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Posts from the ‘Pennsylvania’ Category


Eschewing the usual Pat's and Geno's for more adventurous territory, we
headed out Torresdale Avenue in search of the unfortunately named Chink's.
After getting lost in all sorts of pockets of shady NW Philly, we finally
made it to Chink's just in time for them to put a sign in the window saying
that they'd run out of food(!?).

Plan B: Second best name, Chubby's, clear on the other side of town. Oh
well. Theses joints must form in clusters, as another cheesesteak purveyor,
D'Alessandro's is right across the street a la Geno's and Pat's. I chose
Chubby's since it wasn't as packed and appeared to be the comfier of the
two: wood paneling, booths, table service, cold bottles of Yuengling and
ashtrays galore. My kind of place.

I did the cheesesteak with mushrooms. James was adventurous, trying the
cheesesteak with pepperoni, which somehow differs from a pizza steak, which
was also on the menu. That's a head scratcher. What's the difference between
a cheesesteak with pepperoni and a pizza steak? Tomato sauce? The meat is
chopped rather than sliced, which isn't bad, just a minor deviation. Next
time it's Chink's or bust. (8/10/02)

Chubby's * 5826 Henry Ave., Philadelphia, PA

Pho Xe La

This was a random choice, yet a good one. I did my best to steer clear of
the chop suey looking joints that seemed straight out of 1964. Fun for
kitsch value, perhaps, but I wasn't sure about the food. I'd previously
eaten at Rangoon, the Burmese place, and there was
no way I was going for the Penang mediocrity I could
get here in NY.

My attention was drawn to a bustling Viet-Thai (heavy on the
viet) place with a cute neon train in the window. The hopping crowds were
right. I love a place with endless subtle variations on dishes like pho and
bun. You could scour the menu forever trying to get just the right combo of
additions. I eventually settled on the bun with egg roll, bbq pork and
shrimp paste on sugar cane. The rainbow ice and beef jerky papaya salad were
also nice accompaniments. James ordered the non-descript pork with black
pepper. What came out was a metal dish of pork belly in an angry boiling
broth. We couldn't figure out how to put out the flames underneath, which
was scary for a moment. I don't think all that pork fat could possibly be
good for a person. My only guess is that it was intended for sharing, not
devouring by yourself.

PhoXe Lua Viet-Thai Restaurant* 907 Race St.,

Tommy DeNic’s

Now this is what I call a sandwich. The roast pork with provolone is
amazing, flavorful and enough for two meals. I got the greens too, which can
put the whole thing over the top sog-wise. Be prepared for a delicious mess.
You'd never know anything special was coming from this lunch counter in the
middle of Reading Terminal Market. I guess that's why you've got to sample
like a madman. Too bad a stomach can only hold so much.

Tommy DeNic's * ReadingTerminal Market,
12th and Arch St., Philadelphia, PA


A big part of going to Philadelphia was being able to try things they don't
have here. New York is totally a food mecca, but they aren't known for their
Burmese food (I know there's Cafe Mingala in the East Village, but I've
never heard a good word about it). I wanted to see what sort of items would
come out of a Thai-Indian cross breeding.

The curries, fritters and use of potatoes and flat bread seemed Indian,
while the basil, peanut sauce and lemongrass were clearly Thai. I'd say that
most of the dishes leaned towards the Indian camp, though.

We ordered an appetizer of bar-b-q beef with thousand layer bread, which
was kabobs of grilled beef, onions and peppers served over a buttery flat
bread (almost like a hammered out Pillsbury biscuit). We also had Rangoon
night market noodles, which were very plain, though not surprising since
this has been described as food for workers. The noodles were egg and had a
light sprinkling of scallions and pork and an oil dressing. It came with a
spicy, vinegary cabbage carrot condiment, but I wasn't sure if this was
supposed to be added or eaten separately like a slaw. Additionally, we tried
the pork with mango pickle curry, which was a curry of the thin soupy
variety that goes well with lots of rice.

James ordered Burmese tea since it was freezing outside, and I didn't
realize until after left that it was on the dessert menu. That made sense
since it was sweet and rich from condensed milk. What I didn't get was why
the tea was a creamy orange-pink color. I assumed it was from whatever
spices were in it, but who's to say.

I'd heard that Burmese food tended to be bland. Maybe bland wasn't the
exact word, but I'd agree that the flavors are not strong. Nothing was
heavily spiced or kicky. Many of the dishes appeared fairly straightforward
and simple, but this wasn't disappointing. There just weren't any extremes
such as hot, sweet or tangy, which I'm usually drawn to. It's the kind of
thing where you need to sample more than just a few items before coming to
any conclusions. I certainly can't say that my first meal of 2001 was a
bust. (1/1/01)

Burmese, Cambodian, Laotian-it's all southeast Asian food that I'm not
experienced enough with to be nit picky. I don't think the NYC renditions
are all that remarkable, so I wish I had more time to explore the menu at
Rangoon. I'm intrigued by the salads, particularly the tea leaf one. I think
I prefer Thai, but I'd probably choose Burmese over Indian. It's hard to
resist a their thousand layer bread with potato curry dip, which is really
the same thing as Malaysian roti canai. And they serve inexpensive wine,
which is a plus if you have your vegetarian visiting-from-England sister and
her boyfriend in tow. Those Brits like to drink (and eat lots of tofu).

Rangoon* 112 North Ninth St., Philadelphia, PA


Pat's claims to be the birthplace of the cheesesteak, and who am I to doubt?
Pat's is plain, white and less flashy than Geno's
across the street. I was scared off on New Year's eve by their lack of
business, but on Jan 1. they seemed to be on equal footing. I'd learned my
lesson the hard way the night before and I was determined to order properly
this time.

The tone at Pat's was even more no-nonsense, the line seemed to move
quicker and they didn't even bother to close the sliding window while making
the order. I was shaking in my boots. I sauntered up to the counter and said
with relative confidence, "cheez whiz steak with." I balked at saying "wit"
out of fear that they'd know I wasn't a local and think I was parodying the
colloquialism. But it seemed to do the trick. I was presented with a huge,
juicy, processed cheese-filled sandwich in mere seconds. James made the
mistake of saying "cheez whiz steak with onions." He added the onions
part and got a measly sandwich. I felt pretty smug with my prize specimen.

I was pleased that Pat's had napkins, but they serve their cheesteaks on
an open piece of paper where Geno's wraps theirs up. This would not be a
problem if they were to be immediately consumed, but our intent was to take
them home with us for later (James went as far as also going to Geno's to
get two for the road). We wrapped them tightly in newspaper and stuffed them
in our bags. And even after a two hour car ride, a harrowing trek through
the icy streets of Orange, New Jersey (where we dropped the rental car off)
to the train, and the subsequent subway ride, the cheesteaks held up! We did
have to re-warm them, but their Philly-ness was not lost in transit.

Pat'sKing of Steaks *
1237 E. Passyunk Ave., Philadelphia, PA


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