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Phamous Phills on Restaurant Divided

I came across the food network episode of Restaurant Divided that was filmed at Phamous Phils in Collegeville over the summer. Apparently they have been struggling and are not making a profit, in spite of the quality of the barbecue and the sauces. So, they applied to be on RD. Phil's wife Robin thought they should open a chop shop, Phil wanted to continue making his bbq. Rocco let them try out their concepts for a night, providing tips and tricks to improve service. Phil came out as the winner, which made us very happy, as we've always enjoyed his food. The restaurant has been completely redecorated as a result of the show, and they are doing counter service instead of table service. DH and I had been planing a bbq dinner soon, so guess where we're going... they are now selling their sauces in the restaurant, I can't wait to bring some home. :)

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  1. Juju, I drove by several times when they were shooting the show and was curious about when it was to be aired. I thought they were spotlighting Phil's product but did not know about the internal schism.
    Pardon my ignorance but what is a "chop shop?" To me, its where stolen cars end up. If you mean pork chops and ribs, I understand but Phil has worked too hard on the bbq to give that up.
    HOWEVER, Phil (if you're reading this),I'm the guy who suggested you have brined and smoked half chickens but you said they'd dry out and be no good. I still disagree and would like to discuss it with you. As a non-meat eater, your smoked wings and chicken salad are good but go just so far. I would have been in many more times for poultry offerings. How about duck? Smoked turkey? All could be by special order and you wouldn't have to be wastefully over-prepped.
    Phil, you have great products and I love your sauces (especially the molasses-based one.) But consider expanding outside the box.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Chefpaulo

      She wanted to do an upscale steak house concept - Rocco pointed out that the area would only support $30/40pp so they did a short rib (?) that they pulled the meat to one end and rolled it up before cooking. quite a dramatic presentation with this HUGE bone and then the tender meat.
      My thought during the show was, I would not drive to C'ville for that steak, but I have several times driven there for his bbq.

      CP, I think the idea of putting some poultry on the menu is great! I know they switched up quite a few things during the show, I bet they made more changes that weren't shown. The menu online does look updated - did they offer pulled chicken before?

      I'm hoping that the exposure from being on the show brings them more traffic! It would be a shame to see them go out of business.

    2. I did view the airing on Restaurant Divided. Having only eaten his food one time all I can say is the suggestion by Rocco(?) to not trim the brisket is right on the money based on my tastes. Sure hope the program/publicity brings more customers and gives them that "second chance" with their newly designed interior and menu adjustments. Love to see mom & pops succeed in a very difficult business.

      1. I had a brisket sandwich at one of the local community day fairs last year, thought it was good and filed it away in the "should try again sometime" category in my mind. Then was running some errands and passed their store "oh, that's where it is" - and I think therein may lie a big part of the problem.

        I'm more in the Royo area now (so too far to be -really- convenient, but not too bad in the scheme of things), but went to school at Methacton - unless that immediate area has changed significantly (ok... guess it has been a few more years than I care to think about!), and it doesn't look like it has -that- much, the location doesn't really doesn't really strike me as an ideal place to set up shop. I can't say as I've been there any time near rush hour recently, but I wouldn't think that end of Germantown gets as much drive-by traffic as other nearby places, It's about as "in the sticks" as you can get around there, a big part of what I'd think of as a regular-customer radius is taken up by Evansburg.

        2 Replies
        1. re: bsims76

          That area gets a TON of drive by traffic (I drive by every day), and they have a convenient parking lot. Unfortunately, I'm not very excited about their BBQ.

          1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

            I was going to say... this may be the frontier to some but Germantown Pike is no country road. There is mucho traffic but signs along the pike are regulated by some old ordnance and it is hard to see when you're coming up on it.

            The resto itself is miniscule but, that's why I say to Phil, do special orders of duck, marinated half chickens, turkey breast and maybe even get into seasonal smoked fish if you want to boost your take-out biz. I'll be there!

        2. The Phamous Phil's episode is on again at 11PM tonight on FOOD.

          4 Replies
          1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

            Cool show, might give them another shot now that they've remodeled (and Rocco convinced Phil to leave some fat on their brisket).

            Interestingly, they sent Phil to Fette Sau and Robin to Bibou for advice. Jen Carroll was also one of the guest diners.

