Category Archives: restaurants
De Lorenzo’s Is The Best Pizza In The Universe
I like pizza. I mean I really like it. A lot. I guess I can be kind of a snob, but knowing what you like isn’t really snobbery, it’s just knowing what you like. I don’t like that Dominos (and Food Service) puffy crust. I also don’t like super dense crust. Oddly. I do like cheap, shitty $1 pizza as well as carnival type pizza (frozen shells). So, as a pizza fan, I am always on the lookout for new and exciting places. I am also always talking to pizza fan and comedian Joe Moore about places we could swap, especially because I am always traveling around doing standup comedy shows.
One day I was chatting with Joe about comedy, not pizza, when someone came over and asked him what his absolute favorite pizza was. He responded without even thinking “Easy. DeLorenzos.”. He went on to tell me that the place used to be in Trenton and it moved to a small town right outside. He could not stress it more: it was perfect. Now, I don’t usually get that far up in Jersey to Trenton, or if I do, I go way past it, up to Princeton or further. But one day I booked a show in Robbinsville. The name of the town looked familiar to me so I ran it by Joe and he verified it, it was the home of De Lorenzo’s.
After my show I literally ran to my car and drove over to De Lorenzo’s. The town of Robbinsville is cute, and everything is mostly new because it all used to be farmland that was just recently developed in the last 10-15 years. De Lorenzo’s sits in a shopping development with lofts over it and central parking in the back (someone actually thought about planning, that’s a nice change).
Inside there are some lovely red booths and white twinkly lights. But I was more interested in the ovens! The ovens, while I do not know if they are original, I believe did come from the old place in the Chambersburg section of Trenton, on Hudson street, where the original place stood for over 60 years. Now in thier 8th year in Robbinsville, the quality still stands.
But enough talk about the past. Let’s talk about the present. I walked into the restaurant and ordered a large pepperoni and homemade meatball pie and a medium pepper and onion pie. And then I had to drive an hour home with those pies in the car. I wanted to die! I wanted to dive right in on the highway and start stuff that amazingly smelling pepperoni, meatball, onion, pepper and garlicy pizza right into my mouth. But I didn’t! Why? For journalism! I hope you all appreciate it! Also, scroll to the end for a Photo Gallery!
First up: The pepperoni and homemade meatball pie. I have never had meatball on a pie and I had seen the pepperoni they use: not the sliced super thin stuff that comes 6 pounds to a bag (altho that does have a time and place), they use the quality stuff and aren’t stingy with it. The meatball made me almost burst into tears when I saw it: big slices spread all over the one side of the pie and smelled amazing. It was a little peppery but meaty. It was a perfect meatball. I would have loved to just have a bowl of those meatballs. Mental note: ask about that next time. The sauce was slightly sweet and slightly chunky. The cheese wasn’t 6 feet thick, it was just the right amount to not overpower anything else.
The crust is thin, in that it’s…thin and not a cracker. Some pieces were well done and some were exactly done. As Americans, we are spoiled in that we believe everything should be done exactly the same way all the way around, because we are used to machine and factory made things. We have lost touch with the idea of “homemade”. It’s the tiny little imperfections that make things unique and in the case of this pizza, absolutely amazing.
The pepper and onion pizza, well, I didn’t know if I would like that as much until I took a bite of it. Why? Because it’s sweet peppers! I love sweet peppers and always get them on hoagies! I never had them on pizza, and man was I missing out! The crust on this guy was a little more evenly cooked around the edges but I could care less. It was also fantastic.
Something else I loved is that there is a whiff of garlic to this pizza, but it’s not overpowering. I guess after 68 years, they know what they are doing, so don’t ask questions, just eat!
What I found interesting about this pizza is that they didn’t cut it into wedges. The only other time I have ever seen a circular pizza not cut into wedges was years ago when I was in suburban Chicago. I was at a house and they flipped open the pizza box and I was completely puzzled. The pie was cut into many squares. “WHY!” I thought. “WHY, GOD, WHY!”. This pizza was cut more into rectangles and frankly, I was totally ok with it because you had a shot at crust in every piece. It was probably easier to eat that way as well, because the point would probably break off between the thin-ness and the weight of the toppings. Or not, this is totally conjecture. Anywho, it was fantastic.
Many food websites as well as Zagat have rated De Lorenzo’s the absolute best pizza in the Country. I agree. When I got home and started texting Joe Moore about how I ate it, he asked me what I thought, because he was afraid he might have been overselling it. Spoiler alert: he didn’t. I wanted to build a speedway so I could go to Robbinsville each week and eat this pizza. I wanted to rub it all over me and build a pizza monument to it. I wanted to call the owners and ask them what I did in life to deserve to eat pizza that was so fucking amazing. I wanted to hug them and thank them. I cannot stress this highly enough GO TO THIS PLACE.
