Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006

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TJ Jackson
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2006/07/08 15:27:22 (permalink)

Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006

The wife only had 2 vacation days earned at her new job, but the Jackson family had not as a complete unit ever taken a vacation together and the oldest was heading for Kindergarten in the fall, so we decided to take an abbreviated vacation utilizing the 4th of July weekend to stretch our time off a bit. There was some haggling about destination, but I had identified[url='http://www.sesameplace.com/sesame/pa/index.aspx']Sesame Place[/url] the year before (when it turned out I couldn't go, but had a nice [url='http://www.roadfood.com/Forums/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=9018']Roadfood-ish week[/url] while the wife and kids were in Myrtle Beach) and the girls ages (3 and 4.5) seemed about right for this place this time around, and I had also identified the Pittsburgh Zoo as a particular small-kid-friendly Zoo (much moreso than the Cincinnati Zoo) so that's what we decided on. With thehelp of some Roadfooders here, particularly (but not limited to) Tricky and Cheesewit, I identified some roadfoods stops of interest more or less along the way. On Friday, June 30 we headed out shortly after work on our vacation, with our first stop in Cambridge Ohio. Nothing of interest here, I mention it only to be complete, as I had identified this place as having some inexpensive lodging and was about 3 hours out from Cincinati, meaning we'd arrive right about the kids bedtime with good progress made towards Pittsburgh. I won't tell you about the lovely and complimentary "continental" breakfast the next day, but I will say the gas station next door priced regular at 2.75, which was cheap for that particular time. Gassed up and full of cheap bagels, minimuffins, and generic cereal, we headed for Pittsburgh
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    TJ Jackson
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    RE: Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006 2006/07/08 16:07:34 (permalink)
    Part 1 - Pittsburgh - Breakfast at Pamela's - Sat July 1, 2006

    I may have mentioned at one time that what got me started here at Roadfood was watching a PBS special called[url='http://www.wqed.org/press/sandwiches.shtml']Sandwiches you will Like[/url]. Sandwiches from all over were shown and discussed - banh mi, cheesesteaks, chicago italian beef, lobster rolls, maid-rites, etc etc - great stuff, the kind of sandwiches that are part of the very heart of what Roadfood is all about. When the show was over, I started googling, particularly looking for the sandwiches that had been the subject of the show. It was then that I started learning about Cheesesteaks, about the lingo for ordering at Pat's and Geno's, whiz versus provolone, and so forth and so on. One of the pages I found while Googling was a roadfood thread about the best cheesesteaks. Within a few days I registered as a member, and the rest is history.

    Why do I mention all this? because I was determined to sample during this trip four more of the sandwiches highlighted by that show - the Isaly's chipped ham sandwich called "The Slammer", a real Philadelphia cheesesteak, a philadelphia italian hoagie and a philadelphia roast pork sandwich with rabe.

    On the other hand, my food interests over the years had also led me to [url='http://www.hollyeats.com/']Hollyeats.com[/url], and [url='http://www.wqed.org/press/print_img/san_holly_04_300.jpg']Holly[/url] (who lives in Philadelphia) had made some very interesting posts about Pittsburgh, including [url='http://www.hollyeats.com/Pamelas.htm']Pamela's Country Kitchen[/url], a small chain of breakfast joints that win a lot of "best breakfast awards in Pittsburgh. My wife barely tolerates my roadfood interests, but she loves breakfast - at any time of day. What better way to hook her in? So my targets were Isaly's and Pamela's, set around a day at the Pittsburgh Zoo for the kids.

    Pamela's Shadyside location is not more than 4 miles from the Zoo, which was very convenient, but parking in that area is troublesome, to say the least. There is a small public lot on the backside of the row of storefronts where Pamela's is located, and I'd check that first if you want to eat there. This is a very eclectic area, with lots of little unique stores, boutiques, and restaurants, many only accessible via stairs to the second floor. The only chain place I recall seeing was a drugstore on the end of one of the blocks. I dropped the wife off in front of Pamela's to secure our place on the waiting list (turned out to be 20-30 minutes), and went to find parking. We strolled the area to kill time, with my daughters practically begging to go into each and every store we passed, particularly ones with lots of expensive breakable stuff :-)

    What can I say about the food? Well first, due to an unfortunate computer mishap, all the pics I took prior to the hotel stay the night of July 1 - which includes everything in Pittsburgh - were lost. However, the corned beef hash was very good, but my wife declared that the apple-walnut crepes she had ordered were the single best breakfast she had ever had. EVER. :-) We also had a dish of thinly sliced fresh strawberries, which were excellent. The kids liked their plain pancakes, but heck, they like all pancakes, even McDonald's :-). My 4 year old also sampled her mommy's apples, but was insistent on "no walnuts, the squirrels eat those, mama"

    Here's pics from Holly's site, fairly representative of what we had



    So I highly reccommend the eats here, and Holly's rating is right on the money.

    Score one towards converting her to a Roadfooder!

    That said, a couple of quibbles:

    1) the noise level is there is as high as I have ever experienced in any eatery. I had to yell to be heard by wife or kids sitting 3 feet or less away from me. Clearly, space is at a premium here, but surely some sound baffling panels could be glued to the walls or something. If noisy restaurants are not your thing, I'd say this is not your kind of place.