            1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

              As I previously noted I also agree with the brisket issue and the wish for a second chance after remodeling and wish them the best for sure. But as noted above by others the product, while gaining some acclaim, has disappointed me on my one visit. Also the place is very small and easy to pass by if one does not know it location. The lack of traffic is certainly NOT the issue as Germantown pike in that area is actually too busy and it should be noted that Osteria 3-4 doors away is always extremely busy. I found the split concept a bit odd, including the physical split of this very small space; a bit contrived. Oh well thats television!

              1. re: Bacchus101

                That bone-in rolled up short rib looked pretty good (though I can't stand Rocco ever since "The Restaurant").

                1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                  Phamous Phil's is doing "Robin's Chop House" menu for one night only on Sunday Feb 23.

          2. OK, I have to eat crow...

            Stopped in to PP's last night, and I don't know if it was because I previously had only tried takeout (5 or 6 times a couple of years ago), ordered the wrong things, or if in fact Rocco's TV magic really has changed things, but this time I LOVED everything we ate.

            It certainly does seems like the TV coverage may have given them a good bump in business, since we got the last two parking spaces, and the restaurant was almost full (both the remodeled front room and the back room).

            I can't say the remodel is particularly inspired one way or another. There is now communal seating in front, but it still looks like what it is: a hole-in-the-wall local BBQ joint with a bunch of Jack Daniel's crap on the walls. How Robin ever thought they could do a steakhouse here, I don't know. But for BBQ, it has a fine vibe, and the picnic table seating fits right in.

            More importantly, the food just seems kicked up a notch or three. We share a 1/2 rack of baby back ribs, which had a good crust, were juicy and not too fatty, cooked medium well (so not quite falling off the bone), and finished with a not to heavy sweetish glaze. Very good ribs. I don't know why I didn't appreciate them before.

            This was accompanied by some excellent sweet potato fries, crispy and lightly doused with some "Jack Daniel's Honey Glaze". We also tried a side of coleslaw, which was decent, but I'd probably go for the baked beans next time.

            However, the dish of the night was their amazing smoked wings. Most places don't do smoke wings, for the obvious reason that they dry out pretty quick. But that isn't a problem at PP's, as these were juicy but crunchy, with a very strong smoke flavor (they are smoked and then deep fried). And covered in a judicious amount of your choice of Phil's proprietary sauces. We tried "hot", which was nicely spicy but not pain-inducing by any means. All I can say is that thanks to that balance of smokey/juicy/spicy, these were KILLER wings, some of the best I've ever had!

            Finally, the "Phamous" sauces, which he also sells by the bottle. According to the TV show, Phil entered all of his sauces in the KC BBQ championship last year, and they all finished in the top 25 out of 1000s of sauces. We didn't really feel the need to put any of the provided sauces (3 squirt bottles were on our table) on our food, but we did taste each one. I thought the "Inphamous" and "Jacked Up" sauces were a bit too sweet for my palate, but the "Zesty Carolina Honey Mustard" was outstanding, with a pronounced pickle juice flavor (some may not like that much pickle).

            Decent lemonade, and unsweetened iced tea with syrup so you can sweeten it however you like. I'm sure you can BYOB some beer if you like.

            Service was attentive, although a bit slow (it was crowded), and Phil & Robin were active in the dining room (Phil told a funny story about how Robin actually slapped Rocco on the face, but that scene was cut from the show!). The menu is still too big and unfocussed (cheesesteaks???), as Rocco said, but at least for the items we ordered they pulled it off.

            I don't know why I didn't appreciate Phil's BBQ before (maybe I was distracted by Smoke Daddy's closer to home), but I will definitely be a regular now that I know what to order...WINGS!!!


            2 Replies
            1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

              Thanks for the comprehensive update and the good news. I know I also was not pleased with my initial venture into PP. I will be interested in tasting the results of the Brisket changes. Understand about the Carolina sauces; having live in NC for a couple years the vinegar/pickle was not a favorite. Just the fact that Robin slapped Rocco would be enough reason for me to return.

              1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                Glad to hear you enjoyed it and that things are picking up for them! We have got to figure out when we can get over there. I'm dying for some 'q!

