May 10, 2015

Burger Grease: the Key to One of Philly's Best Cheesesteaks?

John's, Dalessandro's, Pat's, Joe's Steaks... Spot Burgers?

Yes, that's right. One of Philadelphia's best burger trucks also serves up one of the best cheesesteaks in town today. Philly Mag gave Spot Burgers a Best of Philly cheesesteak honor in 2014 and we could not agree more.

The sandwich is packed with a 1/2 lb of roughly chopped, seasoned rib eye inside a long, soft and chewy roll from Conshohocken Italian Bakery. Some might prefer a denser roll, but the softness here enables clean bites and soaks in the cheesesteak juice. We recommend ordering with American cheese and grilled onions.

Spot Burgers' secret ingredient in our minds is burger grease. Firing up the cheesesteaks on the same flat top as some of Philly's best burgers adds the slightest burger flavor you don't get at other dedicated cheesesteak shops. The inaugural bite of our Spot cheesesteak was one of the few "wow" food moments we've had in a while. And it stayed that good until the last bite. Gotta love that such mighty flavor comes out of the tiniest yellow box on wheels.

Spot Burger is looking to open a permanent joint with the help of a GoFundMe campaign so here's hoping they continue to serve up this cheesesteak! For now, follow Spot Burgers on Twitter or Facebook to know where they're headed next.

May 1, 2015

A First Look at Tria Fitler Square

The Fitler Square neighborhood shed a quick tear last year upon learning that our beloved Dmitri's was leaving the corner of 23rd & Pine. We weren't regulars but that place sure was popular and an anchor of the hyper-local culture.

In a blog post, Bradd and I offered up eight restaurants that should replace Dmitri's - everything from a re-emergence of our favorite Koo Zee Doo to a Philly outpost of Zeppoli - but we didn't expect Tria to jump on the chance to open yet another wine bar. With two other Tria locations already close by, admittedly we were a little disappointed in the news. However... after giving it a first try we have to say we're excited to go back.

What's most appealing about Tria Fitler Square is the sidewalk seating and extra windows along 23rd Street, opening up the restaurant to great natural light, airflow and a view of its lovely namesake Fitler Square. What's going to be frustrating are the crowds. A no reservation policy = wait lists, especially this first summer. Go early or be prepared to wait, even for a bar seat. It was nice to see the hostess willing to track down people waiting across the street in the park.

The new Tria offers a similar wine, beer, cheese and snacks menu to its sister bars, including some recognizable bruschettas. You can't go wrong with any of the bruschetta; our go-to is the comforting pistachio-herbed ricotta with lavender honey ($4½ for two pieces). As for the cheese menu, go with whatever jumps out at you, or ask the knowledgeable staff for recommendations.

Pistachio-herbed ricotta with lavender honey on toast
Montealva Curado, a goat's milk cheese from Spain

What's different at Tria Fitler Square are the 'medium plates." Too cool to be called entrees yet appropriately named for their portion size, the two we had were pretty darn delicious.

Grilled octopus with orzo salad, golden raisins, chili and citrus-mint yogurt ($18) is Tria's homage to the crowd favorite dish at Dmiti's. It's a perfect, lighter plate for summer, drawing us both to pick at every last nibble so none of the flavors would go to waste. Hand-rolled ricotta cavatelli with asparagus and Castelvetrano olives in a hazelnut brown butter ($14) could have used slightly more punch, maybe even just more salt, but was still a really pleasant way to round out our meal.

Grilled octopus over orzo salad and citrus-mint yogurt
Hand-rolled ricotta cavatelli

With some time off this spring/summer to raise a newborn (yikes), I'm hoping to roll the stroller right up to an outside table at happy hour. Contrary to our initial hesitations, Tria Fitler Square will be a nice spot to relax with a glass of wine, grab a good quality bite and enjoy the scene.

April 25, 2015

Can Jose Garces Bring the Baja to Philly?

Fast casual set up at Buena Onda. Bit of a line on a weeknight!
Buena Onda is Jose Garces' latest Philly opening at 19th & Callowhill, bringing his local empire to 12 restaurants. It's his most casual, "inspired by the fresh, tranquil, do-it-your-way spirit of Mexico's Baja peninsula." Order at a counter, pick your own seat and they'll bring out your food.

Having been to La Paz, the gorgeous Baja beach town 3 hours north of Cabo where we feasted on heavenly ceviches and fish tacos caught that same day, we had much more reasonable expectations for Buena Onda. It didn't exactly transport us back to the Baja, but we have to say "fresh" was the best word that came to mind after our visit and the ambiance did give off a more tranquil vibe than most fast casual joints.

Tacos de Pescado Por Favor!

With fish tacos at the center of the menu, we tried each - Atlantic mahi mahi, jumbo pacific shrimp and the catch of the day (perch). You choose to have the fishes fried or tequila-lime glazed, and all are served with a chipotle remoulade, avocado, red cabbage and jícama slaw in a house made flour tortilla. Both of us really enjoyed the light tequila-lime glaze on the mahi mahi and the shrimp, and the fry batter on the perch was similarly airy but flavorful. Might as well split up your order and try some of each.