    2) drinks came in to-go containers. The prices were/are high enough here to easily justify real drinking glasses. It's a minor quibble, to be sure, but when I am having a nice breakfast I don't like drinking out of a waxed paper cup.

    Oh, I should mention this is a cash-only joint. No checks, no cards of any kind.
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    TJ Jackson
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    RE: Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006 2006/07/08 16:09:01 (permalink)
    Part 2 - Pittsburgh - Isaly's - Sat July 1 2006

    Our bellies nicely full from our excellent breakfast, I would have preferred our stop at Isaly's to be later in the day, but Isaly's closes at 2pm, so I had to had over there to pick up sandwiches before we headed to the Zoo.

    The kids of course HATED this idea, and were quite expressive about it, particularly when we had to drive past the zoo to get to Isaly's. Multiple reassurances that we would get to the Zoo calmed them a bit, and the wife got a good laugh at my need to get "a plain old ham sandwich" as she saw it.

    Isaly's was once a very proud and fairly large chain in Pittsburgh, but most of the locations have shut down over the years, and the ones that remain open are not even mentioned on the[url='http://www.isalys.com']Isaly's web site[/url], where you can still mail order some of their products. A local fan of the chain has a bit more info about the chain on his [url='http://www.brianbutko.com/isaly.html']web site devoted to Isaly's[/url], but the site contains a lot of broken links and looks like it has not been updated in some time. Wikipedia has a fairly good [url='http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaly's']entry on Isaly's[/url], and is a good read - I printed it for my wife to read while we were on the road. I also found it very interesting that it was at Isaly's that the [url='http://www.unileverusa.com/ourbrands/foods/klondike.asp']Klondike Bar was invented[/url]. However, as you can see, none of these listings produces an address or a phone number for an Isaly's that remains open....ie one where I could snag their signature sandwich :-) Fortunately, roadfood member Tricky had some excellent connections in Pittsburgh, and was able to confirm with [url='http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/filmography.html?p_id=281991']Rick Sebak[/url] (who also produced specials on great hot dogs and ice cream around our country) that the West view location was still operating. From Tricky, I got the address and phone number.

    Isaly’s
    448 Perry Hwy
    Pittsburgh, PA 15229-1819, US
    (412) 931-9994 Open 6-2 M - Sa

    Again, I took pics, but they're gone. Suffice it to say this little store has lots of old-time character. It is a long and narrow space, with a deli up front, an old-fashioned soda fountain serving Isaly's own brand of ice cream in the middle, and a old fashioned grill in the back. Everything is out in view, and if you sit at the counter you can watch the grill cook make one Slammer after another on the small but crowded flat top grill.

    The Slammer (named supposedly because it is the last culinary treat many defendants eat before facing sentencing at the criminal court and jail directly across the street) is a large sandwich built on a bun roughly 7 inches in diameter. The cook drops a half pound or so of the Isaly's chip-chopped ham onto the grill, cooks it til the edges begin to char and the fats in the ham start to soften and melt, adds grilled onions, and tops it with your choice of cheese - typically american. Veggies and condiments are available and optional, and I waved those off, opting for one with american and one with swiss. While I watched the ham cook, I also glanced around the smallish dining area that runs alongside the wall opposite to the counters, and noted half or more of the diners each enjoying their own Slammer.

    What can I say? Heart attack on a bun for sure, but darn good eats :-) Every bit as good as I had hoped, although the one with american was clearly the better of the two. If you like grilled onions, ask for extra - mine could have used more. You may also find this sandwich a lot easier to handle if you ask them to cut in in half before serving

    I could only find one cached pic on the web - sorry - it definitely does not do this great sandwich justice - and it is too large to display, so here's a link instead. Note the soda fountain area I mentioned earlier just behind and to the right of the couple holding the sandwich

    [url='http://www.wqed.org/press/print_img/san_isalys_02_300.jpg']Click here to see the Slammer at Isaly's West View location[/url]

    I should add that Isaly's does take a charge card.

    Had I had time, had we been sitting down, I would have also sampled some of the other deli treats and the ice cream, but alas, this was a quick pick up on the way to the zoo.
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    TJ Jackson
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    RE: Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006 2006/07/08 17:06:32 (permalink)
    Part 3 - Somerset PA - Summit Diner - Sat July 1, 2006

    We stayed at the Zoo til closing time, and got to see a lot of different animals the kids had not seen on any of their many trips to the Cincinnati Zoo. I particularly liked the aquarium, especially the outstanding Jellyfish display and the beautiful Octopus they have, who pratically posed for us. The girls got to get up close and personal with white tailed deer, a reindeer, a camel, a giraffe, and a stingray.

    We headed west towards Philadelphia on I-76, and I had reserved a room in Somerset, maybe a hundred miles west on the Turnpike. Lord, the turnpike is expensive! I had brought a bag of change for tolls but they wanted big money - in one case, it was a 12 dollar toll!

    I didn't plan this, but I lucked out - not only does Somerset feature some fairly cheap lodging, but also the Summit Diner, garnering high praise on[url='http://www.hollyeats.com/SummitDiner.htm']HollyEats[/url] and even [url='http://www.roadfood.com/Forums/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=460&']a recommendation[/url] from hard-to-please roadfooder Wanderingjew.

