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.
There were many events at the AC Food and Wine Fest this year. The Blues, Brews and BBQ event was hands down the best one! Even tho it was, no lie, 900 degrees out and this thing was held in the parking lot across from the Showboat Casino, even tho the guys using smokers and grills made it 200 times hotter and even tho the big tents were no help from the heat, it still was a blast!
Yes, there was a band and yes, there was a lot of beer. But hey, I went for the BBQ!!
First up was Devil’s Alley. They are a, surprise, bar and grille in downtown Philly at 19th and Chestnut Sts. Chef Brian Fidiam come with a something offbeat, but still awesome! Spicy Dry Rub Wings. Now when I say these things were moist, tender and delicious, believe me. I ate, well, I coulda put their kids thru college. Let’s just leave it at that!
Next up was Smokin’ Betty’s, a place down at 11th and Sansom sts, in downtown Philly. They brought their signature Riblets. Now, some of you might remember places like Applebee’s who would have all you could eat riblets. these are not that! Not that! Not even close! The sweet sauce mingles with the porky goodness and the fat disintegrates right as it touches your tongue. Again, I think I ate a whole table’s worth.
Also, I cannot go much further without a shoutout to some neighbors of mine I ran into and went to a few events with! Maureen is a huge fan of the blog and her kids (All grown up now. I am so old!) love going to food events. Also, a shoutout to Brigid’s boyfriend Joe who bought a 5 gallon oak barrel in which to brew beer inside! I want to see how that turns out! They also kindly showed me some of the more awesome things I’m writing about today! So, hats off to Joe and the Ramseys!
Paula Deen was big and loud at the event and she cracked everyone up. As you can see in the picture, she’s lost a bunch of weight, as has Michael. She was really loving talking to the crowd, got onto the topic of her Diabetes and having to eat better and lose weight. Her son Bobby has been helping them eat better (and she plugged his show “Not My Mama’s Meals”, in which he remakes some of her recipes in a way that won’t kill you…as fast), which has helped with the weight loss, but she didn’t put a big shine on the whole thing. She basically pined what we all feel, that weight loss is hard and sometimes you just want that donut, but you gotta stick to it. Sometimes tho, have that donut! Am I saying Paula Deen, Queen of Butter, was being realistic? Yes, I am! Good god, anything is possible I think.
Paula also brought along her Braised Beef Brisket. I have never actually tasted anything she has made (or, as it was probably at this event, supervised the making of), and this brisket was pretty fantastic. It had a great crust on it and the sauce had a kick but with a smokey backend. It was right on!
This little puppy melted the socks right off my feet. Local Smoke BBQ brought their world-famous Smoked Jalapeno Poppers. When I saw the sign, I was intrigued. However, I have a problem with Jalapenos these days. You see, I’m getting kind of old and certain things just, well, tie me up into knots. They turn my body into a festival of terror. I actually start twitching when I see seeds sometimes. Once I was assured there were no seeds, I dug in and wowza! A hollow Jalapeno stuffed with a cream cheese and pulled pork filling, wrapped in dry-rubbed bacon and slow-smoked to perfection & served with BBQ ranch dipping sauce. Pop that sucker right in your mouth and your eyes immediately roll to the back of your head. You need to sit down. The layers of flavor melt all over your mouth. These things are a National Treasure. These things should be on every tv show in the land. These things are amazing.
Tyler Florence was in attendance at the fest as well. He brought up Paula and then later came out and mingled amongst the sweaty unwashed. When I say this guy was the nicest fellow I have come across, believe it. I approached him, told him my blog name and said maybe he should check it out and he repeated it back, and said he would. I got the feeling from him, well, he just might. He then asked if I wanted a picture and I snapped one of just him and then he insisted we take one together (of which I will spare you of because we both look like we just climbed out of a pool). I felt bad for him, he was wearing that chef coat and he was soaked all the way thru. But he stayed and took more pics, talked to people, signed autographs and all. I know they all get paid to be at these things but the guy is a trooper (and just as cute in person as he is on tv).
Zac Pelaccio is a world travelin’ dude. He’s written a book called “Eat With Your Hands” and pushes that exact idea: to get into with your food. He also owns 2 restaurants: Fatty Crab and Fatty Cue. This guy knows what’s what.
Zak was working with Amstel Light and made a Pork Burger with Twig Farm Goat Cheese, Citrus Mayo, and Onion Jam served on a soft rye burger bun.
It was juicy and very well seasoned. However, I am not a fan of goat cheese. I keep trying and trying but no go. The Ramsey’s really liked it tho, it seemed. I really wanna visit one of Zak’s places tho, they sound amazing. You can order a half pound of deep fried bacon!!
The biggest, brightest part of the day was from Dinosaur BBQ! I didn’t think it was the same one in Harlem, from which I have heard many fantastically awesome things from people I know. They didn’t mention that on the menu, they just mentioned Newark. Turns out, it was! And oh my dear mother of all that is good and holy on this planet and the next, this thing was transcendent.
