Tuesday, March 30, 2010


795 S 3rd St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 625-0556

Okay, well this review has been a long time coming. Why? Because I didn't want any more people than already know about this Dmitri's to go there. The wait is already long enough. But alas, I cannot hide my love for my favorite BYOB in the city anymore. There I said it. Dmitri's is my favorite BYO, and one of my favorite restaurants in all of Philadelphia. It's where I like to go, if I am paying. The prices are extremely reasonable, the service is brisk, but cordial, and you can bring your own wine as you see fit.
Oh, and the food is absolutely incredible. It's never-fail, fresh, simple Mediterranean food (a majority of it from the sea) of which I never grow tired. Seriously. I have eaten here more than any other "sit down" restaurant in the city. Not to mention the pita bread. Oh that pita.

I have heard they get their pita shipped down from Brooklyn and it comes in large stacks inside of plastic bags, coated with oil. Wherever it comes from, it tastes as though it arrived from heaven. They grill it fresh before it arrives to your table, and although they provide a dish of olive oil and red wine vinegar, it is worth it to wait for your order of 'half baba ghanoush - half hummus' to arrive. Because you HAVE to order a plate of it. The baba is smoky, thick and delectable, while the hummus is smooth and creamy, which makes for pita dipping perfection. Garnished with some smoked paprika and olives, this always arrives first and helps satiate your dining partners, who are no doubt ravenous after seeing other diners' plates, and smelling the fresh seafood being grilled over blazing hot grates.

So next, do yourself a favor and order the 'snap peas'. They are crisp, served with a fantastic tomato sauce and topped with chunks of feta that does not melt, but softens in the warm sauce.

Now stop. Ask for more pita!

Okay, on to the next delivery. The 'mussels saute' are delectable. You receive about two dozen of these salty, crunchy little shelled crustaceans. They are sort of a Greek version of popcorn shrimp. They are really quite good with a squeeze of lemon.

The 'meatballs' are also really good, offering a slightly crispy exterior with a moist, juicy inside. I always order a side of tzatziki, to dip them in, which really solidifies their "Mediterranean-ness" (and I love sauces).

The 'fried smelts', are not fishy at all, and have a meaty, tender interior, with a slightly crunchy breaded exterior. They are served with a sauce that seems to be some kind of horseradish dip, but it is not super flavorful. I would just suggest a liberal squeeze of lemon and really embracing the delicate flavor.

Which brings me to my favorite of these tasty small plates. You will want to make sure you have extra pita left for this little number. Dimitri's 'shrimp scampi' is, to me, one of the best presentations of shrimp around. They are cooked simply in oil and some vinegar, with red pepper flakes, and fresh herbs. But the results are fantastic. Everyone at the table was commenting on how much they thoroughly enjoyed these delicious shrimp, all the way to the last drop of that succulent oil. A must, on every trip.

A head's up, you have to order everything at once here (not by choice), because it is tiny inside, and people tend to sit for a half hour or more after they finish and shoot the breeze drinking their wine, which is fine, unless you are waiting for a table. Fortunately, the New Wave Cafe is across the street, and serves an ample array of wines and micro brews to hold you over during the excruciating waiting game that sometimes exists. The hostess will come across the street and get you when your table is ready. Sometimes I will go in and get a table right away, although I am used to waiting about 30-45, and have even once waited for an unprecedented two and half hours on a Saturday night (I really wanted grilled octopus).

The food is amazing, and the bill will pleasantly surprise you. Although they have a Fitler Square location (not a BYOB) and a new one in Northern Liberties (not sure on the liquor license status), I always stick with the original. Just be prepared for a wait, and bring cash (they don't accept cards).

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Tamale Lady

I love street tamales. From the Baja, to San Fransico, Southern California, Salt Lake, even Chicago, I am a veteran of these warm, steamy bundles of happiness. In the Italian Market, I have long passed by the little old tamale lady, and thought about how, "next time, I will try them out." It has all the makings of magic: the little (seemingly) experienced Hispanic woman, a little corner with a cooler and cart full of paper plates etc. However, this was a tamale like nothing I have ever seen.