2350 US Highway 33
Robbinsville, New Jersey 08691
Lunch: Tue.-Fri., 11-2 • Dinner: Tue.-Sun., 4-10 • Closed Mondays
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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.
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…..
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.
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!
Ah, pizza. The one food I could eat everyday, for every meal. The one food my grandpop would not eat, even when his army buddies got him drunk. The one food people have very specific likes of: thin crust, thick crust, deep dish, pepperoni, white pies, cold pizza, hot pizza, frozen pizza from the toaster oven, steaming hot right out of the oven pizza. The list goes on and on.
Anyone with half a brain can make a pizza. But to make a great pizza requires skill and a really great oven. This brings us to Tacconelli’s. Tacconelli’s is a pizza place in my neighborhood, the Port Richmond section of Philly, on Somerset street. They have a very cool brick oven and they know how to use it.
You can’t just pop in there and order a pie. I mean, you can, but it is easier to call ahead and order your dough. You can tell them what to do with it when you get there but you better call ahead, because it’s a one man, one person oven and they only make so much dough every day. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Needless to say, this makes the pizza desirable, to say the least.
My friend Joe Moore is from the Jerz, and had not had really any good pizza in the Philly area. Every time he would say that, it occurred to me to mention Tacconelli’s and then I would forget. We finally got it together and got on over there. Now, you have to understand, Joe is no ordinary pizza shmoe. He is what would call a connousseur of pizza, a lover of the pizza pie. He was also really excited about the outing, as was I!
We decided on getting the Regular pie (with a little cheese and sauce) and a Margherita pie (with fresh basil and fresh mozzerella) and a third pie with pepperoni.
All of the pies were great! The thin crunchy crust was perfect, and Joe was surprised by the sweetness of the sauce.
I liked that the pepperoni was sliced a little thicker. Some places slice it super thin (or, I should say, buy thin sliced pepperoni). It may have added grease, but pepperoni grease is delicious (you know it, I know it and everyone else knows it).
As you can see in the picture here, the crust is super thin, so you can really put away a lot of this pizza. In fact, we put away about 75% of it. I don’t know about Joe, but I had to actually stop myself from eating because I would have gone on and mowed through the rest of it (thank god we saved some for his wife Emily, or I would have really hurt myself).
If I had to pick a favorite, I would have to say the pepperoni one was the best, but the Margherita wasn’t bad either. The pepperoni pieces were smaller then you would get at a regular pizza place, but they were a tad thicker and they are not stingy with it. If you are a regular reader at all of this blog, you know I hate stingyness!
The fresh basil on the Margherita really gave it some depth, even tho I could have done with more of it. The problem with basil is that too much and you end up with everything tasting like basil (and not this Basil). Overall it was delicious, thin, crispy and slightly sweet.
Joe, being the pizza guy he is, wrote up a little piece about what he thought of the pies as well:
I had heard a lot about Tacconelli’s pizza and was pretty excited to finally try it.
Jake’s Sandwich Board Midtown Chicken
A few weeks ago I was scheduled to do some standup at the F Harold Festival in downtown Philly. I was super early and parked a few blocks away so I could get some dinner at the famed Jake’s Sandwich Board.
I guess I’m on a sandwich roll lately (no pun intended). I’ve heard some crazy stuff about this place, and it is mostly known for it’s awesome pork and brisket as well as it’s Jake’s 5 pound Philly Challenge:
I would love to someday kill that challenge but frankly, I’m too much of a wuss to do it these days. NEVER SAY NEVER!!! *insert fist shake here*.
The menu at Jake’s is pretty awesome. They offer everything on either a seeded, unseeded or wheat roll from a bakery in South Philly. Got gluten issues or are on atkins? Have your sandwich in a bowl, or in a bowl on greens or in a bowl on fries (called a haystack!). Roll it or Bowl it! That’s thinkin’ when it comes to customers!
As you can see, they break it down to pork, brisket, steaks, and then other favorites. I stood staring at the board for quite awhile, catching flies with my jaw on the floor. The worst part of trying to order is when you are starving and one of everything sounds good. My problem was that I was going to be telling jokes to a (mostly disinterested) crowd of people and I didn’t need to be belching into the mic (altho, that might be an added jewel to my set…). I needed something filling and delicious but not super heavy. Decisions, decisions.
I went with, surprise, the Midtown Chicken. It has sliced chicken breast, roasted red pepper, avocado puree, red onion, cheddar and mozzarella. I got it on a seeded bun, for kicks. Yes, there is a kick ass sandwich under those onions.