Look close at the meat, you’ll see the smoke ring. Look closer and you’ll see how juicy that meat was. Look again and see the amazing sauce they laid on there. I walked away looking like a toddler who fought a plate of spaghetti and I did not care. Not one stinkin’ bit. It was that good. I was sweaty, tired, and covered in bbq sauce and it was some of the best BBQ meat I have ever had. Unreal. UNREAL.
Whew! So that was the Blues, Brews and BBQ event! I left there seeing BBQ everywhere I went. I should say that two of my favorite beer companies were there as well, Anderson Valley and Pyramid Brewing! Check them out when you get a chance, you will not be disappointed!
Thanks to the AC Food & Wine Fest crew for having me and thanks to Joe & The Ramseys for hanging out! It was a blast and I can’t wait for next year!
In the parking lot of the Showboat Casino, the AC Food and Wine Fest trucked on with “Redefine Cheesesteak”. And redefine they did.
Massive tents were set up in the parking lot and cheesesteaks were aplenty. Being from Philly, I am really picky as to how my steaks are, specifically that they resemble a cheesesteak or change the name. By definition, a cheesesteak is thinly sliced ribeye fried up with or without onions and served on a long roll with cheese of the american, provolone or whiz variety. Is it something I need to get over? Indeed. But I was able to bend enough to enjoy some of the offerings.
First up was Mike Scoats of The Grey Lodge and his merry band of steak slingers. The Grey Lodge is located on Frankford Ave in the Mayfair section of Philly and has a ridiculous amount of oddball beers and even hosts a Friday The Firkinteenth event on every Friday The Thirteenth that has just won Best Beer Event in Philly Magazine’s Best of Philly 2012! Mike has a great calendar full of fun things they do and an interesting menu full of outstandingly delicious food! He brought along his Lodge Steak for the masses to try: Rib-eye, Genoa salami, roasted pepper mayo & house cheese sauce. They cut their own steak, use quality imported salami and you can taste the handcraftedness. I guarantee you will not find a more unique steak in town. They could barely keep up with the demand of the people who came by and then returned, time and time again!
Next up is my friends at Tony Boloney’s! They won the Guy Fieri’s Cheesesteak Battle at The AC Food & Wine Fest in 2010 with their ridiculous Cheesesteak Ole’ and haven’t looked back since! If they sent Californian Fieri back home with the picture of the Ole’ in his head as to what a cheesesteak should be, then everyone is a winner! Their Cheesesteak Ole’ is actually a little more like a cheesesteak hoagie, but it’s still fantastic. It involves 10 spiced sirloin steak, pepperjack cheese & chipotle house sauce on top of lettuce and tomato. It all melds together to form what I like to call the Cheesesteak of Greatness. In all honesty, Tony Boloney’s, at 300 Oriental Ave and a stone’s throw fromt he Revel, is one solid reason to drive to AC. Keep an eye out for more of thier menu on this blog.
The Community Food Bank Of New Jersey had a stand and they weren’t messing around! A soft, buttery roll center stuffed with steak and perfectly cooked onions with a nice crumble of cheese of top made it one of my favorite steaks of the fest. I also love what they stand for: helping anyone who needs a hand in the area. They run a food service training academy, they run a whole kids division with a kids cafe (to feed kids who otherwise wouldn’t have anything to eat), a kids closet (clothing and coats), a backpack program and even a tools for schools program. They also distribute food, do catering and lots of other stuff. If you want to donate some money, sending them some cash would be a great move, or buy their new book “Cooking For Change: Tales from a Food Service Training Academy“. All proceeds benefit the Community Foodbank Of New Jersey! This is truly an organization that knows how to help people and help them move forward!
Percy Street BBQ come to the fight with their unreal take on the cheesesteak, which is not a cheesesteak at all. Frankly, I could care less because it blew my mind. Bercy Street BBQ sits on South Street in Philly between 9th and 10th streets, cranking out BBQ that, until recently, was only really available closer to the South. They understand what the ring is and they are dead serious about this fantastic meat.
The meat was carved in front of you and packed with delicious strips of it, and smothered with a creamy cheese sauce. Easily my favorite non-cheesesteak cheesesteak. Well, it’s actually a tie with..
This sandwich was unlike everything else at the fest! Definitely not a cheesesteak but definitely on my meat list! It was like juicy shredded potroast on a roll and I could not get enough of it. Unfortunately, I lost their business card and only remember that they were next to Tony Boloney.
I have to also mention that it was about 900 degrees that night. Eating cheesesteaks in that kind of heat does a number on your body. What helped was that there was plenty of beer, provided by Amstel Light, and plenty of booze, provided by Jameson, Jim Beam and Red Stag. Red Stag is a flavored whiskey that Beam is putting out. At first I found it to be a party foul of massive degrees to do such a thing, but after tasting it (the Black Cherry flavor), it’s actually kind of interesting.
Andrew Zimmern, of the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods, was the host of this shindig, and he is really the nicest guy ever. After talking onstage for a little bit, he hung out at his booth, making sandwiches for people, answering questions, taking pictures and overall being a very personable and cool dude.
It was super crazy hot and humid, like I said above and he very easily could have disappeared into his tent/trailer/hotelroom and retired for the night. He didn’t and that was very cool of him.
