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Category Archives: french fries

California Eatin’!


This place has been a little quiet lately due to some serious traveling on my part and then the holidays. I took 2 trips, one to Disneyworld, which will be an upcoming post, and then to Los Angeles, which is the subject of this post!

I’m just gonna come right out and say it: the food in LA is pretty great. From fast food to fancy food, they have it covered. So let’s get to it, shall we?

We (me and the gang (Aubrie Williams, Jess Ross, Kaitlin Thompson and Briana Kelly) from the sketch group ManiPedi) literally picked up the rental car and went directly to the shining star of fast food in LA (plus, it was a long 4 hour plane ride): In-N-Out Burger! For those of you hiding under a rock, In-N-Out Burger is THE west coast burger chain. It’s not franchised, they have serious control issues (they don’t freeze or reheat) and it makes every single outpost shine in deliciousness. If you had to compare the burgers to a national chain, the closest that comes is Wendy’s, but that’s like saying Florida is kind of close to Canada because they are both in North America. If I never was allowed to eat burgers again but could have 1 kind of burger, I would eat this. That’s how good it is.

a 3x4 and fries, both Animal Style, with Chocolate Shake

a 3×4 and fries, both Animal Style, with Chocolate Shake

They have your basics: burgers, fries and shakes. While I am not the biggest fan of thier fries (they do not double fry the fries like most burger places, just single fry, so that they tend to get a little…hard…if you don’t eat them right away), if you order them “well done” they are a lot better. You order the burgers by how many patties and how much cheese you’d like. I got a 3×4 (“3 by 4”) which was 3 patties and 4 slices of cheese and I got that (along with the fries) “Animal Style”. They have a not-so-secret secret menu, where you can order your burger Animal Style (If applied to a burger, the meat is grilled with mustard, with sauteed onions, pickles, and extra special spread added. If applied to fries, it comes with melted cheese, sauteed onions, and spread.) or Protein Style (wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun), along with a bunch of other stuff including a Grilled Cheese (two slices of melted American cheese, hand-leafed lettuce, tomato, spread with or without onions on a freshly baked bun). The shakes are chocolate, vanilla and strawberry and they are all 100% ice cream, not a powdered mix. The best shake I have ever had, hands down. It was an awesome kick off to a great trip!

IMG_5325

Avocado Benedict- 

Next up was brunch! We met up with JP Boudwin, a Philly comedy transplant, for brunch at the Sunset Junction Coffee Shop in Silver Lake. Silver Lake is like hipster central in LA so I knew there’d be some place with some great food, and JP didn’t let us down. SJCS is bright and airy, with high exposed beam ceilings and a big glass front. We all slid into the big booth in the front of the place and ordered up from the friendly waitress (did I mention the service was amazing? and we had 8 people with us, which is always a pain in the ass).

The menu had a few different kind of Eggs Benedict, which was cool, along with all kinds of pancakes, hashes, sandwiches and egg dishes. It was really hard to choose, everything looked so good. I knew I was going to be eating a lot of, shall we say, artery killer food soon so I went with something light: The Avocado Eggs Benedict. It included two poached eggs with sliced avocado and fresh tomatoes, on an English muffin topped with capers and Hollandaise sauce. I decided to not get breakfast meats and got tomatoes instead of that or hash browns. Then I got a little nervous. Would that be enough food? Could that get me to my next meal without me chewing my arm off? The answer was yes, yes it could. The poached eggs were a large size and done perfectly (I want runny yolk. GIVE ME RUNNY YOLK!), the tomatoes were deliciously juicy and they were not skimpy with the fresh, firm avocado. The best part was the Hollandaise. It wasn’t scooped out of a pot that’s been in a Bain Marie for 5 hours. No, they whipped it up and plated it, and you can tell how fresh it was. Could a simple brunch dish be delightful? Because, frankly, this was. I almost want to smack myself for typing that but yeah, it was great.

Disneyland Mac and Cheese Dog

Disneyland Mac and Cheese Dog

We took a side trip in our LA trip to go to Disneyland! How can you not visit the place where it all started? If you are used to Disneyworld and the overwhelming monstrosity that it is, Disneyland comes off as almost quaint. That’s ok tho, I like quaint. Also, if you are any sort of pop culture junkie like myself, it’s neat to see all the original stuff. At one point I found myself alone, waiting for my friends to get off Space Mountain, and I wandered over to The Refreshment Corner (which, if you are familiar with Casey’s Corner in Disneyworld, is right at the end of Main Street in the same spot), which is an old timey spot sponsored by Coca-Cola, with great stained glass Coke Lamps and whatnot.

Mickey Pretzel

Mickey Pretzel

They have a menu consisting of a mac and cheese dog, a chili dog (or you can get the chili in a sourdough bowl), some Mickey pretzels (stuffed with cream cheese or cheese and jalapeno!), and of course, Cokes. Since it’s sponsored by Coke, you know the mix for the soda is perfect! I got the Mac and Cheese dog, which comes with a big fist full of bacon bits and a bag of chips. I also got a Mickey pretzel because…why not?! The dog was really large and tasted great. They were not at all skimpy with the Mac and Cheese (yes, it tasted just like Stouffers Mac and Cheese and I am ok with that), to the point where I was sort of taken aback to how much was on there. Theme parks are not noted for their generosity with toppings, so this was a nice change. I actually ate it with the plastic knife and fork, it was so hefty. The pretzel was warm, chewy and hit the spot after walking a million miles around the park all day! That says a lot because I come from the Land of Soft Pretzels. Even the chips were quality kettle chips, not just a half filled bag of air with some potato dust, as happens sometimes. I could not have been happier with my choice, altho the Corn Dog cart is still in my “What if..?” file. Next time!

The Fairfax!

The Fairfax!