Mahi mahi, perch and carne asada tacos
Shrimp and carnitas tacos

Off the meat tacos menu, Bradd  liked his chili-glazed carne, served with chile de arbol, queso fresco and cilantro in a corn tortilla, but had to improvise when the bottom quickly fell out. He made good use of both house sauces on the table, a spicy tomato and a salsa verde, to punch things up, too. I was a big fan of the pineapple topping that gives Garces' carnitas taco a tropical twist. The menu also includes quesadillas, tortilla soup and other smaller items, as well as margaritas and beer.

Chips and salsa, always a pleaser

I wouldn't call the shrimp "jumbo" but other than that, our only major feedback is that we'd love to see more tables out on the sidewalk. Pizzeria Vetri is two doors away and has quadruple the outside seating.

Could Garces have offered a more innovative food experience? Sure. For a chef of his acclaim, Bueno Onda isn't exactly the next Garces destination. But the ingredients were fresh and balanced each other out well - it was a solid, light dinner for a nice spring night. If we lived within walking distance, we'd be back more quickly. Given the short line that formed by 7pm, the Callowhill neighborhood doesn't disagree.

For 3 fish at $3.50 each, 2 meat at $3 each, salsa and chips ($5), and a margarita ($7), our bill was $31. Not bad, but not cheap when compared to South Philly taquerias. In the end, Bueno Onda is not trying to be the next El Jarocho so give it a try if you're feeling fishy one night this summer.

April 18, 2015

40 Local Food Blogs to Follow Around the World

If you're anything like us, food is a very important part of your travel plans. Whether we're on the road for work or flying halfway across the world for fun, we always try to sample the best local food.

That's why the coolest thing about traveling to London, San Francisco and New Orleans with Chowzter over the past two years has been meeting all the other contributors from around the world. They write blogs, run tours and share incredible photos of the local food/culture that we're dying to experience.

Even better, we've realized that they are just like you and me - regular people who love to eat/drink, love their cities and love the communities that are built around food. That's the perspective we trust and want to lead us to our next meal.

If you're traveling to any of the following cities this summer, please check out these great local writers we've met for their posts, videos, podcasts, tweets, instagrams, etc. with ideas on what to eat. And remember that much of what they write about are "fast feasts" - not fast food and not fine dining, but all the great local, affordable dishes in between (can you say Rotolo?) And if you don't see your destination city here, check out and their new video site for quick suggestions in about 100 other cities.

Best croissant in Paris at Grenier a Pain,
as told by Paris blogger Mathilde!
North America:

Austin - Man Up Texas BBQ
(great name! he does BBQ tours too)
Buffalo - Buffalo Eats
Charleston - Charleston Food Bloggers
(check out his video of San Francisco, too)
Chicago - Roam & Home
Dallas - FoodBitch
Detroit - The Hungry Dudes
Houston - Urban Swank
Los Angeles - Gourmet Pigs  
New York - Feisty Foodie
Orlando - Tasty Chomps
Portland - Talk. Eat. Drink. Portland.
(middle school teachers write on happy hours!)
Queens - Chopsticks & Marrow
San Diego - Kirbie's Cravings   
San Francisco - FoodHoe's Foraging
Savannah - Savannah Foodie
Seattle - The Gastrognome
St. Louis - St. Louis East and Drinks
Toronto - Food Junkie Chronicles  
Vancouver - Follow Me Foodie
Washington, DC - Capital Cooking

Around the World:

Bankok, Thailand - Thai Street Food
Barcelona, Spain - Forever Barcelona (hosts food tours!)
Baja California and western Mexico - A Gringo in Mexico
Beirut - No Garlic No Onions
Bristol, England - Bristol Bites
Buenos Aires, Argentina - Pick Up the Fork
Caracas, Venezuela - Milsabores
Dubai - Ishita Unblogged
Glasgow, Scotland - The Glasgow Food Blog
Hanoi, Vietnam - Sticky Rice
Istanbul, Turkey - Istanbul Food
Jakarta, Indonesia - Eats and Treats
London, England - Eat Like a Girl
Manila, Philippines - Our Awesome Planet
Mumbai, India - Finely Chopped
Paris, France - Mathilde's Cuisine
Puebla, Mexico - All About Puebla
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - Eat Rio
Seoul, South Korea - Seoul Eats
Singapore - Camemberu
Sydney, Australia - Simon Food Favourites
All around Latin America - New World Review

April 3, 2015

Friday Food Photos: 3 Spots to Grab Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner this Weekend in Philadelphia

Happy Friday! It's 60 degrees out, Easter weekend and we're starting to spot some flowers... could spring finally be here?? It felt like this day would never come... 

Time to shake off winter hibernation mode and get back out on the food scene. Here are three Friday food photos to inspire your next breakfast, lunch and dinner around town. 

Breakfast: Breakfast Burrito from Cafe Ynez. Despite all the great food options around Graduate Hospital, we'd been missing a good Mexican restaurant until Cafe Ynez opened last year. Brunch was the immediate draw and I can vouch that the giant, stuffed breakfast burrito is worth the trip. All the ingredients tasted very fresh and none overpowered their companions. (Overkill on rice or beans can be so frustrating.) It comes vegetarian with scrambled eggs, refried beans, pico de gallo, good guacamole, sour cream and rice in a flour tortilla but you can add any meat you'd like - I highly recommend the carnitas. Their homemade Mexican hot chocolate also hit the spot and friends were very pleased with the huevos rancheros.