Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Classic Diner (West Chester)

16 E Gay Street
West Chester, PA 19380
(484) 947-0809

Of all of the greasy meals and foods I love, I just don't have all that much love for traditional diners. Mostly, it's because they have shitty coffee. When you couple a basic breakfast platter/sandwich with Folgers, I think to myself, I should've just gone to WAWA. In the same vein, I pretty much hate brunch. It's not the brunch food that I despise, but rather the people who love brunch and the whole circus surrounding it. Also - why is it socially acceptable to drink eight mimosas, or three Bloody Marys AT BRUNCH, but when I order a shot and a beer at breakfast I get the sideways eye? Well, now that we got that out of the way, let's talk about The Classic Diner.

I had eaten bacon from the original Classic Diner in Malvern, but had not actually been there. The bacon is incredible. One day I was cruising around the burbs, butcher shopping, and looking for somewhere to grab food before heading to a party in Pennsport.

Now my love for all things Jewish American knows no bounds. But the Lox and bagel or whitefish and bagel combo takes the throne at breakfast time. Or really anytime. They had one on the menu, and I figured that would be a great starter. It was not cheap at $15, but it was also not small. And Oy Vey, that Lox was worth every penny. Served with a boiled egg topped with Salmon caviar (nice touch), a side salad, capers, caper berries, cukes, red onion, and tomato slices, this was a hell of a platter.

The bagel was nice and chewy, and the tomatoes were in good shape for being so far past season. The crispy cucumber, briny capers, and spicy red onion made every bite the "choose your own adventure" of eating.

These damn boiled eggs were incredibly good. Smooth, silky, with a "pop" of salty liquid in the caviar, I was left thinking about how I was suckered with hard-boiled, deviled eggs for all these years instead of soft boiling the things.

The "classic" eggs Benedict was just that. Fried Canadian bacon (hell yes), a nicely rich yet acidic Hollandaise, perfectly poached eggs, and a toasted buttery muffin. The potatoes were a thing of beauty. Crispy and salty outside, fluffy and hot inside, they were home-fry perfection. Not to mention, the playful olive placement let you make jokes ranging from anatomy to that emoji with the eyes looking to the side...

Look at the rich yolk, and the crispy edges of the ham. Delicious. You would be hard pressed to find a better rendition, and even I can't hate on the brunch here. Also - it is BYOB, so plan accordingly with a bottle of Yukon Jack and a 40 of Bud Ice if you want to keep it classy.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Ravanesi Pizzeria Napoletana

790 Baltimore Pike
Glen Mills, PA 19342
(484) 840-8912

The pizza scene in the Philadelphia area is a hotly debated, often contentious topic. To make the vast Philadelphia-proper scene even more confusin, let's add the great pizza of the 'burbs to the mix. Philly may have the best pizza in the country, with Pizzeria Beddia, but South Jersey, MontCo, and DelCo hold it down as well. Ravanesi is modeled after the Neapolitan pizza of Napoli, and Dave Ravanesi's obsession is apparent in the product.

Located in a small strip mall in Glen Mills for two years now, you would not notice this place as you drove by at night, until you see the line of people out the door. They have seven pizzas on the menu. That is it. BYOB, no reservations, and no take-out on the weekends. When you are this good, you make the rules.

Dave is a great guy, hand making every pie, start to finish. He puts a level of attention into them that I have only seen by my buddy Joe Beddia. Indeed, I said it, the pizza here reminded quite a bit of Joey's pies.

See for yourself below.

Dave uses a no-yeast, 38 hour dough that lends itself to the blistering perfection and ease of manipulation. He never has more than 3 pies in his custom wood-fired oven (all hardwoods, of course, with an oak preference) and he keeps them moving so there's little loss of heat and they cook consistently in a matter of minutes.

By the time I got mine, I was drooling. Not that this was an aberration from my general state of consciousness, but this time it was food related. On top is the Sopressata Piccante, topped with San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, spicy sopressata,  Parmigiano Reggiano, chili flakes, garlic, & extra-virgin olive oil. On the bottom, a traditional Margherita, boasting San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano, fresh basil, extra-virgin olive oil & sea salt.

Look at the color on that crust. The fluffy, crunchy dough is unbelievable, with a perfectly browned hue. The sauce had the zip of the San Marzano tomatoes, and was perfect in its simplicity. The mozzarella is made in-house, and was rich and creamy with a velvety texture. Finished with basil leaves, this pie is simple perfection. Easily one of the best Margheritas I have ever tasted.