His offering at his table was a cheesesteak made, of course, of tongue. I found that funny, because, well, us Philadelphians are known for having big mouths. As you can see, it looks like a typical cheesesteak, with nice carmelized onions and green pepper strips. I have not had tongue before but I figured if Andrew can stand in that heat and cook it, I can stand there and chew it. It was a little chewy but the flavors were nice and subtle. The tongue itself has a really weird aftertaste that I didn’t particularly like, but I applaud the effort!
Here are some more cheesesteaks that were pretty awesome!
This steak from Carmine’s, the “Italian Cheesesteak” was pretty great, the meat was very juicy and the roll was deliciously chewy after it soaked up all the juices. two thumbs up!
Union Trust Steakhouse, at 7th and Chestnut in Center City Philly, was there too with thier very traditional but also awesome cheesesteak.
Square 1682 is a fancy pants restaurant in the also fancy Rittenhouse Square area of Center City. Thier little cheesesteak on a square bun (get it?) was amazing. It was like the big pot roast sandwich above but on a tiny little bun and covered with a delicious cheese sauce that was thick enough to stay on the meat but thin enough to roll around a little bit.
Lastly, but not leastly, was the Sammy D’s cheesesteak dumpling. As someone who used to make a cheesesteak pierogies, I have to say that these guys got it right. The meat was wrapped tight, with the cheese mixed in with the right proportions (too much and it’s cheese with a hint of meat, too little and it’s drier then a desert). Huzzah to Sammy D!
The event in general was pretty awesome: not too crowded but the chefs were all putting out top notch food for the crowds. My hat is off to Showboat and the organizers for putting together a fun event that clogged my arteries!
That brings the first half of Day 2 to rest. Stay tuned for the second half soon!
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.
A while back, my friend Hot Mess Jess and I decided to take the plunge and check out celebrity chef Bobby Flay’s new burger chain called, surprisingly enough, “Bobby’s Burger Palace“. If you have been living under a rock, Bobby Flay is a very big celebrity chef, and if you aren’t into food, he is also married to Stephanie March, who played ADA Alex Cabot in L&O: SVU. Either way, you’ve seen him on tv somewhere. The name is a funny throwback to places in the 50’s and the place itself is pretty retro but still very modern. There is a lot of green and orange colors, and the place in and of itself looks very happy and inviting.
You can sit at the counter and watch the cooks do their thing in the kitchen or you can sit at the long family style type tables. At first, they reminded me of lunchroom tables and I didn’t think I’d like sitting there, but it was actually kind of fun!
Maybe it might be because we were there kinda of late but I have to remark about the cleanliness of the place. That’s always a sticking point with me: I like my bars dirty and my restaurants clean. It’s not much to ask for and it hit the mark. The tables could have been sticky or gross and they just weren’t. Two thumbs up for the staff!
The tables are littered with popup napkin dispensers (can I sing a song of love for popup napkin dispensers? I am a sloppy eater, especially with something like a burger, where I look like a toddler versus a bowl of spaghetti!). I also love that they had a bunch of caddies with different sauces for the burgers. I like choices and only one was kinda gross (one bbq sauce was a little too…smokey for me.).That’s pretty awesome. What can I say, I’m easily impressed (Also impressive? The spotless bathrooms. Oh yeah.). Even the chairs that are attached to the tables are fun. I don’t know how fun it would be if it were completely packed in there, but it was half packed and it was still fun.
Whatever. BBP doesn’t lose sight of the most important thing: the burgers!
The burgers themselves are a decent size: not giant and not teeny. I’d say they are about 7 ounces. The burger meat is flavored simply, with no crazy ridiculousness: just a little salt and pepper. Absolutely delicious. Another thing I have to love about these burgers: for the sort of place this is (a hyped up burger place owned by a celebrity), the prices aren’t bad. Sure, you can get a burger that is bigger at Burger King or McDonald’s, but most people are there for the name and something different.
So what did we have? Oh! Where to start?!
Ok, let’s start at the beginning! After checking out the giant menu on the wall, you order at the counter, they give you a big number and you go sit until someone brings you your food. Oh, yeah, go get your own soda (I will always love that!).
What did we order? The question is more “what DIDN’T we order?”. What we do for you people! *buuurp*!
First up! The LA Burger! It’s a burger with Avocado Relish, Watercress, Cheddar Cheese & Tomato. Not skimpy on the avocado, and the whole top is covered with cheese. Not a whole lot to complain about: it’s a burger with taste without too much messiness (some people, like my friend Steve, do not like messy food. This would be a good burger for you if you are like Steve, even if you don’t have a strap beard!). The seeded bun gives it a nice pop as well!
As you can see in the inside of this burger, there isn’t a lot of filler and they cooked it just the way I like it (medium well). Like I said above, the burger isn’t huge but you get a nice sized patty. A nice side note is the pickle that comes with the burger. It could have been a simple thing to just throw on some neon green pickles and call it a day, but the pickle is kickass: crisp and zesty!
