Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Philly Chow Tip Dump

I enjoy the blog of (and the postings on Serious Eats by) Shao Z, who mostly covers Chinese cookery. She's never written about restaurants in her native Philly, but offered to create a tip sheet. When she does, I'll link to it. But, meanwhile, as barter, here are my own Philly tips. Nothing's in any particular order (aside from loosely organized geography).

Old Town

Khyber Pass 56 S 2nd St. Great beer bar with storied and colorful history. It's on an upswing, both beer-wise, and food-wise. Kitchen used to be a little tired, but at least for the moment they're cooking up a storm.

Soho Pizza 218 Market St (215) 625-3955. Seems to be under new management, pizza used to be really swell here, but I tried it in June and was disappointed. Instead, go to....

Pete’s Pizza Joint 215 Chestnut St - my current favorite slice pizza.

Market Area & Italian Zone

Paesano's Philly Style sandwiches 1017 S9th ST. Inauthentic but delicious panelle, etc. This is like a gastronomic "telephone game"; genuine Sicilian sandwiches filtered down through generations to the point where it's barely Sicilian anymore, but has a literally Italian-American deliciousness. Get anything with fresh mozzarella, which is awesome here (I need to figure out where they source it).

Monsu 901 Christian St; (215) 440-0495. Fancy sit-down Sicilian with same owner as Paesano's. High up on my check-out list.

Termini Brothers 11th St & Filbert St. fry their own cannoli shells (this is rare)

Isgro Pastries 1009 Christian St (215) 923-3092 fry their own cannoli shells (this is rare)

Falafel Bar 1513 Chestnut Street. good (not great) late-night falafal

Unknown Cantonese: I had a very good Cantonese meal at 2am somewhere in Chinatown, but, uncharacteristically, failed to pick up a business card. I had to ask for the good stuff (flowering chives and other special vegetables, foo-yee/foo-roo sauce, etc), it's not on the menu. Update: I think this was Shiao Lan Kung (930 Race St).

Reading Terminal Market (PA Dutch wed-sat only) :
Le Bus Bakery for wonderful onion rolls
Glick's Salads potato chips are repackaged red-bag Good's chips (a serious find for fans of PA Dutch lard-fried potato chips).
Dienner's Bar-B-Q for fantastic rotisserie chicken. Wings are stunning—bones shatter easily, yet the meat is consummately moist.
The Rib Stand for unforgettable smokey ribs
Fisher's great soft handmade buttery pretzels (and very good ice cream)

Passyunk Corridor

Stateside 1536 E Passyunk Ave 215-551-2500 Pleasant place for oysters, beer, cheese, tartare, bites. you can hang over the sidewalk on cool swinging wooden chairs.

Brigantessa 1520 E Passyunk Ave 267-318-7341 good-not-great personal brick oven pizzas, great italian wine, obscure but great Italian beers, nice bartender, swanky. Great happpy hour specials (e.g. $10 margarita pie) I hear good things about black chickpea pappardelle

Washington Avenue Asian Zone

Hardena indonesian: 1754 Hicks St (1 block w of S. 15th) at Moore. 215-271-9442. Closed Tuesdays! This is the best Indonesian I know; I've followed this chef for 25 years, and make special trips to Philly to eat here.

Sky Cafe Indonesian 1540 W Ritner st (215) 271-1983. closed thursdays. I've heard this is as good as Hardena, but I haven't tried it..

Viet Tofu 1110 Washington Ave 215-339-0388). They've changed names; hope it's not new management. The following are notes for up to last year. They make their own very good tofu and Vietnamese bakery items. Great fried stuff (don't miss the impulse buys near the cash register). Get green soy milk, made from fresh soybeans (not from fridge; order it at counter). also steam tables w/prepared Vietnamese tofu dishes. I was here for their grand opening; more info here.

Pho 75 (1122 Washington Avenue;, 215-271-5866) branch of the famous Pho 75 of northern Virginia. In the same shopping complex, Hung Vuong (215-336-2803), a large Asian supermarket, has a barbecue meat counter selling very tasty (and reasonably priced) ready-to-eat ribs and other meats.

Ratchada Thai & Laos Cuisine (1117 South 11th St; 215-467-1546) Laotian! A rare cuisine! I tried under its former name, Cafe de Laos, and was good-not-great, but reasonably authentic.

Northern Philly

Florida Boy's Street BBQ. This is a truck, and is one of the most illusive eateries I know. Every few years, I manage to find it, and it's great, but it takes hours of work, usually. Last time I found him, he was at the corner of Belfield Ave and Ogontz Ave during the day, and moving to Germantown Ave. and Broad St late afternoons and evenings. This operation has a long history. It's serious, and little known outside the nabe. More info here and here

Sid Booker's The Colonel of Shrimp 4600 North Broad Street at Belfield Ave 215-329-4455. More info here

Crab Kids: North Taney St. and West Berks St, Philadelphia, More info here

Great Beer Bars

Philadelphia is light years ahead of NYC when it comes to craft beer. Here are some lesser-known places to enjoy them (I never patronize the bigger, more famous craft beer bars in any city; they're always arrogant and unpleasant).

12 Steps Down 831 Christian St 215-238-0379 Quentin Tarantino-style basement bar. Some good and unusual beers.

Revolution House 200 Market St 215-625-4566 the guy who chooses the beers has incredible taste, but he's off-premises and the staff is absolutely clueless. Nice rooftop area.

The Irish Pol 114 Market St 267-761-9532. Was a well-known dive bar for great beer. They relocated, it's super shiny, but bartenders are super great, beer well-chosen and well-priced.

Good Dog Cool bar downtown. Nice roadhouse ambiance. 224 S 15th St (215) 985-9600

Varga Bar: 941 Spruce St (215) 627-5200. sleek gastro pub with outdoor seating. Mobbed at prime time, but pleasant early and late.

