Thursday, April 28, 2011

Swiacki Meats

3623 Salmon Street
Philadelphia, PA 19134-5510
(215) 634-0820

Remember when I told you about the place in Port Richmond that has the best Polish meats and pierogies? Well, I am afraid their throne has been compromised. A couple blocks away stands Swiacki Meats, and they have won my increasingly hard working heart. There isn't a whole lot for me to say that the pictures don't say for themselves, besides . . . damn. They will (probably) offer you a sample, which you should take. I mean you are there for food right? I went before Easter and there was a long line. Totally worth it. Smoked kielbasa, spicy slim jims, chocolate babka – the whole deal. They were out of the flavored pierogies, so I will return for them at a more reasonable time. As in, not Good Friday.

Kielbasa is house smoked, and absolutely incredible.

They also offer unsmoked kielbasa and a variety of sausages. They average about $4.29 a lb.

AMAZING signage. I love being Polish some (all) times.

Twisted to order.

They have the meat case stocked.

Also, you can get horseradish, rolls, kraut, everything you need for a solid meal. This is probably the best kielbasa I have ever come across.

Cajun snack sticks below.

Amazing Tweetie Bird leather jacket reminded me I was in Port Richmond.

What's that? You want a classy Easter? How about a lamb shaped butter to round it out. I wanted to eat one of these melted over an entire babka. The babka is serious.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


1001 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 922-1773

Looking for a light, quick lunch, I popped into Kanella for some soothing Cypriot food. My party was quickly seated, and it felt as though we had stumbled into a distant relative's small restaurant on the island of Cyprus. Especially if that island was located on Tenth and Spruce.

As I was trying to keep it light, I steered away from the much adored English Breakfast, and chose to try a couple of unlikely dishes for someone like myself.

The first was the lamb Mousaka. This consisted of ground lamb sandwiched between layers of eggplant and a light pastry shell, served with B├ęchamel sauce. Much like a Mediterranean lasagna, it didn't disappoint in the comfort department (I know I said I was eating light, it was small!) and the flavors melded beautifully. It was well over my normal price range for lunch, weighing in at a whopping $15, but it was artfully crafted, and definitely made with care.

On the light end, seriously this time, I also tried the Kanella platter. This platter (all vegetarian) came with stuffed grape leaves, two falafel balls, spicy tomato salad, tzatziki, tabouli, fried eggplant, olives and a couple of pita wedges. Although it was not substantial in any of its components, it was a perfect amount of food for a filling, light lunch. The star, without question, was the dolmathes. They were slightly crispy on the outer leaves, and just slightly warm on the inside. A welcome change from the usual way I have been served them, obviously just out of the cooler. The tzatziki was the other star and ended up as fodder for both the pita and the falafel. Everything else was delightful without being over the top. At a more reasonable $12, this was a great way to start the day, especially if you slept in due to extreme study fatigue.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sakura Mandarin

1038 Race Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 873-8338 ‎

Always on the lookout for delicious soup buns, I heard from some friends that Sakura (Yea it says Sakuza) Mandarin had "juicy pork buns" that were top notch. They certainly know how to name them. Juicy. Awesome. Pork. Obviously. Buns. Yes, please.

Our party of four decided to do the noble thing, and split all of the food. Always a fan of that. One note, they serve Chinese food as well as some Japanese food. Although I heard their sushi rolls were pretty good, I only tried one and it was cooked. We started with the mini wontons. These were stuffed with pork and served swimming in an oily peanuty sauce that we all found delicious. It was also our first item to arrive, so it had the luck of the hungry with it.

The cucumber with diced garlic was next. As it was a cold salad, I was immediately skeptical that it was going to be an inferior version of Han's impeccable spicy cucumbers, but it didn't try to be anything that it wasn't. Garlicy, light and loaded with cilantro, it was another solid appetizer to share.

When the dipping sauce for the buns arrived there was an air of excitement. Although we ordered other items, these were the main draw. The soy and vinegar sauce they provided was pretty standard.

We placed an order of the Shanghai Steamed Pork Juicy Buns and the Steamed Crabmeat & Pork Juicy Buns.

The texture of the bun itself was different than I have experienced in the past. It was more of a wonton-style wrapper than a bun, or even a dumpling. The pork-only buns beat out the crabmeat & pork, solely because we liked the clean flavors of the pork version. The broth was also good – both salty and rich. The chive pancake came out next, and functioned much like an Asian quesadilla minus the cheese. It was thicker than pancakes I have had previously, and was stuffed with the ingredients instead of having them integrated. Nevertheless, it was delicious.

The Spider Roll was of the usual variety, tempura softshell crab, avocado cucumber and eel sauce. It was definitely a large portion over-flowing with crab.

(As though that wasn't enough...)
For two entrees, we decided on the shrimp pan fried noodles and the special crispy beef with cumin. The shrimp were served over a pile or bird's nest, if you will, of thin crispy egg noodles. They were suprisngly good, although not what we had originally anticipated. They had a typical brown flavored sauce, and were loaded with shrimp and veggies.

The crispy beef was also a surprise when it arrived. It wasn't so much crispy as it was airy. It was breaded and fried, but came out very light and soft. It was kind of weird and kind of delicious. Obviously it was LOADED with cumin, but they also included a large amount of dried Chinese hot peppers. These were inedible, as they had not been softened but they added some spice to the dish. The beef was at times strange and other times quite good. It was tender, but not necessarily fatty. The cumin dusting was an interesting twist.

I would definitely go back for some sushi, dim sum and those delicious appetizers. The entrees would be an afterthought. However, it is definitely some tasty food if you are in the Chinatown area and looking for a snack.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Alyan's Restaurant

603 South 4th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147-1524
(215) 922-3553

South Street. Healthy(ish) food. Cheap falafel. These three things accurately describe the climate at Alyan's Restaurant.
Flavorful. Easy to eat. Delicious. Guess which category these fall under...

Although I tried Alyan's years ago, and was extremely unimpressed, I felt that maybe I just had an off experience. I mean, it does say right on the window that it's Philly's best falafel, right?

We were seated in the back garden area, which is actually a delightful respite from the hustle and bustle of South Street on a weekend afternoon. I really, really wanted to love Alyan's. It's a family affair, and I like the relaxed atmosphere.

We ordered the famous Alyan's fries to start. They were actually quite good. Reminiscent of boardwalk fries, they had a clean, peanut-y flavor, and the hot peppers and onions complemented them quite well. Not as crispy as I usually prefer, but they were definitely worth a trip.

We also tried the baba ghanoush & falafel sandwich and the hummus & falafel sandwich. Unfortunately, the two were indistinguishable, and in a blind taste test, I would have thought I was eating some cubed cucumbers and mediocre pita slathered with bean puree. Is THIS why I hate vegans? (Just kidding vegans, I only disdain your cuisine)

The sandwich, although of ample proportion, was over-dressed with tahini, and slathered with hummus. The shell, which was of the garden variety supermarket bought white pita, simply tore on both sandwiches within thirty seconds of grasping to bite. There was an obvious lack of salt, on everything, and I couldn't taste anything but the subtle power of sesame.

An order of "hot sauce" was simply pureed jalapeno, which also had no taste but hot.

It APPEARED there were herbs involved, but they were masked by that treacherous tahini blitz. I should clarify, it wasn't even over-powering, there was just nothing else going on in the flavor department.

The falafel itself was as mediocre as they come, and as much as I hate to admit it, I would go to Maoz (even sober) next time as they put out a superior product. I am sorry Alyan's, but it was just as bad as I remembered.