Next up? The Dallas Burger. I hate the Dallas Cowboys and Jerry Jones with a mad passion, but this burger is kinda neat. It’s a spice crusted patty with Coleslaw, Monterey Jack, BBQ Sauce and Pickles. I’m not exactly sure how this related to Dallas, but I’d have it again. The coleslaw is a little sweet but plays right against the BBQ Sauce. I guess the burger is supposed to be a play on Texas BBQ, but when I think of BBQ, I don’t really think of Dallas, I think of Austin or other cities. Maybe I’m nitpicking, but either way, not bad!
Something I really dig, and that you might have noticed is the cheese wrap on these burgers. Cheese lovers, rejoice!
I was worried for a little bit that the coleslaw might not be enough to work with (or taste) but it’s just enough. And you can tell they are cutting that cabbage there, not defrosting it or just using a mix. I gotta say, Flay and his team put a lot of thought into these burgers. And yet again, they hit the heat point correctly for me, this was another winner!
A little tip if you go to BBP: go with a friend and get a few burgers and split them, they are the perfect size for sharing!
Whew! We aren’t done yet! Next up? The Miami Burger! Let’s face it, the best thing about Miami is the Cuban Sandwich. They are always so delicious, and they brought it to the one pressed burger on the menu. This thing has Ham (and they are NOT skimpy on the Ham! Yay, Ham!!), Swiss Cheese, Pickles, Mustard and Mayo, and then they press it to melt the whole thing together. Hungry yet?
And the burger train marches on….
Next up! The Crunchburger. Oh, Bobby Flay, you love the simple things. You really do. Growing up as a kid in Philly, putting chips or Doritos on your sandwich was something you just always did if you could. I still do it sometimes. It’s all about texture and what they call “mouth feel”. Mouth Feel is exactly how it sounds: it’s the way food feels in your mouth. Ever smell some food and it smells good but you chew it and it just feels weird? Gross, right? Or you eat a chocolate covered pretzel and the silkiness of the chocolate and the crunchy of the pretzel kind of dance around your mouth? Yeah, there ya go. So, putting chips on a burger mixes
a juicy burger and then the salty, crispy chip to create a superpower of awesome in your mouth. The way it’s presented would make a kid of any age clap their hands. Did I? Only Jess knows (and there isn’t enough Captain out there for her to squeal! I think…). The chips are very Original Herr’s like, and when you smash them down to take a bite, they crunch and crumble just right. It’s a silly thing, but it’s a lot of fun to eat! Honestly, half the fun is smashing it down!
A side we got was Sweet Potato Fries with Honey Mustard Horseradish Sauce. I normally don’t particularly care for Sweet Potato Fries but these fries were, and I am not even kidding, amazing. They were salted but only a little bit to balance the sweetness of the sweet potato and they were cut so that you got a good bite and they didn’t get soggy. For 3 bucks they give you a giant vat of them with a nice side of sauce. Did we stab each other over the last few pieces? Use your imagination.
Now, let’s say the gang wants to go out and get some burgers, but you don’t eat meat? No sweat, BBP offered a Griddled cheese (American & Swiss Cheese) and a Griddled Cheese Deluxe (Brie, Goat, Cheeses/Tomato/Bacon).
Going without carbs? Get the Topless Burger (Any burger on baby greens with balsamic). They even have a kickass sounding salad for those of you out there who like to…eat…salads…in burger joints? Got kids? Get a kids meal (basically just a smaller burger, smaller fries and a smaller soda for about a buck and a half less). I hear the milkshakes are awesome, but after our burgerfest, who had room? We sat on the bench outside for awhile before we rolled ourselves back out to the car to drive home. I was cursing myself for not remembering to wear my stretchy pants.
So what was the final decision? Pretty great burgers for a decent price. I have to say, I have seen smaller burgers offered for more, so hey, check it out! The BBP we went to was in the Cherry Hill Mall in New Jersey, but there is also one in West Philly and they are also all over the country. If you go, try to go at an off time so you can enjoy yourself (they tend to get pretty crowded). Oh, and apparently you can get any burger “crunchified”, so if you wanna go for it…go for it! Me? I’m gonna go take a nap…
Every region of the country has their regional delights. In the Philly area, we love Tastykake. I have yet to meet a person who grew up here to say they do not like *something* Tastykake makes and has no fond memories of Tastykake from growing up. You know you have met a Philly person when they can tell you the secret to opening a package of chocolate cupcakes and not have the icing stick to the plastic (hint: flip it over and swipe the package on the table back and forth a few times).
Tastykake really IS Philly and has been around for a few generations, so when they started having difficulties of the finance variety, I got nervous. I did not want to live in a world where I couldn’t stop in literally any store in the city and, if I so chose, could have a Jelly Krimpet (my fave!), a Peanut Butter KandyKakes (or “Tandykakes”, as they were called when I was a kid) or one of their awesome fruit pies. I am a sucker for a cherry pie and theirs is a winner. In fact, I liked it so much, I would crack it open, eat the filling and *then* eat the shell. As the company looked for a buyer or some sort of help, Flower Foods stepped in and purchased the company. They are a Georgia based baked goods company that has a bigger reach across then country the Tastykake ever did. So, Philly transplants, you better keep an eye out for delicious baked goods coming your way!
