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Dec 31, 2009 09:37 PM

Report on Philly Visit

I've benefitted from lots of board members and lots of threads, so I cannot post this summation to one thread. Here are reports on the things I tried.

1. Jake's Pizza (on Broad near Race) was my horrible first cheesesteak experience. When I was told they were out of their usual American cheese, I said to use whiz, because I heard that's done, and I also accepted the suggestion to use ketchup. I haven't tasted whiz in years, and while I like ketchup fine, this sammy just didn't work, because the meat was just straight and tasteless meat, with a layer of whiz and ketchup on top to spill all over. They apparently also forgot to add the onion that I'd requested. Soon I was thinking I couldn't stomach another try at cheesesteak in my four day visit. Thought I'd I need more recovery time. (That said, their pizza looked worth a try.)

2. Down Home Diner in the Reading Terminal Market was a very good but not hugely memorable lunch. As good a turkey club sandwich as I've had. Thicker than usual bacon. Good tomato/mushroom soup.

3. Rangoon was perhaps the biggest highlight of the whole visit. I went with some others and thought all of these were delicious: thousand layer bread with potato curry, firecracker lentil fritters, jungle shrimp, and a baked fish entree. While some of these things were called spicy, none struck me as particularly so.

4. Dutch Eating Place: I'm not really a breakfast aficionado, meaning that I really prefer eggs over easy and toast to pretty much anything else, but I do admit that this place makes superb
blueberry pancakes. I'm glad I tried "scrapple," as well, but it was a bit dry and mealy for my tastes. I think that's probably the nature of the dish. Only later did I find that people often pour syrup on it.

5. DiNic's at Reading Terminal Market: I got the roast pork with sharp provolone and rabe, and thought it was delicious. My only misgivings: (1) I think they could have salted the meat better while making the sandwich. They pull meat out of a vat of hot water, and if the water is unsalted (as I'm sure it is), it will leach salts from the meat. If I know brining theory, this will affect meats differently, depending on how long they've been in the vat. Anyway, misgiving (2) was that my mouth was hardly big enough to take in the whole sandwich, so it was hard to have bread, cheease, meat and rabe all in one bite. Very good, still.

6. Caribou: The cassoulet was good, but I was not blown away. However, I had come down with a cold and some congestion, and honestly I cannot be sure how on spot my tastebuds were. The dish came a bit soupier than I expected, with a whole leg of dug confit atop. I would go back here again, although I did feel that the menu was something like a cliche list of French bistro cooking. Lucky for me, I like mainline French bistro cooking. Side note: while I did not try it, they appear to have excellent French fries.

7. I walked down to Italian Market and tried a few things, in this order:
La Lupe for two tacos (in the carnitas and enchiladas--which for them is apparently a spiced meat--varieties). They were served in a kind of paper cone like gyros, with some lime and cilantro. Tasty but not exceptional. The tortillas looked like corn tortillas, but they seemed also prone to falling apart (hence the paper cone?).
Then I tried Cosmi's deli and ordered their cheesesteak, with onions only. It was in fact very tasty and redeemed the cheesesteak from my initial disappointment. Still, while I know "got it" about how they could be good, I am not eager to have them often.
Termini Bros. supplied a vanilla cannoli, and I was delighted but also stuffed.

8. Lee How Fook in Chinatown: I showed up late and solo, as Frommer's told me the place was good. I was basically underwhelmed with my lone order of kung pao scallops. To their credit, they cooked the scallops perfectly, the scallops themselves were large and seemed of good quality, and I did enjoy the crispness of the roasted peanuts. But the spiciness of this supposedly spicy dish was way low, and I also felt that it was undersalted. (No soy sauce on the table.) Apart from the better than average scallop meat, this was nothing better than I'd find anywhere else.

9. Salumeria in Reading Terminal Market: before my flight out, I had them make a short Italian sub to eat there (wet) and another to take back home to Indiana (dry, with wet stuff in containers). Along with Rangoon, this ranks as my best food experience in Philly. A sidenote, my flight was scrubbed for weather, so I decided simply to rent a car and drive home (10 hours). In the middle of Ohio, I pulled up at a rest stop, and took out everything the Salumeria guy had put aside for my "dry" sub. There were two little containers of sauce (apparently some oil, vinegar and herbs mix), some tomatoes, onion, artichokes, and peppers. I had the interesting experience of completing and then gobbling down this superlative Philly sup at a rest-stop in Ohio, where people next to me were eating Burger King and Sbarro pizza.

In sum, when I go to Philly again, I will hit Rangoon, go for a hoagie, and consult the Chowhound boards. Thanks.

Cosmi's Deli

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  1. Feel this is quite an accurate review, especially with no baggage to sway you. My only change might be Lee How Fook, which is fabulous depending on what you order, you wound up ordering a mediocre thing, but how were you to know.Next time l will go with you.

    1. Personally, I would have gone with the cannoli at Isgro's in the Italian Market, not Termini Bros, but I imagine that's a great, hotly contested Philly debate.

      Also, you skipped DiBruno Bros and Claudio's in the Italian Market, so if you ever return to Philly, then you can add those places to your list. They've got great cheese, meats, antipasti, etc.

      2 Replies
      1. re: glutton

        Actually I did walk into DiBruno bros and admired everything, but the line was long and I didn't see myself being able to count on getting a cheese purchase home. The place looks amazing.

        1. re: Bada Bing

          Just FYI - Claudio's will vacuum pack anything so it will travel!

      2. Great report. I agree with most of your assessments as well. There is much better French food to be had than Caribou. I've never understood the love that Lee How Fook gets. I think there is better Chinese to be had at several other places. Hopefully you'll come back and sample some of the other great things Philly has to offer.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

          i agree, lee how fook is not on the highest echelon of chinese food in philly. go to shiao lan kung next time but do not expect a pretty environment.

          and yes, isgro's cannoli are better but termini's has the lock on cookies. i would recommend taking a pound of them home with you next time.

          and if you go back to the reading terminal, salumeria is definitely worth a revisit, but i would also recommend that you try thr amish chicken wings in the northwest corner of the market. against the north wall. they are only there wednesday through saturday, but these whole wings are roasted and served with a side of hot sauce and are seriously cravable. and i COMPLETELY agree about down home diner, i've been going there for 15 years and am not at all in love.

        2. Hope you do come again. A lot of your destinations are kind of old Philly classics, but in my opinion, not terribly exciting or outstanding.