Friday, October 29, 2010


This is going on. It's going to be super fun. Starts at 1, ride/race starts at 2. Here is a link to the site.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lucky's Coffee Shop

4003 Concord Pike
Wilmington, Delaware 19810


Lucky's is a quirky, hipster(ish) coffee shop located off 202 in Wilmington. They are a welcome reprieve from the chain restaurant/stripmall mess that makes up a large portion of that stretch of road. The inside is a nod to traditional old-school diners, but updated with some quirky effects. Never mind the lady texting in the fore-ground.

They serve up traditonal diner food with a gourmet spin. Below is the Monte Cristo. The bread was light, fluffy, and really held in all of the greasy goodness that made it french toast. The sweet toast with the salty ham inside was a winning combo. I would have loved to see some kind of jalapeno jam option or something to spice it up and add some moisture. It wasn't dry, but it was borderline. Overall, it was pretty good, and lighter than similar sandwiches I have had in the past.

The Reuben was born from house-made corned beef, topped with Swiss, homemade special sauce, and coleslaw. The fries were good, thin and crispy. I was a fan of the sandwich, and all in all, Lucky's is a pretty good place to stop if you find your self in (gasp) Delaware, and want some comfort food in an interesting environment.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


1501 S 8th St (8th and Dickinson)
Philadelphia, PA

Cosmi's is a South Philly staple. They make a pretty decent cheesesteak, and are open on Sundays for an afternoon of gorging while watching your favorite team. They are also much more consistent than MY favorite teams, so it takes some of the stress out of my day of rest. The hoagies are good, but the cheesesteaks are better, so I usually just go with them.

One of my guilty pleasures is over-sauced, over-chopped, over-stuffed, Buffalo chicken cheesesteaks, and Cosmi's is usually right on the money. Chicken, fried onions, and blue cheese dressing on a soft but chewy roll. Done deal.

The cheesesteaks are also pretty good, but I alway's order extra cheese, as I have been left wanting in the cheese department in the past. Nothing fancy, just a solid nicely chopped steak, with fried onions, banana peppers (I love the tangy vinegar bite) and extra American. I believe they probably will put wiz on it, but unless you drank too many Coors lights or are from out of town, why bother.

The fries are good, nothing special, but completely edible. And if you really need that processed cheese (which I secretly don't mind with fries once in a while) look no further. For the record, my dining mate ordered the cheese. Also, the old-school bag the fries come in is pretty cool, is it not?

Friday, October 22, 2010

European Republic

213 Chestnut St
Philadelphia PA

It took me a while to finally pony up to this place, as I have mentioned before, I don't get out in Old City too often. But alas, a friend and I were to meet for lunch, and this was well within walking distance of the rendezvous point.

I am ALWAYS in for some well cooked fries, and to be honest, it's a tough thing to find more often than not. This place is known for their fries or frites, so I was interested off the bat. When I found out they have over twenty dipping sauces, well, there was no stopping me.

As we are both students, a budget friendly lunch is certainly smiled upon, and the combo meal advertised above was about as good as it gets. Seriously, you can't get two slices and a soda for $6.95 in Center City. I went for the spicy grilled chicken and goat cheese wrap, and the European ketchup for my dipping sauce. I was told it is a blend of ketchup, mayo, and onion which brought back fond memories of my fry sauce addiction during my college days in Utah. The wrap was nothing special. It was more of a "look I am eating something healthy with my fries" sort of thing, but it was a welcome respite from the usual burger and fries lunch that puts you down for the entire afternoon.

And now for the fries. Oh those fries. They were a bit thicker than I usually like (hence frites), and served in a traditional paper cone. The outside was golden, perfectly cooked to a crispy crunch, and actually tasted like a french fry should, probably because they don't fry thirty other things in their oil like a lot of restaurants. The inside, however was the real winner. Most places that make their fries crispy, do so by overcooking them. This renders the delicate starch inside flavorless and mere filler. At European Republic, the inside was light, fluffy and well, wonderful. These are some serious fries, no matter what style you prefer. My dining partner opted for the roasted garlic sauce and the mozzarella chicken wrap. The sauce was great, the wrap was good, and likewise the fries were perfect. Although I prefered the European ketchup dipping sauce, there are still many, many, variations to try, and I am sure I will make my way through a good portion of them.

The portions were adequate, and the value was outstanding. The service, although a bit confusing on the actual food delivery aspect in the cramped quarters, was friendly and helpful. They also take cards, and did so on a $7 order with out so much as a blink of an eye. That's what I like to see.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Don Jose Rojo's Tacos

601 Ocean Avenue,
Ocean City, NJ 08226


I was in Ocean City for the City to Shore ride again this year, and we went back for our second round of Don Jose. After pedaling over a hundred miles, you can pretty much eat anything you want. We returned here, not for the incredible food, but more so for the proximity to the house we stay at. Not that the foods not good, it is just fine. Overall, it's like a cross between Qdoba and Taco Bell. You have to also take into account that not too much is open in a shore town during the fall. Nachos below were good, loaded with toppings, and although hardly gourmet or authentic, they hit the spot.