I ordered one pork, and one chicken. The pork was the first player up to bat. The first thing I noticed about the tamale was...it was huge. It was the size of a giant burrito. I was really quite surprised. The second thing I noticed was...a strange drizzle of hot sauce down the middle. This was okay by me as I love hot sauce. The third thing I noticed was...a large bone in the first fork full. The pork was a strange pink color, and certainly not from being smoked. There was a ton of masa and a small amount of meat. Which wasn't a problem, because it was pretty gross. And when I say pretty gross, I mean I took one bite, out of shear journalistic integrity (as though I have any), in order give a real review of the tamale. It was not good. To put it lightly. And the weird large bone was staring back the whole time. I have never had a tamale this weird/gross. Hopefully the chicken one would be better, right?

How wrong was I? The chicken tamale was almost a joke. A pull of the wet husk wrapper, revealed a wet tamale. Ok, no big deal. Having learned my lesson on the last one, an exploratory poke for bones revealed...

A chicken drumstick. Unseasoned, merely boiled and covered in masa. So gross. It was wet and gray. I don't even know who would eat it. I have never even seen such a thing, even in Mexico. I have yet to find a good tamale in Philly, and the hunt continues. So next time you hear the little old lady calling out "tamale" in the Italian market, avoid this siren like you would some weird piece of meat, because that's all you'd have to look forward to.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Lorenzo's Pizza

Lorenzo and Sons Pizza Inc
305 South Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 627-4110

Long known in the Philadelphia area as a bastion of late night eating, Lorenzo and Sons or Lorenzo's as it is colloquially known, offers a cheap slice of cheese, and some entertaining people watching on any given Friday night.

They are open late, serve only cheese pizza, and always have a line. I hadn't been there in quite some time, so I felt it was time to revisit. The pizza was...delicious.

Keeping in mind this is not the kind of pizza that you eat with a glass of red, but rather the kind of fuel that beer addled revelers fold and eat standing up along the corridors of South street. The simplicity is what makes it. The cheese is rich, stringy and savory, the sauce has a nice seasoning, and the crust has the perfect amount of "chew" a quality often missed by lesser purveyors of this American staple. It's tough to beat two slices to go to help make the walk home fly by.

Friday, March 26, 2010


1504 Sansom St.
Philadelphia, PA 19102
(215) 568-5000

Well, there is a new burger joint in town, run by the owners of Rouge, and it's all the rage. How does it stack up? Even taking into consideration that it hasn't been open long, they need to step up their game. Talk is that the burgers are supposedly a miniature version of the Rouge burger. I have had the Rouge burger, however, and it's way above what 500º has to offer. The line is out the door at this place, which really doesn't mean anything in a city of lunchtime suburbanite commuters (no offense to anyone, but I mean people will stand twenty deep in line for some of the carts that are just plain gross). So the burgers are 5.5 ounces, and grilled to order. Well, in theory they are. In my opinion, if a place makes a big deal about the temperature at which you order your burger, it should be two things: consistent and spot on. Neither were the case.

The 500 burger has bibb lettuce, tomato, cheddar, bacon & special house sauce. The sauce is served on the side. Which is annoying to me, because I then have to attempt to pick up my medium rare burger and smear sauce on it, when it should be ready to go straight from the wrapper. The pickles were also on the side. Hmm. Anyway, while the brioche buns were certainly a delight, they make the burger patty seem, well, small. It was also a bit dry. The ingredients were pretty much lost in the bun, and didn't really have much flavor going on. I was disappointed. What's more, the burger was strangely cooked. They recommend medium rare, and I obliged, but it was a heavy handed medium, and the bottom third was the only pink part. I think they left it on too long after the initial flip. It was strange seeing only a third of the burger pink. It SHOULD have been that eighty percent of the inside was pink to red. The additional toppings (I had the works: mushrooms, jalapenos, and sauteed red onions) were pretty much a waste. The jalapeno gave a flicker of heat, but basically contributed to the overall mediocrity of the burger. The additional 500 burger purchased was ordered medium rare and came out a charred well done. Nothing will ruin a true burger lover's appetite more quickly and effectively than a dry hockey puck on too much bread. The tomato (I know this is not the season, but it's do-it-well or don't-do-it-at-all in my book) was mealy, and flat. Overall, I was pretty disappointed, and I had such high hopes. They may come around when they get all of the kinks worked out, and I will certainly give them another try, but they are by no means cheap, and they really need to figure out those consistency issues in the kitchen. All of that being said, there was still some good to come of it...