I went out to brunch with my friend Sean and his awesome fiancee Sarah at a place in the LA Grand Central Market called EggSlut. Yes, EggSlut. Sean suggested it and I was intrigued. It started as a food cart and now this is thier first brick and mortar place. It’s more of a stall in the giant market (which is like Reading Terminal Market or Grand Central Market in NYC). They specialize in, shockingly, eggs! I love good scrambled eggs but if there is a hint of brown on them, I can’t eat them. I like a loose scrambled egg made with milk not water. I ordered the Fairfax and it didn’t disappoint! It comes with scrambled eggs, chives, caramelized onions, Tillamook cheddar and sriracha mayo. It was warm with just a hint of spice from the sririacha and buttery carmelized goodness from the onions. It went quickly into my mouth and left only a smile. Just as the egg gods intended.

Strawberry Sweet Hand Pie from Valerie Confections

Strawberry Sweet Hand Pie from Valerie Confections

But I didn’t stop there! I also got a strawberry hand pie from Valerie’s Confections. it was just about the size of your hand (hence..the name…and stuff…) and this one was stuffed with strawberry. The dough was so flaky, but it didn’t crumble when you took a bite. No, it just showed you it’s inside goodness and invited you to go on and destroy it. Who am I to argue? I destroyed it like a a toddler domineering a bowl of spaghetti. This was easily one of the best things I had on the trip. If you live anywhere near Downtown LA, get ye to Valerie’s!

We wandered over to the La Brea Tar Pits (underwhelming) and saw a bunch of food trucks parked outside the LA Art Museum. One of which was the Bool BBQ Truck, a Korean Fusion BBQ truck. I could not resist, and got the Short Rib

Short Rib Burrito

Short Rib Burrito

Burrito (white rice, cabbage asian slaw, special sauce, hot sauce, pico de gallo and short rib meat). The burrito was excellent! It was just spicy enough, so that the tip of my tongue was a little lit up but I could still taste the sweetness and the delicious meat. The people working the truck were so nice and quick with the food, it stayed on my mind the whole ride home! I highly recommend them if you are over by the Art Museum or hit thier page on facebook and see where they are. Totally worth your time to look them up and more then worth the money!

Speaking of burritos, you can’t go to the west coast without eating some fantastic Mexican food. We happened to stumble upon a great place called Machos Tacos. It’s kind of a shack on the corner of Vermont Ave in Los Feliz, yet another hipster area, and it’s next to a car wash. Oddly enough, I got to look at thier kitchen. I know kitchens. I know dirty kitchens and clean kitchen and kitchens you should pretend don’t actually serve food. This one was cleaner then I’ve seen in awhile. It also serves some amazingly kick ass Mexican food!

Machos Tacos Chicken Mole and Chicken Tacos!

Machos Tacos Chicken Mole and Chicken Tacos!

First up they make thier own chips (and the salsa is hearty with a parade of flavor!) and aren’t skimpy about it (so don’t ask for extra for free, this isn’t the welfare tortilla chip line!). Secondly, they aren’t skimpy with ANYTHING! Here are 2 tacos: the Chicken Mole and the Regular Chicken. Yeah, no skimpiness! The Mole sauce was dark and hearty, it didn’t just pour right out of the tortilla. It had a job to do AND IT WAS GONNA DO IT! I appreciate hard work.

Machos Tacos Wet Machado Burrito

Machos Tacos Wet Machado Burrito

I also got the Machaca Beef Burrito,and I got it wet. Wet, for all you pervs out there, is

Inside the Burrito

Inside the Burrito

when the burrito is covered in sauce. First off, this thing was heavier then my first car. It was half covered in a green chile sauce and half covered in a red sauce but it was all covered in AWESOME! The meat was slow cooked and when it hit your tongue it blended with the rest of the sauce and did the Macarena the rest of the way down. There was very little talking while we ate at this place. There was a lot of dancing in seats tho. So very, very good!

Double Pier Burger

Double Pier Burger

As a tourist in the City of Angels, you have to take a trip to the Santa Monica Pier. It’s just one of those things. It’s a cute pier (that’s now 100 years old and they are really fixing it up) with rides and a fishing pier at the end. They also have a bunch of churro carts and other oddball food. Of course, I would find the burger place. Wouldn’t you know it? Pier Burger! They have burgers, fries, shakes, a fish sandwich that Jess and Kait really liked and other odds and ends. But I went for the burger. I was on a burger mission, and this burger did not disappoint! In fact, I found it to be a In-N-Out competitor! I know! Shut my mouth! But it’s the truth! It’s a burger that tastes really fresh and is seasoned just with some salt and pepper and grilled up on a flat top. It was flat out F-ing great! I got the Double Pier Burger and I am going to come out and say…I liked it better then the 3×4. I know I’ll burn for saying it but it was that good! All I need now is a Pier Burger shirt! (they only had mediums when I was there).

One of the things I did while out there was attend a taping of The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson. I love him and his silly show, but I had gotten there so early, I had to eat before the almost 3 hours of being tied up in line and in the studio. So, on the corner of 3rd and Fairfax I found this big sandwich place called Mendocino Farms Sandwich Market. It’s an interesting place, where they give you a menu while you stand in line and order before you even get to the counter. Once you get to the counter, you also order sides. Perhaps you are not sure about the sides? You can try all of them! They encourage it! No one rolls an eye at you because you have trouble ordering! It’s pretty great. Oh, and grab a beer too. Not a shitty Miller Light, but one from a collection of accessible but delicious beers. Then you slide on down to the end of the counter and wait until your pager buzzes and BANG! Sandwich heaven!

Steak Bahn Mi

Steak Bahn Mi

I always have trouble ordering food. I can never make a decision and then when I do, I am always second guessing myself. It’s a horrible thing and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I couldn’t make a decision as to what to get so I asked the line order taker girl what she liked and she told me the Steak Bahn Mi. I flew blind and ordered it. Normally, I don’t like ciabatta bread because it’s so thick, I feel like it sucks up any kind of moisture in the ingredients. But they make the ciabatta fresh and it was still warm, so it absorbed some but it was soft, warm and chewy. All the Bahn Mi flavors (chili aioli, housemade sweet chili sauce, pickled daikon & carrots, cilantro, jalapenos and cucumbers). It was delightful and just enough to fill me up without making me feel like I just ate a lead weight. The girl who recommended the sandwich to me even came to find me as I was eating to make sure I liked her suggestion. I thought that was a nice touch.

