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Philadelphia Research Critique Request

I'm coming into Philadelphia for Labor day weekend, and I've been doing some research and have a basic itinerary outlined, but I'd love feedback/suggestions of the type that only those who live there can offer!

One thing missing from this list is scrapple--I have never had it, but love regional random foods, and would love to try. Where should I do that?

We're staying in Mount Airy, without a car, so we'll be on foot/public transport/cabs the whole time

Fri eve:
-Dinner on the way back from airport with my Aunt and Uncle in Center city. Undecided where, suggestions welcome--would love maybe old school Italian?
-Drinks: Hop Sing Laundromat (what would lines/wait be like on a fri eve?)

Saturday: The big long Philly Walking tour. We tend to eat some at each place then find a nice local homeless person to donate the rest too, so yes, it seems like a lot of food, but we don't eat it all!
-Reading Terminal Market: DiNic's Roast Pork, Metropolitan Twist pretzel, XLB and shenjiangbao at Dim Sum garden, (I am not normally a sweets person, but Beck's bread pudding and dutch eating place pancakes are noted)
-Visit Liberty Bell
-Italian Market: Paesano's (Which 'which?), Taqueria Veracruzano
-Capogiro Gelato? (depends how hot and sweaty we are)
-San Lucas Pizzeria (I'm fascinated by weird fusions too)
-Tony Lukes
-Dinner reservations at Osteria (maybe home, shower first?)

That might be too much--we can always split some off for Sunday...We'll see

-Headhouse Farmers Market (Taquitos de puebla)
-Ben Franklin touristy Stuff
-Han Dynysty
-Dinner reservations at Zahav

Mon: Have most of the day...maybe Eastern State Pen?

So, would love your commentary, also other suggestions of weird, wacky, or only in Philadelphia--also, we'll probably hit D'alessandro at some point, because it's right by where we're staying.

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  1. I dunno about Seattle but in Philly the homeless people don't want food.

    3 Replies
    1. re: barryg

      Ha! I've never done it in Seattle, but in NYC there was a homeless dude pretty stoked on his half pastrami from Katz's. Whatever, the point is, we don't finish a meal at each place.

      1. re: dagoose

        Haha I wouldn't turn down some free Katz's leftovers either...

        1. re: dagoose

          I have given food to homeless plenty of times with very hearty thank you's

      2. Your itinerary sounds good. My $0.02:

        Scapple - Amis makes a good house-made polenta scrapple. a.kitchen also makes a pretty good duck scrapple. But if you want to try the classic version, you might be better off just going to a local diner.

        Old school Italian - I haven't been in a while, but I used to like Dante & Luigi's. Tre Scallini would also be a good choice, but farther from center city.

        Hop Sing Laundromat - Love it, but there might be a wait for a group on Friday night, depending on when you go.

        Saturday - all good choices, but sounds like a lot to pack in 1 day. Maybe it can be done. I like the Gustaio (lamb wrap) at Paesano's.

        Sunday - All good choices. Be aware that Los Taquitos de Puebla is nowhere near Headhouse Square.

        7 Replies
        1. re: deprofundis

          Awesome, will look into these. According to Taquitos de Puebla's website, they're at the headhouse farmer's market on Sundays? So I was going to pack that all in...

          1. re: dagoose

            You're correct, I have seen Los Taquitos de Puebla at the Headhouse farmer's market.

            1. re: gina

              Los Taquitos de Puebla is at the Headhouse market but they only have carne al pastor (and maybe chicken?) for tacos, none of the beef head meat (tongue, cheek, "head") tacos that they do so well at the place on 9th. Their tacos al pastor are really good though, as are the quesadillas.
              Also I think there are better taquerias than Veracruzana - I'd go to the Taco Loco RV on Washington @4th and eat in the Jefferson Sq. or have Taquitos de Puebla twice, once for cow head and once for al pastor.

