Oh the City of Brotherly Love. How you gotten so close to my heart? Why through food of course! History too but that’s in a later post.
After Benjamin Franklin and his grave, the best parts of Philly are the restaurants I consider a must when arriving to town. Like any other Italian I want to share with Philly’s fellow Brothers the ways in which a good meal here will have you coming back for more whenever you are in proximity (even entering P.A. seems like motivation to stop for a cone at Franklin Foundation (next blog), and I have done that!)
But before dessert we need to eat a real meal. Real meals in Philly usually come in the form of a hoagie or cheesesteak sandwich. There are many varieties but this series will focus on the highs so you can avoid the lows.
Since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, that is where we will begin our foodie tour through the City of Brotherly Love. The first breakfast I had on my first trip in 2009, also included a food I had never tried before but it sounded too good to pass up. I ordered Tostadas Rancheras, which is a Mexican breakfast meal that is made up of a crispy tortilla topped with refried black beans, pico de gallo, two eggs, queso fresco, avocado, and tomatillo sauce. It is served with a side of home fries, not that I needed them. I adore refried beans of any kind so this dish was even better than I pictured. My mouth was watering as it was placed in front of me. Each part seemed to make the other even better. I would most definitely get that again no matter where I was. This menu is so huge you can find something for everyone whether it is for brunch, lunch, or dinner.
Bobby’s Burger Palace
I believe it was on my second trip to Philadelphia in 2010 when I landed here. It was the first place of Mr. Flay’s chain I had been to and was the one closest to my house at the time. Since then they have seemed to pop up everywhere. This is still the only one I have visited but I go whenever I’m in town. Somehow it seems more special that way.
Now that I think about it, it reminds me of a lot of Wahlburgers, the chain created with huge success in Boston and around the world by New Kids On The Block artist Donnie Wahlberg and his family. Chains of fast food are a dime a dozen nowadays it seems each new eatery is trying to provide alternatives to the days when your choices were only McDonald’s or Burger King. By focusing on the main dishes of burgers and fries these new establishments are seeking to find their claim to fame is it the owners, chefs, and/or quality of their product.
While it has been open now for several years, only increasing in popularity, Bobby’s Burger Palace fits neatly in this box. I originality heard about it from the Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate”. Besides Samantha Brown on the Travel Channel, Best Thing I Ever Ate is the second biggest influence on my travels and meals.
At Bobby’s place you are treated to a brightly colored mid-size restaurant where you can pick your burger from a long list of choices or create one yourself. The best feature there is the option to “crunchify” your burger. That is, to add chips on top, something I have been doing forever to any kind of sandwich I eat. A little crunch goes a long way. In addition there is also a special burger of the month; currently it is the Caesar burger. It certainly sounds delicious. On the table you’ll find different sauces to try out on your fries.
While I enjoyed my time here it’s been a while and I have had MANY burgers from those new chains that have popped up. I think I will have to revisit Bobby’s to make sure I love them as much as I remember.
Know that whatever you eat you will leave happy and full. A palace for burgers it certainly is.
On that same trip to Philly where I explored Bobby’s Burger Palace, I also came here for the legendary crepes. It was to be my final meal on that trip and we wanted to finish with a bang. It is no coincidence that this recommendation came from “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” as well. Alton Brown was discussing his love of their savory and sweet crepes and when I heard that I knew I would be eating them someday soon.
Here is his explanation of why this is a must have food in Philly, from “Best Thing I Ever Ate: Wrapped”:
In order to make sure I had the best of the best I ordered exactly what Alton did: a savory crepe with mushrooms, Swiss cheese, and roasted almonds. I also got a savory crepe with pears (which had been baked in apple cider and brown sugar), with chocolate and chestnut cream. These meager ingredients don’t do the taste any justice. I cut each up and was simultaneously eating them both. It looked like a mess but it was amazing.
Each crepe had been made with different ingredients before it was ever poured onto the stove to be cooked. These crepes were matched perfectly with the ingredients it would hold and allow the flavors to sing. They never broke! Not that I had too much time to notice. They were gone as fast as they came. This restaurant was out of the way in a residential neighborhood but well worth it. I haven’t made it back there in any of my recent trips to Philadelphia but I think I am do for one or two, the next time I am in town.