The chicken is chopped more then sliced, but really that’s just nit picking. Sometimes when you get sandwiches like this, the chicken is dry from sitting around or overcooking on the flat top. Not this guy. The chicken was juicy and flavorful, and mixed well with all the other ingredients, it was like a festival of luscious delight in my mouth (take that, thesaurus.com).
I mean seriously, look at this picture and tell me it doesn’t immediately make you start drooling all over yourself. The roasted red pepper blended into the cheese which blended into the chicken and the avocado was a smooth transition into the roll. Unreal. So good.
And then I started thinking to myself, what could make this sandwich even better? Not the orange soda I ordered, that had brought it to the level I was currently at. I needed to jack it up another notch. Bring it way, way up. it needed some heat. Where could I get some heat? NEED HEAT!
And then this stuff shows up.
It’s some kind of hot shaker habanero powdered hot craziness. I covered the top of my sandwich with it and my eyes bugged out like Tom on Tom and Jerry when Jerry would smash his foot with a bowling ball. Whoooooo! (yeah with the name of St. Lucifer, you’d think I would have been tipped off. I’m not that bright, ya know.)
I left Jake’s feeling good about my food choice. I didn’t feel like death while waiting to go onstage (I mean, not more so then usual) and I can’t wait to go back and check out the brisket & chocolate covered bacon! Oh yeah!
If you find yourself in the area of 12th and Sansom, swing on over and check it out.
I know I’ll be back!
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.
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.
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.
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
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”.
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.
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!!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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?!”)!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
Crabby Nachos Are Nacho Good
I’m on vacation this week. Some friends went to the shore with me and we went to dinner at The Island Grille in Ocean City. I controlled myself enough to not moon the Tabernacle assholes as we drove by (if you are unfamiliar: Ocean City is a dry town. The restaurants are hurting in this economy by not doing any sort of liquor and a lot of people will go to nearby Somers Point so they can imbibe. The restaurant guys came up with a plan to offer BYOB only between Memorial Day and Labor Day, but as usual, the rich douchebags don’t care about the working guys out there and lobbied enough to scare people into voting it down (by saying “The Town will turn into Wildwood” which I find to be elitist and douchey). The funny part about the whole thing is that they were saying that it would ruin the “family vibe” of OC if they let in liquor. Meanwhile, check out the recycling bins on trash day or the long lines at the 2 liquor stores conveniently located at the bottom of both bridges leading into town.) and we circled around long enough to park within walking distance of The Island Grille.
I found this place because my Mom had a magnet from there on her fridge, no kidding. The website looked nice and the prices seemed ok. They have nice outside seating as well as arctic ac inside if that’s your thing. They offer lots of seafood and pump in a lot of Jimmy Buffet music. I hate Jimmy Buffett but that’s just me. I guess it goes with the decor? Whatever. Anywho, as Julie, Cecilia and I sat down, we saw “Crabby Nachos” and ordered them immediately.
It said they came with crab and “cheese sauce”. I didn’t think much of it, I thought it would be cheese whiz, which I am a big fan of (keep your hate mail to yourselves). I could have done without the giant salad on top, but I suppose it was for color. For some reason, they used bagged tortilla chips. You might not know this but it’s cheaper to MAKE YOUR OWN CHIPS. Please take note, everyone in the food industry who insists on using these shitty chips. But, I am flexible. Perhaps they are busy and don’t have the time to do prep. Who knows.
I have to say they are not skimpy with the crap. These things have tons of crab on them. Do you like crab? I know I do (insert Will Ferrell doing Harry Carrey here). The crab doesn’t disappoint. What does disappoint? I hope you are sitting down.
Let’s start with the jalapenos, of which came out of a can. Seriously. Seriously? How about the salsa? Of which is also from a can (or, a plastic bottle). Seriously. Do you have any idea how cheap it is to make salsa? And the longer it sits, the better it gets, so it’s not like you have to throw it away every nite! You could make one big thing of it once a week and be done with it! Jalapenos that come from a can…I have no words for that. No words. Actually, I do have words: you suck.
Let’s sit a spell and chat about this “cheese sauce”. Now, I love cheese whiz. I am a Philadelphian, and it is in my DNA to enjoy a few things: Tastykakes, cream cheese, water that tastes like a pipe, and cheese whiz. I could put it on anything. I have put it on lots of stuff. I don’t want to say I have licked plates or wrappers that it might be on, because my Mom reads this and will yell at me…but I’ll let your imagination work it out.
