinner with friends or family for some hearty Italian and grilled fare.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Old Original BookBinders

Old Original Bookbinder's
125 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19106

One of the oldest seafood restaurants in America, this Philadelphia tradition has been serving and photographing Presidents, celebrities, dignitaries, you and me, since 1865.

They are known for using the freshest, finest ingredients in their legendary seafood and continental cuisine. Bookbinder's is a romantic place to share with your love, to have a business or sophisticated lunch, more formal in the dining room or enjoy an impromptu cup of Clam Chowder and a sandwich in their bar and lounge.

They feature a happy hour menu of food and drinks and a tavern menu. All you can eat pick & peel shrimp for $20.00 or enjoy a plate from their raw bar.

Their appetizers are wonderful and range from raw oysters to oysters Rockefeller and spring rolls in between.

My hubby is not a lover of fish and I love all kinds of fresh fish, but there is plenty for him to choose from in the way of a fine cut of beef or poultry.

Whenever I have dined at Bookbinder's, I have always started with their famous New England clam chowder, followed by a fresh broiled or sauteed' fish. The last time that I went I had the seared tuna and it was cooked to perfection.

They offer at least a half dozen different fish, as well as all your shellfish favorites Their crab cakes are pure lump crab meat and served with a chipolte remoulade.

The prices on the menu reflect their pride of being a well known and loved Philadelphia icon. Their bar menu is very affordable for anyone, so there is no excuse not to visit Bookbinders.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Porky's Pork

Porky's Point
3824 N 5th St
Philadelphia, PA 19140

Best Puerto Rican take out window in the city. Tostones, mofongo, pastellios, rice and beans, relleno de papa, platano con carne...the list goes on and on, if your craving some Puerto Rican food then this is your place...and it's pretty inexpensive too, love this place!

Matter a fact i'm about to go right now...

FYI, this place is in an awkward spot, so when you get there, feel free to pull right up front on the sidewalk/driveway that doesn't look like a driveway, it's what everyone does around there. I usually don't eat there, i just grab and go if you will, I like eating on boat house row or in front of the art museum.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Primo's Hoagies

Primo's Hoagies
1528 Ritner Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147

We got antsy sitting home during the snow/rain storm so we decided to brave the conditions and run some errands around Center City.  We stopped by the post-office and made a decision to pick up lunch at Primo Hoagies...

The bread is delicious (soft but still substantial).  The meat quantity is generous.  I got the AUDIABLO (turkey and roast beef combo with the spicy spread) which was a great sandwich.  My fiance got the CLASSIC ITALIAN which she enjoyed as well.  If you like spicy sandwiches, definitely give the Diablo Board a try.

Sandwiches are made promptly and with care.  Definitely a family driven business.

A very simple sandwich shop that unfortunately doesn't have a place to sit and eat.  You have no choice but to get the sandwiches to go.

Sandwiches for two people run $7-10 per person.

I wish that Primo's offered some seating.  In a snow-storm, we had to hold on to the sandwiches as we finished our errands before we got home to finally eat.  The sandwiches are delicious but don't really offer anything unique that you cant find at another sandwich shop (for an example of a more unique take on a sandwich-- See Jake's Sandwich Board).  I enjoy Primo Hoagies but don't feel the need to actively seek out a sandwich on a regular basis.

Bonus: They deliver and cater... A nice extra touch

Tony Luke's

Tony Luke's
39 E Oregon Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148

Once is enough in your lifetime.

and even that maybe too much.

Am I eating the same cheesesteak that everyone else is?

Plain & simple - this isn't philly good.  It's "philly bad".

It was god awful.  The best cheesesteaks are the ones that are chopped up, but the more touristy spots, such as this one, tend to just cook the steakmeat as is.  Fine whatever.

The meat was so bland that the cheesesteak was lifeless (and this is coming from someone who prefers salt-less food). The meat was tough and chewy - this is top sirloin meat? I don't think so. 

The fries came in a cute paperbox container - which is fun but the fries were disgusting.  Most of the fries were brown than a crispy yellow.  It has a tough coat and just wasn't yummy.  It was like eating little sticks of brown grease.  The oil either needed to be changed out or they overfried - probably both.

You are better off going to just about anywhere else to get a better cheesesteak. Seriously, anywhere else.

Don't believe the hype just because it was on Food Network.

There is a station to get your napkins & condiments: ketchup, mustard, pickles. Also, a few bench tables for you to sit and eat there or wait for your order.

Parking - street.