Thursday, December 22, 2011

Circles Thai

1516 Tasker St
Philadelphia, PA 19145
(267) 687-1778

Thai food is lacking in Philadelphia for the most part. When I think of Thai, I don't think upscale, expensive food. I think flavor packed, reasonably priced and somewhat exotically spiced dishes. Circles is apparently coming to Northern Liberties, so I felt it was only proper to make a pilgrimage back to my homeland, down south, to eat at the much adored Point Breeze king of Thai.

One thing that is incredibly strange is the fact that the food at the eat-in place is brought across a Point Breeze alley from the takeout restaurant. They use a strange buzzer system and call the orders over. I suppose I would not have noticed it had there been more than one other group eating-in at the time.

The alley in question below.

So anyway, I ordered the summer rolls (I just love those things), Tom Yum soup (beats chicken noodle for soul satisfaction 10 times out of 10), the chicken satay (meat on a stick is always a winner) and the Pad Thai (for a constant). I assume you can figure out which is which below.

The Tom Yum was probably my favorite thing there. Not to say the other items weren't delicious, but there is something about that soup (when executed properly) that is pure comfort. This was a mighty fine offering. I ordered it hot, and it had a perfect punch to it. Tender pieces of chicken, mushrooms, and the lemongrass/kafir/fish/sauce/ginger/chili pepper broth brought the fermented funkiness that I crave. I need this soup within a couple blocks of me for those days when I need to atone for the previous night's transgressions or am battling a cold (much more likely to be the former than the latter).

The chicken satay was another home run. Rich tumeric really made the nicely charred chicken skewers pack some mean flavor. The deliciously acidic cucumber relish and traditional peanut sauce were perfect partners, though the meat was seasoned enough to stand alone.

The shrimp summer roll was great, not that there is any magic to summer rolls. The shrimp were well-cooked and the sweet chili peanut sauce was like a delicious hoisin dip. +1 on the presentation.

The Pad Thai was the best I have had in Philly, and a steal at $11. There were at least five jumbo shrimp nestled into this heap of noodles, and they were perfectly cooked. Sweet and sour tamarind sauce made for a teeter-totter between flavors working in harmony. A generous helping of crunchy peanuts and crisp bean sprouts rounded out the textural tour de force.

All that I can say is that I am incredibly happy there will be an outpost of this delicious food closer to my neighborhood soon. Especially because I only get down to Point Breeze once a week, and that is too long to go between Thai feasts.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chink's Steaks

6030 Torresdale Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19135
(215) 535-9405

I had been meaning to make it to (the unfortunately named) Chink's Steaks ever since I had heard about it. However, it takes some real effort to get there, as it is located in the Tacony/Wissinoming section of Northeast Philadelphia. The name is from the original owner who opened Chink's as a small steak place in 1949 after cutting his teeth at the world famous Pat's steaks.

I think their website sums it up best "[t]he combination of the intriguing d├ęcor and beautiful waitresses, mixed with the overwhelming aroma of delicious steaks invites its customers at the front door. Many customers appreciate the beautiful staff, and the nostalgic scenery; however, most return for the exceptionally fabulous sandwiches."

At the entrance is a small but effective flat-top and you can smell the deliciousness from down the street.

As I was ready for the gut bomb, I went with two cheesesteaks, an order of crinkle-cut cheese fries and a malted vanilla bean milkshake.

Although I am not usually a crinkle-cut fries kind of guy, these were actually pretty good.

Of course, the salty bowl of whiz on the side wasn't hurting anything.

There are all types of vintage touches around the place such as display jukeboxes.

The malted vanilla milkshake was absolutely delicious.

I wanted to try the steak with fried onions and whiz – and damn! – finely chopped onions that were deeply caramelized and a healthy slathering of whiz were perfect on this meat and cheese vessel. The roll was perfectly spongy inside and slightly crispy on the outside. But most importantly, the meat. The meat was divine. Perfectly seasoned, and well cooked. I have not had a better steak sandwich that I can remember.

I also wanted to try the cheesesteak hoagie. This was another winner, but not quite on the level of the regular cheesesteak. The cheesesteak hoagie was ordered with onions, American, lettuce, tomato and mayo. I also added some banana peppers on the side. This was a delicious hybrid of two of the most famous sandwiches in our city. This is one of those situations where there is no shame in ordering mayo on your cheesesteak. Of course, I never have any shame in ordering mayo on anything, but it is frowned upon at some steak joints. The cheesesteak hoagie brings a crunchy, refreshing take on the traditional cheesesteak.

The bottom line is, if you want one of the best steaks in city, make a pilgrimage up to Chink's Steaks. You may not find religion, but you will certainly find deliciousness.

Friday, December 16, 2011

"New French Fries" shootout: Wendy's vs. Burger King

Every once in a while, I decide that there needs to be a showdown between two similar competitors to determine which is better. I have been getting a lot of requests to do more fast food, but that is not what this website is about. That being said, below you will find definitive evidence of the changes made to Burger King and Wendy's fries and how they stack up.

I was watching football last Sunday when I got word of the new "steak fries" at Burger King. As I had been meaning to try the new Wendy's sea salt fries, there was no other option than to execute a french fry shootout.

