Wednesday, September 19, 2012


What kind of place can make me wish I ordered the fish over a delicious NY Strip? C19.

There's so much to like about this place.  It has a great atmosphere; there's something intangible about C19 that really makes you feel like they care about their food and the entire dining experience.

I like to take pictures of my food; but I had no chance at C19. I was too busy eating it.

To start, the service was a little slow.  But once we had our orders placed, there weren't any problems.  I highly recommend the wine flights.  The sommelier comes out and chooses several different wines to pair with the food and gives tasting notes on each wine.  He really put effort into explaining and arranging, and not because it was his job; but because he really loves wine and wants to share that.

For starters, I ordered the snails, Nutzle had the beet salad, and we both enjoyed these starters.  She then got the special, local black bass.  It was amazing. I'm salivating just thinking about it.  The NY strip I had was good; a nice dry rub, thick cut served medium rare.  But I wouldn't rave about it.

The only potential downside is that for the portions, the food is a little pricey.  But because of the location in the city, as well as the focus on fresh, local, sustainable ingredients, the prices are warranted.  I will be back soon.

PS, there's a tiny TV in the corner of the bar, so if it's playoff time and you've promised to take someone out for a nice meal, this is the perfect spot!
267 S 19th St
Reservations via

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Best of Philly 2012

Philadelphia Magaznie puts together an ambition list every year called "Best of Philly." In a number of different categories, the magazine tries to describe not only the best food, but shopping, nightlife, and basically every facet of city life.

So that's a cool idea.  But I took issue with a few of the winners.  Sure, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and I'm certainly over critical.  I guess that's why I'm writing this right now.  I'm submitting a few of my own revisions.  They certainly have more categories than I could every attempt on my own.  But still...please comment:

Best Raman
Philadelphia Mag: Nom Nom Ramen
My Pick: Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House:  New location makes slurping these delicious (and cheap!) noodles even better.

Best Whiskey List
Philadelphia Mag: Village Whiskey
My Pick: JRs Place:  Sure, Garces has a great restaurant.  But JRs, despite the strange location and atmoshopere, simply has more whiskey.  And it's cheaper to boot.

Best Breakfast
Philadelphia Mag: Fitzwater Cafe: Not sure how this place won. There are at least a handful doing better breakfast.
My Pick: Carmen's Country Kitchen:  I know I'm biased towards Carmen's.  But I love the idea of this place: two sweet options, two savory. Local, fresh ingredients.  A friendly staff that always asks your name when you come inside.  Maybe Carmen's isn't the best breakfast, but it's certainly my favorite.

Best Beer Shop
Philadelphia Mag: Bottle shop at Local 44
My Pick: Go to New Jersey: I know this is for Philadelphia, but seriously, the prices on 6 packs and to go beer here are so expensive, it's just a joke.  Really for the best beer in the city, Bella Vista has the best selection but highest prices as well.  Global or Bell's are the best distributors in the city.

Food Truck
Philadelphia Mag: Pitruco Pizza: Sure, they're good, and a brick oven in a truck is a cool idea.  But when food trucks hit $8-9, it's just not the best option in that price range
My Pick: Honests Tom's wins for food, and Rival Bros wins for drink:  Both of these truck focus on one thing, and do that one thing immensely well.

Best Coffee Shop
Philadelphia Mag: Ultimo
My Pick: Oneshot Coffee: Both are excellent and this is more a matter of preference, but you'd be hard pressed to find a better looking coffee shop than the renovated Oneshot. The food and coffee is great as well.

Best Cocktail Bar
Philadelphia Magazine: Franklin Mortgage and Investment Company: This is probably the winner that prompted me to write this whole list.  Over the last few years, I've witnessed Franklin take a nose dive in terms of quality and service.  Everything that made it cool, the speakeasy feel, slick service, no sign out front, etc have all been abandoned to welcome in the masses.
My pick: I haven't been to Hop Sing Laundromat yet, but I'm sure it's better than Franklin.  For a speakeasy feel, Ranstead Room offers up great cocktails as well, and succeeds where Franklin fails.

Best Chicken Wings
Philadelphia Magazine: Jug Handle Inn
My Pick: I will soon be making a trip to the Jug Handle Inn.  But they standard they will have to live up to is Moriarty's.  Because those are the best wings in the city proper.  (Hottest goes to Monks, or possibly Ortliebs.)

Best Gastropub
Philadelphia Magazine: Alla Spina: No doubt this is a great place.  But it also only added a burger a number of days ago.  Excellent restaurant, sure.  Gastropub?  You're stretching the definition.
My Pick: Kraftwork: Great food, excellent beer list, rotating on both fronts. Late night happy hour, outdoor seating, and overall just a lot of things to life.  PS, it's a gastropub.

I could keep going, but I digress.  There's a lot of great food and drink in this city, and every business mentioned here should be proud. There's also a handful of other places that are just a notch below the best.  I'm really glad to live here.  And it looks like my food to do list just grew again.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pickled Heron

It's nice to see the neighborhood changing for the better.  The chefs at the Pickled Heron are really trying to do something different, doing something well, in Fishtown/East Kensington, and they're succeeding.

I was dining with my friend Emily, and we started with the mussels.  They came in a good white wine sauce, and were a nice way to start the meal.  For our entrees I immediately chose the duck.  While not as flavorful as other duck dishes I've had, the whole dish was well composed, especially the grilled sausage on the side.  Emily stuck with the bream and enjoyed the fish topped with fennel, mussels, and squid.  The food is solid.

