Monday, August 3, 2009

Get Shanked (in a good way)

Shank’s Original (Uptown)
120 S. 15th St.
Philadelphia PA

Having been a huge fan of the original Shank and Evelyn’s on 10th Street, I was more than a little dismayed when I heard they were closing down their awesome little breakfast/luncheonette and moving it to Center City. I mean, that cannot bode well, right?

While they just opened this week, I had been anxiously awaiting their arrival. The food at the original location was reminiscent of what you would get at your friend’s Italian grandmother’s house. Perfect. Working in Center City, there are some lunchtime gems to be found but mediocrity is generally the rule rather than the exception. I was hoping that Shank’s Original would be a good dose of South Philly and a slap of some of that attitude in their rolls.

Given it was the grand opening on Wednesday (according to FooBooz), there always must be some time to allow them to get acclimated to their new venue. This place is tiny, and it was packed. When you walk in, there is a counter behind which the South Philly ladies are working their magic. The kitchen runs all the way down the left side of the room and you get to see all of the different stations in action - and boy were they busy. You order in the back, and the line starts at the front. It is a nice distraction while waiting in line to see the sandwiches being put together and to feel out what you are going to order.

We ordered the roast beef with sharp provolone and the chicken cutlet with broccoli rabe and sharp provolone, with a side of marinara on the cutlet. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they still give you a dish of banana peppers and pickles on the side, like the original location. One gripe: there was no cheese on the cutlet when I received it, and I had to go back and ask for it. I also forgot to ask for marinara when I ordered, but they were more than happy to acquiesce to both requests. They also failed to serve the cutlet on a seeded roll as requested but, hey, they are just getting into the groove at their new spot.

The roast beef is hand-carved, delicious, and reminiscent of John’s Roast Pork’s tub of bubbling-beef goodness. It is very juicy and the seeded roll and sharp provolone are great with the warm jus that is dripping everywhere. A good blend of beef jus and salty seasoning really makes this a winner.

As usual, the chicken cutlet also packed a punch. Italiano style it is served with sharp prov and broccoli rabe or spinach. I opted for the rabe. Unfortunately, as noted above, the prov was missing, but that situation was soon rectified. The guy sitting next to me also had the cutlet, and he was missing the crucial element - the juiciness that’s provided by a sauce or gravy. I overheard him say to his eating mate, “it’s really good, but dry.” I hear you man. You need this marinara to provide some softening to the bread and help moisten the cutlet. I was all over it, and it made the sandwich delicious. Although I felt bad for the poor fellow, to quote the great Pat Burrell, “you snooze, you lose.”

All in all, the uptight corporate drones were quite a change from the sleeveless-shirt wearing, Italian flag-sporting clientele I was used to in the past life of this establishment; and although the food might be a notch less special now that Shank’s is in their center city digs, it is still a little slice of home-cooked Italian heaven, and I will certainly return. Shank’s, it’s great to have you back!

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