Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Bedouin Tent

405 Atlantic Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11217
(718) 852-5555

I have been traveling to Brooklyn for work quite a bit, so it has given me a lot more to chose from than some of my recent assignments. This place was recommended by some friends that live up there, and I am always game for some pita and hummus.

This place is basically a Middle Eastern pizza parlor – with an amazing oven and a group of dough masters ready to move when an order comes in. I immediately knew it would be some pita bread to contend with.

The dining room in the rear was intricately decorated, and was the scene of a couple of dates that were awkward enough to have been hatched online.

The salad/dip sampler was right in my wheelhouse, so I started with that. A tasting menu of dips with bread, yes please. When the bread came out, it was literally hot out of the oven. Puffy, slightly charred, amazing.

It was easily among the best pita I have ever eaten. The salad was pretty standard, chopped lettuce, green peppers, tomatoes, olives, and feta. The dips were amazing, however. Smoky baba ghanoush, creamy humus, and Lebna (Middle Eastern yogurt with fresh mint), made for the perfect accouterments for the hot and crispy bread.

The falafel was a bit disappointing. Again, the pita was fantastic, but the falafel balls themselves were heavy and lacked much flavor other than chickpea. I would definitely try the pizza next time, and will certainly be into anything to dip that magical pita.

I was given a complementary sweet bread with my bill. The service here was perfect, and the pita, the thing dreams are made of. Although the falafel wasn't the best, the rest was impeccable. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Downtown Cafe

224 East Capitol Street
Jackson, MS 39201
(601) 592-5006

I have been traveling for work a lot and I try to eat what the community eats – when working in Mississippi, it ends up being fried chicken quite a bit. As this wasn't calorie-centric enough, I decided to throw in some waffles as well. After lunch productivity be damned.

Downtown cafe is pretty nice inside, with an open kitchen and exposed brick walls. You will definitely see a lot of military personell here, as their physical activity makes it reasonable to eat the type of fatso diet I tend to stick to.

Fried chicken and waffles, sizzurp and butter. Hell. Most people wouldn't want four whole wings for lunch, and almost certainly wouldn't drizzle them in hotsauce and (maple?) syrup. Luckily I am not most people. Note the lighting was crap in there, so the pictures are washed out. Ah well.

The breading was well seasoned, and the chicken was moist and tender. There was plenty of crunch that stood up well to the rain of sticky sugar I glazed it with. For the record, syrup and hot sauce are amazing together.

In true over-indulgence, I got a side of the recommended mac and cheese. It was good, but I could barely waddle back to work after this feast.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Morgan's Pier

221 N. Columbus Blvd.
Philadelphia, PA 19123
(215) 279-7134

Now that the weather has (slowly) come back around, Morgan's Pier opened last Thursday for its second season. The first year was undoubtedly a great success for the business, but the food left a lot to be desired.

This time they've made substantial improvements to their kitchen staff, and presumably, the menu(s). With a crew of talent that includes the ex-chef from Stateside (George Sabatino), there are a few others in there who've come by way of Barbuzzo (which will undoubtedly continue to be a feeder). With that being known, I went in with some pretty great expectations.

The menu has been broadened to include a slew of vegetarian-friendly options, but they've also stuck with a selection of outdoor-BBQ-meets-bar-food that's very reminiscent of last summer's offerings. I was a little surprised. I was expecting more. Or maybe just more of a difference in selections.

But, before I go on, I will mention that there is a raised section of seating that's essentially the "dining room." There's nothing "room" about it, as the entire establishment is open air, with the only enclosures including the kitchen and rest rooms. It's lightly fenced-in and has it's own pre-fixe menu. For $30 you get to choose one each from a selection 5 apps, 4 entrees and with an optional surcharge, you can order from the raw bar. Not sure that I'll get around to all that, but the diners seemed happy up there.

Down on the lower level, we started with the carrot & shaved snap pea salad with ginger dressing. This was actually very good. Refreshing and crisp, it was very well presented and the ginger dressing was right on the money (think sushi-spot house salad).

Here are the cheesy kale croquettes. Another good presentation, albeit a small one. I guess for $5, I expected at least 5 balls? Is that too much to ask? The more the merrier.

They were small, but pretty delicious.

The deep-fried shell gives way to an aged cheddar sauce littered with sultry wilted kale, served over dabs of romesco. I liked them, but wouldn't order them again, unless they up the ball count.

I had to try a sandwich, of course. With a fairly limited menu, my options were whitefish salad, pulled BBQ chicken, bacon (pork belly, I assume) or burger. I was feeling like some hearty beef, so I got the latter.

It's served with a house-made american cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and "thousands of islands" with a side of paper-thin mixed potato chips. The chips literally disintegrate upon hitting your tongue. Salty deliciousness.

