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Oh, Pod…where to begin. Somehow the idea for a Philly excursion developed,
cheesesteaks were in there somewhere, but that's about as far as the
planning got. When it ended up that Philadelphia was going to be my New
Year's eve destination, a foofier meal choice seemed in order (though
cheesesteaks did not go unsampled). I tried coming up with a hip, trendy,
designy option–the sort of place that would rub me all the wrong ways in
Manhattan, but seemed palatable in a smaller city. Pod fit this bill to a
tee, all white, mod, squishy, gimmicky and seemingly fun. That sushi
conveyer belt and user-controlled colorful lighting really got me.

But they were booked for New Year's eve so I settled for Sat. the 30th.
However, that crazy nor' easter (what the hell is a nor' easter [however you
spell it] anyway?!) thwarted my travel plans and I had to scramble to try
and change our reservations. And without consulting each other, James just
happened to make reservations at the hotel attached to the restaurant
(actually the restaurant is more attached to the hotel) so this fateful
coincidence further cemented the idea that I had to eat at Pod.
Luckily, we finagled new reservations for 11:30, which seems late, but being
a midnight type holiday, it wasn't so bad.

The place was hopping, but not terribly packed and the pretention-level
was much lower than I'd expected. We got a mini booth against the wall and
ordered Blue and Green drinks (that's what they were called: Red, Purple,
etc.–some drunk girl wanted to know what I was drinking and I said Green,
which caused all sorts of confusion), which I was thrilled with on a purely
aesthetic level. Green is my favorite color, and the drink just happened to
be made with Stoli Vanil (my favorite liquor) and lime and orange juice
(none of which explained the emerald green color.

The waitstaff in their white turtle necks and blue and orange Dickies (I
was trying to figure out the meaning behind the people who wore blue pants
vs. the orange and came to the conclusion that it was arbitrary) were
friendly and helpful, if not a little too much so (I know, would I rather
have disagreeable and snotty?). They explained more than necessary (this
didn't really bother me, but James was irked that they used the term
"family-style" and described what that meant), but then, the restaurant is
new and maybe people in Philadelphia don't get out much.

I ordered the small sushi plate, which really wasn't all that small. I'm
not a sushi expert in the least so I can't say what all my rolls were. I was
impressed with the one filled with shrimp tempura, and was pleasantly
surprised by the tofu, which was very sweet and custardy. James had Peking
duck, which came with a hom bao and some little bits that I think may have
been sweet potatoes (I didn't taste them–breaking that family-style
suggestion). We split a gooey, caramely-chocolately hazelnut tart that was
all architecturally presented, and did a champagne toast at midnight.

All in all, it was a festive, appropriate choice. I would've enjoyed
staying longer, but as I often have to remind myself when travelling, the
entire world doesn't serve alcohol until 4am.

Pod* 3636 Sansom St.,
Philadelphia, PA


From what I'd gathered during my extensive Philly research, it appeared that
there was a rivalry between Geno's and Pat's since
they're across the street from each other and both do a booming cheesesteak
business. I got the impression that Geno's was rowdier, more of a late-night
drunk food hang out.

We poked around both early on New Year's eve and there was a crowd at
Geno's (I'm always scared of places with no customers) so we ate there
first. I'd also read that there was an ordering protocol, along the lines of
the Soup Nazi so I was a bit nervous. And of course, I botched my order. I
knew that Cheez Whiz was the default cheese and that you could also get
American cheese or provolone. This is the first component of the order, you
must specify cheese choice. "Wit" means with, which means you want it with

I got up my nerve, approached the take-out window, got my money out
(they're brusque and wait for no one) and repeated what the guy ahead of me
said, "steak with," which got me a steak sandwich with onions, yet no
cheese, which is the whole point of a cheesesteak! Duh, I didn't say cheese
because I thought that was a given (and I was mimicking the previous
customer, thinking he knew what he was doing). It was perfectly fine, but
not a cheesesteak. My only complaint was the peculiar absence of
napkins (I'm so not an eat-with-my-hands person). I gobbled it down in the
freezing cold and rehearsed how I'd order at Pat's later. (12/31/00)

I always forget to mention when I go to Geno's. I seem to be there at
least twice a year. They give you napkins and bags now, which is a plus when
you're transporting a near trunk load of cheesesteaks back to NYC. But the
best part of bringing my visiting from out-of-country sister to Philly for
no good reason was seeing a fight break out between a big, drunk oaf and the
Geno's staff. (4/29/04)

Geno's* 1219 S. Ninth St.,
Philadelphia, PA


This seems an odd second dining choice compared to my first, Outback
Steakhouse in New Jersey. But after being quoted an hour wait (and feeling
tears well up–I'm serious, it was an emotional evening), I had to go to
plan B, and Relish was vaguely on the route from New Jersey to Queens.