    The place was well decorated in all the reds whites blues and stars of the upcoming holiday. They have a long counter with barstools and several booths following the outer window edge in classic diner fashion, even the stainless steel panels on the outside.

    If that wasn't enough to convince me that I was in a real old fashioned diner, the fact that they had no less than a dozen different types of pies (not counting cakes, and they had a few of those as well) with a good mix of fruits and creams. In my youthful days working at a bakery owned by the father of a close friend, I made dozens of Boston Cream pies, but had never seen them on a restaurant menu before.

    Since I wanted to save room for pie, I ordered the selfsame "Big Top" burger Holly reviewed, in which one of the patties is beef and the other is pork. It wasn't all that big - about the size of your basic big mac, as you can see from the photo from Holly's site copied below - but the combinations of the flavors on the small bun with onion works nicely, better than I had thought.



    I had wanted to try the Pepper Pot soup, which I understand to be a [url='http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=travel&res=9C0CEFD91031F93BA15756C0A9659C8B63']Pennsylvania regional specialty[/url], but they sold the last cup to another customer just prior to my order.

    The wife had a decently good BLT, the kids an order of chicken fingers and fries which they turned their nose up at. Of course, they loved the "straight from the jar" applesauce that preceded it, so who can tell what they're going to like from one minute to the next?

    The pies we tried - coconut cream, chocolate cream, and apple - were not as good as I expected. The wife proclaimed the tall pile of meringue atop her coconut cream (see photo linked from Holly's site below) to be amogst the best she had tasted, but the same meringue atop the chocolate cream left me cold - to me, meringue should not top a cream pie - it should be more like a stiff whipped cream.



    I ordered the apple to see if the fruit pies were better, and indeed it was. When we left our table, some of the two cream pies remained, but the apple we demolished. Less sweet than most apple pies I have had, with good fresh apples, a hint of cinnamon, and a really, really excellent crust.

    I noted that the two waitresses on duty were really running the place efficiently, handling all front-of-the-house duties with cheer and vigor. However, my admiration came to a screeching halt when waitress other than the one who served us rang me up at the register - it came to over 80 dollars and she did not seem phased. We had not eaten anywhere near 80 dollars worth of food. I told her this, and she re-rang the tickets - one for each person and a seperate one for dessert - to 40 dollars. I was tired and they had otherwise been good to us, and was in no mood to argue it further, so I paid the "reduced" (but still way off on the high side) tab and left without a further word, reminding myself to carefully add it all up before I went to the register the next day for breakfast.
    #4
    sammur
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    RE: Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006 2006/07/08 17:15:11 (permalink)
    Great report, TJ. Keep it coming.
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    CheeseWit
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    RE: Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006 2006/07/08 19:03:54 (permalink)
    TJ: Great write-up thus far. You have this reader hanging on every word and looking forward to the next installments.
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    TJ Jackson
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    RE: Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006 2006/07/08 19:10:36 (permalink)
    Part 4 - Somerset PA - Summit Diner - Sun July 2, 2006

    The night before this breakfast stop, I downloaded all the photos from my digital camera and wiped the memory card. Photos I took from this morning onward I left on the camera....so I have them to share with you

    Hungry but wary from the register experience of the previous night, we returned in part because I had noted[url='http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrapple']scrapple[/url] on the breakfast menu the night before. Neither of us had ever had this Pennsylvania regional specialty, and had heard it was like Cincinnati's [url='http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goetta']goetta[/url] (which we like a LOT)....they certainly look a lot alike

    Goetta


    Scrapple


    The actual scrapple I was served and ate is pictured above. The comparison is interesting. Goetta is oats and sausage (more or less) and scrapple is corn meal and sausage (more or less) so there is some distinct similarity there. However, goetta's ingredients have a fairly coarse grind while the ingredients in scrapple appear to have been ground fine, I might even say pureed. If you look closely at the pictures, you can see the textural difference.

    I've had fried corn meal mush many times as a child, which I can take or leave but would probably never order for myself. Scrapple was a lot like my memories of corn meal mush but with an odd grey color and an odd taste, both no doubt imparted by the "meats" in it. The wife and I came to the same conclusion - if we had grown up here and ate scrapple as children, and then travelled to Cincinnati to eat goetta, we'd probably prefer scrapple. We think it is an acquired taste. Not bad, but not something we'd order again.

    I call my breakfast that morning "The big deal" because it was big and it was a great deal....all of the food below for 2.99



    The sausage patties were particularly good, and looked to be hand formed. The eggs were cooked to a perfect over easy. I did ask for the home fries well done, and clearly they weren't, but they were good nonetheless.

    Biscuits and gravy was not on the menu but when I saw a nearby table get an order, I asked the waitress to send a small order over to try.. B&G is one of the things I consider a measuring stick of a good diner. Unfortunately, this was bad - the biscuits were clearly from a commercial pre-baked box and had only been heated slightly on location prior to serving, and the sausage chunks tasted like hamburger....I mean, really tasteless. We both took one bite of this and put it aside, even though I don't generally like wasting food. If you see it available as a special here, I advise you to skip it...I won't even post a pic.

