Tuesday, July 28, 2015


240 South 22nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 546-7200

Gusto is tucked away on 22nd, and to be honest, I totally forgot about it. I ate there years ago (+/- 8) when I lived in Rittenhouse, and it was good, but not that memorable. It's still about the same. But for the prices and quality of ingredients, Gusto earns a hefty 4 cheesesteak rating. The pictures will show you why.

The buffalo chicken cheesesteak hoagie was pretty decent. It had freshly shredded romaine and sliced tomato over gooey chicken smothered in a tangy, spicy buffalo sauce served on a nice crusty roll.

The bread here would be better suited to hosting a po' boy, but even with that, it made for a good vessel.

They certainly didn't skimp on the blue cheese either. It was nothing life changing, but not bad in a pinch (that area is a tough spot for a decent lunch at times).

I have also recently had the Italian hoagie, and though it was a bit fancy for my liking, it was surprisingly delicious. I attribute this to the quality of ingredients they use in all of their food. Again, you could certainly do worse, given the neighborhood.

Did I mention the pricing??? The above mentioned chicken cheesesteak ran a whopping $8 and the Italian hoagie came in at under $7. I mean, DiBruno's would serve the same for about twice the price.

They use Carangi's rolls and this seeded version won my heart. The freshly sliced and generously applied Italian meats and thick chunks of sharp prov didn't hurt either. I mean, it is a fancier version of my favorite Italian and given the competitive pricing in a ritzy part of town, I think I'll be revisiting Gusto sooner than later.

Well played.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Pok Pok

3226 SE Division St
Portland, OR
(503) 232-1387

Sometimes you get to a place that is full of hype, and it lets you down. Pok Pok is not that place. Located in Portland, OR it is a landmark for one thing in particular, the wings, but it offers so much more.

Daily specials galore.

I went with friends, and we tried a whole host of menu options – all of which were insanely flavor-packed in their own way.

I do have to say, however, that nothing could touch the wings. Technically they are called "Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings." I just called them heaven. Marinated in sugar and fish sauce, fried crispy, and then tossed in caramelized fish sauce and garlic, these were some of the best wings I have ever eaten.

Spicy, sour, sweet and sticky the crunchy skin was unreal and underneath that shell, the tender meat fell right off the bone. The fat was so well rendered and the remaining meat almost melted on my tongue.

All of the items presented a host of seasonings, mainly the sweet, spicy, and sour profiles that good Thai should always cover. Below is your standard papaya salad, but it was elevated through their use of an exceptionally spicy-sweet-tangy dressing.

Below is the Da Chom's Laap Meuang: Northern Thai spicy hand-minced pork "salad" with aromatics, spices, herbs, cracklings and crispy fried shallots and garlic. Noted on the menu, this dish was learned from a friend's father who lives in a village near Chiang Mai. Not only is every dish perfectly complex in its taste, each one has also got its own story to take it to the next level. Amazing.

What I admired most about Pok Pok were the insane combinations and juxtapositions of flavor and texture. Everything was crunchy and chewy, yet salty and earthy. Fresh herbs and citrus were included with almost everything, and they helped to cut some of the offal and more iron-rich offerings.

The Khao Soi curry bowl with chicken and noodles was pungent, rich, and satisfying. They could have taken the meat off of the bone for ease of eating, but I get it – their M.O. is rustic style. And the fact that I had to work for it made me feel less guilty about eating 5 entrees and a cocktail at lunch.

Accoutrements below.

Chiang Mai sausage with chicharones and spicy green chile dip made for an interesting and salty-delicious treat.

The quick-poached green beans were tied into little knots! How thoughtful (and tedious).

The grilled corn special was very tasty as well. It was a daily special on the board (a spin on elotes, one of my faves) and as with everything else, it presented a complex flavor profile, and gave just enough food to keep you wanting more. As if everything else hadn't been filling already...

Well played, Pok Pok. I hope to be seeing you again very soon.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Larry's Bar and Restaurant

1115 South 2nd St
Millville, NJ
(856) 327-1144

I was looking for a quick bite on the way to the shore this summer, and wanted a cold beer to go with it. Larry's seemed to fit the bill. A word of caution, Millville is not the best town, so I advise caution if you actually end up at Larry's depending on the time of day.

Luckily there was almost no one there when I stopped.

The buffalo chicken cheesesteak came on a soft roll that was grilled prior to loading. It was nothing out of the ordinary, but certainly not a bad sandwich.

The meat was finely chopped, and the buffalo sauce mixed in. I did like how the onions were finely chopped and caramelized to the extent that they blended into the meat.

The crab bisque was surprisingly good. It had a sprinkle of Old Bay to zest it up, and though it wasn't earth shattering, it was solid.

Not overly heavy (though loaded with cream), it had some herbs and claw meat to add flavor and texture.

Finally, I had to give the fried pickles a go. These we unique in that they were very thin slices, and it made for an interesting textural experience. I liked the slightly sweet taste, and the crunchy shell. Overall - food was fine, beers were cheap and cold, and I didn't get shot (though the bartender told us there was a shooting there a couple days earlier). So it was a win-win.