Coffee Bar @Warwick Hotel 1701 Locust St (215) 789-6136. My find-iest find. This is the coffee shop of the Warwick Hotel, it closes early, and it has just two beers on tap - mini-kegs served from little refrigerated picnic set-ups. But they're beautifully chosen, and the bored counter guy (can't call him a bartender) really knows his beer. Also, weirdly great cookies and other go-with-coffee pastries. There's a full bar across the lobby that, so far as I know, has never served a great beer.

Doobie's 2201 Lombard St (215) 546-0316 ‎old fashioned place.

Brauhaus Schmitz 718 South St 267-909-8814. Fantastic German beers (note that back room has a separate list). Also good german food. Best: rahmschnitzel, spaetzle, potato pancakes

Local 44 4333 Spruce Street (215) 222-2337. Good gastro pub. Bottle shop next door is absolutely primo, with great selection, super knowledgable clerk (prices a bit high, but worth it).

South Philadelphia Tap Room 1509 Mifflin St (215) 271-7787 a quick walk from Hardena.

The Bottle Shop 1837 East Passyunk Avenue 215-551-5551

To Try

I need to get to these...

E Mei Szechuan 915 Arch St (215) 627-2500 sliced pork with crispy rice cake. 

Caribbean Delight 1124 south st 215-829-1030 looked great. closed mondays.

Tacconelli's Pizza 2604 E Somerset St 215-425-4983 tucked away in a little Ital nabe near I-95. Call ahead. "white" pie with brick oven crust

United House Of Prayer 742 S 16th St at fitzwater (215) 545-9098 open from 4:00 till 8:30 each evening, special plates  6 or 7 bucks. service  a bit slow,

George's Sandwich Shop 900 South 9th St at Christian 592-8363 tues-fri 9 am-8; sat 9 am- 5; sun 9 am- 2pm; CLOSED MON  roast pork, beef, veal, and tripe sandwiches. Also Cheesesteaks There are 2 George's; find the one on your right when walking north from Washington ave. Order w/ sharp provolone.

BaoBaoHao Chinese Seafood. They seem to move around a bit; last known location was 1004 Race St. At one point, it was a strange amalgamation of classical Chinese cooking plus Southeast Asian dishes. I'd like to crack the mystery.

Taqueria La Veracruzana (908 Washington Ave; 215-465-1440) Looks excellent.

Anastasi Seafood Ristorante (Ninth and Washington; 215-462-0550). less than no-frills, but the store has a fresh smell, and serves food at scattered tables

Alla Spina 1410 Mt Vernon (215) 600-0017. Only had some (delicious) tastes of things when they first opened, but a super handsome space run by really committed, friendly people. I've been meaning to update.


Display Name said...

Jim, I like soho 2 in bluebell for korean wings. Not sure it is the same owners as soho but if it is, try their korean fried chicken wings sometime.

Jim Leff said...

Thanks! I don't think they're related, but I love Korean fried chicken. How does it compare with BonChon (which I see has a Philly location at 1020 Cherry St)?

Display Name said...

Haven't been to BonChon but New Yorkers have been known to swoon over the soho2 wings. They offer different flavors. I always get them to go and when possible eat them with slices of watermelon and the pickled asian radishes soho2 provides for free if you remind them.
Montgomery County Pa has a large korean population, enough to support Assi supermarket in North Wales. Haven't been since my car got totaled but you can get korean fried chicken wings at Assi and if you go in the late afternoon they are fresh and warm under the heat lamps for only a bit. Of course Soho is better. Know anyone selling a good used car Jim?

James Leff said...

BonChon is the classic of the style; you ought to try them sometime just for calibration purposes.

I'm afraid my connections in the Philly used car market are tangential at best!

Display Name said...

Thanks Jim! Jesse's in souderton pa has some smoked fried wings that are addicting. They are crispy and come in three flavors. The first bite is delightful and then the smoke hits you. I usually get six with side orders of cole slaw, corn fritters, sweet potato fries, baked beans, or grilled vegetables.
Because the family is mennonite, and yes they are closed sundays and mondays for good measure, they have kick ass desserts. This fall I am determined to pounce on the grape pie on the one weekend they usually offer it. Their crumb apple pie, from their own orchards took me back to my childhood.
I've been asking everyone about a car. About to start my own blog carless in the 'burbs pretty soon. Jesse's will be at the beerfest at the Indian Valley Library near the end of the month but the smoked chicken legs they offer there are just not the same as those fried smoked wings.

Jim Leff said...

Thanks for the great tips. I'll check them out.

Consider Uber and Zip car micro-rentals. Depending on how much you need to drive, could be cheaper than buying/insuring/repairing/fueling a car. Plus you'd feel like a swell.

Jim Leff said...

PS - if I ever made it to Souderton, I'd definitely want to hit the Asher's Chocolates headquarters....

Display Name said...

My friend who gives us a ride to the library takes a route by Asher's every thursday.
I went there a long time ago with my family right before Easter. It is a fun place to visit and some of the bulk discounts are almost frightening. There was a case of something yummy I had to sneak past.
It is set in the middle of lush Pennsylvannia farmland. The women working there that day were somewhat dour and grim. Mennonites can be that way with strangers.
My most memorable experience was at the R and S Keystone Diner in Sellersville where I was a semi-regular with my friend. I love diners. I was dressed to go play magic the gathering afterwards and I didn't give the small keyhole in the front of my dress a second thought. Lets just say that was a mistake. I do love the ground cherry pie they sometimes have in the autumn. The mashed potatoes are not from instant, I was told they don't hava a microwave and the owner Jo Ann rules with a sweet smile and an iron fist. I usually order something I know you don't like Jim, liver and onions.

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