Actually, it was a fine, solid choice. sat in the back lounge, had a
lamb chimichanga (which wasn't much like a "real" [as if there is such a
thing as an authentic chimichanga] one) appetizer with a sort of hominy
sauce/soup and prepared for the impending blizzard. I had a thick, meaty
pork chop with a rich oniony sauce and potato pancakes with apple sauce.
This is food food. I left full, but not overwhelmingly so.

Relish * 225 Wythe St., Brooklyn, NY

Plan-Eat Thai

I hate to be one of those people that goes on about how an original location
was better than the new incarnation, but really, Planet Thai has gotten too
damn big for its britches. The thing is, the food's perfectly good, but the
service leaves much to be desired. I don't know who they're trying to be,
but it seems ridiculous to wait 45 min. on a Thurs. night in Brooklyn (or
anywhere for that matter). They've got the requisite art on the walls and a
clientele weighing heavily towards the (not-so) lovable mop-topped hipster
contingent. Maybe the folks from the nabe (god, that's a gross word) think
it's cool to stand around sipping $6 well drinks, waiting for a table, but I
could do without.

They have a fairly extensive Japanese menu, which I've never tried (that
a majority of the diners seemed to be ordering from). I stuck with the Thai
side, choosing fried spring rolls (a measly two rolls for $3.95) and steamed
mussels with lemongrass and basil (huge for the same $3.95) as appetizers.
For entrees we got a super spicy beef with basil and a tangy order of
tamarind squid. I wasn't disappointed by a single item. Unfortunately, once
we received our food, our waitress made herself scarce Even eye-contact and
later, arm-waving, couldn't get our water glasses re-filled or new beers

For the most part, the food is the real deal, not some fusion-y take on
Thai. But this isn't your typical formica table, vinyl-padded chair,
hole-in-the-wall. You'll get exposed brick walls, thumping drum and bass,
photos of naked people and the lax who-cares attitude inherent to that

Plan-EatThai * 141 N Seventh St., Brooklyn, NY

Excellent Dumpling House

After a hectic day of Christmas shopping, a nice warm bowl of soup seemed to
be in order. I was on the fringes of Chinatown and not in the mood for major
walking so popped into this place that seemed to have a tourist vibe. Like
people had travel guides out and none of the clientele were Asian. That's
not usually a good sign, but I wasn't scared.

I tried to find something outside of the hot and sour, egg drop soup
vein and chose a beef stew. It was actually pretty good, similar to a dish
I'd had at Sweet 'n' Tart Cafe before, very home-style with big chunks of
meat and lots of preserved vegetables and thick noodles. Like something
you'd expect someone to make for their family. also ordered dumplings since
they were in the name of the place. I wouldn't necessarily say they were
excellent, but there wasn't anything wrong with them either.

The only disturbing part of the meal concerned the group of people in
the corner who ordered fish and obviously didn't expect it to come whole
with the head on. That wasn't the disturbing part. It was later when I had
to use the bathroom and waited for a good 15 minutes for the disgruntled
fish-head lady to get out. I couldn't stand it anymore and jumped into the
men's room. One probably would do well to steer clear of a bathroom that's
been occupied for that length of time anyway. For some reason, I kept
envisioning a giant fish being in the toilet. There's nothing excellent
about that.

Excellent Dumpling House * 111 Lafayette St., New York, NY

Passage to India

I was under the impression that when someone got a new job they were
supposed to be taken out to dinner. When James got one I took him out. When
I got one, he claimed I was supposed to treat him. He had it all wrong and
so he conceded. However, on a Sat. night when I said I felt like Indian
food, I didn't mean that I wanted that to be my celebration dinner. But
that's what happened. Oh well, he pays for meals 75% of the time anyhow so I
can't really be too disgruntled.

Anyway, it was typical Sixth St. Indian food. Some curry, some naan,
some samosas. I needn't elaborate further.

Passageto India * 308 E. Sixth St., New York, NY

Bennie Thai Cafe

I just found out that's its real name. James always referred to it as
Benny's and all I could think of was Benny's Burritos, and that's one place
I could do without. It's been said this is the best Thai place around Wall
St., but I think that's because it's the only Thai place near Wall
St. Not to imply that it's bad, because it isn't at all.