Sushi in a boat

Sushi in a boat themed on Titanic.

Finally, one night we wanted to go to one place but it was full, so JP suggested we go to this sushi place that’s themed on the movie Titanic. It’s in the shape of a boat. Seriously. When I say they had a Japanese version of the Titanic theme playing, I’m not kidding. They even had sushi with cheesesteak in it. It was really good too!

This trip definitely was good times and I can’t wait to go out again and see what else is out there to eat and explore! Give my love to the Coffee Bean! I shall return! Here is a picture of all (well most of) the Philly Comedy people living in LA now with some of us who haven’t made it out yet. Keep an eye out!

Philly Comedy Goes West!

Philly Comedy Goes West!

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Joe’s Steaks and Soda Shop: The Gold Standard


Cheesesteaks. Philly is known for them. They don’t make them correctly anywhere but here. If you doubt me, come here, eat one then try to get one somewhere else. I was once in a suburban Chicago diner and saw a “Philly Cheesesteak” on the menu. Jokingly, I asked the waitress if it was a steak on a roll. She said, with a straight face “what else would it be?”. That pretty much sums up cheesesteaks outside the Philly area.

Within Philly, there are good, ok, and amazing cheesesteaks. And then there is the best steak that blows your mind. It’s like a journey, trying to find the one steak that’s got the right balance of meat, cheese and onion (if that’s your thing). It’s the steak you tell your friends to go get, the one you point out of towners to, the one you hold every steak you ever had up to: The Gold Standard.

I have found my Gold Standard. Welcome to Joe’s Steaks and Soda Shop.

Joe's!

Joe’s!

But first, a little background. Joe’s is owned by Joe Groh. Joe had been working for years at the shop, which was called Chink’s back then. You may be thinking “hey, that sounds vaguely racist”. After all, it was named after a guy who, growing up, was called Chink because he had almond shaped eyes. Soooo, yeah. That was back in the 40’s, when these things were accepted by most people. Now that it’s over 60 years later, things have changed a bit and after buying the shop, Joe decided his steak shop should be named after him. Was there also pressure from various groups to also change it? Yes. But in the end, he made the lone decision. He did the right thing. In a day and age when people rarely do the right thing, mad props to Joe Groh.

Unfortunately, when people do the right thing, sometimes there is weird backlash. In this case, jerks from the neighborhood with zero empathy for anyone but themselves decided that Joe had no right to control his own business and his name. That he should have kept that nice old name. That the thousands of dollars he spent on billboards and website stuff and all the fun of rebranding was wasted because he should have listened to them and stood thier idiot ground. They have been threatening him and his business, as well as leaving disturbingly shitty remarks on the business’s facebook page. Joe, at one point, was quoted as saying his business was down by at least 15%. This is a guy with a family, running a cheesesteak shop. That’s not right.

A look inside

A look inside

And luckily, more people felt like that as well. Two weekends ago, a Philly mag blogger arranged a sort of eat-in at Joe’s and last weekend there was another of the same sort of event. That was the one I got to, with my cheesesteak co-conspirators Vicki and Alex.

It’s a little place, from an older time when neighborhoods still had local sandwich places and milk still got delivered on your doorstep. You can’t help but feel like you stepped back in time a bit, most of these places are gone now, changed into a shitty bodega or junk shop.

The Grill: Where The Magic Happens

The Grill: Where The Magic Happens

This place is the real deal. You can even stand outside and watch them work thier magic on the grill. You can see the decades of seasoning on that thing, the mountains of cheesesteak meat, the fried onions and the happy people in for a date, or catching up with friends. Maybe sharing good news or just having a fun day out. If that grill could talk, it would say….”shut yer yap and get to the cheesesteaks already!”.

Who am I to deny the grill?

Hookin it up Gluten Free!

Hookin it up Gluten Free!

Let’s talk cheesesteaks. First of all, the roll. Joe’s uses Liscio’s rolls. They are always fresh and amazing. You need a good base for a cheesesteak because of the cheese, grease and the sheer weight of the meat, if you get a roll that’s kind of stale, once you start eating, it’ll fall apart and that’s no good for anyone, including your shirt.

Second of all, flexibility. Try going to the tourist trap cheesesteak places and asking for no roll, see what happens. No cheesesteak, that’s what happens. Blank stares. Weird head shakes. At Joe’s, they’ll put it on a plate for ya, as Vicky is gluten intolerant. The waitress didn’t even bat an eye! The rumor is that Joe’s is looking into gluten-free rolls. So there’s that!

Cheesesteak, Wiz, Wit

Cheesesteak, Wiz, Wit. Look at that delicious fresh roll!

Cheese choices are nice. Joe’s has them. There is but one choice in my mind…wiz. Cheese wiz. Cheese Whiz. Spell it however you like, it’s my personal choice in cheese with meat. Oh yeah. I know it comes in a 10 can. I know it’s not natural to this world. I also know I rarely eat it, so shut it.

Joe’s offers double meat on its menu. Not all places do. I immediately ordered double meat because, as faithful readers know, I always get the worst thing on the menu. I do it for you guys, for journalism, for my cardiologist’s kids so they can go to a nice private school.

Cheesesteak Side View

Cheesesteak Side View

This was so unbelievably delicious,I couldn’t even stand it. I looked like a toddler eating spaghetti, covered in cheese whiz. Some places just cook the meat in slabs. Some places mince the meat so much it looks like shredded lettuce. Joe’s chops it up into decent sized pieces, doesn’t overcook so it’s juicy but still has the grill char, and then layers on some lovely fried onions.

The onions aren’t charred or burned, they just get to dance on the grill enough for a little carmelization to take place, and then they come to rest in the party in the roll. It’s the perfect storm of cheesesteaks. It’s what’s in Jules’ briefcase in Pulp Fiction. It’s the Gold Standard.

