Wednesday, February 26, 2014

California Tortilla

200 Town Centre Dr #3
Glen Mills, PA 19342
(610) 358-5880

Here we are again, traveling the Philadelphia suburbs, searching for delicious and reasonably priced food. I prefer the kind I can eat with my hands, as you already know, so in addition to sandwiches and hoagies, I'm always on the look out for a great burrito.

Can't have suburbs without strip malls. Or kids. I mean, I felt like I had just walked into a Chuck E Cheese's.

But I didn't let that get me. Too much. I had to look beyond the little people that were running into my legs so that I could start to enjoy what was coming next.

It's your usual build-a-burrito bar, but you don't get to walk down the strip and tell them item-by-item what to add. You have to tell them your fixin's order at the register, before you even get to see the fixin's, which isn't my favorite way to order a burrito. I need to really see what's offered before I tell them to just add everything. So I choked a little and got two of their "chef-inspired creations" that already has the insides chosen for you.

On the way to my seat, I spotted their 'wall of flame.' They've got seventy five (75!) different kinds of hot sauce up there at your disposal. It looks like more than that, but I'm not splitting hairs. I had to try at least a few while I waited for my number to be called.

I ordered their signature California Screamin' Burrito, with blackened chicken, rice, queso, fajita veggies, their house-made California Screamin’ hot sauce and salsa. When asked if I wanted to make it a combo, I couldn't say no to a side of chips and queso.

I'm pretty sure they use Velveeta here, which is a sign of true quality in any liquid cheese application. It wasn't bursting with salsa flavor, but it was better than your usual nacho cheese pump-action distributor. But I wasn't here for the sides.

Now, I realize that burritos do not photograph very well - they never do - but that doesn't mean I won't keep trying to capture their inner beauty. The chicken was tender, juicy and packed with blackened flavor and the screamin' hot sauce had a really nice chipotle heat to it. The burrito was very well made with a perfect distribution of ingredients throughout, every bite was made of equal parts. Better than Chipotle? Hell yes. Way better. And I love me some Chipotle.

Second up was the Korean BBQ Burrito and I chose to get the pork/carnitas on this one. Served with rice, fajita veggies, sweet and spicy Korean BBQ sauce, crisp slaw, Sriracha chili sauce and cilantro, this one was the sure-fire winner. I couldn't believe a place like this managed to get their Korean flavors so accurate. It was spot on with the hot and sweet, with the gochujang flavor mingling with the gingery garlic of the traditional BBQ sauce. Simply delicious. The fresh crunch of the cabbage slaw was a pleasing surprise in every bite.

All in all, California Tortilla does a really great job with the food. Not so much on the atmosphere, but who am I to judge? (minus one cheesesteak for Chuck E Cheese likeness.)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Grumpy's (Handcarved Sandwiches)

137 E High Street
Pottstown, PA 19464
(610) 323-1232

Pottstown is an off-the-radar little town that, like many small towns, is struggling to revive its main shopping strip/district. Luckily they have some anchors like Grumpy's to bring people back downtown. Because if there is one way to people's hearts, it's through their mouths.

This place could be mistaken for a coffee shop by the interior. But one look at the menu will assure you that it is indeed a sandwich spot that goes the extra length to cook their proteins in-house.

Pictured below is the owner/operator Grumpy himself (aka Gene "Grumpy" Dugan). Quick with a joke, or a brief complaint, he is certainly part of the charm.

The Grumpy's Sandwich, a rare roast beef served with sharp prov, sauteed onions and peppers, long hots, and garlic mayo is served on a kaiser roll, with a side of au jus.

This thing is stacked HIGH with tender roast beef. The traditional toppings all come together for a great sandwich that will certainly fill you up. The roasted hots are left with seeds in tact, so there was some definite heat coming through.

The turkey special boasts fresh house-roasted turkey, that was deliciously moist, and as fresh as you can get

Slaw and Swiss cheese round out this classic combination, but the real star was the delicious hand carved bird. No lunch meat here.

Check out the thickness on these beautiful slabs.

The seafood bisque was hearty and warming, without being overly heavy.

The roasted beets made for a deliciously unexpected side, and I don't usually dig on beets.

This is the type of place to help anchor a community revitalization, and given the attention to detail and hand made nature of the food, I suspect Grumpy's will be around for a long time.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Planet Hoagie

30 W State St.
Media, PA 19063
(610) 891-1919

Yes, there is a planet hoagie at Citizen's Bank Park; no, it's not nearly as good as the little spot tucked away on State street in Media. This is seriously my favorite hoagie spot, currently. I am obviously fickle, and this could change, but they just do everything right, all the time.

The inside is what you would expect of a little hoagie joint, nothing fancy, and with a meat slicer that probably costs more than anything else in the place, I could relate to their taste for the finer things as soon as I walked through the door.