    If I haven't made this clear by now, the wife is a pancake fanatic, and the kids are getting most of their tastes from her. All three had pancakes, and I did not even get a bite. She tells me they were good, but not great, and that her only issue with them is they are fairly small, as you can see in the pic below.



    One plus was that it appeared we were given real maple syrup to go with them, a big plus, and jugs of the same syrup were displayed for retail sale above the pie case

    She also said her coffee - served in a Summit Diner logo'ed cup - was top notch.



    I took one of the girls to the bathroom to wash up - pancake syrup gets everywhere, it seems, no matter how careful they are, assuming they are careful - and when I came back the wife had already paid the bill. I had told her about the overcharge the night before, and so I asked about it, and she told me no, it was a small total this morning. I didn't press the matter, as I wanted to get on the road. Only when we were a hundred miles down the road towards Philadelphia did the subject happen to come up again and I found out how small - 6 bucks! I knew that was wrong, and after comparing notes found she had only taken one check up to the register - you'll recall they give a check for each person, so we had 4 checks. I had set some aside in a moment whe the kids were grabbing things off the table to keep it safe, and the wife did not know about the "one check per customer" policy. She was mortified, and at one point asked me to turn around so we could pay what we owed. I assured her I'd call the diner when we got back and arrange to send a check for the difference, and will do just that on Monday.

    Moral of the story as far as I am concerned - you can get a good meal here, but be careful when it comes time to pay the bill :-)

    I cannot recall if they accept a charge card or not - sorry.
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    Michael Hoffman
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    RE: Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006 2006/07/08 20:29:44 (permalink)
    TJ, good report. Did you get the pork broccoli rabecsandwich, or is that coming in future reports?

    By the way, if you're looking for a really kid-friendly zoo come to Columbus. Although I haven't been to the Cincinnati Zoo is a number of years, our kids always enjoyed it. But the Columbus Zoo is really great for kids.
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    TJ Jackson
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    RE: Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006 2006/07/08 20:46:25 (permalink)
    Part 5 - Roxborough (NW Philadelphia) PA - Chubby's Steaks - Sun July 2, 2006

    I probably shouldn't mention this, but as an aside - I have gotten ripped here more than once for my expressed love for the single solitary Roy Roger's location in Cincinnati. There is not another Roy's for hundreds of miles around. I was pleased to see one at a gas stop we made on the turnpike



    Saving room for Chubby's, I didn't order a roast beef for purposes of comparison. In hindsight, a regular roast beef isn't all that big, so I should have done so. Ah well.

    This same stop also had a rack of Tastykakes, so I picked up a pack of Chocolate Cupcakes to share with the wife and kids. I looked for Krimpets, but sadly there were none on the rack. In any case, we all thought they were good but nothing remarkable. In an email from Cheesewit later, he told me that the cake to try is the Krimpet....ah well.....better luck to me next time. Yes, the rack pictured has a box labeled Krimpets, and there was something in there other than a Krimpet - albeit I do not recall what it was.



    Anyway.....here at long last I was to have my very first ever authentic Philadelphia cheese steak. I can tell you the grin on my face widened progressively as we approached the city.

    Mind you, Chubby's was not my first choice. Nor my second. Nor third, fourth, fifth, sixth...well, you get the picture. HollyEats had given it 4 grease stains, which is quite good, but the main reason I was ending up here was because it was Sunday, and almost all of the top and/or "big name" cheese steak joints are closed on Sunday. Chubby's is or was one of the very few open on Sunday, and it's location on the NW edge of the city at late lunchtime was also a big factor. That said, my absolute number one must try cheesesteak - based entirely on my reading about cheesesteaks and never having one for years - is a place called Dallessandros.

    ITS RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET FROM CHUBBYS



    (yes, peer at the tiny sign on the eatery across the street)
    (you probably can't see the even tinier "CLOSED" sign in the window. Let me help)



    ARGH!

    Still, I was finally getting a cheesesteak, and I had picked the timing right. The wife and kids were already starting to have a fit for their lunch (I had taken one wrong exit earlier, reversing back had cost me 30 minutes) as I pulled up into the very small and nearly full parking lot.

    There was good and there was bad. First, my hungry wife and kids (from whom you could take all their patience and not fill a thimble to the halfway mark) were not happy that every table was full. Counter stools were available, but this wouldn't work for the kids unless we wanted to risk head injuries. Just to be clear, no, not interested in head injuries :-) So we waited. More than one group was clearly lounging around just talking. I spent the time when I wasn't trying to convince one or more of my whining kids that we'd be seated soon checking out the various sandwich toppigns - relishes, peppers, pickles, and the like.

    Two tables left at the same time, and the two local fellows behind us (who had just arrived moments before) pushed past us without a word and claimed the first table. I was speechless. None of the wait staff seemed to care. I quickly grabbed the other table, wary being line jumped twice. In an attempt to confine all discussion of rude treatment to just this paragraph, let me just say that the waitress serving us did not serve our food until these two fellows had eaten, chatted, paid, and left. My wife was livid about it. We did not have a complex order nor we in any way unpleasant to the staff. I can only guess that they don't tolerate kids well at this place, as there was some hunger-induced unpleasant behavior from them prior to our food arriving.