Below you will see the truffle oil fries. These were no joke. Although they were cold from sitting while the burgers were being over cooked, they smelled incredible, and were some of my favorite fries I have eaten in a while. They had a nice, thin, crispy crunch, and the truffle oil was addictively earthy. The spicy fries, not so much. They were the same fries, shaken with old bay. Come on now, it's Center City in 2010, not Chickie and Pete's in the nineties. I guess it works for some people, but for me, it just doesn't cut it. I would definitely eat the truffle fries again, given the opportunity, and that might become a reality, as they are apparently going to be open until 3am on the weekends. I also tried the black and white shake, but it was just okay. Definitely won't be taking the shake throne anytime soon.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I hope everyone is enjoying the great weather. I have been riding a lot, and loving it. Here is a really fun route to Pennypack park, and you can stop at Sweet Lucy's on the way back! Review to come in the future (trust me it's really good).

Monday, March 22, 2010

Machismo Burrito Bar

4330 Main Street
Philadelphia, PA 19127
(215) 508-3333

First things first, I have a weakness for "West Coast Style" burritos that are the size of a football. Always have, always will. Especially when there is biking involved. Something about riding, and then gorging that just seems to go hand-in-hand. So on a glorious Spring Sunday ride to Manyunk, I decided to try Machismo, in spite of hearing mixed reviews. Everything in the 'yunk was packed, and so I figured there was no better option, than grab an "Epic" burrito to go, and bask in the sunlight down by the river. I am really glad I did.

Aside from the lone kernel of corn, the outside seems to be pretty standard. It is, however, a chipotle tortilla, and strangest of all, it actually was spicy and very slightly smoky. Not too shabby for starters. I am often betrayed by flavored tortillas, that actually have less flavor than ordinary tortillas. Not the case here. The burrito bar had pretty standard burrito bar toppings, save for two. One was the yellow rice option, and the other was chipotle queso. I went for both. The rice was good, flavorful and rich, and the queso was, well, great. Included in this burrito: yellow rice, chicken, black beans, chipotle queso, mild, medium, and hot salsa, black olives, fresh jalapenos, romaine, and shredded cheddar/Monterrey jack blend. It all worked really well (except skip the fresh jalapenos unless you really like the heat), and the burrito was moist, well crafted, and delicious. I tried another burrito separately, and it had a completely different flavor profile going on. Which was really strange considering it had most of the same ingredients, except pork over chicken and a jalapeno cheddar tortilla. I really expected them to taste exactly the same, but it was not the case.

Bottom line, a great place to stop when you are craving a burrito that could feed two, and want to greedily devour it all by your lonesome. Although it is close to qdoba in construction, I found it much more delicious, and it was reasonably priced. An interesting way to beat the crowds at most of the local upscale places, and enjoy the weather off of the beaten path. On the towpath, to be exact.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Johnny Brenda's

1201 Frankford Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19125-3905
(215) 739-9684

I used to LOVE JB's. The beer is great, food was solid and reasonably priced, and it's pretty laid back inside. However, the last couple of times I have eaten there, it has been just...meh. But brunch on Sunday really sealed the deal for me to cut them off. It started with a flat soda. No big deal, but the next drink (which was iced tea), in my opinion, should have been comped. I SERIOUSLY don't care about $2, but it's the principle of the matter. Anyway, one of my favorite Cuban's around was from the kitchen up there. Big, crunchy pickle slices, tasty pork, salty ham, and mustard all served on a grilled panini. Seriously good. NOT THIS TIME. As I was eating it, I crunched down on some sort of cartilage or who knows what. Gross, but forgivable. I opened the sandwich to see where it came from, and right there, under my bread was another two-inch by two-inch piece of inedible something or other. I mean, it was huge. Nearly one half of the meat's substance was this nauseating thing. This was not going to cut it. I was so sickened by this I almost gagged (and this is coming from someone who will eat about anything).

