Monday, September 26, 2016

Billy Murphy's Irish Saloon

3335 Conrad Street
Philadelphia (East Falls), PA 19129
(215) 844-9683
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Billy Murphy's Irish Saloon is an East Falls staple. It's the quintessential corner bar, low key, no frills, but a great place to get a couple of beers and some delicious food.


Anytime there are pig wings on the menu, I have to order them. This was one of those times. Braised pork shanks, cooked until extremely tender, then fried to crisp up the exterior and tossed in wing sauce. Hiding under the discard boat, they peaked out like a seductive, sticky temptress.


As usual, these were incredible. It's a pork lollipop, with nothing but tender meat perched on a shank. The sauce was spicy and sticky, and had enough body to stay put.


The "Von Hayes" sandwich seemed remarkably similar to another famous Philadelphia athlete-inspired cheesesteak variation. Steak meat, cheese, fried onions, tomatoes, special sauce. It was an exercise in gluttony. Keep in mind, its pretty dark in here, so I struggled with photos a bit.



The famous "turf burger" is $5 on Tuesdays. This one has special sauce, American cheese, jalapenos, fried onions, lots of bacon, and more special sauce. A steal at $5, this is the kind of burger that makes for a great corner bar. Just bring cash (they don't take cards).


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Brick & Brew

26 W State Street
Media, PA 19063
(484) 443-8441
Website

Alas, my beloved Plumstead Inn is no more, and with the closing of a legend, there is always a bitter taste in my mouth. That bitterness was exacerbated by the fact that the first couple of times I tried to scout the replacement, there were people spilling into the street waiting in line. Although I had to admit, they did an amazing job with the renovation.


The first thing I had to order were the wings. You think you can come in and beat out the king of Media wings (although the Plummy REALLY started phoning in the food for the last couple of months)? Well let's see. The wings are kind of spendy (around $10 an order) for eight. They come in a brown butter hot sauce. Did I mention they were confit-ed (braised) in duck fat and then deep fried?


The sauce is electric orange, and I loved it. One bite, and I was swooning. The meat was so well rendered that it easily pulled away from the bone, leaving little fat, just unctuous fowl. The skin was crispier than it looks, and the sauce was just divine. Rich, spicy and deep, the brown butter had the staying power on the wings, and the hot sauce brought just the perfect amount of heat.


Chives added some herbaceous zing, while the house-made blue cheese was among my favorites I remember – it had that slightly sweet tinge that comes with quality blue cheeses. Was not expecting this level of when I got to my old haunt. I was a victim of deliciousness. Look at the way the meat pulled away from the bone.


I also had to try the brick oven pizza, so I went with a Picante. Coppa, soppressata, basil, San Marzano Tomato Sauce, Fior Di Latte, and Calabrian chiles on a thin crust flatbread type of pie.


The Fior Di Latte made fantastic pizza cheese. It browned nicely and had a stretchy, creamy bite with more flavor than traditional mozzarella. The coppa and soppressata (two of my favorites of the Italian cured meats) added salt and fat, and the hidden chilies gave occasional bites of spice.


If anything I would say the toppings were a bit sparse, but the dough could not support too many ingredients so it was understandable. I love the way the meat curls at the edges after a trip to the oven. Crispy and greasy, I was a big fan.


And although it continues to pain me that the Plumstead is gone, I can say I am pleasantly surprised by Brick & Brew and it's likely I'll be back to sit outside and enjoy the leisure that surrounds Media, PA.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

La Peña Mexicana

609 W Cypress St
Kennett Square, PA 19348
(610) 925-2651
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Kennett Square is widely known (at least in this region) as the mushroom capital of the world. What is also well known (if you have spent any time there) is that some/most of the the labor that leads to that throne is done by migrant workers. Which leads to amazing food opportunities for visitors to the area. Mexican food is well represented in Kennett Square, but La Peña may just be my favorite.


The striped building is hard to miss, and located across from the Victory brewery down there.


Chips and guacamole to start is always a good bet, and they did not disappoint. The pico was fresh, tart, and crisp. The guac was creamy and went nicely with the fresh fried chips. The smokey chipotle sauce brought the fire, and was a great contrast to the other more tame varietals.



The carnitas burrito was calling my name, so I decided that would be my next order. It was brought out quite quickly, and came packed with tender, crispy pork that was braised until rendered out and then fried to add some crunch and texture, the way carnitas is supposed to be served.


The seasoning and tenderness on this pork was perfection. It came simply filled with rice, beans, pork, cilantro and onions. They gave a couple of sauce options as well. I opted for spicy. It did not disappoint.


Look at the perfect shreds of meat. No chewy fatty gristle to be found.


I also felt the need for a deep fried burrito – so chimichanga it was. This version I ordered with chicken and green sauce. Again it had rice, beans, cilantro, onion, but also had a cotija cheese topper and a sour cream drizzle. Jalapeno slices lined the top like stripes on a delicious flag.


It was a great presentation. And somehow I even managed to finish it.


Love me some beans and rice sides for the old mouth shovel.


The tender chicken was again very well stewed and packed with flavor. Peppy tomatillo sauce gave it some tang, and the cheese and crema added extra luxuriousness to this deep fried indulgence.


When you come here, expect an authentic experience – none of that bullshit Tex-Mex – and some fantastic Mexican food. And you will be back. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Kỳ Duyên Cafe

488 N Salina Street
Syracuse, NY 13203
(315) 471-5207
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On a recent road trip that took me through Syracuse during the lunching hour (anytime between 10AM and 4:30PM), I decided to check out a banh mi place I had been told about. Although you may think of Syracuse as a thriving metropolis, I assure you it has not since returned to it's (debatable) former glory. Luckily there was parking out front so no one stole my bike out of my truck. Although some guy wearing pajamas pants with no shoes or shirt asked me if I had any recyclable cans when I was feeding the meter. Maybe they are just eco-friendly. As you can see, the exterior of this shop announces "affluence" and so I was expecting a hipster to be serving fair trade tofu on gluten free rolls. Luckily I was wrong . . .