I would like to add that outside of Paris there is no better place to have a crepe.
Since I was already out and about I took a walk over to Sarcone’s Deli after my crepe-feast. I knew I couldn’t possibly take another bite of anything but I wasn’t leaving empty-handed. I was heading for my train ride home and I thought a sandwich should accompany me. I was even nice enough to bring them back for my family.
This deli reminds me of an Italian deli I have in my neighborhood. There are cold cut sandwiches by the dozen along with any other lunch item you can think of. These sandwiches are longer than most subs and Sarcone’s Deli has the distinction of being known as the home to the best hoagie in Philadelphia. This place almost always has a line but you can call ahead to place your order so that it will be ready and waiting when you arrive. Their bread is the key to making a sandwich feel more like an experience.
I remember Sarcone’s Deli for another non-foodie moment too. It was October 2009 and it was the first time my migraine abortive meds failed me. It was the first time I learned that you could have a migraine that wouldn’t break and all of the things that accompany that, including but not limited to, a not so fun train ride back to N.Y.C. Even under those conditions I could still appreciate my hoagie and the bread, which for being made outside Brooklyn, N.Y. was rather tasty.
Sarcone’s is so beloved that it places as number seven on this list of classically Philly foods (http://philly.eater.com/maps/map-iconic-classic-foods-philadelphia).
I agree it certainly deserves to be there. I also think the last item on this list is going on my to-eat list for the future. I have never heard of inside-out Florida pizza pockets but they sound awesome. This is somewhat confusing because Florida doesn’t seem to have any good pizza or hoagies for that matter. Oh well only I will be able to tell if they live up to the hype.
When returning from a trip to Philadelphia one of the first questions you will inevitably be asked is; did you have a cheesesteak? Was it from Geno’s or Pat’s? Ah, if it were only that simple. There are as many cheesesteak places as there are statutes of Benjamin Franklin. I decided to not partake in either of these places or their legendary feud as neighbors and competitors. My Frommer’s guidebook recommended Cosmo’s but a friend of mine mentioned Jim’s to me. He swore he did a taste test during his visit and that these were the very best. I had never had one before and I wanted my experience in Philly to be as authentic as it was delicious. Boy was he right.
Jim’s Steaks had steak and onions cooked to perfection with a heavy hand of Cheez Wiz poured all over it, especially when I asked for an extra scoop. I was so worried I wouldn’t like it being that I am not really a meat eater but it was sublime. I could have gone back for every meal that day and not have been bored with my food. It opened up a whole new food category for me. It also taught me that when something is properly made I can love it even if it is something I would normally stay away from. Oddly enough a few of these cheesesteaks would follow me home for those who had not been on this journey. Are you noticing a pattern here? Thankfully this was not the trip that included Sarcone’s Deli. In case you have a craving and are not near Philadelphia, Jim’s delivers so go ahead, order, and then wait by the door.
Jake’s Sandwich Board
Lastly on our food journey I must tell you about my most recently discovered favorite place to eat in Philadelphia. That would be Jake’s. I had randomly read about it and their notorious garlic bomb cheesesteaks so I made a mental note to go there as soon as I got the chance. Only a few months had passed last year when I was driving through Philly and stopped here for an early lunch.
The location is ideal with a parking garage right across the street. Anyone that has experienced city travel knows that it can be hard to park. The restaurant has a long but wide layout too so you can spread out all of the good things you need to have at Jake’s.
The garlic bomb cheesesteak was of course what I ordered. It is made with their homemade garlic spread, provolone cheese (you can opt out for Cheez Wiz), and topped with fried, crispy, whole cloves of garlic. That last part is the best part although it will look funny to you but the taste will have you hooked. They go right down and create a layer of crunch and garlic between you and the meat. It definitely was a hit and is in close second with Jim’s. Both sandwiches were too large for me so I always have to have someone to split it with. Luckily that is never too hard for me to find.
Now that we have had our fill of salt, it’s time for something sweet, on to the next blog post we go.
Up next: For the City of Brotherly Love, Benjamin Franklin, and Betsy Ross's House: Snacks.
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