Thursday, October 16, 2014

PDQ Deli at Tahoma Market

6937 W Lake Blvd.
Tahoma, CA 96142
(Lake Tahoe-ish)
(530) 525-7411

When anyone tells you that you can't get a good sandwich outside of the Philadelphia area, you should believe them. Time and time again, I am let down by poor imitations and this is just another example of why you should NOT ever go into a sandwich shop outside of the Northeast corridor with high expectations. Unless you're setting the bar at Subway.

I hadn't realized this before setting out to eat at PDQ, but it's a Wisconsin-based chain with shops mostly in and around Madison and Milwaukee with one outpost in California - right on Lake Tahoe. I guess that's why the locals are none the wiser - it looks and feels like a good old fashioned mom-n-pop deli.

It's deceiving, yes. But when the views are this breathtaking, who really cares what you're eating, right?

Wrong. I always care what I'm eating. I took my two sandwiches up to the top of the peak and by the time I sweat out most of the previous night's booze, I was ravenous and couldn't wait to get down on some mouth-watering pesto bread filled with turkey and cheese.

But the bread was bland and the thick slices of turkey must have been sitting out for who knows how long. If your deli meats aren't sliced fresh to order (and you don't see a deli slicer on premises - hindsight is always 20/20) then there's no reason to ingest it.

They are big sandwiches, so it's a pretty good value, but when you can't even taste the cheese, mayonnaise or the pesto in a pesto themed bread, you're better off chewing on some cardboard for free. The bread was soft, almost like white Italian sandwich bread, which is probably why they're getting a one cheesesteak rating (I was hesitant in giving any).

Everything I mentioned above goes for their jalapeƱo cheese bread and roast beef. More thick-cut, old and flavorless deli slices surrounded by regular white bread and some old tomatoes and romaine.

I really wanted to like it, but after discovering the PDQ convenience store chain, it's nearly impossible to say anything good about these sandwiches. Yes, I may have made a mistake in choosing this as a blog site...

Obviously it's a long way from Wawa (and even Sheetz), so until the rest of the country can figure out how to combine gas stations and fresh & tasty sandwiches, I'll just stick to what I know.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Los Dos Mexican Cuisine

2251 Maple Ave.
Downers Grove, IL 60515
(630) 297-8337

On a visit to Chicago, I was kicking around the burbs looking for some Mexican food. Was it a great plan? Certainly not. But I DID have the opportunity to sample this little joint tucked away in a strip mall, and it did not disappoint.

Free chips, as they should be. Ahem, Chipotle, take note.

Serve yourself? Right again. This salsa was so good I nearly drained both containers.

A torta and a quesadilla seemed about right, so I went for the chicken tinga.

It was nothing fancy, but everything was executed with perfection. Fresh ingredients, nothing that was the newest trend in fusion (fusion is overrated), just a solid torta.

Crisp shredded lettuce, thin but sturdy and soft bread with ripe tomatoes – which have been deathly hard to find this year.

Obviously the chorizo tacos had to be tried, and came out perfect yet again. Everything you need, nothing you don't.

The carne asada was a pretty tasty as well, with half a skirt steak grilled to a nice medium, and served with the usual rice, beans and some warm tortillas.

The flan was also a nice touch, as it was brought out on the house (my dining partners were regulars). Light, wobbly, and just sweet enough.

Pretty solid for a strip mall Mexican experience in the Chicago burbs.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Franzone's Pizzeria

501 DeKalb St
Bridgeport, PA 19405
(610) 275-0114

If you don't like sweet sauce on your pizza, stop reading. If you like amazing thin crust, and the "swirl", then get your ass to Franzone's.

Well-known among the Norristown area and beyond, Franzone's is about as unassuming as they come.

A Caesar salad came with surprisingly crispy lettuce, and a nice peppery cream based dressing.

But I was not here to eat salad. I was here for pizza. I went with a half pepperoni, half plain in order to sample both staples. I should have just ordered a whole of each. The crust is thin, crunchy, and has a fantastic slightly nutty flavor. The cheese is quality, and spread generously, allowing it to meld with the dough. But the sauce, oh that sauce, is the star of the show. The old rumor around town is that the sauce is made out of Ragu + sugar, but I believe it is actually made of tomato paste (for richness, sweetness, and umami) and pure love.

And a ton of sugar, yes. Either way, this sweet sauce is to die for, and has me craving some pizza from them RIGHT NOW.