I only tried two pretty standard dishes, pad thai and beef with basil.
Both were very eatable. It's the sort of pad thai that's sweet. I don't know
if that's authentic or Americanized, but I do like that flavor. It's not one
of those deals where you specify the filling you want, it automatically
comes with tofu, chicken, shrimp and those unidentifiable crispy, rich bits
of meat that I've had in Malaysian noodles. Pork would be a good guess.

An interesting feature is the open kitchen that looks like it was
directly transported from a '70's suburban home. Wood cabinets, earth-toned
formica counters, and a regular no-frills stove are always a welcome sight.

Stopped in for a little basil chicken and red curry after guiltily
peeking at the World Trade Center wreckage while trying to not seem like a
gawker. Enjoying Thai with the smell of burnt who-knows-what in the air may
seem like a challenge, but it's not impossible. (10/9/01)

Take out green curry and E3 (basil chicken that James insists is the
best) made for good casual Fri. night dining. (2/15/02)

I hadn't been here in a million years, but it was 5pm Friday and I thought
I'd meet James near his office. Les Halles was bandied about initially, yet
somehow we settled on Bennie's even though we'd already eaten toned down
Thai two nights before (and 9D didn't serve pork
either–what gives? Thais eat pork). I'm not crazy about Bennie's, though
James has a sick fondness for E3, gai pad krapao, chile and basil
chicken, because it was the first version he ever had. Gai pad krapao
has become known as E3 ever since, even at other restaurants, and even in
other countries such as Thailand where they don't know much about E's or 3s,
but still whip up a mean version (usually served a lunch dish with a fried
egg on top).

I decided to try something other than a curry and ended up with an oddball
called rama dish, described as "sauted beef or chicken topped with peanut
sauce on the green." What arrived was a slew of vegetables like carrots,
Chinese broccoli, and baby corn mixed with beef strips and caked in peanut
sauce, served with a steak knife. Not thinned down nutty curry like penang,
which was what I'd anticipated, but the thick stuff used for satay dip. A
little goes a long way, you don't necessarily want mouthful after mouthful
of the sweet ochre condiment. It was weird, though not hideous, to say the

I felt unsettled by the fact that nearly every diner that evening was huge
(and that they were playing an all Christmas music station). I'm not tiny,
myself, and maybe that's why I don't want to be associated with a room full
of obese people eating fried rice and pad thai with chopsticks (I think we
were the only ones not eating pad thai or using chopsticks, including our
waitress). It's my own insecurity and I shouldn't fault Bennie's for drawing
inexplicably hefty patrons. (11/18/05)

Bennie Thai Cafe * 88 Fulton St., New York, NY

Funky Broome

Broome due to its Broome Street location and funky…well, because it's sort
of funky, I suppose. From the glowing pink and green plexiglass to the
marinated goose intestines–that is Funky Broome.

There are some Chinese restaurant standards on the menu, but I was more
intrigued by the mini woks, hot pots and their liberal use of lychees and
macadamia nuts. I also couldn't take my eyes off the tank of eels and
craggy, warty looking fish–especially since I was sitting right next to it,
up close and personal.

We got a hot pot of taro and chicken, which was rich, casserole-like and
included the title items, but was also spiked with cilantro, the
aforementioned macadamia nuts and meaty mushrooms. If that wasn't hearty
enough, I also picked the duck liver and pork sausage with rice in a fake
bamboo serving dish (even though I knew I'd be the only one eating it). How
can you not like Chinese sausage? A nice light addition were the salt and
pepper prawns that came with a sprinkling of jalepeno, which is always a
welcome touch.

I don't know if the planets were aligning in a peculiar way, but that
evening Funky Broome was a magnet for friends of James's that I only know in
passing. On the approach he spied some guy he went to college with who I'd
met once at a party. Then after getting seated and ordering he noticed a
coworker, Chris, sitting across the room and it turned into one of those do
I go over and say hi or make conversation when I pay the bill sorts of
dilemmas. And then next thing I knew, a different coworker, Alan, was
standing next to our table. He'd seen us in the window, which is easy to
imagine since the place is lit up like a beacon.

If you're into eclectic Hong Kong cooking and are prepared to run into
people you may or may not want to converse with, you might want to add Funky
Broome to your Chinatown repertoire.

Funky Broome * 176 Mott St., New York, NY