              1. re: caganer

                ooh, I do love a good beef head meat. Alright, will reconfigure on Mexican food...Thanks for the great advice!

                1. re: dagoose

                  The tacos al pastor do seem to be better at the Headhouse market than at the restaurant and it's a good farmers market so it wouldn't be a horrible idea to check it out and have a taco - they come three to an order so sharing is easy.
                  Also, and not to dissuade you from Capogiro which is great, but on 9th across from Taquitos de Puebla there is El Pueblo for Mexican style popsicles and ice cream (made locally: www.lamichoacanaicecream.com/)

                  1. re: caganer

                    Oh, there's always room for a paleta or an helado in this stomach...Will add those on!

                    1. re: caganer

                      Had the tacos al pastor today, finally. Delicious!

          2. In MOUNT AIRY I would check out Earth Bread + Brewery (7136 Germantown Ave - 215.242.MOON[6666]). They make wood fired brick oven flatbread pizzas which are good and really interesting sometimes. For instance they made a kimchi flatbread special a month or so ago. My favorite special flatbread was a prosciutto, fig, caramelized onion w/ sea salt They brew their own beer too but also have a legit wine list of about a dozen bottles. Casual (Mt Airy) atmosphere. Many kids before 9.
            As far as SCRAPPLE goes the best I ever had was from an Amish stand at the Farmer's market in Chestnut Hill. You'd have to cook it yourself but there was none of the sometimes lingering preservative taste that you can get from the more popular brands.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Chinon00

              x2 on Earth - it's the one thing out here that's kind of a destination restaurant.
              that said, it's a restaurant that really only does 2 things - pizza and beer. if you like pizza and beer, definitely go; if you don't like pizza or beer, you're kind of like a vegetarian at a steak house; there are things on the menu you can get, but the place isn't for you.

              also, if you're in mt airy w/out a car, Osteria is a hassle to get to. It's doable, but it's neither easy nor pleasant, and certainly not something I'd do with limited time in the city. (other people also like the restaurant more than I do). Oh - but it's not that far from Eastern State Penn, if you do go there too.

              the last cheesesteak I had from d'allessandros was dissapointing.

              and if it is hot out, you should consider getting yourself a water ice (lemon or cherry) if you have a chance.

            2. This Scrapple Guide was just published. I can't vouch for anything on the list except that my experiences at both Downhome Diner and Silk City in the past have been poor--but I haven't had the scrapple at either place, and never had breakfast at Silk City.


              2 Replies
              1. re: barryg

                I'm shocked they didn't include the scrapple at Cafe Estelle. It's dreamy. Like a pork rillette for breakfast.

                1. re: barryg

                  I'm a fan of the Down Home Diner's scrapple and poached egg.. At one time they used Mr. Moyers. Not sure who they use nowadays, but I'm guessing the scrapple still comes from a Reading Terminal Market vendor.

                  My favorite scrapple is as old school as it gets - from Brunic's at 17th and McKean in South Philadelphia. Brunic's is a long time luncheonette that is mostly cooking the same as they did fifty years ago. Super thick slabs of scrapple started in the oven and finished on the grill.

                  Nowadays a few Philadelphia places have been gentrifying scrapple. Not sure that is progress or a good thing.

                2. Thanks for all the help folks! One more question for you--now my aunt wants me to take on Friday night dinner. She has suggested Garces Trading Post or Modo Mio, or Marcie Turney place. All seem a little more similar to what we can get in Seattle. I was hoping for more of an old school red sauce Italian neighborhood place, but sounds like they want to go upscale. Thoughts on these places?

                  Thanks again!

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: dagoose

                    Modo Mio is not up scale, but is a great representation of our BYO culture in Philadelphia. If you go on Sunday they have a wonderful prix fixe dinner. Garces Trading post is like a large open kitchen deli ... I wouldnt go there. The Marci Turney place is probably Barbuzzo. It is good.. loud.. fresh ingredients. Not a bad place. I wouldnt call it up scale per se.. but its not old school south philadelphia italian. An alternative to Modo Mio from the same restauranteur is Monsu which is in the Italian market..