One thing they like to do is put out seasonal pies. Meaning, the Pumpkin Pie at Halloween and the Egg Nog Pie at Christmas as well as other ones. I was in Wawa the other day and saw a Pink Lemonade pie. I had to try it. It was either going to be really good or really gross. I mean, Pink Lemonade? In a pie? I even put it in the fridge for a few days because I wanted time to really sit down and eat this thing, to see what is was all about.
Something Tastykake started doing a little while back was packaging the pies in little tins. This is relatively new in the packaging history of these things, at least as far as I remember. When I was younger, they used to come in the box and then they were packaged inside with what I think was wax paper. You would slide them out and then go to town. Now you slide them out and they are in the cutest little pie tin. The pie pops right out and you can start stuffing your face immediately, just like Mr. Tastykake would want.
The crust is always flakey, buttery and better than any Hostess pie (which is covered in glaze and makes me kind of sick). It also always tastes fresher. Some people complain about how they aren’t as fresh as they remember, I think these people are nuts. Go buy a Hostess pie and then eat a Tastykake pie and YOU TELL ME which one is fresher. Seriously people, come on. Anyway, What the heck is the insides? It looks like a pink custard middle. The flavoring is actually pretty mellow. I guess I was expecting a glass of CountryTime Pink Lemonade or something, but this was much better. The lemonade taste is more of a cool summer breeze of an after taste. Oh, it’s there but it lazes over your tongue as opposed to badgering it with water balloons of artificial nonsense.
I give this Pink lemonade pie a thumbs up! If you want to try something different, go for it! And if you live out of the area and want to try some Tastykakes for yourself or just want to see what I’m talking about, you can order products and see the history of the company at tastykake.com. Now if we could only get them to have a Tastykake Race at Citizen Bank Park….
I like donuts. I like fried chicken. Shocking, I know. So when I heard about Federal Donuts: a donut and fried chicken joint in Pennsport in South Philly, I was intrigued. But then I heard about the massive lines and the early sellouts, so I figured I would wait a little while and then check it out. My friends, that day was the other day. And now, I shall share it with you.
Federal Donuts isn’t actually at 2nd and Federal, it’s on the smaller street right after Washington Ave. but before Federal. Look for the red rooster! Parking could suck for you if you come a little later on in the day, but I popped in with my friend Michael around 11, so it wasn’t too bad. You can’t really see it, but there is also a red bench you can sit on outside to enjoy the weather while stuffing your face with awesome donuts. That’s some thinking right there. Lady with baby carriage that won’t move out of the picture frame not included.
This place is not really big. Keep this in mind because it can get crowded. Luckily, everyone is usually very excited about the food so everyone is in a pretty good mood. When we visited, Cristal was manning the counter. She had to repeat herself a thousand times to a bunch of people and never once did she roll her eyes or take a swing at them when they whined about chicken not being sold until 11:45. In fact, she was making jokes with the customers and chatting while taking orders and being awesome.
If you look at the top of the picture, you will see the menu hanging over Cristal’s head. The first board lists the beverages: hot and cold coffee, hot and iced tea, water and a variety of sodas, including the very awesome Doc Brown’s line of sodas. I am partial to the Black Cherry (and yeah they have the Diet version too if you want to even out the calories you are gonna pack in…what do you mean it doesn’t work that way?…).
The second board is very important. These are the donuts they make all day long, what they call the “hot donuts, fried fresh all day”. These donuts are delicious & are lightly flavored in 3 varieties: Indian Cinnamon, Appolonia Spice, and Vanilla Lavender. The flavor isn’t overpowering and they go really well with a beverage of your choice. These donuts are cake based, which are usually heavy and chewy, but these are light as a feather. More on that below.
The third board lists the fancy donuts. These go on sale when the place opens and are usually gone by 10-ish. If you want them, I would suggest crawling out of your snuggie and getting down there early. They change varieties a lot and this is what they have now. Check the website to see what is going on when you read this. At that time they had: Halvah Pistachio, Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, Mandarin Coffee, Root Beer Float, Chocolate Banana and Ginger Snap. I didn’t get to try those because they were all gone by the time I got over there. Next time FedNuts! Next time!! *angry fist shake*
This brings up the 4th board. It outlines the chicken. You can get a whole chicken or a half (or do what me and Michael did and get a whole with a different flavor on each half. We may be gluttons, but we are crafty gluttons.). The flavors they offer include dry selections and 2 glazes. The dry includes: Za’atar, Coconut Curry and Buttermilk Ranch. The glaze includes: Chili-Garlic and Honey Ginger.
We ordered a half of the Buttermilk Ranch & half Za’atar along with some Honey Ginger wings. At 11:45, Cristal asked all the people who had already been there how many orders of chicken they wanted and we all got numbered red cards. Did we do a little dance like we found golden tickets? Maybe. We did clutch them and look around to make sure no one was eyeing up our tickets. You get one for each order of chicken you put in. Notice the tickets are numbered? They only go up to a certain number and then you gotta come back the next day.