Sure there are a few things to complain about.  The menu is small, six starters and six entrees.  It doesn't cater to vegetarians (that's French food for you).  The service is leisurely but not slow.  It's cash only.  But overall, there isn't really anything that takes away from the dining experience.  The biggest problem is that the dining room is overcrowded with chairs.  This would be less of a problem if the place was packed.  But I visited on a saturday night and the place was jammed full of tables, only half of which were occupied.

I like that this spot is BYO, and the servers are really attentive with the wine.  Everyone's white wines chill in a communal ice bath.  The portions are good, and the menu is reasonably priced for the food, if not a tad high for the 'hood.  And while the menu doesn't offer a whole lot of variety, I do respect places that focus on doing things well, even if there are only six of those things.

Bottom Line: Decent BYO with French inspiration.  Certainly worth checking out.

2218 Frankford Ave
PhiladelphiaPA 19125(215) 634-5666

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hap's Grill - Salisbury, NC

Hot dogs "all the way": Nathan's dogs on white squishy buns topped with onions, mustard, and chili.  Goes great with with the soda, Cheerwine.

I'm glad I finally got to make it to Hap's.  It's a small town eight food wide joint that's reminiscent of another time.  Visiting here is tasty, but it's more about the experience.  The bun warmer looks like it's been kicking around for over 30 years.  Everything is made on a griddle right in front of you as you order.  It's simply classic in here.

Expect a line out the door during weekends or meal times.  Also, Hap's is hard to miss; patrons stand outside eating their dogs since there's no room inside.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Era is a wonderful mixture: a beautiful oval shaped bar, drunk life-long neighborhood residents, delicious food, young "edgy" college students, and cheap prices.  This is a spot where you can watch baseball, meet weirdos, and play quizzo; all at the same time.  After drinking at Era several times, I've finally dined there too.

Era is a great spot.  The bar is one of my favorites in the city, in terms of construction.  It's long, round, and right in the center of the room.  A friendly bar tender pops up and down it pouring beers and serving up the ubiquitous city wide special.  Familiar craft beers like Yards are on tap, and the keg of SlyFox 113 IPA seems to be endless.  With a pool table to boot, Era already has the makings of a decent and interesting bar.

But the menu!  Delicious Ethiopian food is servered up for lunch and dinner, and the entrees top out at $12.  Vegetarian, chicken, beef, and lamb (the only real disappointment here, as it was much too tough) are all represented on the menu with different spices and sauces.  When you order, you meal comes out on a huge plate covered in injera, an Ethiopian pancake like bread.  You dig in with your hands and make a delicious mess.  And it's honestly more food than one person can reasonably eat.

Bottom Line: Era is weird, Era is cheap, Era has good food.  The service is lax, but the whole experience is unique.  I like it.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


After a long hiatus (thanks grad school) I found some time to write about my best dining experience in a while.

Other than a bit of an identity crisis, Paloma is fantastic.  Honestly, it's been quite some time since I've felt compelled to tell so many people about my dinner.  Paloma defines itself as "Haute Mexican," while Zagat and Yelp both give a nod to French.  Honestly, it's a fusion restaurant that does have leanings towards Mexican with the glazes and spices, whatever you call it: it's damn good.

I dined at Paloma on a thursday night, and it was oddly empty inside; only two other tables.  Still, the decor is nice.  Steve, our server, has an excellent knowledge of wines.  Bring a few bottles and he'll be able to pair one best with whatever you order.  The service overall is fantastic.

During week days, Paloma runs a 3 course fixe prix menu at an even-better-than Restaurant Week $30. it's BYO to boot, so this is really one of the finest places you can dine on a budget.  Even the regular menu is filled with reasonably priced options.

I started with the mushroom flan and my date had the Caesar salad.  Both were great, just depends on how you want to start you meal. The portion on the salad was generous.

I had a 12 oz New York strip in a red wine reduction.  The chef recommends medium rare, and I heartily second that.  This dish is fantastic.  My date had the salmon glazed with hoisin and chipotle, which was also a really great choice.  Any dish will likely be of high quality.

Bottom Line: I can almost taste my food again by just writing this.  Bella Vista BYO offers delicious food with one of the city's best "bang for your buck" deals.  Get here soon.

763 S 8th St (at Christian)
(215) 928-9500 and on opentable
BYO: Yes
Cash Only: No

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


(As this semester gets even more busy, I will neglect writing here.  But here's a recent snippet)

I'm really down with Stateside.  A good happy hour is one of the quickest ways to my heart, and Stateside has one of the best.  5-7 M-F the decent beer list, which is already reasonably priced, is half off.  To top it off, dollar oysters are served up by the plateful.

The atmosphere here is pretty cool, they're going for the classy 1950s era where cocktails were king.  The bartenders are dressed smartly, and the whole concept just seems to work.

For the food, none of the small plates are large enough or tasty enough to leave a memorable impression.  It's good at the time; but that's about the best I can say.  I won't be back for a meal any time soon.

The staff is working out some kinks to this new place, and the space is small, but I'm down.  The new American tapas is an interesting concept, albeit a bit pricey.  At the very least, check it out for happy hour before this place gets mobbed.

*On Passyunk just north of Tasker St.