4 Nights in PHL, pt2 - Paesano's, Brown Betty, more Foodery, Jim's Steaks
i started a thread looking for suggestions to narrow down some options for 4 nights in philadelphia and thought i'd share my experiences in your lovely city. the original thread can be found here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/633872 my final destination line-up did change as my work demanded it but i think i got in what i really wanted to. i'm going to write-up a post for each day/night in the hopes that it will be more useful... and still not cluttering.
4 Nights in PHL, pt1 - Morimoto, Foodery, Capogiro: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/639786
my obligations for the day are done and it's still early enough in the afternoon, paesano time! a surprising choice to be sure as the draw of roast pork sandwiches was snuffed out by a previous sampling between dinic's and tony luke (though i may have also had john's) that just didn't impress. the promise of a nearly confit like pork attributed to a whole roasted pig fanned the embers and i could not deny myself the possibility of deliciousness.
at around 6pm the speedy market/frankfurt line pulled through center city and turned the curve to land at girard station where i disembarked with a large group that seemed to have scattered quickly into parts unknown. the near emptiness of the streets was only amplified by the walk alongside a wide street and the dim buildings overcome by age. i could have blinked and near missed it but the only sign of life on this strip sat behind the glass pane marked "paesano's". a small crew of three were working casually behind a bar carving out enough space for about 6 stools and minimal standing room. the bare room was accentuated with a colourful menu written in chalk but otherwise only a hunk of meat sitting in a pot bubbling away indicated any food action was taking place here. two people hung off of a pair of barstools, waiting idly for their take-out orders. as the meat heated up, the owner turned his attention away from tearing out the insides of hoagie buns to ask what i'd have. an arista was my reason for being here but i'm a sucker for anything with potatoes and the advertisement of as much fat and flavour they could muster sold me on the potato arrosto.
i was soon alone at the bar and even one of the crew had left to leave the three of us in the calm before the ensuing dinner rush. the owner and i fell into affable conversation and teasingly chided me on being a yelper once my camera appeared on the counter. thankfully i could earnestly declare i wasn't. after a pile of rabe and spoonfuls of jus, he twirled around and my sandwich landed in front of me. the jus was soaking through the bread faster than i could get a couple photos off and so i gave up and just dug in. the tender and nicely bundled meat was porky but intensely salty. the provolone, rabe, and bread could only do so much to balance it out and in the end just provided small bursts of bitter and sharpness to complement the simple pork. it was almost too much meat. i struggled to finish half as i watched my potatoes slowly cook in the cast iron pan on the stove and picked at the rabe on the other half to clear out all the salt on my palate. i barely noticed the hoagie bread speckled with sesame seeds that provided an excellent foil to the tasty mess. the longhots unfortunately were lost to the stronger flavours of everything else.
slices of cheese melted on the arrosto that were your basic potatoes in fat. i did wish that they had formed some kind of crust to give a bit of textural contrast though. i began using them to mop up the jus as it tried to escape from the sandwich onto the counter in a moment of flavour frugality. it added the extra salt and flavour kick it needed to make it stand out. i'm considering it my unofficial paesano's style poutine.
the phone had hardly stopped ringing after i dug into my sandwich and now people were lined up against the bar and wall. in a moment where i sat comfortably full, he asked if i was done and wrapped up my leftovers with my place setting in a few swift motions. i left the meager cash required for such a large meal and strolled out to digest. i loved the far from pretentious setting, the personal service, and the italian-esque combinations that definitely didn't put vegetarians in second place. i could do without the intense salt though and i'm still not entirely convinced by roast pork sandwiches but this was the best i've had in the city by far.
part of my digesting stroll i veered into the northern liberties area to look for one of my favourite fun stores, art star. seems that it doesn't exist anymore but the brown betty on the corner was still chugging along. on a previous visit i had gone to bar ferdinand and was tempted to try a cupcake from brown betty afterwards but was turned off at the prices, i took the plunge this time and got a $3 red velvet cake that i sorely regret. perhaps the fact that the rest of the cakes were often described as poundcakes should have been the indication, but the red velvet cupcake was very dense. it was turn off enough that i stopped after one bite and didn't look back. at least the flavour was fine...
FOODERY - Northern Liberties
there isn't much to say except that i felt the selection here was much more wide ranging than the one at 10th and Pine. i'm not entirely sure I noticed some of the large format special brew bottles in the back corner at the central location but i did find some large format special brews at the northern liberties location that i was much more interested in, one being a flying fish corked like wine. i have found overall that while they certainly know a thing or two about the beer they have available, neither locations were very good at detailing out differences between some breweries and beers and lacked overall enthusiasm.
maybe it's blasphemous but this tourist trap is the place i like the best for a cheesesteak when in town. after what i felt to be an extensive tour of 7 oft mentioned and far flung cheesesteak places (though we didn't have time to judge consistency), this one was tops for me. no matter what, it always looked like every place steamed their meat to one extent or another so the most ideal combination for me was an extra whiz with onions at jim's.
it was still relatively early in the evening and mostly tourists were lining up in the zig zag towards the counter. overhearing discussions on how one should order a cheesesteak and upturned noses at onions were inevitable. it actually made me slightly apprehensive for the moment when i would have to make my order but all nerves were calmed at the silliness of the griddle cooks when they mugged for cameras.
in the end nothing beats the thin chopped tender beefy steak, peppered just enough and moistened with loads of tangy cheese whiz in a slightly chewy bun with a decent crust. i was happy to wolf down half on my way back towards the hotel to finish up some work. in fact, after i had finished my work i had a midnight snack of two sandwich halves and even cold they were better than the other versions i've had hot.