HOME > Chowhound > Pennsylvania >


Holes in the wall

Something to this effect within a posting below prompted the thought..

Where are the great holes in the wall...I mean looks like a dump, but ker-pow..something delicious to be had therein.

I'll start.

Doesnt have a name. (at least that I recall)
On 10th, just before Arch, just left of Tai Lake and before the grocery on the corner.
little storefront.
inside 2 maybe three miniscule seats around tables.

Delicious steamed dumplings...pork, etc.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Taste of Portgual in the Northeast. Total hole in the wall in a bit of a rundown shopping center. There is an upstairs and downstairs, downstairs is a bit nicer but we love having dinner upstairs. Everyone is either Portuguese nor Brazilian, typically we are the only folks up there who speak a word of english. Absolutely amazing food, homestyle cooking. Favorites are pork and clams, ribs, steak with fried egg. Small inexpensive list of Portugese wines (some difficult to find in PA). Love it, love it, love it!

    4 Replies
    1. re: AmblerGirl

      I agree. ToP is a great restaurant albeit sketchy area

      1. re: AmblerGirl

        Ambler Girl, thanks so much for review ToP. I drive past it twice a week and always wonder if I should stop in. I will give it a try.

          1. re: gsElsbeth

            Here is the contact info. It is definitely worth a try, the food is fantastic.

            (215) 535-8700
            718 Adams Ave
            Philadelphia, PA

        1. The first one that comes to my mind is Hardena, the Indonesian "rice table" place near 15th and Moore. It not only looks like a dump...it IS a dump!!!

          But the food...


          Then there's Los Taquitos de Puebla on 9th St.

          And not that it needs any more play on this board (or anywhere else, for that matter) but I think John's Roast Pork qualifies here too.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Philly Ray

            Hey Philly Ray, I'm going to head down to Hardena this weekend with a couple of intrepid friends. Any advice on what or how to order? Thanks for the tip.

            1. re: hungry100

              The beef rendang, the collard greens, and the tempeh are probably our favorite items. The lamb is tasty also.

              Since you will be there on a weekend, also order the satay (chicken or lamb). The satay are not part of the items you can choose from the buffet, but they only cost a dollar or two. The dipping sauce that comes with them is awesome.

              If your group is into sharing, just have everyone choose different items on their plate so you all can get a taste. Heck, at only $5 per plate, just order an extra plate of stuff to share.

              As for how to order, just belly up to the counter and have a look at the steam table. Don't be shy about asking what they are serving that evening, they will be more than happy to tell you. Then just choose three things that sound good to you. If you like hot and spicy, ask for some sambal on the side.

              Trust me, you probably have not had a dining experience like this in Philly before. You will all leave full and spend less than $10 per person.

              Please report back!!

              1. re: Philly Ray

                Thanks PR -- this sounds totally up my alley. I will report back.

                1. re: Philly Ray

                  Hi again, most important -- can we bring beer?

                  1. re: hungry100

                    I don't see why not. Since they don't have a liquor license they would fall under the same rules that every other BYO does. We never brought beer there and lately we've been doing takeout.

                    I guess you can just bring some and ask them if it's ok, but I don't think it will be an issue.

                  2. re: Philly Ray

                    Hey Philly Ray, we loved, loved, loved Hardena! There were four of us and we took your advice -- we ordered five platters, both the lamb and chicken satay and a huge bowl of soup. The price? $31. It was amazing. First of all, loved the hole in the wall atmosphere and the friendly owner and patrons. We did enjoy some beer with dinner. What did we eat? Obviously, everything! They were out of the collards, but we had a "vegetable medley" the ingredients of which couldn't totally identify. It was good, but not quite as interesting as the jack fruit, which I've never had before. They were sort of egg shaped balls with a very stringy-meaty appearance. The owner kept telling us they weren't meat, which we found hard to believe until we ate them. They had a sort of sweetness to them. What was amazing is that everything we had was different from everything else (although the fried fish curry and the chicken curry did seem to have the same delicious curry sauce). We had lamb, fried chicken, some sort of hard boiled egg dish, little crispy fish, tempeh, eggplant, fried vegetable fritters, fried fish with curry sauce, chicken curry, both satays and the soup, which was my favorite. It seemed to be coconut curry with chicken, noodles, cabbage and I don't know what all else. It was beyond a meal in itself. I wish I could be more specific about the flavors and ingredients, but it was almost a blur of deliciousness. Many things were spicy, but not too spicy unless the sambal got involved, which is when I thought my head would blow off. I couldn't believe I witnessed another diner scooping up the hot sauce and putting on his spoonful of rice. The only downside is that the food is quite salty, and I woke up the next day pretty puffy from water retention. But I'd happily do it again. And soon.

