July 4, 2015

Sidecar Delivers Sandwich Quest Hit with Beer Can Chicken

Sidecar has been a Graduate Hospital favorite for as long as we've lived in the neighborhood. With a lengthy, rotating beer list and a simple, straightforward food menu, it's easy to understand why.

The menu was completely revamped last June to focus primarily on double-stacked burgers, a move we initially found perplexing since you can get a great burger at so many places today. We've since grown to accept the change with some help from Sidecar's neighborhood-friendly decision to keep several other go-to crowd pleasers on the menu, such as the BBQ pulled pork and the clam chowder that was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives in 2013.

An overlooked gem, though, is Sidecar's beer can chicken sandwich.

The two-hands-required sandwich is unlike most of the pulled chicken I've had over the years. Rather than being dried out, the chicken is done right, with the juices and rich flavor of chicken plus beer shining throughout. Sharp provolone is also expertly mixed with onions throughout the sandwich, while long hots on top of the Goldilocks variety (not too hot, not too bland).

The surprising kicker was the snowflake bun, which I don't recall having before. Light and airy with a hint of chewiness, it does a great job holding the sandwich together, while soaking in the juices.

The result is an instant Sandwich Quest favorite.

June 13, 2015

Where to Brunch in Graduate Hospital: Little Spoon Cafe

Little Spoon Cafe took over the corner of 15th & South in October, adding a nice brunch option to South Street West's emerging restaurant row. It was clearly needed in the quickly growing family neighborhood - wait times instantly soared during peak hours.

Our first visit to Little Spoon was packed with great bites. On the savory side, their version of a Monte Cristo sandwich, made with honey ham, smoked gouda, fried egg and jalapeno mayo on country white bread, was as good as it looks below and the egg scramble of the day, almond pesto, added a hint of creativity and a lot of great flavor to otherwise standard eggs. The breakfast burrito also hit the spot, but know that it's served with the potatoes inside the wrap making it quite a large endeavor!

Monte Cristo
Breakfast Burrito

The bacon waffle, which understandably draws a lot eyeballs on the menu right away, was, well, a waffle that tastes like bacon. Might be just the thing for you, but to us it was not as special as it sounds like it should be, so temper your expectations there.

Winner!! Carrot Cake Waffle
Sweet dishes always catch the attention of brunchers, and at Little Spoon the carrot cake waffle was one of the best parts of our meal. It wasn't overly sweet, even with the dollop of cream cheese icing on top and maple syrup. The waffle had just enough of that comforting, familiar carrot cake flavor without making you feel like you were actually eating cake for breakfast.

The only disappointment was the cheese plate. It rotates all the time but on our particular day the two cheeses just weren't thrilling. Also, it's not the best thing to order on a hot day, especially if you snag one of the couple tables in Little Spoon's back courtyard. Maybe save that for cooler weather brunches.

I've stopped in Little Spoon other times for quick take out, too. On the warm morning of the Broad Street Run, their Death By Sunshine smoothie (a Dominican-inspired smoothie with orange juice, pineapple juice, mango sorbet, soy milk and vanilla) hit the spot while I watched Bradd run, but my bacon, egg and cheese on a bagel did not. The bagel either wasn't toasted enough or sat too long before being stuffed and served to me - too common of a problem when getting breakfast sandwiches to go from any cafe. I need to remember that in the moment.

Little Spoon is definitely worth a little bit of a wait on a nice morning and a welcome brunch addition to the neighborhood, serving a hearty mix of traditional brunch items and fun, creative dishes. Also serves lunch food, which we hope to try sometime this summer, too!

Outdoor tables behind Little Spoon - cute area, look for their homegrown herbs!

June 2, 2015

5 Questions with Adam Richman of Man Finds Food

Adam Richman has traversed the country in search of culinary gems, eating challenges and America’s best sandwiches through his popular Travel Channel series Man vs Food and the Best Sandwich in America contest.

Of course, Philadelphians know that he named DiNic’s roast pork the best sandwich in America so he clearly knows his sandwiches.

His new show, Man Finds Food will air a Philly-focused show tomorrow night, June 3. Several sneak peak videos and photos are posted on the Travel Channel website.

We had the chance to catch up with Adam to discuss Man Finds Food, Philly’s food scene, a Philly-based dumpling idea and even some soccer.

It was a refreshing interview as Adam is a down to earth food hunting celebrity who clearly has much love for Philadelphia.

What follows is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation. Hope you enjoy!

Tell us about Man Finds Food and what you’re hoping to provide viewers with the concept? 

AR: The greatest thing about Man vs Food was that it gave people a little bit of a road map for iconic good, quality local eats that are revered by locals so you don’t fall into tourist traps. Man Finds Foods is more representational than presentational. So Man vs Food was all about the spectacles and the big challenges and stuff, but Man Finds Food is much more about what is actually in the city and showing places that locals themselves may not know about or dishes instead of very famous ones.

The other thing is showing my crew. Breaking the fourth wall by making the search for places as real as possible and being honest about the way things taste or where they are. Man vs Food was like telling you where to eat, where Man Finds Food is like giving the keys to the car to everybody so everyone gets to know what the special thing is.

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.