                    Again of the three you mention I would choose Modo Mio.

                    http://modomiorestaurant.com/ (Note Modo Mio is cash only...





                    1. re: dagoose

                      Agree with cwdonald about Modo Mio. The Sunday prix fixe is Sugo Sunday and is what you're looking for, "old school red sauce Italian". In South Philly, we call it "gravy".

                      1. re: JanR

                        You can get scrapple with your pancakes at the Dutch Eating Place on Saturday. BTW- The pretzels at Reading Terminal are at Miller's Twist. Metropolitan is a very good bakery in the market but not a soft pretzel place. As an aside, the line at DiNic's is crazier than usual since they won the BSA award. The line wraps around the stall and totally covers all of what used to be Delilahs.

                        1. re: bluehensfan

                          On top of that, I just heard they are starting to use Sarcone's rolls at Dinic's. That will make the sandwiches even better.

                            1. re: cwdonald

                              They used to use Carangi and something else before that...

                            2. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                              That's a lot of bread.. surprised Sarcone's has the spare capacity.

                        2. re: dagoose

                          modo mio is my favorite place to go! delicious 4 course meal, reasonably priced, byob...close to sketchy upcoming neighborhood with plenty of parking on the street(Lock your car.)

                        3. Dutch Eating Place has good scrapple, and DT Diner isn't that bad. You'll do well with any diner-ish spot that you find. My personal suggestion is to ask them to cook it on the grill rather than fry it. It takes a little longer, but IMO it makes a huge difference in taste and quality. I enjoy my scrapple as a breakfast sandwich (kaiser, scrapple, little touch of ketchup).
                          Yeah... I know what I'm having for breakfast tomorrow....

                          1. Whew! We survived! And we ate darn well, thanks a lot to all of you guys! Here's a little bit of a rundown, I'll do something more specific on my blog, with photos, later (thegastrognome.com).

                            Friday: Stopped in and sampled the hell out of diBrunos for a little while, then off to dinner at Villa di Roma. It was great--just the kind of old school Italian that I was looking for and that we don't have here in Seattle. The mussels appetizer with red gravy was the favorite, but the mushroom and sausage I had over linguini, the garlic bread, the spaghetti and meatballs, and the stuffed pepper special were all also good.

                            After dinner we met up with a friend at Frankford Hall for a beer. Nothing super impressive. Then tried to head to Morgan Pier for a view drink, but that was mobbed, hit up an outdoor space at someplace called Opa? or similar. Eventually split with friend to grab a few drinks at Franklin Mortgage. While there was initial assholing from the door guy, once inside, experience and drinks were fabulous.