                    1. re: hungry100

                      I'm glad you all had a great time. That is truly a unique dining experience in Philly. Try to go again before the hot, summer weather hits. Even thought they have an air conditioner, it struggles to match the heat of the steam table and it can get a bit uncomfortable in there. But you can always do takeout if you have a craving.

              2. Florida Style Pizza, on Snyder between 22nd & 23rd. Bulletproof glass, shady corner, best inside out pizza you'll ever have!!!

                1. Jovan's at the corner of Memphis and York in Fishtown. Family friendly corner bar with great homemade food and a slight Eastern European vibe. Plan to stay awhile...they start cooking from scratch when you place your order.

                  1. I'm going to have to recommend Lee's deli at 47th and Baltimore in West Philly. It's definitely a dive, but they have a lot of unique breakfast sandwiches and a killer chicken cheesesteak. It'll also be tops in my book because it provided me with my first scrapple experience. I was pretty apprehensive but it wasn't bad!

                    1. I'm always looking for holes in wall, joints and dives. Please, keep those recommendations coming!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: hungry100

                        Tartes is a great bakery on Arch St. between 2nd and 3rd. It's about 10X10 and you walk up to a takeout window. Not necessarily a dive but not much to it. A true dive (unfortunately closed for a few years) would be Lil' Spot on Juniper south of Chestnut. The area is essentially an alleyway but they had great muchkin-sized donuts there. The original Bonte location is sort-of a dive in that it's easy to miss and below street level. Great gaufres (sp?) err beligan waffles there.

                      2. Not to sound like a broken record, but I nominate Pudge's on Route 202 in East Norriton. In a ratty little ancient stub of a shopping center, and not even facing the street. But hoagies (cheesesteak and others) to kill for.


                        1. Would PHo75 on Adams AVe, just off the Boulevard qualify? Shopping strip is quite run down; PH75 at this location is plain plain plain, but clean and friendly. Their PHo beats all, with any choice of meats--my fave is the brisket and round, which comes pink in the bowl. Add that basil, bean sprouts, squirt lime juice; lemonade to drink, or Vietnamese strong coffee with condensed milk--a meal for under $10. Parking is fine; does wonderful things for me as takeout also. Often stop in for that when driving home to cc on the Boulevard.

                          1. can i just say i LOVE this thread?! i've read about more new things (er, things i've never before heard of) than i've EVER read about on the PA board?! thank you!!!

                            OK, so i don't know if it's still good, cause after an embarrassing karaoke stint (think: son of a preacher man) i haven't been back, but i used to live next to this totally crappy bar on west elm street in conshohocken... go under the i-476 interstate bridge and turn right at the stop sign immediately after... you're at the old mansion house (tall place with all the beer signs). their grill must have been greeeeeasy, cause the fried food there was totally amazing.

                            recently i went to abyssinia in west philly which i'd say was pretty much a dive in the sense that it needed a good cleaning. the food was quite good but the place was falling apart. however they're mentioned fairly regularly here. (i found much-cleaner dahlak much better, service, ambiance and beer-list-wise).

                            and i almost feel guilty mentioning it, but the garlic knots from the food court of that weird mall adjacent to market east... admittedly, they're pretty good, albeit plain and simple (well, they ARE garlic knots!) and $0.85, so i often stop for one when i'm in the station.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: rabidog

                              two more:
                              jose's on 10th st just south of spring garden - pretty much standard-issue mexican food, no ambiance... but the location is convenient to center city and it's pretty darn tasty.

                              china king II in conshohocken. great chinese food that was never gloopy - and they did great things with tofu.