In order to compare apples to apples, I offer up the turkey Schwartzie and the Italian. These are two staples at Primo's, but I think that Planet Hoagie does BOTH better. Don't get me wrong, Primo's is delicious, but Planet Hoagie has the rolls! Corropolese bakery rolls to be exact. They have the crunch and chew of a Sarcone's, but with a lighter interior. This roll is perfect.

The Rocco features hot sopressata, capacola, genoa salami, and sharp provolone. I usually get it with the works, which includes lettuce, tomato, onion, and banana peppers.

The deli meat is sliced exceptionally thin, and the sharp prov is quite a healthy portion. Everything is perfectly distributed, and the roll holds it all together nicely. It's the perfect Italian hoagie.

The Schwartzie boasts thin sliced turkey, coleslaw, Swiss, and Thousand Island. It's a perfect blend, and they don't skimp the dressing, which helps ease it all down my gullet.

Again, this sandwich is just wet enough, and the roll holds up perfectly. It's something you start to crave again not long after hosing yourself off from the sandwich you just ate.

But maybe that's because my hands smell for the rest of the day anyway.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Cochon Butcher

930 Tchoupitoulas Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 588-7675

Last one from the Big Easy (until I am back there in a month or two). This place is the equivalent of Paesano's to Modo Mio.  Cochon is one of the most famous restaurants in New Orleans, though you wouldn't know of it because it is less touristy and a bit off the main strip. Their butcher cures a whole host of meats in-house, and makes some of the best food I have ever had.

They have a sleek, spartan interior, with some true gems on the shelves, from mustards to hot sauces.

Oh god, and that meat case.

Every sandwich is lovingly prepared to order, and the assembly is part of the show.

Although they have a variety of amazing small plates, this review is just about the muffuletta.

The meat is cured in-house, and the sandwich is lightly warmed to get the cheese melting. It is not traditional, and it is freaking unbelievable.

The olive salad has shredded carrots and I believe cabbage in it, and is tart, salty, and plenty moist to soak the inside bread a bit.

Look at that provolone just stringing along. Delicious.

The cured meats are warm, tender, and salty making for a fantastic take on the classic room temperature New Orleans original. I couldn't have been happier.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Gooey Looie's (4 years later...)

Pennsport Mall
Moyamensing & Moore
Philadelphia PA
(215) 334-7668
Facebook page

Well, in 2009, I moved to Pennsport and one of the first food joints I visited was this little hoagie joint in an unassuming strip mall.

You wouldn't really happen upon this place, considering the unwelcoming gate and the list of "NOs" they greet you with from the start. So, I'll tell you again that you need to go seek it out.

Now, phone cameras have come a long way since my last two blog posts. See here and also here. So I thought now was as good a time as any to revisit my old haunt and to do them more justice in pictures.

They've got sort of a cult following and a long list of locals/regulars who just sit for hours at the 3 tiny cafe tables flanking the deli counter. Same two guys always slingin' the meats. Fresh cuts.

You can also pick up some WD40, cigs and ice cream while you're waiting for your sandwiches.

I've long since moved away from South Philly and haven't visited Gooey Looie's in nearly 2 years. One of my old faves is their cheesesteak hoagie, so I had to see if it could stand the test of time.

First impressions are everything, and upon first glance, I knew I was in for the deliciously large, cheesy and tender cheesesteak of yore.

There's something so mouthwatering about shredded lettuce and tomato thrown on steaming hot steak meat - the way it wilts just slightly but keeps the slightest fresh crunch of added textured. Not to mention the way the mayonnaise mixes with the melted American to add that extra creaminess...

Now, I will say that the quality of their meat seems to have slipped. Every third bite I was spitting out a piece of unchewable gristle, which was a huge disappointment. Maybe I caught them on a bad day, at the end of their inventory, but if my memory serves me, every cheesesteak hoagie before this one boasted thinly sliced, tender pieces of quality chopped meat. It was rare that I ever complained about the ingredients.

I was disappointed at the fact that with every few bites, I realized that their meat had dropped a few notches to the level of a better-known spot on 9th Street. Some people are into that, I guess. I prefer to not have to chew with care for fear of choking on cartilage. That's not to say that the rest of the sandwich wasn't spot on - they've still got the best cheesesteak hoagie construction around. Looks were deceiving in this case.

As much as I wanted to order the Italian for memory's sake, I went with another old stand by, the turkey special on rye. (I'm saving the Italian for my next visit).

Slathered with Thousand Island dressing and laced with veins of coleslaw, the turkey weighs in at about 1.5 lbs. No joke.

It's freshly sliced, paper thin, and beautifully layered in 3-4 inches of meat ribbons. It's one of those unhinge-your-jaw sandwiches that should probably be split up into 3 meals. If you're not me, of course.

The turkey is salty, but it is also delicious. Even with all of the meat, the dressing & coleslaw to rye bread ratio is the perfect balance for what looks like a dry sammy. It's amazing.

Even though I may have to nix the cheesesteak hoagie from my list of go-tos at Gooey Looie's, I'm happy to say that I'll be back again soon to indulge in their other 3 lb. meat-and-cheese-on-bread selections.