Fancy, this place is not. Delicious, cheap, and crave worthy, it absolutely fits the bill. Some of my favorite pizza around.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Cake Cafe & Bakery

2440 Chartres Street
New Orleans, LA 70117
(504) 943-0010

New Orleans is known for many different foods, but one of the best known pastries among locals and tourists alike is King cake. Synonymous with Mardi Gras, this cinnamon-spiked Danish is one of many stars at the Cake Cafe.

Although it was not Mardi Gras (I would not be eating King cake), I still wanted to get the NOLA bakery experience, and I was not disappointed. They also crush the casual breakfast realm.

The doughnut you see below may seem like an ordinary glazed breakfast treat, but the layers of pastry were so light, flaky, and delectable, that it was almost unbelievable. Even heavenly.

The biscuits and gravy shown below were no slough, with a spicy Andouille side. The biscuits ruled the roost, light and flaky, like I am unable to make them...

Boudin and eggs were also delicious, with a fresh sausage patty fried crispy over grits, and another biscuit PLUS some yolk. Yes please.

The croissant breakfast sandwich below is another of my go-to's and this did not disappoint. Note: if you go here, order ANYTHING that has a baked good with it.

The central American breakfast subbed the grits above with beans and rice, and added some pico and guac. An interesting take, but nothing too special.

Finally the lowly bagel with cream cheese, a barometer of breakfast in my book. This was a very decent bagel for the South. Believe me, I have had some AWFUL bagels all over the Southeastern US. Was it NY worthy? Or even good Philadelphia bagel worthy? No, it wasn't. Was it a great way to pack in the calories before drinking began again? Absolutely.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Avenue Delicatessen

27 N. Lansdowne Ave.
Lansdowne, PA 19050
(610) 622-DELI (3354)

Lansdowne is a town that has started attracting Philly people due to the bang for your buck on property, accessibility to the city via public transit, and the wave of new restaurants opening up. Also known as "West West Philly", there has certainly been a resurgence in the area. The Avenue Deli is part of that wave, and I had to make a voyage there to try the esteemed corned beef.

The inside pairs retro diner with modern coffee shop.

They have a packaged to-go cooler with house made pickles, and various salads and baked goods.

See house pickles below.

The specialty here is Italian Jewish fusion, which apparently takes two of America's favorite comfort foods, and covers them with corned beef. Below are the Reuben fries, hand cut potatoes covered in corned beef, kraut, Swiss, and Thousand Island dressing. The idea was good, sort of a Jewish poutine, but it was extremely heavy (as to be expected with the ingredients) and the fries were mostly limp.

The Reuben also featured the house cured corned beef, and the usual suspects of a Reuben. I may have overdone it by getting both Reuben fries AND sandwich, but I have never been a fan of temperance in any form.

The Reuben sandwich was very good. The corned beef was delicious (though I could have used a bit more), and the bread was perfectly toasted. Although not a towering meat vessel, it still had enough calories to leave me more than satisfied. Also, I had eaten a large amount of the fries, so I was pretty well topped off.

The edges of the sandwich tended to be mostly meat free, which was a shame, as the corned beef melted its savory saltiness throughout the middle. Now, I know this is common practice in the sandwich industry: piling the middle high and displaying the thick stack, while skimping around the edges – but I'd like to think that when I'm spending $14 in the 'burbs I'm getting my money's worth.

The Jewish wedding soup, a riff on Matzo ball soup and Italian wedding soup was a huge disappointment. The broth and everything with it was bland. It was like drinking warm water with a large wet carb-ball floating in it. There was no schmaltz that I could detect, and it was as though they had lost the salt. I didn't eat much more than a couple bites.

The potato latkes were a winner, however, and the perfectly crisped shell housed smooth shredded tubers. They were well seasoned and great dipped into the abundance of sauce that came on the "Amazing Egg Sandwich," below.

The egg sandwich featured fried eggs, broccoli rabe, pork sausage, pickled fresno chili cream cheese, and mozzarella on a seeded Italian loaf. The cream cheese/sauce was heavy on this one, which made it hard to eat. Overall it was pretty good, but as you will see below, the sauce kind of took over. It also lubed the inside ingredients up so they slid right out the back/side with each bite, a personal pet peeve.

The pictures below have not been altered in any way, this is how the sandwich came out.

I had some issues with a couple of the things here, including overdressed sandwiches (unusual complaint for me), only serving the outdoor tables with to-go packaging, though we were obviously eating there, terrible soup, and limp fries, but I did love the corned beef, and the DIY homemade attitude. I wouldn't rush back, but I would certainly eat there again if I were in the area and for some reason the Chipotle in Havertown was closed. Just kidding! (not really.)