                              man i was much better at dive-hunting in conshy than i am here in philly. while i've been to a few in my area (pagano's at 9th and girard - about as dive-y as you can get - but unfortunately for all the trouble, cannot really recommend... you get what you pay for)... but when it comes to most, they're not places i would venture in alone just yet.

                                1. re: GBak504

                                  next to the ice cream place on fayette street!

                                  man, i didn't know anyone but me and a few of my ex-neighbors frequented the old mansion house. i think bob is still the owner (at least, it was a big guy, and i've totally been too out of my mind to actually remember names every time i've been). you know, my meat-eating friends used to LOVE their chicken fingers or wings or whatever those are, too.
                                  p.s. gotta love a place that calls itself the mansion house as in, the big house house. love it, really.

                              1. re: rabidog

                                OMG, the Mansion House! When my husband and I started dating he worked around the corner and they called it "Big Bobs" after the owner. "Dive" is the perfect word to describe that place...... Best buffalo chicken cheesesteaks I've ever had. Haven't thought about that place in years.....

                              2. Los Mariachis in Phoenixville qualifies- great authentic Mexican, homemade fresh flan too. Most people just pass by from the looks on the outside.

                                1. Any other suggestions on what to order at Taste of Portugal? I just made reservations!

                                  9 Replies
                                  1. re: DaisyM


                                    I love the Bife a Portuguesa.
                                    Parrilhada de Marisco and Mariscada à Taste of Portugal are both great seafood dishes when the chef is on his/her game. I've had both where they were good but not great..(think overcooked seafood). the Marisco is for 2, BTW and is plenty big...

                                    they have Sagres..a portuguese beer..which is nice too.

                                    You'll find it not crowded. reservations rarely if ever needed.

                                    1. re: GBak504

                                      My husband is going to be thrilled. He mentions every once in awhile that we need to go to Newark to have the real stuff. Thank you!

                                      1. re: DaisyM

                                        Newark has some really good places. This isnt quite Newark, though the best, if not only, you'll find around philly.

                                        1. re: GBak504

                                          I think many of the West Philadelphia places qualify here. Agree with Abyssinia and Dahlak and would add Vientiane Cafe for wonderful Thai/Laotian/Vietnamese food. It's practically next store to Dahlak on Baltimore Ave. I would also add Tierra Colombiana to the list. Hole-in-the-wall in quite a dicey nab but oh so good food. The old Minar Palace on Sansom St. was probably THE definition of hole-in-the-wall!

                                          1. re: Schpsychman

                                            I hesitated to add Tierra Columbiana to this thread--that's some hole--huge place, bustling, authentic, the real deal for what it is. I loved it there. And, we got a kick out of the teens who offered to "watch" our car in the big parking lot. Reminded me of Mexico... We were glad to.

                                      2. re: GBak504

                                        Yes, their Portguese Steak is greeat. Also, their pork and clams is the best in the area. For the true "hole in the wall" exsperience, remember to sit upstairs in the bar area and not in the more "formal" dining room downstairs. I think they must have different menus/pricing, because I swae I always pay alot lkess when we eat upstairs. They also have a small daily specials list in the upstairs bar and we always have delicous homecooked food from that list - stews, seafood specials, etc. Remember to also try some Portguese wine, many orf which I have not seen in PA state stores.

                                        Have fun and please report back!

                                        1. re: AmblerGirl

                                          I can't believe nobody's mentioned Chung Sing's in Ardmore - a diner that serves solid, cheap Chinese food.

                                          1. re: FoolForFood

                                            OK, listen up. There's this place along Rt. 30 in Frazer. Used to be a Lee's Hoagie House, They put some curtains up and some dry wall, and named it Bunha Faun. Talk abt a hole in the wall, but some good food going on there!

                                            1. re: FoolForFood

                                              they are DEFINITELY a dive, but the chef was kinda a jerk about what he considered meat or not (pork? hello?). once they got my order right it was good, about on par with what i'll get in chinatown.

                                      3. How about Dawson Street Pub in Manayunk. A total dive with really tasty burgers and 3 cask conditioned beers to choose from.