              2. We took some friends to Phils on Saturday night.

                Service was very slow, as always, and the waitress seemed a little overwhelmed with our order. We were in the back room, which was nice because we were away from the front door, but it was still freezing. Phil came in and asked if we'd seen the show. I was surprised how angry he and Robin seemed about the show, the filming process and Rocco. Perhaps they were just tired and overwhelmed. He said that things had picked up since the show aired, with folks from NYC to DC coming in.
                Some things they mentioned that I can see would be disappointing - the show mentioned tshirts for sale - FoodTV left 5 in the restaurant for actual sale. They also said they should bottle and sell the sauces - I guess FoodTV bottled a few of each kind and left them, but they don't have the resources to get more bottled, in spite of orders coming in from across the country.

                So. The food...each couple ordered separately, Since we couldn't decide what to try, we got 1/4 pound of this and 1/2 pound of that...etc... we had:

                Fried pickles - tasty, i really liked the coating and the sauce that came with them.
                wings - medium. our friends LOVED them.

                meatloaf - unanimous "meh" no one liked the texture, but we're glad we tried it. We're planning to smoke our own meatloaf recipes and see if we like it better.
                brisket - again a "meh"
                ribs - winner of the night - we ordered the Phils Phamous, I think, not sure which our friends got. Very good, hard for me to eat though with these d*mn braces.
                pulled pork - very good.
                mashed potatoes (a side offered with the prime rib special) - dry and without additional flavors
                mac and cheese - really really good.
                baked beans - we all loved - although the waitress forgot ours.

                We'll go back, but now we know what we like and will adjust our order accordingly. DH did snag one of the last bottles of Phil's Phlaming sauce.

                4 Replies
                1. re: jujuthomas

                  Thanks for the comprehensive review. I have been waiting to be close by to stop in. Imagine traveling from NYC or DC to dine at PP. A long road to a small house. With your post and one previous it seems I have my menu selections established, ribs, bake beans and one more shot at the brisket.(don't eat wings) Just a couple of observations: custom tee shirts are easily done on line, BBQ sauces are every where and from some nationally know BBQ places, seems a tough business. This current attention could come under the heading of fleeting fame if the food does not carry the interest forward. On the tv show it seems to me that even in spite of Phil's failed business decisions "he was always right" which does not bode well for the future of the business. Perhaps if he makes it the best BBQ joint(smaller menu & all items top notch) he can succeed at being a highly specialized little guy. I believe there is a window of opportunity now which will rapidly close.

                  1. re: Bacchus101

                    Phil said the group from DC got there at 8, when they were sold out of most everything.THAT would be frustrating!

                    ITA about Phil's attitude - he was very smug when we told him we really liked the beans and the wings. "And Rocco said to take them off the menu"...

                    I do wish them all the best, but I don't see us driving to C'ville from Blue Bell more than a few times a year for Phil's bbq.

                    1. re: jujuthomas

                      Spot on. I'm less than six minutes away but have not been back there in two years. Phil's demeanor is sometimes disturbing. Its like I'm taking up his time to be in his establishment. Restaurateurs cannot do this regardless of menu quality.

                      1. re: Chefpaulo

                        CP, exactly or in your words, spot on! Even If his food was great his demeanor would be difficult for me to accept: His food is not great. The show had a mixed effect on my attitude toward PP. The man, based on his own analysis of their financial situation, is close to a fatal failure. Yet he insists on doing the same things, his way and expects a different result. My guess is his moment of fame will be squandered, too damn bad.

                2. I have eaten at PP's about six times...the last three having breakfast there with my two kids. The breakfast food was good and was reasonably priced. I have not been there since the show and the times I had ribs and such...I found the food to be about a B-B+. Some of the comments are about Phil's deameanor...and I must add that the two to three times I was dining and he was walking around...not once did he stop and asked how things were. His service staff have always been on top of things and have done a good job.One time he was seated in a booth when I went to pay for my meal and I said hello...and just got a nod and brief greeting back. I thought a bit more of a friendly attitude would go a long way. It's not a chain restaurant and as such...I expect a bit more.

                  1. According to Phil's Facebook, they are going to do Robin's menu from Restaurant Divided at an upcoming meal:


                    That bone-in rolled up short rib (with sauce recipes from Pierre Calmels) looked really good.