                            Saturday: this was the big food day! We started with fresh ricotta from dibrunos with a few figs from the garden. Then:
                            -Miller's twist pretzel while in line for DiNics--I love a good pretzel, and this was one! Made the not tooo bad line totally bareable (20 min at 11am on Sat)
                            -DiNics roast pork w/broccoli rabe and provolone. A great sandwich. The best in America? Only if you pry SF's Roli Roti porchetta from my cold, dead hands.
                            -Bread pudding at Beck's: I have a bread pudding obsession and this was certainly up to standard. Crispy top, soft inside, no overbearing extras. Pure bread pudding simple happiness.
                            -Next stop: Dim Sum Garden. I'd say better than anything we have in Seattle, but doesn't hold a candle to Vancouver/NY/SF/LA. So worth a stop if you come from somewhere good shanghaiese dumplings are hard to come by?
                            -From here we pretended like we might actually do tourist things, but it was way hot and lines were long, so other than breaking for a few in the air conditioned lobby of the constitution center, we just continued south, dying in the heat until...
                            -John's water ice. Sweet, frozen relief.
                            -Body temperature appropriately lowered, we hit up Paesano's. Had the Paesano. Almost too much flavor to handle, but good.
                            -Los Taquitos de Puebla: Good, but not sure this was GREAT? Had the beef head tacos, chips and salsa. Definitely good hot sauces, but not overly impressed.
                            -Holy f*ck it was hot. Capogiro stop. A/C and gelato mmmmmmmmmm
                            -HERE'S WHERE IT GOT GOOD: San Lucas Pizzeria! How has nobody done this before??? Basically a somewhat average slice of pizza gets a dumping of taco toppings (al pastor, carnitas). And it's served through a convenience store counter behind plastic. I can't even begin to explain. So great. Go there.
                            -Last stop of the tour: Tony Luke's. Good, but almost too clean, orderly for me?
                            Trekked back across town for a shower and ready for dinner.
                            -Osteria dinner. Really, pretty disappointing. Sent one of our 4 dishes back, they were out of a number of dishes, just sort of really ordinary in general.
                            -Not to worry! On to Hop Sing Laundromat for drinks. The whole speakeasy thing was a little dinner-theater-esque, and oh so trendy, but the drinks were unique, phenomenally made, and delicious, so I can't complain! Also, so so so so cheap for what they were ($10) which was amazing. Couldn't believe it wasn't more crowded!

                            Sunday: Started the day at Headhouse Square farmer's market, sampling cheeses and chocolates and the like. Nothing too out of the ordinary. Then the day looked up. Lunch at Rangoon was just amazing. I love Burmese food and can't get it out here, so it quenched that little bit of thirst, while also just being damn delicious! Dinner was at Zahav, which absolutely lived up to my every very high expectations. Delicious, lovely, good service, my kind of food! Wandered the old city for a bit after wards and had to stop for an egg cream at Franklin Fountain. Too expensive to really endorse, but cute and fun for a vacationing west coaster who rarely sees an egg cream on a menu (and comes from Brooklyn stock, so knows to love them).

                            Monday! OMG SO MANY SANDWICHES I HAVEN'T YET EATEN. That was a problem, because things were closed for labor day! Met a friend at Saxby's to catch up, and discovered that I was then standing outside a Shake Shack 8 minutes before it opened. Carpe the Burger, as they say. That was a damn good burger. I see the shake shack light, people. Since burgers were on our mind, we popped next door to Village whiskey to compare. Sorry, VW, we put you in a bad position. Good cocktails though, nice space. Nothing wrong with the burger that not eating a SS one first couldn't have fixed.

                            Final stop on the way to the airport, D'allessandro's for a cheesesteak and hoagie for the plane. Have to admit, this greasy, whizzy, monster of intestinal destruction is a little more my style of steak. Loved it. Hoagie was good, but I bet there's better.

                            Overall a great weekend of eating! Thanks for all of the advice!

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: dagoose

                              Thanks for reporting back. That weekend of eating rivals uhockey's binge a few years back. Sorry about the line at DiNic's. After they won the Best Sandwich in America it has added a few minutes to the line (which was literally out of the door a few weeks ago).

                              1. re: dagoose

                                Thanks for the great report. I am curious what you had at Osteria and had to return. My general way of eating there is to eat antipasti, and either pasta or pizza. I skip the secondi as I have not found them to be all that exciting.

                                1. re: cwdonald

                                  We returned the wood grilled octopus. It was extremely tough, and nothing else about the dish was very inspiring--not enough acid, or something. We had a veggie antipasto, which was quite good--just a variety of salads, really, but all were very good. We had gnocco frito with lardo and carb salad. this was tasty--just by virtue of the ingredients it would be hard not to be, but it didn't click perfectly like I'd hoped. Lastly we had the corn tortelloni with sea urchin sauce. This was my favorite, it was extremely good, but it was maybe hanging out on the pass a little too long--a tiny bit congeled when it arrived. All in all, just not an impressive meal.