Cheesesteak, Extra Meat, Wiz, Wit

Cheesesteak, Extra Meat, Wiz, Wit

Cheese Fries The Way God Intended

Cheese Fries The Way God Intended

Did you think this place is a one trick pony? That it’s all cheesesteak and nothing else? Then you are sadly mistaken! First of all, when we sat down, the waitress brought us a bowl of pickles and peppers to graze on. That was awesome. Then we ordered some cheese fries. They were perfect. They aren’t house made but they were fried perfectly (just a touch crunchy and warm and fluffy inside. Suck on that, Chickie and Pete’s), no burned ones, no slightly off-color ones. They were perfect. They weren’t skimpy on the cheese either, giving us a nice vat of delicious cheesewhiz in which to dip our perfect fries. there may have been some wrestling as to who got to finish the cheese, but I’ll never tell…..

Chocolate Shake

Chocolate Shake

You like shakes? I like shakes. Shakes these days aren’t like they used to be (get off my lawn!) but Joe’s has it on lockdown with handmade shakes in heavy glasses and a nice wide straw so you don’t get an aneurism in that 1980’s McDonald’s milkshake style. There were a few chocolate milkshakes on the table and none of them got out of there alive. I’m not gonna lie Marge, there was some fries dipping into that milkshake.

They also have fountain sodas. I don’t mean a fountain soda machine. I mean like, they use soda syrup and make you a soda. With flavors like orange, grape, and cherry (and many more, like Vanilla Coke and others), I had to get a Cherry soda. Alex got one too. We both tried it at the same time and…there was quiet for a minute. Quiet contemplation on how rockin’ that soda was. Holy awesomeness.

Cherry Soda and a Jukebox

Cherry Soda and a Jukebox

A nice touch at Joe’s is that in the booths they still have the individual jukeboxes. A lot of diners have removed them to out in those godawful megatouch machines. If I want to play video games, I’ll sit in my underwear, play them on my couch and eat pizza, thanks. They don’t work, but they are in pristine condition with a silly assortment of pop and classic stuff (we spied Elton John’s Candle in the Wind and some Bon Jovi). It was fun to see and add to the ambiance.

Finally, one more awesome thing about Joe’s? The price. We got 3 cheesesteaks (one with extra meat) the size of buicks, 3 sodas, 3 milkshakes and a large order of cheese fries and it was 40 bucks. Try that anywhere else. I dare you!

So if you want a cheesesteak that will blow your mind and make your body hap-hap-happy, get your ass over to Joe’s! It’s in the Torresdale section of the city, like 8 minutes from I-95. You’ll feel good from the awesome food but also because you are supporting a guy trying to make a positive change. Also, have I mentioned the cheesesteaks? Go! GO NOW!

Cheesesteak CoConspirators

Vicki and Alex, Cheesesteak Co-Conspirators

Holy Burgers Batman!


Welcome to Sketch

Welcome to Sketch

For quite awhile people have been on my ass to get on over to Sketch, a burger joint on Girard Avenue here in Philly. I once even ventured out with my friend MellieFlo and we we were way off on location and drove by it like 9 times. I finally got on over there with my cousin Megan for a nice lunch!

Diagnosis?

Holy burger awesomeness, Batman!

Let’s rewind a minute. The place is decorated in bright happy colors, and is actually kind of small inside. Just a few old booths and some tables with lawnchairs. You walk in and walk to the back to order. Then, grab a drink and have a seat.

Welcome to Sketch

Welcome to Sketch

We split some fries. Let’s talk about the fries. Everyone seems to be into the Belgium/france way of serving fries: in a cone. Sketch is no different. They even have paper mimicing newspaper, which is cute, because in Europe, that’s what they wrap fries (and in the UK also fried fish) in.

These fries were tossed in a little old bay type seasoning, but just a little bit. Sometimes people get a little slap happy with the old bay and you can barely taste the potato and have to drink 9 gallons of water afterwards. These fries were perfect. Perfect diameter (thick but not treetrunks), perfectly cooked (fluffy and delicious on the inside, crispy on the outside but not oily or overcooked) perfectly seasoned and just right on perfectly delicious. If someone had told me that I couldn’t have my burger and I only had the fries, I would be almost ok with that. That’s how good they were. They came with a dipping sauce too (a smooth harissa aioli, which was equally as great, but frankly, I didn’t need it.). There was much stink eye being given between me and Megs as we got down to the bottom of the cone of fries. Oh yes.

Megan's burger with cheese and bacon

Megan’s burger with cheese and bacon

So let’s get down to brass tacks. The burgers. I ordered the Kobe burger with avocado, bacon and a fried egg. Megan got a burger with cheese and bacon. Let’s talk about her’s first. Let me just first say that Megan normally doesn’t take food home. She either finishes it or doesn’t and that’s it. She ate half and took the other half home. There was little chatting whilst chewing.

Kobe Burger Untouched

Kobe Burger Untouched

My burger was a monstrosity. It was a burger that my cardiologist has on his wall with a big circle and linethrough it. But people, I implore you, if you have never had a burger with an egg on it, DO IT! RIGHT NOW! You are seriously cheating yourself. This is America! Make the choice for fried egg on a burger! What did I love? That when I ordered an egg, I was given 5 different ways in which that would cook my egg! These people ARE NOT MESSING AROUND!

Anyway, besides the egg, there was also avocado, and Sketch is not skimpy with it! Look at all the avocado-y goodness! The bacon was fantastic as well, thick cut, not that cheap ass thin stuff that disappears once you take a bite (*poof!*). This bacon is setting up camp in your living room and staying for awhile.

Since the burger was Kobe beef, I figured I would order it the same way I order everything: medium. In case you were wondering, medium is the way to go. Well done is dry and nasty. Rare is too chewy. Medium is juuust right. Unfortunately, the cook was a little zealous and my burger came out a little more done they I would have liked, but that was the worst thing that happened all day, so it was alright with me. No one’s perfect. The meat itself was slightly seasoned but they get it…let the meat speak for itself, don’t over season and cook it evenly.