I went for the egg, avocado, and chorizo breakfast burrito.

I am a sucker for egg, meat and avocado in a burrito, and this one did it for me pretty well. It was huge, and the chorizo was quite tasty. Not bad, considering we were in Ocean City. Some cervezas would have pushed it even higher in my opinion, but it is, after all, a dry town. The ground beef burrito was also decent, although not quite as good as the egg and chorizo. Still good considering the circumstances.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Watkins Drinkery

1712 S 10th St (10th and Watkins)
Philadelphia, PA 19148

Watkins Drinkery is owned by the same guy who owns The Dive, but it has a much different feel. Wooden walls, decent TV's and food that they actually make on the premises. Oh yea, it also doesn't smell like cigarettes and urine. That aside, it is a new bar in my area, and they offer a menu smack full of wild game spins on traditional bar/gastro pub food. It's also very dark inside. I started with the venison nachos. The picture is dark because that was all of the available light I could muster. Luckily by the time the entrees arrived, so did someone with a light on their phone, which made all of the difference in the world. The nachos were really quite good. The venison was roasted or braised so it was meltingly tender, and had a nice smokey rustic flavor, without being too gamey. I am a fan.

The bison and blue cheese burger was good, but hardly great. The blue cheese all melted out and left the bison meat, which is dangerously lean to begin with, quite dry. It was bouyed, however, by the malt vinegar mayo that came with the fries. Although, when I ordered an extra side, a different, dill flavored sauce came out which the server assured me was the same thing. It was not. Either way, next time I might just opt for a large order of fries, as they were delicious, and the best part of the entree. Perfectly crispy, crunchy and salty, with a nice hot starchy interior.

The fish and chips were touted as a favorite of the night, with a light, crispy, beer battered mahi-mahi served alongside those addictive fries. They were supposed to come with the malt vinegar aioli, but were instead served with the same dill sauce. I don't really understand how all of that worked, but I would highly recommend the malt vinegar dip instead.

There is an arcade machine with about fifty old school video games upstairs, as well as darts and pool. This will probably be the biggest draw for me. Also the upstairs bar itself is not open as of yet, so don't get tricked by the bartender downstairs telling you that beer is available up there. We patiently waited for the server upstairs while we were working off our meal on the 1942 game but she never appeared, and when we ordered drinks downstairs ten minutes later, she again reiterated that someone would come up to serve us, although they obviously hadn't. All in all, Watkins is a pretty alright spot to have in the neighborhood. Oh, and they also have this game as an option. It sounds deceptively simple to make burgers by walking across ingredients without Mr. Hotdog getting you, but it is much harder than I remembered. I had thought I would be a natural, but alas I was quickly put in my place by a much more talented female member of the group.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A bit of riding

I have been spending some much needed time on the saddle recently, and today was a most glorious day on the cross bike. It's the most fun you can have on two wheels.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

D' Alessandro's (CLOSED)

2700 S Darien St. (Between 8th and 9th on Oregon)
Philadelphia, PA 19148-5002
(215) 755-3354

When I would drive past this spot, I would always wonder if they had any relation to the Dalessandro's in Roxborough, where everyone used to go for great steaks (unfortunately it is not nearly as good as it used to be). This D'Alessandro's is NOT related to the other, more famous shop, although they have MUCH better food. Not that it's surprising that the food in South Philly is better than that in Roxborough. So I decided to give this hoagie shop a try, and I must admit, they are up in my top hoagie rankings.

The space is small, and has all of the charm you would expect of a sandwich shop on Oregon. This includes, but is not limited to the delivery guy (I think) sleeping, while Maury blares in the background. This is the stuff I love about South Philly. The owner was cooking and two women were working the register. They were very passionate about the food, and when they informed me that the eggplant had not been delivered, they also suggested chicken cutlet in it's place stating "it's really, really good." Of course I was willing to give it a whirl.

It was only after I ordered that I started looking around at the different newspaper and magazine articles about the place (and the Philadelphia sports memorabilia proudly displayed on the faded walls), and realized that the chicken cutlet is one of their specialties. Well played, counter lady. I went with the chicken cutlet Italiano. This contained the traditional sharp prov, and spinach, but also added roasted peppers. The peppers helped with the moistness of the sandwich, and the side of sauce (which was merely jarred marinara) was thus rendered unnecessary. I really liked the cutlet itself. It was crispy with a nice golden brown fried exterior, thick but juicy inside, and packed with flavor. It was also a healthy sized sandwich for the $7 price tag.

The other sandwich I ordered was the Old World. It is their spin on an old school Italian hoagie. I have to say, this one took my heart. The bottom was stuffed with chunks of aged sharp prov, topped with sopressata, dry copa, and prosciutto. You can see that this sandwich is jam packed with meat and cheese, just the way it should be. The usual lettuce, tomato, and onion, all thin sliced, are layered on the delicious cold cuts, but there was one twist. When I asked for hot peppers, they tossed a single whole roasted long hot on each side of the sandwich, which was their unique spin. Although I prefer my hot pepper relish this long hot was quite good, and although lacking in heat, it was full of roasted pepper flavor.