A few minutes later, our chicken was served up in red baskets. The chicken comes with a honey dipped donut. Now, if you quick looked at this donut, you’d notice it looks kind of like the Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Old Fashioned Donut. That is where the resemblance ends. This donut is honey dipped and warm, which means it is automatically probably the best warm thing you will ever have in your mouth (ahem).
The thing about these donuts is that they are cake donuts, as opposed to yeast donuts. Yeast donuts are the ones you might be used to, light and fluffy, especially right out of the fryer. Most people prefer those because they go down so easily.
Cake donuts are usually denser and chewier (Have you ever had a Polish Packzi? That is a great example of a cake donut. Also, my favorite donut.). The donuts at Federal are cake donuts but they are super light, spitting in the face of conventional thoughts on cake donuts. Can you tell I love it? The flavor is so subtle but coats your tongue with happiness. Out of all the things I ate at Federal Donuts, I loved this donut the most. Did I mention you get one every time you order chicken? You also get these little japanese cucumber pickles but, unfortunately, I didn’t really care for those (weirdly too sour for me), nor did my friend Michael (or my mom when I brought her an order home). But hey, in the grand scheme of things, who cares. Not everything can be jaw dropping and I have not even gotten to the amazing chicken yet.
Moving onto the chicken! This is not your usual KFC-style fried chicken that is coated in egg and flour, fried and then tossed onto your plate (or into your bucket or whatever). This is Korean Style Fried Chicken: the chicken is dipped in a cornstarch based batter and fried once, rested and then fried again when you order it to crisp it up. Look closely at the picture and you can see the chicken sitting on pans and racks (so they aren’t sitting a puddle of grease) just waiting for 11:45.
The first batch that I tried was the buttermilk ranch fried chicken. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Was the batter infused with buttermilk ranch flavoring? Would it be white? As I have said many times before, I am not that bright. The chicken was the fried chicken that they do, and they cover it with a dry coating of buttermilk ranch flavoring. As it’s called “dry seasoning”, that makes sense. And it was deeelicious! As you can see, they are not stingy with the seasoning and I am A-ok with that. The flavor of the buttermilk ranch powder soaked up the little bit of grease along with the juiciness of the chicken to create a festival of happiness in my mouth. (and I thought only whiskey could do that).
The second kind of dry seasoning we had was Za’atar. What is Za’atar? It is a Moroccan flavoring and the Federal website describes it as “sesame seeds blended with wild savory and sumac, so it has a very green and lemony flavor”. That is a spot on description, and I know Michael loved it the most. When you look at it, it looks like someone sprinkled grass clippings and sesame seeds on your chicken, but dig in! The flavor balances nicely with the mild taste of the chicken and the slight bit of grease. We had a bit of fork stabbing going on for the last piece (I’m a quick healer).
Finally, we started in on the Honey Ginger wings. It took us forever to figure out what flavor to pick (chili-garlic being the other flavor (glaze actually) we were considering). They sat there patiently while we buzzsawed thru the fried chicken and the hot donut. They looked delicious and smelled delicious.
The ginger is subtle and the honey made them slightly sweet. We both didn’t particularly like them at first. I took them home and the key is to let them sit for a little while, then they become amazing! I almost got you Federal Donuts, but you pulled it out again!
I cannot wait to go back and try the Chili-Garlic!
So, to sum it up: you have to get up super early to get the good special donuts. You have to get there early to get a ticket(s) for chicken that doesn’t go on sale until 11:45. Is it worth the hassle? Michael and I both agreed the answer was a resounding YES. Obviously, donuts and fried chicken are not things you can eat everyday without seriously hurting yourself (I read about that in a book…), so checking this place out and stuffing your face with some chicken and donut goodness is not only a good idea, it’s an excellent idea! Go there and check it out! And don’t forget your Doc Brown’s soda while you are at it!
I have to admit, I do not enjoy writing about food I don’t like. Negativity is not something I enjoy spewing all over the internet like a heavy meal after a run at a bottle of Jameson. I genuinely like food and sharing it with all 4 of you who read this blog. But when I go somewhere with a reasonable expectation of awesome, and it only half registers a pulse, I gotta talk about it.
When I was in college up in North Central Jersey, I had a lot of people in my dorm who were very anti-Philly in terms of sandwiches (and anti-Philly in general, which I found hilarious considering that they had never been there and they were all from podunk tiny towns and always referred to NYC as “The City”, like there weren’t any others in the world) and very pro-North Jersey and I heard a lot about this White House place. I even remember Bill Cosby name dropping it a few times on the Cosby Show when I was a kid (side note: I cannot remember my phone number half the time but I can remember a food reference from 25 years ago. Go figure.)
I have a thing for old places. I like some history, some backstory. Smiling old people in pictures on the walls make me order more food. I also like vinyl booths, pop up napkin dispensers and cool signs. I’m a sucker for a place with soul. So, in that part, The White House did not disappoint. It had an old school sign up on the roof and it is pretty no frills, which I can appreciate.