Kobe Burger Bite

Kobe Burger Bite

The burgers come out in a rectangular paper boat (as in the above picture), which normally would have pissed me off, I hate eating out of boats. But there was something so right about it. They serve it up McDLT style, half and half, so you can observe the deliciousness and then put it together yourself. As you can see, it was a messy burger but ooozing with burger-osity. Yes, that’s right.

Even the bun was perfect, from LeBus, and just right. There are few things that make me more mad then a bun that doesn’t work: a kaiser bun, or a giant bun where you have a mouthful of bread and no burger, or the worst….a stale bun. This was so perfect, it almost brought a tear to the eye.

I apologize to the fine folks at Sketch for not coming in before. I applaud thier eye for detail, and I can’t wait to go back and eat my way thru the menu.

Finally, The walls of Sketch are wallpapered with crayon drawings by little (and im sure big) kids. This one was right next to our table and I laughed pretty hard. Do yourself a favor, get to Sketch, eat an amazing burger and laugh. It’s worth your time, your money and your tastebuds!

Everyone's a comedian

Everyone’s a comedian

Stick Em Up For Mugshots Diner


I grew up in the neighborhood next door to Fishtown, and frankly, it has come leaps and bounds from where it was when I was a kid. Let’s just say teeth were optional back then. Anywho, there are so many new places to eat, it’s hard to even keep track of what’s opening. So when I heard there was a new diner opening, I had to check it out, because, man, I love diner food.

I Assure You, We Are Open!

I Assure You, We Are Open!

Mugshots opened, a bit behind schedule, in the 2424 building on York street. It’s actually not a free standing diner, it is on the first floor of the building, with office and artist spaces above it.

Hot Mess Hess went with me to get some dinner before we hit a local comedy show at Urban Saloon in Fairmount. And yes, we were HUNGRY.

Inside the Diner

Inside the Diner

Walking into the diner, I was struck by how clean, happy and bright the place was. Yes, they did just build it, but I am used to diners where the years of grime are part of the character. Plus, do you really hear the words “new diner” often? Nope. The motif of this place is, yes, mugshots. So the walls are littered with celebrity mugshots. I sat under Bill Gates. The booths are cool vinyl blue and yellow and really are reminiscient of 50’s diners without being too in your face Happy Days retro.

Pork Tostadas

Pork Tostadas

The menu was large but not too big, with interesting appetizers, which is always a favorite thing of mine. We decided on Pork Tostadas ($9) to share for an appetizer. They stack 3 shells and fill them with chipotle cream, sour cream, diced tomato, red onion, sliced cabbage, cilantro and pork. They were pretty great. The pork was full of the bbq sauce and it was really messy to eat, not that that is a bad thing. The waitress didn’t give us plates for it tho, so we got it all over the place. Looking back, we should have asked

Side View of Pork Toastadas

Side View of Pork Toastadas

for plates. All the ingredients were fresh, bright and delicious. There might have been some hand stabbing for the last few bites. It was nice to see a place understand that you can fry your own tortillas and not just grab them out of a bag.

I should mention here how nice the wait staff was. The plate thing aside, our waitress was really on the ball, and everyone who worked there was pleasant, but not in a stepford wives sort of way. Any questions I had about the menu were answered promptly, and when I asked about food she had not eaten, I was given a great answer of “I haven’t had it but *soandso* (pointing) did and they like it”, which I like better then I lie or a shrug with an “I don’t know”.

Reuben

Reuben

For our dinners, I got the Reuben Sandwich. The rye bread was nice and warmed from the melted cheese and there was a nice amount of delicious, medium cut corned beef (too thin and it disappears and too thick and you are chewing for 3 days). The cheese was, as cheese always is, delicious (it knows it’s role) and plentiful (sometimes when you order a Reuben, they skimp on the cheese). The kraut was basically out of the bag, but it worked with the sandwich. What I found peculiar was that the russian dressing was on the side. Normally on a Reuben, it’s on the bread, under the kraut. I just used all that was there and covered the whole thing before I dug in. Yes, it looked odd to me, but was still great.

Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Hot Mess Jess got herself her standard grilled chicken sandwich with mayo. A grilled chicken sandwich is a grilled chicken sandwich, there’s not too much you can do to pretty it up.

It’s a (not so) secret in the food biz to buy meats with grill marks that are frozen and then just warm them up either in the microwave or quickly on the flat top. That chicken seemed to me to actually have been grilled. It was also (yeah I had a bite) juicy and a thick piece of chicken. Even the roll was a bit toasty. Finally, I go out to eat with Hot Mess quite a bit, and we always ask for extra mayo (we ordered fries too, which I didn’t take a picture of because, well, fries are fries. They were hot, they were cooked perfectly, they were delicious) for fries. Sometimes that means a small shotglass of mayo. Sometimes that means they wheel out the 5 gallon jug of Admiration mayo (my fave but still a bit much). Our waitress brought us out a big dish for each of us. Gold stars for her!!

Oreo Cheesecake

Oreo Cheesecake

Finally, because we are gluttons, we had a piece of Oreo cheesecake. It was everything it says it is: cheesecake with Oreos in it. It was smooth, creamy and hit the spot.

Not to say it was easy to pick a dessert, apparently they make all thier desserts in house and they have a truckful! Pies, cakes, cookies, all sorts of stuff.

Desserts!

Desserts!

On our way out, we walked past, who I believe is the owner, who was visiting with all the tables asking if everything was alright, if they enjoyed thier food and stuff. When he asked us if things were ok, we told him yes, and then I asked him why the dressing for the reuben was on the side, that I found that odd even tho I still enjoyed it. He told me that they were finding that some people liked the dressing on there, and some people did not like the dressing at all, so they decided to just put it on the side. It was nice to see a place listen to thier customers, like the gang over at PYT.

Finally, our bill was about 35 bucks, which is acceptable for 2 people, in my opinion.

So, if you find yourself in Fishtown, check out Mugshots. The food is good, not too expensive, there is ok parking around the building and the owner is on top of stuff. Good stuff.