My favorite, unsurprisingly, had the extra addition of salty meat. Spicy soppressata with chili flakes made this pizza shine. Again, the crust was perfectly baked, the toppings beyond reproach, and the execution phenomenal.

Look at the spicy little grease pools on this. Pure deliciousness.

Check the bottom of the crust. You can't beat the combo of slight char, and perfect browning.

This place blew away my expectations, and I encourage you to check it out as well. The only thing I can say is, if you go early to avoid a wait, be prepared for a lot of kids. Not that it's a bad thing, but it's something to be ready for. Also, don't forget the wine.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Bullpen Tavern

216 Glen Street
Glens Falls, NY 12801
(518) 745-7811

The next time you are in Glens Falls . . . you should eat at the Bullpen. I happened upon this place while on my way to Vermont, there are not a whole lot of places to stop for a beer and burger. This place is in a great building in their cool little downtown. A revival to it's past glory, perhaps.

The menu is good bar food, and the draft list covers all the bases. Lots of local choices as well. I went with the recommended jalapeno bacon burger, cooked medium rare. The bread was perfect, the bacon nice a crispy, and the jalapenos provided quite a bit of kick.

The cooper sharp cheese (a personal favorite) was melted perfectly.

The battered fries were crispy and addictive. Especially dipped in a side of the chipotle sauce.

Look at how perfectly this burger was cooked. I was quite impressed.

Juicy, well seasoned meat cooked to a perfect medium rare. What's not to love?

I also wanted to try something less traditional for a bar in upstate New York. In this case, I went with the fried shrimp po'boy. The shrimp were battered with Red Hook beer, and tossed in "bang bang" sauce.

The bread did nicely (obviously no Leidenheimer) but it certainly held up to the task. The shrimp had a sweet and spicy, sticky sauce. I was a big fan. Surprisingly good food I stumbled upon here. If you are ever looking for a spot to eat on the way to Vermont, this might be the place.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Smokey Bones

252 Montgomery Mall
North Wales, PA 19454
(267) 436-4630

I was invited to the opening month of Smokey Bones, a BBQ place in a mall. As usual, I am interested in free food and BBQ (even if it is from a chain, I don't discriminate).

The place was very well put together. Tons of TV's, a huge horseshoe shaped bar, and good lighting. The first problem encountered was that it was really cold in there. I mean frigid. I am fat, so I can take the cold, but the staff and customers were all complaining about it. Not a big deal, still working out the heating kinks.

I hated the menu. It was like a cross between Applebee's and Famous Dave's. The font was all over the place, the menu itself was like a rubix cube. Order this, get that. Some things were more with certain fries etc. Not a fan.

Next up came the beer. They had a good selection, and I chose something to drink while I waited for my wings. It is a good thing. Because the wings almost never came. It was over 45 minutes from ordering to having to remind the bartender I was waiting on an app. It was not just me. I heard tables screaming at the servers, asking for managers, and generally causing a scene all over the restaurant. It was a Tuesday night at about 25% capacity. There should not be a staffing issue. The manager was all over the place. I have never seen more angry customers in one sitting. It was embarrassing to be a part of.

Finally- the wings came. I was all ready to load up my criticism cannon, but damn if these weren't some damn good wings. Actually, I was shocked with how good they were. Smoked after a dry rub and coated with a sweet glaze, I would definitely order these if I were stranded at the mall while someone was shopping. You can see how well rendered they were with the meat pulling back off of the bone. Delicious.

Next up was a pulled pork and hot sausage platter. The pork was good (though if you mess up pulled pork you should be shut down), however the Texas toast it was served with was a bit much.

They had the standards of BBQ sauce to choose from- vinegar, sweet, spicy, mustard.

The babyback ribs were part of my second combo order. They were again, well cooked. Tender, fat rendered out, and the collagen was nicely cooked down.

A good smoke on these ribs (check the pink ring).

The baked beans were okay, but nothing special.

A vat of mac and cheese was another decent side, but very greasy and heavy.

The slaw was okay, vinegar based with a sprinkle of celery seed.

The hotlinks just didn't do it for me. They were too coarsely ground, and had been sitting (like most of the food that night for everyone).

Just to top it off, the loaded fries. The fries themselves were undercooked, which led to a bad intro for the rest of the crowd. cheese and bacon alone can't make loaded fries good.

Below is an idea of where this place is located. Some guy was waving when the pic was snapped, so he was hit with the anonymous dot. Despite the food being better than I had expected, the service and poor management was hard to get over. It was the first time I have seen a number of different tables literally yelling at the manager. If they got that sorted out (remember, it was the first month open), it might be a passable place to eat at the mall.