The interior was clean, cared for and definitely used to be a dive bar. You could tell by the yellowed drop tiles and the bathroom location. Oh, and the fact that behind that white wall there is still a bar. With people hanging out. Possibly smoking and 'playing games.'


The sandwiches were served on more of a torpedo roll than a French baguette, but to the same effect.


I went with a shredded pork and a BBQ pork. Because one pork just wouldn't cut it. These were $5 a pop, and worth every penny. The BBQ pork was the winner, as usual, with tender sliced meat, smokey sauce, and crisp vegetables.


Plenty of cucumber, julienned carrots, and fresh cilantro added the requisite crunch and fresh contrast to the protein. I also loved the butter/mayo mix helping to grease the skids.


The shredded pork and super dry, kind of like that old beef jerky chew I ate as  kid. I liked it, especially with the sliced pork sausage thing in the bottom. The pate on this one came through more, likely because it didn't have the flavorful BBQ sauce like its competitor.



You can see the pate leaking out the bottom.


If you are in the Syracuse area and find yourself in the mood for a cheap & tasty sandwich made with love and tendered with friendly service, you could do much worse than Kỳ Duyên Cafe. One of the better deals I have had in a while.



Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Taproom on 19th

2400 S 19th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19145
(267) 687-7817
Website

The Taproom on 19th has been around for a while, but given its location in deep South Philly, it maybe hasn't gotten the hysteria that many more accessible (but inferior) places have. But that is okay by me, as it means I don't have to wait in line behind some new Fishtown resident that I would hate anyway.


The menu here is perfectly sized, and pretty much everything on it is a win. A couple of stand-outs that I very much enjoyed recently were the fried cheese curds and the Japanese fried chicken sandwich. Don't overlook the burger or cheesesteak, however. If fried curds or chicken are on a menu, I am almost always ordering them. These two were no disappointment.


The curds, sourced from "The Cow and the Curd" are little gooey sticks of magic. The breading is a light cornmeal-ish coating, and the salty stringy cheese takes me back to Wisconsin when I discovered these regional delicacies over a decade ago (along with New Glarus beer). In both cases, beer + fried curds = happiness. I would venture to say these are better than anything I have had in the Badger State. A taste of the chipotle lime dipping sauce actually gave a sharp kick of acidity and late smokey burn. Too often these aiolis are bland town. Not here.



The Japanese fried chicken sandwich was just out of this world. The shishito pepper aioli and the ginger pickles were just icing on the cake.


The brioche, which I am generally not hugely into, was the perfect vessel for this fried manna from heaven.


The chicken thighs were battered with a slightly sweet, shatteringly crunchy shell. The flavor on its batter reminded me ever so slightly of eating a corn dog. Yes, a corn dog. The sweet cornmeal flavor was the perfect bit of sass to match the tender meat inside. This was the best fried chicken sandwich I have had in recent memory. Simple perfection.


The juicy thigh was just right for the application. And there was plenty of salt to get my taste buds dancing. I am pretty sure I contemplated having Uber drop me back off here towards the end of the night for a sequel.


Although they didn't look like much, the fries were addictive as well. Sure, they might have come out of a freezer but I'm not a hater of pre-cut fries, I quite like them! The inner potato was fluffy, while the outside was crunchy and salty. Not much else you could ask for. All around, the Taproom on 19th blew away expectations.



Thursday, August 25, 2016

Split Rail Tavern

15 N Walnut Street
West Chester, PA 19380
(484) 999-8805
Website

Split Rail is a good place to stop in West Chester for a decent beer selection, and so I decided to try the "Split Rail Commonwealth Burger" that was talked up by the bartenders the last couple of visits I made.


On the menu, it had all of the right components. "All burgers are 6oz Dutch Meadow Farms 100% Organic Grass-fed Beef accompanied by a Russian dressing, shredded lettuce, tomato, red onion, choice of sharp cheddar, American or Swiss, a spicy pickle and house-cut french fries, served on a Big Marty's sesame seed bun." Sounds like a high-end fast food burger to me. Lovely. I ordered it with sharp cheddar, and caramelized onions ($1.50 up-charge on the onions). Which put it at $13.50. Still, when it arrived, it looked quite good, and the fries were tantalizingly golden brown.


The problem with the burger was flavor. It was bland city, the burger meat tasted like watery beef juice that had never heard of salt (and there was a hair on my vegetable toppings served on the side). The hair, well that sometimes happens, but the woeful under-seasoning, that should never happen.


I really wanted this to be awesome, look how good it looks, and is a nice medium (strong medium) which was close enough (I guess) to the medium rare I ordered so as not to offend. But I truly tasted nothing. I asked a dining mate to try it (having given no indication of my thoughts), and the immediate response- "wow, that is incredibly bland" followed by- "is that a hair?". I have been back and tried it again to be sure it was not a one off experience. And it was the same conclusion. Great components, poor execution.


Not to mention the unexpectedly dry bun. Usually these babies are soft and supple, but this bad boy was D-R-Y and crunchy, but not because it may have been toasted (it wasn't), it was stale. Even if the burger had come out medium rare and potentially dripping with jus, the crumbly bun still would have been noticeable.


The fries were the saving grace (I think they mistakenly used the burger salt on THEM). Perfectly fried, nicely seasoned, and pillowy inside, I loved them. Next time I would steer away from the burger, but perhaps try something else that was accompanied by these crispy potato dreams. That is if I venture back during dining time.