At BK, I got a large order of fries, and a Whooper. The Whopper was actually for a friend, I was just holding it. No seriously. Also, did you know that you can order a Whopper with onion rings? You really can have it your way.

I then drove (immediately) down to Wendy's.

At Wendy's, I ordered a large fry, a large root beer and a W, which is basically Wendy's new burger, an answer to the Big Mac.

The W was okay. It was a decent fast food burger, as far as the big three are concerned, but I couldn't shake the buttered bun. Well actually, it was a butter-flavored bun. It overpowered the sandwich with its fake, movie-theater-style butteriness.

Now Wendy's new fries are supposed to be "natural" with sea salt, while BK is touting theirs as steak-fry style. While Burger King's had a better crunch, due to the mysterious exterior coating, Wendy's were limp. Wendy's at least some salt to them, while Burger King's had little to no salt. I don't know if that is part of the new initiative, but these are french fries. Maybe I needed to specify that "my way" was with salt. Neither french fry tasted like potatoes, but neither tasted like oil either. They were both bland and underwhelming.

It seems that, at least for now, the french fry king of the big three remains the golden arches. That being said, I got a single order of McDonald's fries the other day (simply for research purposes) and they also were a big let down. So if I had to choose between Burger King and Wendy's new fry gimmicks, I would probably go BK by a fry. I would ask for a pack of crappy iodized salt along with them though.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Loco Pez

2401 East Norris St
Philadelphia, PA 19125
(267) 886-8061

Loco Pez is a new member of the Fishtown bar community, and it is a welcome addition to the area. Before their existence, if you wanted tacos, you had to hit Que Chuela or Riendo in Olde Kensington. Well, Loco Pez is an "LA style" street-taco place, and they offer a small but strong selection of food that I have been missing since leaving Los Angeles.

One of my favorite parts about the whole concept is the fact that they stayed true to their roots in the interior design. It's like a Fishtown dive bar inside, except clean.

After perusing the menu, I started with some margaritas, before transitioning into my taco drink of choice, Modelo Especial. Below is the Monte Carlo - chipotle infused tequila, hibiscus water, sugar and lime. It was spicy, smokey, and slightly sweet. Absolutely delicious, but I would not be able to handle more than one.

This one was the Coupe De Ville, a customer favorite, or so said our attractive and attentive server. A mix of tequila, blood orange puree and lime juice, with a salty sugar rim. This is one that could get you into trouble.

I couldn't decide which tacos to order, so we ordered all of them. Spare me the shock, it was only nine street-style tacos. Now, as this is not all we ordered, I am going to give you a run down, and you can figure out the rest. Below (clockwise from top left) is the al pastor, shredded chicken, carnitas, and carne asada. Winner of the bunch was the al pastor, but they were all delicious. They may look tiny (because they are) but they range from $1.75-2.50 a piece, so you aren't exactly breaking the bank (unless you eat like me).

Carnitas below.

Carne Asada below.

Chicken below.

Al Pastor below.

They serve three homemade hot sauces. One is a smoky chipotle, one is a spicy green tomatillo, and one is a sweet hot habanero. Watch out for the green, it's sneaky hot. And delicious.

After the first round of four, the next five came out. Here we are looking at (from front, clockwise) the mushroom, soy chorizo, chorizo and potato, pez and shrimp. Surprisingly, my favorites were the fried mariscos (seafoods, for those of you not keen to Spanglish) and the soy chorizo. The soyrizo had an awesome flavor, and was dripping with delicious spicy (veggie?) grease; the meat inside of the seafood tacos both had a crunchy batter on the outside with a perfectly cooked interior of fish (pez) or shrimp (camarones).

Camarones, soyrizo and mushroom below.

Mushroom below.

Chorizo & potato below.

Camarones below.

Pez and camarones below.

Well, this wasn't quite enough to fill me up (I really just wanted to try a couple more items), so I decided to go for the street dog. I used to eat street dogs all the time on my walks home from nights out in Hollywood, so it was a nice trip down memory lane. I once even gave a street vendor a twenty for their last dog, much to the dismay of the drunk guy beside me who was digging through his pockets looking for $3 to buy it. Anyway, the street dog at Loco Pez is wrapped in bacon, smothered in cheese, pico and topped with jalapeno slices. It was gloriously messy, had a nice kick from the jalapenos, and a fresh pop from the pico. It was satisfying in the way only pork on pork can be.

Not to be outdone, I also went for a gabacho taco, which was basically their take on a taco supreme. Hard shell, ground beef, shredded lettuce, sour cream and cheese. It was another delicious taco, and the crunch and familiarity were a nice addition to the authentic street-style tacos. At $2 a pop, they weren't breaking the bank either.

Last but certainly not least, I had to get a taste of one of the special tacos for the night. The lengua (beef tongue) was one of my favorites. It had a rich beefy flavor, yet was silkenly tender. Although you may be put-off by tongue (I love it when it's cooked right), it's worth it to try something new. You never know, you may just find a new favorite.

Loco Pez is a pretty great place to hang out, drink some cervezas and eat some street meat. It's got a certain charm to it that could only come from a local bar, and some food that could only come from someone that cares.