When you see a sign like this, proudly pronouncing that they have been open for 60 years, it’s a cool thing. Nothing these days lasts very long. You think Bobby Flay’s Burger Joints will be around for 60 years? Much like any famous deli/sandwich/steak shop, this place is covered with famous people who have swung by to stuff their face with sandwichy delights. I’d imagine, since this place is literally up the street from the Taj Mahal Casino, it wasn’t too hard to get people to come and eat, but whatever.
But enough about the decor. Let’s get down to the brass tacks. The food. (also, I will be referring to all of the white house offerings as “sandwiches”, not “subs”.)
This place does sandwiches. Not “hoagies” but “subs”. A whole is pretty big, most people get a half. The roll is pretty awesome. They get them from a place up the street, The Formica Brothers Italian Bakery. Nice and fresh. It’s the kind of roll called an “Atlantic City Roll”, just call it a great roll. It’s crusty and chewy but not too much of either of those things. It’s just right and saves both of these things I ordered from me having a fit.
I ordered 2 different sandwiches: 1. The Ham, Cappicola, Genoa Salami & Provolone Cheese and 2. The Chicken Parm Sub.
The Ham, Cappicola, Genoa Salami & Provolone Cheese was pretty good. The meat was not skimpy, but it also wasn’t really piled on. I did enjoy the fact they they didn’t cheap out on the provolone, sometimes when you get a sandwich the cheese is sort of an afterthought. Really, the only issue I had was my own fault, I forgot to ask for mayo and I got oil. There is a line of thought that italian hoagies always get oil but I am a mayo freak so I like it on everything. In fact, I usually order extra because rolls tend to soak it up and then the sandwich gets dry. That’s not acceptable to me. (oh, I also ordered a side of sweet peppers as well. They give you a nice sized container of them, it made me happy.)
The thing about these sandwiches, and maybe it’s just me, or that’s the way a sub is supposed to be, but these sandwiches are flat. Any good hoagie I have ever seen, and a sub is a hoagie, have been round. I just found that weird. What do you guys think?
Let’s talk a little bit about the Chicken Parm Sub. I ate this thing like 3 weeks ago but I had to wait to actually sit down and write about it because of how angry it made me. Yeah. Angry. A sandwich made me angry (seriously people, I need a life). You might think I am being ridiculous but when you see this thing, you will understand.
I have eaten hundreds of chicken parm sandwiches over the years. It’s an easy idea: breaded pieces of chicken are put on a roll. You cover in sauce and cheese. Delicious and done. It is almost impossible to screw up. Or so I thought.
Let’s talk about the size of this thing. As in, the lack of filling. If you click on the picture, it actually kind of looks like stacked up chicken cheesesteak meat. That is NOT acceptable.
I started eating this thing, half in shock and half wondering what the hell was going on. Then I took a bite of the dry sandwich. Wait, it’s supposed to be saucy. This thing has about 2 tablespoons of sauce on it. And the sauce was flat and nasty.
Like cheese? Cheese takes a vacation on this thing. I do NOT UNDERSTAND what they are doing here. Was this thing made by an intern? Or half the sandwich fell out on the way to my table? Maybe aliens escaped with half the chicken? Maybe they ran out of breaded chicken and had to fill the sandwich with this crap?
I ate half of it and took the other half home. Sometimes, a sandwich tastes better the next day, or even just a hour or two or three later.
I took this thing home and it was even shittier later on that nite. And I was drunk! Everything tastes better when you are drunk!
This whole thing baffles me. I was told by a local that the place isn’t the same as it used to be. I don’t understand how that is possible. A chicken parm sandwich is a simple item of food. Chicken is fairly cheap to buy and you already got the rolls. The sauce can be made in
huge batches and frozen so it’s not a big deal. You can buy bags of shredded cheese at places like Jetro and Sysco for a song. Whatever the hell they are doing with this sandwich, in the name of all things holy and sandwich related, should be STOPPED.
I am sure someone is going to slam me for writing this post. Trust me, there is no one out there who would love to love a new sandwich shop like me. As someone who has worked in food, loves to eat and loves when people have a small business that is thriving, I was hoping for the best.
So, here are some things I did like: they have nice napkin dispensers that pop up the napkins and it makes it easy to grab when covered with various sandwich accoutrements. The waitress was super nice. They give you a choice between bottled water or water from the soda machine (aka tap). If you are a single person, they have a small booth that is good for one or two people if you don’t want to eat at the counter (the regular sized booths are saved for 3 or more people). Like I said above, I enjoyed the pictures on the wall, especially the Tug McGraw (my favorite Phillie) at the grill picture. I also enjoyed the size of the cups they put the sweet peppers in, it was just enough.
Here was the brightest spot in my visit to The White House. A taste of Philly.
So, if you are headed down to Atlantic City, if I were you, I would avoid this tourist trap and go to Tony Boloney’s (300 Oriental Ave) instead. While I had one ok sandwich, that chicken parm was so horrendously bad, I wouldn’t risk eating anything else there, except for, of course, Tastykakes!