The waitress saw it and said "eww that's gross". Especially because I had already spit the first inedible piece out and pulled the offensive material out of the sandwich. After that, I wanted no part of that sandwich and promptly sent it back. My dining partner had ordered a cheeseburger (also usually a ringer), which we then split, but it was over cooked, and we were both still reeling from the previous offense. The fries were good, as usual, if not less than warm when served. The malt vinegar aioli (you have to ask for it), was the highlight to an otherwise horrendous outing. I was totally put off by the egregiousness of the whole event, and although I was comped a sandwich that I was unable to eat, it would have been nice to just go ahead and take care of the burger and the flat soda as well. Sigh.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Moules Frites

One of my favorite comfort foods is a pot of mussels with plenty of bread for dipping. Sopping up the rich, salty broth with bread is (literally) a slice of heaven in my book. When you add crispy french fries with some delicious aioli... mmmm, well it's pretty apparent the Belgians are really on to something.

I always get my mussels from Anastasi's in the Italian Market. They are clean, very few stiffs, and little if any sand (these are important traits if you have ever had sandy/still bearded mussels). Five pounds later, I was ready to go. Note: one of the hardest parts of making mussels is determining how many to buy. Five pounds is a good approximation for 4 very big eaters.

When you get home, put them in a colander, give them a good rinse with cold water, and dump them into a big bowl and cover with a wet paper towel on top. At that point pop them in the fridge until you are ready to cook. It works like a charm to keep them cool and alive until they go into the hot pot.

When you are ready to cook, assemble your base ingredients of choice. I chose onion, shallot, bacon, blue cheese and fresh parsley this time, and highly recommend the combination. You'll want to dice them up finely and have a big stock pot ready to accommodate the delicious mixture. Give the bacon a fairly larger, rough dice. Don't worry about pulling the slices apart, they will naturally separate when you fry them. First the bacon goes into the pot to crisp. I used just under a pound of raw bacon.

When it reaches your desired crispness, pull it out and drain most of the grease, but leave about a tablespoon to brown the veggies in. While the bacon is sizzling in the stock pot, put the potatoes through a french fry slicer. Depending on the density of the potatoes you are using, this can be a bit of a task (sweet potatoes are brutally difficult so I usually halve them first). If you don't have one, you can just carefully and consistently slice them to your desired thickness using a very sharp knife.

For the first fry of the frites (there will be two), heat the oil in a deep fryer or large dutch oven to 310-320. This basically poaches the fries, and you will keep them in there until they are limp and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Below is what they should look like after their first dip into the oil bath.

Your onion and shallot should be browning up nicely at this point, so go ahead and add some salt and pepper if you haven't already. Also, turn the heat on your frying oil up so that it reaches 375 degrees. Now grab two beers of your choice: one for steaming the mussels, and the other for yourself - you want to be sure to reward the hard work you have done thus far. Celebrate being almost done and get ready to really indulge. When the oil is up to 375, drop your fries back in and brown them to your desired level of crispiness. I like really crispy, brown fries, so I let them in extra long (10 minutes or so).

Shake off the excess oil, add to a bowl and toss with sea salt, fresh cracked pepper, and freshly chopped parsley.

I usually whip up some smoked paprika & garlic aioli for dipping; with a little mayo, fresh lemon, crushed garlic and smoky paprika, you can't go wrong.

Here's where you will have fresh fries to pick at while you finish the mussels. Simply pour one of your beers into the pot with your sauteed dices (I used Intercourse Brewing Company's, Bareville Pilsner), and dump in your mussels. I like to throw a bit of the blue cheese in as well to add to the broth. They sell bread ends in the Italian market for a dollar a bag that work perfectly for this application.

Once the mussels have opened (about five to seven minutes or so), uncover, and add the remaining blue cheese crumbles, bacon crumbles, and chopped parsley. Make sure to give it a big stir to splash the broth all over the mussels, and as always, discard any that do no open, as they were dead to begin with, and are not edible. Bring everything to the table and feast! The best part: feeding four hungry friends with plenty of frites, shellfish, and delicious broth for dipping for about as much as mussels-for-one at most gastropubs!