    I tried not to let this parade of boorishness reduce the pure enjoyment of the eats. Neverless, while my steak (american with onions, whiz was not an option here) was large and good - I'd order it again withotu hesitation - it was not a great sandwich. I noted that just as I had been told, the steak is finely chopped here, whereas in other places, it is served in slices. A local "philly" chain called Penn Station also finely chops the steak, and I think I am going to start asking them to leave it whole. I will to admit the Amoroso roll it came on was far better than any steak/hoagie rolls I had had anywhere in Cincinnati. On the other hand, the cheese was almost absent from this sandwich - as if they had simply left it off. I'm a firm believer that there is a reason that the word "cheese" is the first part of "cheesesteak" :-)



    I also liked the fact that birch beer was available on fountain, and of course that's what I had to drink.

    The wife had a cheesesteak with provolone and green peppers (a 50 cent addon, seems these are free some places, not at others). It was a good bit better - you could see the cheese :-)



    The kids split a burger and ate every bite :-). This is more indicative of their hunger then their love for the burgers at Chubby's :-)

    We headed out angry but full, and headed for Independence Hall and The Liberty Bell
    #9
    TJ Jackson
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    RE: Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006 2006/07/08 20:51:45 (permalink)
    Part 6 - Historical District Philadelphia PA - Campo's Deli - Sun July 2, 2006

    I was able to make my way into the heart of the historical district very esily with the excellent signage on the freeways. Traffic was suprisingly light - I had figured it'd be crowded due to the fact that it was the weekened of the 4th of July Holiday, which is of course of particular significance to this city. Little did I know that not only was this an issue, but someone had decided this would be a good weekend to also hold the Taste of Philadelphia event.....in the historical district. I don't know what dimbulb decided this'd be a good idea, but it ensured that we had to park 12 blocks away. 12 blocks! Mind you, parking was still 23 bucks even this far away. And I thought the gas stations were the real gougers. Sheesh.

    Now I had heard from Cheesewit that an inexpensive ( a buck per ride for adults, kids free) shuttle bus called the Philly Phlash ran up and down through this district, and so I wasn't overly worried about the distance. However, as it turned out, no busses stopped for us. Not a one. I have no idea why. We saw these busses at a distance at times, distinctive by their purple color and trolley-like configuration, and a few passed us by waving frantically at stops, but it might has well have been that they didn't exist. I regularly walk a good distance each day downtown, so the walk was no big deal for me, but the kids and wife were in a foul mood most of the day due to overworked legs and hurting feet. It didn't help that it was very hot and humid, either.

    Enought whining though, right? :-) I mean, it's July...its supposed to be hot and humid :-)

    We made it through the Liberty Bell line very quickly, despite the lengthy stop at the security checkpoint. I had no idea there was so much metal stuff in my pockets. The Bell is set up in a window so that the background is a nice view of Independence Hall - a very nice picture.

    The line for Independence Hall was much, much longer and we stood for much of the time in an unshaded line. Worse still, due to the large crowds, the tour was abbreviated to just two rooms - The Pennsylvania Court and the room where the Declaration of Independence was drawn up. I was nice we got in, but it seemed like very little result for a 2 hour wait in the heat and sun. Fortunately, the wife was able to pull out of the line and let the kids nap on a nearby park bench out of the direct sun for about 30 minutes of it. The kids cried near incessantly while in line

    By the time we got out, the third stop - Ben Franklin's gravesite - had closed down, and as I said the wife and kids were in a dark mood, and were getting me more frustrated by the minute. You'd think the two walk block to Campo's was a deathmarch to Auschwitz to hear the protests - "why can't we eat at that Wendy's over there? The kids are hungry and very thirsty!" etc etc etc. Lordy. I was resolute in making it to[url='http://www.camposdeli.com/']Campo's Deli[/url], tho, on the [url='http://www.roadfood.com/Forums/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=13809']recommendation of Cheesewit[/url] and the [url='http://www.hollyeats.com/Campos.htm']glowing review at the highest possible rating[/url] given at [url='http://www.hollyeats.com']Hollyeats.com[/url].

    A seeming eternity later, we completed the "grueling" two block marathon walk to [url='http://www.camposdeli.com/']Campo's Deli[/url], and the wife wordlessly took a seat in the very small, cramped interior dining area, glaring at me.



    She also announced she had lost her appetite and was feeling ill, but informed me I should go ahead and get myself and the kids some food and drink. I went to the line twice - once for 6 dollars worth of beverages - no free refills at Campo's, by the way - and a second to get the kids a grilled cheese to split and an italian sub on a seeded Sarcone's hoagie roll for the wife and I. Or at least I hoped she'd eat half after settlin down and cooling off a bit.

    Now Campo's doesn't have just one italian hoagie - there are several different variants. After a hasty review of the [url='http://www.camposdeli.com/phillycheesesteakmenu.htm']menu[/url], I decided on the "Mama Mia" (7.50) which is described as "Prosciutto, superset, old-fashioned capocollo, sharp provolone, hot & sweet roaster peppers" plus all hoagies include "fresh lettuce, tomatoes, onions, salt, pepper, oregano and oil". I ordered it on the seeded roll, hold the hot peppers, tomatoes on the side (for the wife). And a grilled cheese (3.50) and a cookie (.50) for the kids

    I took 5 pictures of this beauty of a sandwich, and I can tell you from experience I always get at least one good pic if I take 5. Not this time. This was the best of the lot. Let me tell you, up close and personal, it was a thing of beauty.