I ordered it medium, and was pleasantly surprised when it came out closer to medium-rare. Cooking a burger to temperature at an establishment whose kitchen is serving as many as 200 people can be a tricky call - but they nailed it. The burger was well seasoned with such an amazing caramelized char on the outside, I had to remind myself that there was no bacon on there. The aforementioned dressing seemed to be lacking, but it wasn't even necessary. This burger's definitely worth recommending.

All in all, I love Morgan's Pier for the atmosphere. Not to mention the fact that PBR's are always $2.50 - that's the best deal on the menu. I wish the other items came closer to that kind of 'affordability' but I also understand that when you've cornered the market on riverside deck bar/restaurant/music venue for the younger crowd, there's a price we'll have to pay.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Milkcrate Cafe

400 E Girard Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19125
(267) 909-8348

Brunch is just so overrated. All I ever really want is a quick and cheap breakfast, in sandwich form. Enter my favorite neighborhood coffee spot, Milkcrate Cafe. I've been eating here regularly since their opening in 2009 and the quality is consistent every time.

Everything on their menu is cleverly named, they put a spin on each item with food & band mash-ups like the "A Tribe Called Quesadilla" and the "Ike & Tina Tuna." In addition to being a full service breakfast & lunch cafe, it also doubles as a record shop. You can head downstairs and peruse the collection of new & used vinyl at your leisure.

But me, I'm only ever there for the food. They serve La Colombe coffee and their bakery items come from Le Bus - they also do a customer card system, buy 10 drinks, get one free - so be sure to sign up for that.

My two absolute favorite menu items are the "Bagella Fitzgerald" and the "Notorious E.G.G." seen above, respectively.

The Bagella is fresh and delicious every time, piled high with cream cheese, avocado, tomato, cucumbers and S&P. I don't know how the ingredients don't slip and slide right out the side, but everything's made with such care, the stack almost always stays put. Talk about a refreshing (and [mostly] healthy) breakfast.

Of course, with anything healthy, I must balance it out with some over-indulgence. Bring on the Notorious.

First, you choose your sandwich vessel: bagel, wrap, bread or English muffin. I skip right along to the croissant for an extra $1.50 - it's completely worth it. Next you add your cheese: American. Then add tomato ($.50). Then add bacon ($1.00). They'll provide the 2 eggs cooked omelette-style. Ask, also, for a dash of hot sauce & ketchup plus S&P.

Eggy, cheesy, bacon-y, buttery perfection. I do believe the croissant is the only way to go here. It ends up costing you around $6, but it will be some of the best breakfast bucks you've ever spent on a croissandwich.

The staff are friendly and the coffee is always good. Stop in and see for yourself.

Friday, May 3, 2013


17 S 21st St.
Philadelphia 19103
(215) 972-8203

With a minor hangover on Thursday, I felt the need for the comfort of a cheesesteak.

I took my lunch break and headed to Tony's.

I've always heard pretty good things about their cheesesteaks and breakfast sandwiches, but I'm not often in this section of the city, and when I am, you can either find me at Shake Shack, Dolce Carini or Primo for lunch.

The advertised special sounded perfect – at under $7 for a mini cheesesteak, fries and a can of soda, there wasn't really any other option. Unless, of course, you want the Italian + chips for $4.99!

The inside is narrow and a bit dingy. It just looks like they care so much about the food that the other parts don't really matter, which is fine with me. I wasn't eating in, and never will, so it's just a minor observation.

The "mini" cheesesteak is about 6 inches of greatness. He asked if I wanted salt & pepper on it or on the side, so I said on. I also ordered a side of Whiz for fry dipping ($.95 well spent).

The meat was finely chopped, of great quality and peppery - this addition of the S&P was definitely notable and a good decision. The roll was perfectly chewy. American and fried onions added just the right amount of moisture, no ketchup needed here.

The fries could have used some of that S&P too, but the Whiz made up for that lack of seasoning.

This is probably the best cheesesteak in Center City. I'd actually send people here. I wonder if the cheesesteak hoagie has finely shredded lettuce pieces. If anyone knows, let me know - I want that to be my next order at Tony's.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Nick's Old Original Roast Beef

10 E Woodland Ave
Springfield, PA 19064
(610) 690-1112

Yea, yea there is no way that the Springfield Nick's is as good as the South Philly staple. I know this. But that doesn't mean it's not still pretty awesome anyway.

Right off the bat, you can sense there aren't too many aesthetic connections between the two...

However, there are similarities: the clientele could still beat you up, they offer wet on the outs (if available), and it's a dark & semi-divey bar/roast beef spot. Differences: the gravy might be a bit more developed in South Philly – undoubtedly because it's been there for decades and still retains the "Mother Jus."

Cheap domestics, serve yourself horseradish & peppers and some hot beef with prov. What else could you need?

Gravy fries, of course. They are unsurprisingly delicious: crispy, breaded and smothered with rich, beefy debris gravy.

It may not be the original, but it's damn close. I was a skeptic, but now I am a believer.