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Jan 18, 2010 06:19 PM

Unfortunate weekend in Philly; Can't win 'em all.

On my third recent trip to Philly, I finally struck out. I had a mostly unpleasant weekend of eating. It left a bad taste in my mouth.

The best thing we had was something of our own creation: we went to Franklin Fountain and ordered a phosphate with rose, lavender, and violet syrups. Wow, completely fantastic. The girl behind the counter cautioned us that it could be too floral, but it really hit the spot.

Our other attempts:

Down Home Diner, RTM.
We intended to eat DiNic's, but they were out of food. Had "Grandma's" Meat Loaf instead. I'm sorry, Grandma, but you'll have to pack up your knives and go home. Served broccoli that was a mixture of nearly raw and grossly overcooked florets. (reminds me of a Green Acres joke. Y'know how Lisa Douglas could only make hotcakes? Every episode she would fix a different variation. Hotcakes 'a la mode' was a cold hotcake on top of a hot one).

Our major disaster was at Amada. One good/great dish of grilled green onions. Large, plump, lightly charred, and caramelized. Gorgeous.

Pequillo pepper stuffed with crab meat. Overheated crab with a putrid flavor (the crab came out burning hot, we had to wait for a while to to dig in). Tasted like what happens when you reheat crab to death. I guess I'm one of those people who thinks crab, if eaten out of the shell, needs to be treated gently.

Lamb chop stuffed with goat cheese. This came out as a huge, breaded, deep fried ball. Four times the goat cheese as lamb, those poor little suckers didn't stand a chance. Little or no lamb flavor and a bit tough to boot.

The worst, though, was a shrimp and chorizo flatbread. Papery crust similar to thin-crust Dominos (but maybe not as good) with a small mound in the middle that tasted mostly of ketchup. I did not detect much in the way of shrimp, and any chorizo flavor was lost in the ketchup. These three were crimes against food.

The final dish we ordered was parmesan artichoke. Comically small portion. Nothing special about how it was done, and no artichoke flavor. As someone who has artichoke at home quite a bit, I very well understand how they can be tasteless or flavorful from one specimen to the next.

Amada was massively noisy. What a din! I can't see going back, although I imagine many of their simple dishes like patatas bravas and ham croquettes are outrageously good, judging from the green onions. If I had chosen better, maybe this could have been a good meal.... they were out of the roast pork. I detect a theme to my weekend......

John's Roast Pork.
Had the cheesesteak and the roast pork. Roast pork is awful. (if only they had run out!) Insanely peppery, completely masking any pork flavor. Threw half of it away. Cheesesteak 'innards' were a glorious mess. I was a bit disappointed with the roll, which was quite bready yet tough to tear. Maybe it's just my imagination, but no contest to the rolls at Nick's Cafe, Shank and Evelyn's, or Tony Luke's, to name just a few.

All three 'house' flavor of phosphates at Franklin Fountain are more interesting to watch being made than to drink. The Franklin Mint sundae is nice but nothing special. A traditional Philly Egg Cream is made with heavy cream and egg powder. Egg powder did not dissolve properly, yecch.

Cafe Fulya
Turkish toast is an amateurish grilled cheese sandwich. Had it with pepperoni. Throw on some tomato sauce, and you might have eaten something like this in your dorm room when you were truly desperate. Turkish Hot dog is with a weak tomato sauce (Hunt's?) and a mayo based vegetable salad. Thoroughly disgusting. Chicken lemon soup was straight out of Campbell's, but they forgot to add the lemon.

Capogiro, tried nine flavors. Way better than anything we have in the DC area. Might be tempted to try all 327 flavors. Nothing as heavenly as Ottho in NYC, though, which boasts intense flavor on hazelnut, pistachio, and caramel on a head-to-head comparison.

Other things we tried:
Cannoli at Termini Brothers. Cheese filing is best of the lot. Still, nothing special.
Choc. peanut butter pretzels are very good at Mueller's.
Momma Mia cheese spread at Salumeria. For hotheads only. A bit aggravating to eat, maybe super spicy cheese is not my thing. Good sesame pretzel sticks.

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  1. Down Home Diner and Amada I don't care about but what hurts is something bad at John's as that's one of my go to spots when down that way. Very sorry to hear that although I'll admit I haven't been in 9 months as the only reason I'm in town any more is for the Italian Market and I'll stop at George's.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Den

      Maybe it just wasn't to my liking, but I don't see how anyone can taste the pork at John's.

      The aroma hovering around DiNic's was heavenly.

    2. Those scallions at Amada are wonderful, go great with the whole pig, which almost makes the noise tolerable. Down Home has gone way down since opening. Was there about three months ago and left everything, never again. Get an Italian beef or pork at John's, with the greens and sharp provolone, excellent. Maybe try the roast beef at Nick's at 20th and Jackson, l love it.

      1 Reply
      1. Enjoyed your reviews, if only for the kicky writing style.
        I'm pretty surprised by the Termini Bros/Cannoli diss. Those are the bomb.

        1. Not super surprised at your reviews since I've always felt the Down Home Diner was way overrated, as are the canolis at Termini Brothers. I was surprised to hear your review of John's Roast Pork. The owner has been seriously ill for over a year so I don't know his current status.

          3 Replies
          1. re: TeamPhilly

            Freshly filled cannoli are much better than not fresh, but once you've got that down, I think the vanilla and chocolate fillings at Termini have little flavor and are not particularly creamy. Thankfully, they were not sweet. The cheese was the good one with nice heft.

            1. re: Steve

              I'm not surprised about the comments about the Down Home Diner (bad) and Capogiro (good). Amada is a bit of a surprise though. You are right about the most simple dishes being the best there. Next time you are in RTM and are looking for breakfast, do go to the Dutch Eating Place. I have eaten there weekly for years and been to the Down Home once for breakfast so go figure...

              At least you liked the pretzels at Mueller's!

              1. re: Steve

                Really agree with you on the cannoli's. Only decent filling is cheese. And Philly has no lock on good cannoli's. If you want to try another bakery in South Philadelphia, try Isgro's.

                Not surprised about the Down Home Diner experience. I thought I had heard that Jack McDavid had returned to the restaurant he started over 20 years ago, but guess it hasn't had any effect on quality.