    The wife took one bite and pronounced it awful. At least she tried it. I told her I could get her a plain sandwich of any kind she wanted, but she waved it off wordlessly.

    After getting the kids settle with their grilled cheese and cookie, I dug in.

    Wow.

    I kid you not - this was and is the very best sandwich I have ever eaten in my entire life.

    Ever.

    Outstanding bread, great texture, everything was as fresh and full flavored as could be, and the sharp provolone (is it supposed to be crumbly? It is smooth when I buy the standard provolone here in Cincinnati) was outstanding. I recall being momentarily happy that the wife didn't want her half, since that meant I got the whole thing, tho I would have preferred to order and split another sandwich (probably a cheesteak, Holly took the pic below) if she hadn't declined it.



    I made sure to thank the sandwich makers, that this was the best sadnwich ever, and let them know we have nothing remotely like this in Cincinnati. They were very happy to hear of this :-)

    As I walked out, I noticed that [url='http://www.sonnysfamoussteaks.com/']Sonny's Famous Steaks[/url] - [url='http://www.hollyeats.com/SonnysFamous.htm']another HollyEats fave[/url] - was right next door. I wish I had the time to stop, but it was getting late. If you plan on going to one of these two fine establishments, I recommend you plan on both. I also did not have time or opportunity to walk another block east to the [url='http://www.franklinfountain.com/']Franklin Fountain[/url], also recommended both by Cheesewit and [url='http://www.hollyeats.com/FranklinFountain.htm']by Holly[/url]

    Our walk back was interrupted by a sudden and violent thunderstorm that had everything - high winds reaching I'd guess 60 miles per hour, marble sized hail, torrential rain, and lighting strking nearby skycrapers. We took shelter (along with about 200 others) for about an hour and a half as it blew over in the covered walkway of the building just south of Ben Franklin's grave. We saw lightning hit no more than 100 yards away multiple times, enormous ear shatterng booms, and tents from the Taste of Philly blown into and through the streets. My oldest is terrified of lighting storms, and she buried herself in our chests sobbing incessantly throughout. She'd never been outside in a thunderstorm nearly so bad.

    When it blew over, we walked the 12 blocks back to the car without sighting a single bus of any kind. I had planned on driving down to Pat's and Geno's (since it is a relatively short drive from where we parked) and the wife encouraged this, saying the rain has probably cleared out the crowds, but the kids were in no mood for anything but bath and bed, and so I manuevered us eastward to I-95, and after a few missed opportunities (one of which got us a good look at the naval cruiser parked on the Philly side of the river)

    We got to the hotel in Trevose around 9, and the kids were asleep in minutes, after bouncing around a bit with excitement when told that we are going to [url='http://www.sesameplace.com/sesame/pa/index.aspx']Sesame Place[/url] in the morning. The wife munched on some chips we had brought with us, and we talked about how the rain despite being a bummer essentially occurred at a good time - we were done with all our siteseeing and roadfooding for the day. It was also sorta a family bonding experience. Said that way, the non-eating part of the day no longer seemed so bad. Nonethless, I was glad the day was over.
    #10
    TJ Jackson
    Filet Mignon
    • Total Posts : 4596
    • Joined: 2003/07/26 22:24:00
    • Location: Cincinnati, OH
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    RE: Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006 2006/07/08 20:54:47 (permalink)
    Part 7 - Philadelphia PA - Steves\Tony Lukes\Pats\Genos - Mon July 3, 2006

    This was the first of two days at[url='http://www.sesameplace.com/sesame/pa/index.aspx']Sesame Place[/url], a Sesame Street themed amusement park about 30 miles north of Philadelphia. Why two days? Because the cost of admission for two days is the same as the price of admission for one day. Right about 42 bucks apiece. Besides, I figured there was plenty for the kids to experience over two days - and there was.

    Without going into the details, It is indeed a great park for really young kids. Some of you may remember going to an amusement park as a kid and wanting to ride this ride or that ride and then finding out you were too short to ride it. I know I do - I'm only 5'6" today and was always short for my age. Not so here....all rides can be ridden by young kids with the only real restriction being that they must be accompied by a parent. Which is great if you have a 1 kid to one parent ratio, which we did :-) Most of the rides are wet rides, and so if you go, dress for swimming and plan have a way to carry your cash and a credit card in some waterproof container you can secure on your person.

    Oh, and the food here is expensive and awful. Really bad. The rules outside say you you can't bring in drinks or food, but we had no problem bringing in a few sealed juice drinks for the kids, some waters, and other small dry snacks we stuffed inside our change of clothes in a backpack in which we stowed in a locker (9 dollar rental plus 3 dollar refundable deposit on the key). But don't try to bring in an obvious cooler or lunch bags - those will have to be left behind.