Here is thier new commercial, check it out!

Tony Boloney Nails It


I first came across Tony Boloney’s in AC when I covered the AC Beer Fest. They blew me away with their Cheesesteak Ole’ and their Reuben Pizza. Unreal. Plus, I loved the fact that they understood marketing (see their blue truck (that will come and cater your event!) with the giant moustaches and their mascot, an old school chef with said handlebar moustache) and had fun with it as well. I swore I would get to their shop on Oriental Ave, 2 blocks up from the Revel, and I finally did!

Tony Boloney's

Tony Boloney’s

The Reuben Frio

The Reuben Frio

I tried to have a few things from the menu, starting with the Reuben Frio! Where to begin? Let’s start with the bread. When making fantastic, mind-blowing sandwiches, you need a good base to keep things from falling apart 3/4’s of the way in. Tony’s hits it out of the park with rolls from A. Rando’s Bakery, the oldest bakery in AC and the 3rd oldest Italian bakery in the country! And wow, what a roll! Chewy, crusty, lovely goodness! It’s had to find a roll that doesn’t feel like it is taking over the whole show, and Tony’s did.

Reuben Frio Sideshot

Reuben Frio Sideshot

Ok, so the sandwich. Whew! Beautifully thick-cut Pastrami, not skimpy on the kraut, thousand island dressing to keep it moist and just enough Muenster cheese to keep this puppy on track and I fell in love. A theme you’ll find in this article is “not skimpy”. In the times we live in here, which are recession times, food places try and cut corners by inching the prices up and lowering the amount of ingredients. This sandwich was brimming with meat and kraut! I feel like this thing was created in the 80’s when everything was overstuffed and then time traveled right to my table. And man, I am way ok with that!

Next up, was my absolute favorite: The Sh#tfaced!

The Sh#tfaced Sandwich!

The Sh#tfaced Sandwich!

The Sh#tfaced Sideview!

The Sh#tfaced Sideview!

This thing is a straight up knock out. I would eat this everyday for the rest of my life and not bat an eye, that’s how good it is! Beer battered chicken with a Stout Honey BBQ sauce. That’s so many flavors and textures working together, it actually short circuits your taste buds for a second. The beer batter (which is not very heavy at all) plus the sauce, which is just a little bit sweet and a little bit buttery and a whole lot heavenly. Oh, and it’s got melted Mozzarella and Cheddar on it too, just in case you needed some more awesome to go with it! You owe it to yourself to try this thing, it is absolutely mind-blowing. And if that’s not enough! You can also get it on a pizza!

Po' Doc Carver

Po’ Doc Carver

Moving on to another work of art, meet The Po’ Doc Carver! Deliciously fried chicken with a house made Chipotle sauce and covered in a smoked Mozzarella that’ll spoil you on regular mozz for life! Toss in some lettuce and tomato and you got yourself a rainbow of texture, aromas and deliciousness.

Now, Tony Boloney’s isn’t just sandwiches, they also make some unreal pizzas as well! When I popped in, I picked up a slice of the Carnival Freak. The pizza at Tony’s is unlike most, it’s a crispier crust and is nice and light but still have the cojones to carry whatever sick and twisted ideas that owner Mike Hauke has up his sleeve.

Carnival Freak

Carnival Freak

The Carnival Freak has breadcrumbs on the crust, herbs to keep that flavor palate hoppin’, Mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan and a marinara that bent my brain, it was that good! I know it sounds odd that there are breadcrumbs on the crust, but it adds to the impressive texture of the pizza as a whole.

What really impresses me about the pizzas at Tony’s is that they understand that not all of the toppings need to fill the entire slice. Don’t get me wrong, I completely enjoy an everything pie once in a while, where you get a bite of all the toppings in each bite, but that doesn’t work with a lot of different combos of pies. In this one, you get some marinara and some ricotta in one bite, then some mozz and herbage in another, and so on. It’s really a delight.

Crab Fries!

Crab Fries!

Finally, I also ordered The Crab Fries! Chickie and Pete’s serves frozen crinkle cut fries with some Old Bay and melty American cheese in the side. Tony’s serves Crab fries with CRAB on them, along with some butter, Old Bay and Mozzarella cheese! They were pretty kick ass, and again, NOT skimpy with the Crab!

The cheese went all he way thru and the butter gave it a delicious smoothness that combined with the Old Bay to dance around the fries and hug it with awesome. Seriously. Awesome.

So, you might be wondering, after reading this review of Tony Boloney’s, if there was anything I didn’t like about this place. The answer, honestly, is no. they even offer awesome sugar cane sodas like Boylan’s along with the usual suspect sodas. The tables were clean, and at the right heights so you don’t feel like you are sitting on the floor when you are eating. Don’t feel like sitting inside? Sit outside on the picnic tables and get some fresh air while ya eat.

This guy!

This guy!

Even the staff was awesome. I am a bad order-er in places. It takes me more time then it should to order (I think my brain shorts out when there is too much choice and my friends all make fun of me for it) and this guy, who was working himself behind the counter and juggling like 9 things at once, was super nice and didn’t at all try to hurry me along. In fact, he answered all my stupid questions with ease and didn’t bat an eye when I ordered enough food to feed 9 people “for here”. I was thinking he was the twin of that one guy from the show House, but he is not. What I am saying, is that this place has it covered: great food, great customer service, and a cool place to eat!

You would be cheating yourself if you didn’t check this place out on your next trip to AC! 300 Oriental Avenue, right on the corner! Look for the blue and the big moustache!

National Cheeseburger Day: Five Guys!


Philadelphia, where I am from, live and love, is a town known for cheesesteaks (And soft pretzels and other stuff. But the media focuses on cheesesteaks. Whatever). So when you can look forward to something as awesome as a cheesesteak, nothing else really compares. Chicago has hotdogs (big deal) and New England has lobster rolls (a little pinchy) but none of that stuff has ever really taken hold here. So when burger places started popping up, I was intrigued. All we have ever really had was the run of the mill chain places, and frankly, I love a good burger. The good folks at PYT do an awesome job, Bobby’s Burger Palace is pretty great and even Shake Shack became a favorite for me. I even visited the Holy Grail of Hamburgers, In and Out Burger (nine thumbs up!).