This is not cheese whiz. This is straight up cheap ass, 7-11 nacho cheese. When I worked at the Sev, it came in a bag, and the pump attached to it. They might have it on a Bain-Marie, which is like a water bath type of thing, like you see on a buffet line. It would probably be in one like you’d see soups in. Do you know how cheap it is to buy shredded cheese in bulk? Super, crazy cheap. And that cheese is used everywhere and for something like nachos, it’s great! To say “cheese sauce”, you’d think it was something like the melted cheese sauce they use at Chickie and Pete’s for the Crab Fries. But no, no, you’d be wrong.
If this place was run by some idiot wahoos who decided it would be fun to have a restaurant without any training and they pulled this sort of thing, I’d understand. They wouldn’t know any better. But according to the website: “Andy is the chef and runs the back of the restaurant. Wife Allison manages the front of the restaurant. Andy is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University with a BS in Food Service Management and an Assoc. in Culinary Arts.”. Johnson and Wales is right behind the CIA in pumping out trained culinary people. There is no excuse for this.
So let’s see how this went:
Chips. Eh. Jalapenos. Bleh. Cheese. Ugh. Salsa. Nasty. Crab. Tasty. I don’t get it. I don’t understand. The crab is awesome, but the rest of it could be fixed so easily. Please, Island Grille, FIX IT.
Be Still My Clogged Arteries!: Fat Sandwiches in New Brunswick
I have always been fascinated by ridiculous sandwiches. Even when I was a kid and would see Dagwood, in the Blondie comic strip, make those crazy sandwiches, I was fascinated. In New Brunswick, New Jersey, there lives Rutgers University. Whenever you have a college, especially one as large at Rutgers, you get food trucks. These trucks, known as “grease trucks”, are exactly what you think they are: sandwich trucks. But these sandwich trucks spawned something interesting: The Fat Sandwich.
The Fat Sandwich is a bad meal on a long roll. That’s the best way to put it. You feel like eating a cheesesteak with a side of fries? Well, why not just put the whole thing on the cheesesteak? Maybe you wanted Jalapeno Poppers as well? Put those bad boys on there too. And maybe some chicken fingers? Yup, everyone in the pool!
So when I went to visit my friend Pat, who seems to be becoming my new food-partner-in-crime at times, we put down our beers long enough to decide to order some sandwiches. He steered me towards a place called Giovanelli’s. This place has a laundry list of fat sandwiches, as does a bunch of others. He really likes this place tho, so we ordered!
First up is the Fat Phillipino. Not a very politically correct name, but the tastiness of the sandwich makes up for it. I felt a little better about eating it because it has a lot of lettuce and tomato on it. Maybe it’s a mini-salad? Yeah, let’s go with that.
But this puppy is loaded to the gills. It doesn’t look so bad when you take a top down view of it. It looks almost tame, right? Like it’s a small sandwich? (This is a half by the way. Pat and I decided to switch halves in order to try 2 kinds. No wonder he is a graduate school graduate. I can’t even say that 5 times fast…)
Now let’s take a look at this thing from the side and I will go over the things that are loaded in here. Are ya ready? (And please, click on the picture to get the full effect. Yowza!) It’s got cheese steak, chicken fingers, gyro meat, mozzarella sticks, french fries, white sauce, lettuce and tomato. The fries were a little bit limp by the time the food got to us, but I’m ok with that.
The sandwich is supposed to have white sauce on it, but it did taste a little dry. I imagine it’s because of the time of transportation and also because of the bread and the breaded ingredients within the sandwich. How did it taste overall? It was pretty darn delicious, I have to say.
The second sandwich was the the Fat Giovanelli. I actually heard my Mom yelling at me in my head for eating this thing. The things I do for journalism! This one looks really harmless from the top, doesn’t it?
That red you see is hot sauce. It’s actually not a very spicy sauce but it does give the sandwich a bit of a kick. It also made the sandwich a lot less dry then the other ones, but it could have used more moisture. But, like I said, I think transportation and bread’s moisture sucking qualities kind of did me in a little bit. Don’t despair, beer helped.
Now check out the side shot of this thing (then go take your cholesterol meds). This thing contains: cheesesteak, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, french fries, bacon, egg, hot sauce. I am a HUGE fan of eggs on cheeseburgers, so when I saw there was a sandwich with egg on it, I was all over it. This thing does not disappoint. The egg gives the whole thing some more moisture and some great texture when you are up against the cheesesteak meat and the breading of the chicken fingers and mozzarella sticks. And again, the hot sauce moistens up the fries a bit.
So, would I eat one of these monstrosities again? Sure. Do I think I can take on the challenge of eating 5 that one of the trucks does? No way. Will I be eating salads the rest of the week to make up for the damage I did? Probably. I’d like to try another kind of these at some point, so we’ll see what happens. But thanks to Pat Farley for being smart enough to not only graduate grad school but also to know where the good places to eat are!