    We did not get out of there til 8, and with traffic and all, did not get back to the motel a mere 7 miles away til 10:30. I had planned on dinner at Tony Luke's for everyone, but the kids and wife were dead on their feet, so I got them some Wendy's (don't gag, they are perfectly happy with this stuff) tucked in the kids, kissed the wife, and with her reluctant permission headed out into the night alone to see what hoagies and cheeseteaks I could find

    ----
    A note is temporarily necessary at this point. My camera had been temporarily misplaced, and so I left with the wife's camera in hand. I have not gotten it from her yet to download my food pics, so I add this note for now so you understand why there are initially only placeholders for pics rather than the actual pics. When I get the pics in, I will remove this note.
    ----

    First stop - Steve's Prince of Steaks

    I had run mapquest many times over to see how close various desireable cheesesteak places were to our motel in Trevose, and had early on noted that one of my top 5 - [url='http://www.gophila.com/C/Things_to_Do/211/Dining_and_Nightlife/223/Dining_and_Restaurants/221/Authentic_Philly_Cheesesteaks/361/U/Steves_Prince_of_Steaks/1049.html']Steve's Prince of Steaks[/url] - also [url='http://www.hollyeats.com/StevesSteaks.htm']Holly's number one favorite[/url] cheesesteak - was not more than 7 miles away basically due south, which in turn meant I'd end up closer to Pat's, Geno's, and Tony Luke's on the south side. I'd also confirmed Steve's was open that day, and stays open "late". [url='http://philadelphia.citysearch.com/profile/8921376/']Silvios[/url] was also about the same distance away and had received [url='http://www.hollyeats.com/Silvio's.htm']similar praise[/url], but the route there took me west, away from the south side of Philly. I wanted to try Silvio's, but not as much as I wanted to try the other three combined. With limited time, I reluctantly scratched Silvio's from my list and aimed the car south toward Steve's

    This was not hard to find, despite the fact that US1 splits cleanly and distinctly into "you can only turn right" and "you can only turn left" streets that are side by side, seperated by a grassy/treed median. I also was not deterred by the driver who was going north in my southbound lane. I stopped well short of the guy, honked my horn and flashed my lights, and waited while he slowly and clumsily turned his car around. I have some suspicions that recreational pharmacueticals and/or alcohol may have been involved :-)



    Looks the wife's camera takes lousy shots at night. Or I was hungry and lacked the patience to get a good one. Probably a little of both :-)

    Like most of the Cheesesteak places I encountered on this trip, parking space was an afterthought, seating was sparse, the interior tiny, and options limited. Not a whine, just a fact :-) Like Pat's and Geno's, you order and pay for your sandwich in one window and order and pay seperately for drinks and/or fries in another. Odd, but it is what it is. The counter guys were brusque but not unfriendly - all business. I ordered the standard I had set for the trip - a whiz wit - and moved down to the drinks and fries window (the pic below shows the drinks and fries window close, with the fellow at the end ordering his sandwich at the sandwich window. Lots of free condiments in the middle. The place wan't in the best shape when I arrived, no doubt in part due to the late hour. They had a guy out cleaning up the service area just as I left.



    I was was pleased to be able to get birch beer on tap. I ignored the fries despite not having eaten in 12 hours in order to save room for my other 3 planned stops, which turned out to be a wise decision. My sandwich was up in less than 3 minutes, and it was a thing of beauty

    It is every bit as long as it looks - but maybe looks longer than you think due to it's overall flat-ness, which I'll get back to in a moment. Nonetheless, this was easily the longest of the sandwhiches I sampled on this trip. Pretty much the same amount of food, only flatter and longer than the others.



    Now you'll note that the pic shows a roll that is far thinner than the others, in fact my first thought was "god, they flattened it", but that isn't the case. They use rolls specially made for them with less white bread innards and the same great crust I got on the Amoroso and Sarcone's rolls, so you taste more steak and cheese and less bread. Frankly, I love this idea. The steak was sliced rather than chopped, and I liked this better as well - seemed more like steak and less like coarse hamburger. Despite not being chopped, it was very tender and extremely flavorful. It was also loaded with cheese and was very messy to eat.

    Hands down, this was the best cheesesteak of the 4 (5 if you count the bite of the wife's provy steak at Chubby's) I had in Philly. Just outstanding

    I had every intent of saving half for later, keeping room to savor the other sandwiches I was to purchase that night, but my hunger and the absolute deliciousness of this sandwich got the better of me. Empty wrappers with noting but a few smudges of grease and a half dozen dabs of whiz lay before me in a few short minutes.

    Second stop - Tony Luke's

    I was a little nervous about this one, as I had left my map back at the hotel, but I knew [url='http://www.tonylukes.com/']Tony Luke's[/url] was near the freeway (I-95) and a good bit south of Pat and Geno's. And with [url='http://www.gophila.com/C/Things_to_Do/211/Dining_and_Nightlife/223/Dining_and_Restaurants/221/Authentic_Philly_Cheesesteaks/361/U/Johns_Roast_Pork/1048.html']John's Roast Pork[/url] and [url='http://readingterminalmarket.org/merchantView.php?id=22']Di Nic's[/url] unavailable to me (as a recurring theme of this trip, both were closed at this late hour. generally these eateries are open only morning and early afternoon hours), this was really my only shot at getting a classic roast pork with rabe sandwich from one of the "big three" - big in quality, not in name - roast pork sandwich eateries. See the [url='http://www.hollyeats.com/TonyLukes.htm']entry at Hollyeat's[/url] or the [url='http://www.roadfood.com/Reviews/Writeup.aspx?ReviewID=1232&RefID=1232']review right here on Roadfood.com[/url] if you have any doubts.