When people started telling me I HAD to go to Five Guys, I was a little skeptical. It looked, from the outside, kinda cheesy. They had giant 50 pound bags of potatoes stacked up with a sign telling you what farm and state they were from. They had boxes of peanuts for the people to munch on. But besides that, it was just a red and white place that was a little sparse. I had heard that you either liked it or hated it. I heard lots of things. I never got over there. On the last day at my old job, I ventured out with Brian and Jen to the Five Guys in Moorestown and, um, almost hurt myself.

First of all, let me say that if you have a peanut allergy, or are planning on taking anyone to this place with a peanut allergy, dont. They have a giant box of peanuts (altho not in a bathtub, oh I miss you Ground Round) for you to eat while waiting. Jen and Brian ordered like humans, and I was assured that one order of fries would be

Brian unloads the food

Brian unloads the food

enough for all 3 of us. I, on the other hand, not knowing anything about the menu, ordered like an animal. 2 burgers: a cheeseburger and a bacon cheeseburger. We self served our beverages and had a seat.

I was informed that the one order of fries would be enough and I figured they would have alot of fries. I’m not a huge fry fan so I shrugged it off…. then I saw the size of the order of fries.

Brian said there was a lot of fries but yeah, I was not prepared. The amount of fries came to the second band of red checkers on that cup. Holy portion control, Batman. Seriously. Wow. And they do come right in the brown paper bag. Before you say “Ew!”, brown paper absorbs oil and grease so that your food stays hot but it doesn’t swim in the residual grease form the fryer and get soggy. In the South, when people make fried chicken, they pop the finished product on folded brown paper bags as well. It’s almost an unspoken industry secret.

The Fries

The Fries

The fries themselves weren’t bad. They fry everything in Peanut Oil (and I am sure make a tidy profit selling the oil to a secondary market), so the fries aren’t exactly crunchy, but a little oily and chewy. Some people like fries like that and some, well, don’t. I am on the fence.

I had a fistful of fries but I didn’t go back for too many. But kudos for Five Guys offering malt vinegar for the fries! That was a surprising touch and all three of us enjoyed it.

The burgers on the other hand. Yeah, wow. First of all, here is a tip: if it doesn’t say “little” in front of it, it’s a double burger. I, like I had said, ordered 2 burgers and didn’t realize I’d be eating 2 double burgers. You see what I do for you people? This is what I do for journalism! And for my cardiologist (who apparently will be buying a new boat soon! Called “The DidjaEat?!”)!

Bacon Cheeseburger

Bacon Cheeseburger

The burgers are wrapped in a simple aluminum foil wrap (with stickers to tell them apart). That saves them big overhead on custom printed wrap (So far they have saved on things to put fries in, recycling oil and now burger wrap. Pretty crafty.). Opening this thing up, you have to grin. It’s got handmade written all over it. When you order, there is a laundry list of toppings you can get (for free!). I got mayo, lettuce, tomato, and pickles.

The pickles were thick, the tomatoes were thick cut and fresh and the iceberg lettuce was nice and crunchy. But I am sure you don’t care that much about the toppings, you care about the MEAT!

Inside the Bacon Cheeseburger

Inside the Bacon Cheeseburger

First off, the bacon was not skimpy and it was not cheap, crappy bacon. It was delicious and you could taste that it hadn’t been cooked too far behind the burger. The burger itself Jen said was juicy and I agree wholeheartedly. It was juicy and delicious. There wasn’t a whole bunch of crap mixed in, no pink slime, no trimmings, no cow meat (just steer and heifer meat, so says the website). Even the cheese was perfect. Needless to say, there was very little conversation while we were chewing.

Cheeseburger

Cheeseburger

The regular cheeseburger (the same as the bacon cheeseburger, but without the bacon and tomato) was pretty excellent as well. Jen and Brian gnawed on fries while I, again, complained about what I do for JOURNALISM! They nodded knowingly, with my Mom and Cardiologist on speed dial. They are good friends that way.

Also, a word about the bun. The bun is always the unsung hero of a good burger. Have a crappy one and halfway thru it’s in 9 pieces. Have a stale one and it falls apart. Too chewy and you end up ripping it when you take a bite. This bun was perfect. it stood up to the burger and kept the whole mess in place without ripping, falling apart or dissolving form the grease. Two thumbs up for the best bun I have had in awhile

If I would have had to reorder the food, I would not have had 2 double burgers, but frankly, that was my stupid fault for not checking it out before we got there. I did not have to eat for the rest of the day tho, so that’s something, right?

So, let’s talk about price. I wouldn’t exactly say the Five Guys was cheap. If you wanted to get the same thing at McDonald’s, it would have been about 10 bucks cheaper (in Meal form). But then again, the meat isn’t nearly as delicious. For 4 Double burgers (with as many free toppings as you can stuff on there), the giant vat of fries that they almost had to wheel out on a hand truck and 3 large (all you can drink) sodas, it cost about 40 bucks. I probably wouldn’t eat there everyday (because I’d like to live to 40), but I have to say it was worth the money. Jen and Brian, who had been there before, really liked it too.

I say, if you are looking for a quick lunch that is something a little different, hit them up! Fresh burgers, clean restaurant, and a small business instead of a giant conglomerate who puts god knows what in the burgers? If it’s not In and Out, the go Five Guys!

The Shake Shack Shimmy!


Being a life long resident of Philly, I have to say I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder when it comes to New York. Besides the ridiculous NYC attitude, it is seriously irritating the way they seem to assume that the whole world revolves around them (ps nyc: your town smells like pee). So when I heard that the burger place that is all the rage up there was coming to Philly, I shrugged. Yes, I shrugged. I shrugged when someone said “You gotta check out Shake Shack“.