I really liked both sandwiches, but I could see myself craving the Old World. Some tips, they only take cash, although if you order from their grub street listing (provided above), you can apparently pay with a card. They are also closed Sunday's, because as the cook/owner proclaimed, he needs his Eagles time. He did offer that if we called on Saturday night, he could probably make some hoagies up for us to pick up the following Sunday morning, or for a special hoagie tray order he could be persuaded to make food. Noted. This will certainly not be the last time I head down to Oregon for a great sandwich.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Catahoula update

I returned since my last post to try the fried oyster Po' Boy. $5 for a half during all Phillies games. The place filled up quickly, and many groups left when they realized that they couldn't come to a small neighborhood bar with a group of four or more during the Phillies playoffs with great food and specials on a Friday night and expect to get seats. I don't exactly know what they had anticipated, but it was amusing nonetheless. The Po' Boy was well executed. The oysters were fantastic, crispy on the outside but burst with brininess on the inside, as though they had funneled some crisp ocean water inside somehow.

The "pickles" were a melange fall vegeatables, cucumbers excluded, and were heavily seasoned with what I believe was five-spice. I am not a fan, and found the anise flavor overwhelming. However others I was eating with found them delicious. It depends on your palate, I suppose.

I had to go with the cornmeal crusted fried chicken again, and it was just as good as last time. With three flat screen tv's to watch the game, coupled with beer and food specials, this is a great place to watch the game. Cheers to Catahoula, I am glad to have you around.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Han Dynasty

108 Chestnut St.
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 922-1888

This place has been all the hype for a while now, but I just never got over to Old City (for obvious reasons) to check it out. My mistake.

I popped in for lunch, knowing full well that the only way to go about eating there is to put yourself in Han's hands. Done. I was also pre-warned by a friend that he may come off as arrogant, but to trust him. Also done. Although I can see how some people might be annoyed by his no-nonsense attitude (and the initially snide arrogance) - but you know what they say, the proof is in the pudding, and I could not put down the pudding spoon. I was even scrapping the serving trays for a tiny bit more of the sauces or a crispy bit of pork belly that might have been lost in the mix. It was utterly pathetic how good the food was, and I am not too proud to say it.

When we ordered, we were told what we had originally intended to order for a starter (dumplings) were not that good, and instead we should get the Dan Dan noodles. The noodles, for want of a better description, were incredible. The best way to describe them, is to liken them to a mix of my two favorite dishes from Nan Zhou (the hand-drawn noodle house) which are their 'noodles in pork soy sauce' and their 'noodles in peanut sauce'. This was a mash-up of the two, with the addition of some spicy, hot pepper oil, and was insanely addictive. I am craving them so hard right now just thinking about it. The Dan Dan noodles are presented in a large bowl and hand mixed table-side. I could eat this all of the time. Seriously. So addictive. There is a nutty sesame flavor, coupled with crispy pork bits, salty soy and a spicy kick. Heaven in a bowl.

We had also been planning on ordering a couple of entrees (lunch special is apparently approximately half off of the dinner price, give or take), but we were told otherwise - that we should instead go with the dry pepper style chicken (an 8 on the heat index) and the dry fry style pork belly (a 6). The recommendations I had received from said friend in advance of my visit were turned down by Han and instead he made these new recommendations.

They don't pull any punches with the heat, or the authenticity. It was unlike most Chinese places, so don't go and try to order Kung Pao chicken, or I truly feel Han would (rightfully) kick you out. He had one other server working, but he took every order himself and brought them all out. The other server sat us, and Han told us we were in the wrong seat. When he brought out the food he said, "are you ready for the best meal of your lives?" In another context, all of this would be off-putting, but at Han Dynasty, it adds to the charm. He loves his food, and stands by it one hundred percent. I fully support this approach to restaurants, and wish it were more prevalent. The dry pepper style chicken was hot. The layers of flavor were so deep and complex that the building heat didn't just sting, but it came in waves, and actually developed the flavor profiles more completely. I was hooked. Chicken, peppers, sesame, dry peppers and peppercorns were all that it needed to become my favorite chicken dish I have eaten in quite some time. There was one problem though. The pork belly.

I love pork belly. I love to eat it and to make it, to talk about it and to think about it. This might have been the best I have ever had. Beautiful, impossibly thin ribbons of belly, crispy on most of the surface area. One problem with pork belly is when it is sliced too thickly it can be poorly undercooked; another is when it is not crispy enough it tends to be overwhelmingly chewy. Neither were anywhere close to being the case at Han. The light sauce was smoky, salty, slightly sweet and of course, spicy. The scallions and bell peppers, celery and peppercorns were so amazingly porky and delicious, I didn't stand a chance against this dish, even though I had remarked how I was full after the Dan Dan appetizer. That is, until I licked every presented vessel clean immediately after that statement.

I really can't say enough about the food at Han Dynasty. I want to, and probably will be back this week. It's the best Chinese I have ever had, and I don't know that I will ever be able to go back to anything else.