A little while ago, I had the pleasure of attending the Atlantic City Beer Fest. It was pretty awesome. Lots of beers from all over the world, friendly people, beer themed oddities to buy and food to eat.
Wait?…Food to eat? Well, yeah. You can’t have a whole giant convention floor full of beer and not offer food, that would be wrong. Or, more succinctly, it would result in some very drunk people driving their cars into the ocean. That’s not good for anyone.
There were lots of different food vendors selling everything from crabcake sliders to yelp offering pretzel necklaces to kielbasie sandwiches. But I was more interested in the truck with the curly moustaches on it.
Normally, when people start blabbing on their website about how good their sandwiches are, I tend to automatically roll my eyes. I am from sandwich-land, aka Philly, and it is real hard for me to accept boasts from others about these things. Even with pizza, I feel the same way. There is something in the water here that makes for fantastic bread (and, of course, dough. Doh!). I don’t know what it is (nor do I want to know, save your emails), but you can’t find it anywhere else.
I did some research before I went to the Beer Fest and Tony Boloney’s caught my eye. Funny little name. Fun to say is good branding, along with the big fat chef that’s the mascot. They have a pizza & sub (not hoagie, we are outside the Philly area) shop in
AC. They obviously understand branding and food, because the menu for the shop is like 4 pages long and every single thing is a different spin on favorites (Like meat on a pizza? Try the Casino Carnivore with “every animal noah brought on his ark ravaged by mozzarella”) as well as things I never would have even thought to make (Reuben Fries!).
They decided to start a food truck (and bring it to the Beer Fest!): The Moustache Truck! Obviously, these guys are up on trends and understand marketing. It’s nice to come across a food place that understands marketing that isn’t a shitty major chain. I had emailed them and asked if they might be interested in donating a shirt for the giveaway I was doing and they were excited about it! That was cool,
because a lot of the beer vendors and assorted other vendors came with nothing to sell, nevertheless give away (besides, ya know, beer). Another thing I loved about these guys is that they are putting forth the idea that people actually *live and are from* Atlantic City, a fact that a lot of people tend to forget
when they come to empty their pockets and stuff their faces full of famous chef restaurant food (not that there is anything wrong with that, but there is much more to the city then that). Their slogan “Indigenous Atlantic City Grub” hammers that home in a mouth watering way!
When I made my way over to the truck, I was impressed with the smartness of the menu: pizza and the cheesesteal ole’. People who are drinking love pizza and cheesesteaks! They had a bunch of pizza options, but as soon as I heard it, I knew I had to try it. What was it? Reuben Pizza!
Say what? That sounds odd. That sounds weird. That sounds…delicious. And you know what? IT WAS!
The Reuben pizza would have been something terribly simple to totally screw up. How much kraut do you put on? Do you just use a squeeze bottle to put the dressing on all around? Or do you use it like sauce and cover the whole pie?
Do you cover the whole pie with corned beef like you do with pepperoni? The questions are endless! (seriously people, I need a life.) I think they nailed it. They used a 2 cheese blend to keep the pizza from tasting flat. under the meat, there is kraut, under that is a glob of the thousand island sauce that ooozes a bit but not too much. So ridiculously good. I had to physically restrain myself from getting another piece.
I also really liked how they were having fun with the crowd. It got a little chaotic, so what did they do? They whipped out a bullhorn. There was no panicking (what I would have done. To the panicking!), no freaking out, just a little louder and they kept on cranking out some awesome pizza!
I realized, after awhile, that I wanted to try the cheesesteak: The Cheesesteak Ole’. This thing had apparently won some kind of 2010 Guy Fieri Cheesesteak Battle. (An aside: I find it funny that a guy from Northern California can put his name anywhere around something called “cheesestesk” because, um, that’s all that is wrong with the world.).
This thing was awesome. It might be a tad small, length wise, if compared to what we can get in Philly, but make no mistake, this thing si PACKED with meat. Is it more like a cheesesteak hoagie then a cheesesteak because it has lettuce and tomato on it as well as the cheese and steak? Probably. But honesty, I could not care less, because this cheesesteak was fantastic.
Let’s start with the steak. Chopped sirloin. A little different then the usual meat used, which is a thinly sliced ribeye, but it’s cooked tender with a 10 spice mix. It’s a kind of taco spice that works deliciously with the jack and chipotle house sauce. Have no doubt, this thing is cheesy in all the right ways. It sticks with the meat, not like a weird cheese “sauce” you see sometimes, and it doesn’t sink to the bottom of the roll either. I was a little thrown by the lettuce and tomato on the bottom (nice and fresh too), but it gave the cheesesteak a nice bit of texture. Finally, the roll was chewy but not too chewy, and really fresh. Those Atlantic City rolls are no joke!
Wrapping this rambling review up: if you find the Tony Boloney Moustache Truck anywhere you are, go grab some food! If you find yourself in Atlantic City, wander on over to 300 Oriental Avenue (by the new Revel Casino) and go grab some grub. This place is awesome and while I wish I lived closer to them, I’m kind of glad I don’t, because I really can’t afford bigger pants. My hat is off to the Tony Boloney guys! Go now! Go!