First of all, expensive burger places are nothing new around here. In fact, Jose Garces’s Village Whiskey was going to be right across the street from the proposed eatery, and they have expensive burgers as well, along with about 900 kinds of whiskey (true story). Plus, there is PYT in the Piazza, Bobby’s Burger Palace, Good Dog and a million other places. One more overrated burger joint wasn’t going to get me excited.

Aaaaand then I went there…twice.

One night after doing the open mic at Helium Comedy Club, my friend Hot Mess Jess mentioned to me that we should stop at Shake Shack. It would be an easy stop because it happens to be on the corner of the block where Helium lives. I mulled it over for about 6 seconds and off we went. Usually there is a giant line outside the place, but we got lucky and it was almost empty since it was around 10pm. We did get a pager, ala The Olive Garden, but the wait was only maybe 8 minutes or so.

The place is pretty standard as far as burger joints go. The menu is giant and bolted to the wall, like the one at Bobby’s Burger Palace. There are a few booths and some tables and some high tops to sit at as well. They have a liquor license so you can get a beer with your burger if you choose (they have outdoor seating but as of the day I went the second time, you still couldn’t take the booze outside yet. I think they are waiting for the permit).

I got the Double ShackBurger for $7.10. It comes with lettuce, tomato, cheese and ShackSauce. Hot Mess Jess got ShackStack, a burger with a fried Portobello mushroom on it. We also split some fries.

Double ShakeShack Burger

Double ShakeShack Burger

First off, let’s talk about the Double ShackBurger. Let’s start with the condiments. The lettuce was fresh, the tomato was juicy, the cheese was…cheesy. I still don’t really know what Shack Sauce is, but it’s a nice mild addition to anything. The bun was spongy enough to hold the mess of a burger but not over chewy. More on that in a bit.

The meat. Oh, the meat. The menu says that they use “100% Angus Beef without any added hormones or antibiotics.”. But is it good? The answer is an unequivical HELL YES.

Inside The Double Shack burger

Inside The Double Shack burger

For years, chefs on tv have been telling people that all you need is a little salt and a little pepper to season a burger. There is a reason for this! Let the flavor of the meat shine! The people at the Shack understand this. Grind it, lightly season it, patty it, flat top it (no pressing or squeezing please) and serve it up. If you looked up “kick ass juicy burger” on dictionary.com, this burger would be pictured prominently. With a big blinking frame around it. And a little band playing a jig. And possibly some fireworks. Yeah. It’s that good. Oh, and they cook all burgers to medium unless otherwise specified. Do yourself a favor and just take it the way it’s meant to be: Welcome to flavor country!

Shack Stack!

Shack Stack!

Hot Mess Jess also had an interesting burger. One patty of meat and one patty of Portobello mushroom. She loved it and said it was delicious! You can also order it without the meat (as The ‘Shroom Burger) and have a very fine vegetarian burger! If the bun is vegan (and I am not sure if it is), you could even have an awesome vegan shroom burger with the L&T and they also offer pickle and onion. As you can see, they are not skimpy with the sauce!

The Hinge!!

The Hinge!!

One incredibly smart thing I noticed while stuffing my face full of delicious meat was The Hinge. I don’t know if they do this on purpose, or if it just happens with the buns they use but it is GENIUS! You see, the burger is really juicy, the melty cheese is messy and it could end up being quite a mess. And overall, it is a bit messy (neat eaters need not apply). However! With a regular bun, things start sliding around (and sometimes right out the back, which is why you need to eat burgers without The Hinge with The Claw, which is something I will write about some other time) and then you end up with a a disproportionate bun to meat ratio. That makes me angry, like, Hulk angry. MUST SMASH BURGER! HULK SMASH MESSY BURGER!!…ahem…anyway…This bun has a hinge on the back. It keeps the top and bottom from sliding around and it also catches a lot of that juice and cheese so that when you are done, it’s like a sponge of deliciousness. It is also a sponge of genius-ness!

Fries!

Fries!

We also got some fries on the side. They were good…basically for crinkle fries that I am sure some kid in the back had to either cut or defrost. They don’t salt them, which I find odd and a little irritating because they come out right away (for the most part), and fresh out of the fryer fries are the best to hit with just a little bit of salt. But, at $2.65, they weren’t bad.

A few weeks later, I revisited Helium with my friend Jackie O to see some friends in a showcase show, and she suggested that we stop at Shake Shack as well after the show. Who am I to say no to my friends? Plus, Jackie is the best! We both got some burgers, but we also got something else they do at Shake Shack. Yeah, this place is not a one trick pony.

They offer something called a Concrete: dense frozen custard blended at high speed with things mixed in. You can make your own but they also have set ones they have that you can order. Jackie O and I both ordered The Center City Pretzel (Vanilla Custard, Philly Style Soft Pretzel, Caramel Sauce, Marshmallow Sauce and Banana).

This thing was pretty kick ass. The Caramel and Marshmallow Sauces kind of blend together, and the banana mingles around the middle, but it all somehow comes together and is dotted inside and out with pieces of pretzel. Be warned however, it is more of a Super Pretzel then a real Philly Soft Pretzel. There is a big difference, but in this case it does work. It would be cool if Shake Shack worked with a local vendor, like PYT does to make their pretzel rolls for the cheesesteak burger, but that’s up to them I suppose.

Anyway, the frozen custard is blended smoothly and each bite feels like you are mingling with all the ingredients. While doing a blend isn’t anything new (Dairy Queen’s been doing blizzards foreeeverrrr), they are doing it well. At $4.25 for a half and $6.50 for a regular, it might be a little high but worth every penny.

So, while I wouldn’t eat at Shake Shack every day (mostly because I’d be dead by the end of the month), it is on my list of places to visit if I am in the area. It might not be as internationally known like Capogiro or the Jose Garces’ place Village Whiskey across the street but it does what it does well! Try and hit it on an off hour and there won’t be much of a wait (I spontaneously combust if I wait in lines for too long for stupid things). I also found that the prices were in line with what they were offering, perhaps on the high side, but the flavors make it worth the trip and the lightening of your wallet.

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