    Luck was with me. I took a guess on an offramp, looked around to get my bearings, and spotted a sign pointing me to Oregon Avenue. SCORE! The exit let me off a mere block and a half from Tony Luke's. I wasn't brave enough to use the odd "middle of the street" parking available there, but I did find a spot just 30 feet away. Sweet.



    I wasn't terribly hungry per se, so it the blurrines of the photo must be the wife's camera :-) Couldn't possibly be the photographer, oh no! :-)

    Luck was also with me in terms of the line. Plenty of people were sitting on the many outside benches - if you want to eat there you eat outside, near as I could tell - but there were only two people in line when I took my place in the queue, and this after havign spent some time going over the large painted wood menuboard that hung over the glass of panels of the service area. It sort of reminded me of ordering at a walkup dairy shack of my youth, only on a much grander scale. The raised ordering window enhanced this effect, as the elderly lady manning the register crooked her head out and looked down on me as I prepared to order. I looked back - thank you lady luck - 20 people stood in line behind me (this at around midnight!), awaiting their turn to order.



    I had it down cold by then - roast pork italian - pork, broccoli rabe, and sharp provolone on a large hoagie roll. My one disappointment was drinks - they served only pepsi products! Where was the local beverages? I had drained my birch beer from Steve's while driving there, so I settled for a lemon lime soda. I asked for and was granted double wrapping paper, as I wanted to conserve at least half of this sandwich for the wife to sample.

    While I waited - it wasn't more than 3 minutes - I noted that Tony Luke had opened a Sport's Bar right across the street. I was sure it was also his as it was named Tony Luke's Sport Bar in large neon lit lettering. Anyone got any input on this place? is the same food available at the walkup window available in there?



    I also noted a great melting pot of people in the assembled diners here at the time. Bikers nearly covered in tatoos, young couples on dates, families with kids, a businessman or two, and the obvious tourist or two (like me)

    My name was called, and I sat down down and started to unwrap this thing of beauty. Before I saw it, I smelled it - all the steamy goodness of the roast pork intermixing with garlic and other spices, intermingling with the slowly melting but somewhat crumbly sharp provolone. My mouth was watering before I even got the outer wrapper off, even though I was still fairly full from the stop at Steve's. I can add that on the drive back to the hotel later, the whole car filled with the fragrances of this fine sandwich, tempting me repeatedly to deny my wife her sampling of this sandwich. If you appreciate a wonderful aroma as much or more than taste, I believe you will like this sandwich much more than any cheesesteak in town



    I don't think this is a sandwich that a picture can truly do justice do, particularly this particular picture, taken under the stark yellow/orange lighting in TL's covered dining space in front, with my wife's clearly defective camera :-) Trust me, there is plenty of brocolli and sharp provolone underneath that pile of moist roast pork.

    Here's a link to a somewhat more closer-up pic, in which you can better make out the pork texture and juice, as well as bits of provolone and some broccoli rabe peeking out on the far left

    http://www.roadfood.com/insider/photos/1069.jpg

    The sandwich was absolutely phenomenal, second only to the Campo's hoagie and then only be a slight margin. The pork was juicy and tender, the brocolli moist and a little bitter, the cheese sharp and tangy. Lest I not forget the bread, it was excellent as well, although I think they could do better with a less bulky roll, ie less bread = more pork/cheese/rabe flavor. But the roll was so good, with such an excellent texture, that this really wan't a big deal.

    Folks - get your cheesesteaks when you go to Philly, yes, no doubt, but a roast pork italian is or should be your second stop. Just outstanding.

    Third stop - Geno's

    I had told myself repeatedly in the weeks before coming to Philly that come hell or high water (no pun intended given the flooding that was occurring a few hundred miles north) that with Pat and Geno's open 24-7, I would definitely make it here, even if it happened to be in the wee hours of the morning. And so of course, that's the way it was.

    I realized that Pat and Geno's are labeled as a touristy stop by some, and by others as a bad example of what a real philly cheesesteak is. However, having weighed all the evidence I could read on the net, my conclusion was (and is) that this is a necessary stop for any foodie who wants to make a serious comparison between various cheesesteaks, whether in Philly or elsewhere. I decided that the product served by Pat and Geno's is (for me) in effect the barometer by which all cheese steaks are judged. In a sense, this makes them "the average" from my point of view.

    Anyway, once I left Tony Luke's, I knew that it was at that famous intersection - 9th and Passyunk - and that all the numbered streets ran north and south. So all I had to do was head westward from I-95 til I hit 9th, and then head north on 9th till I reached the cheesesteak "mecca". This worked out well, except - well, you'd have to be there to understand, but this is a fairly narrow street with cars parked on both sides and very little room to move through. The darkness didn't help either, but I suspect in the light there'd be a lot of people up and about in this tightly-packed residential area, and that might be worse as one tried to pick one's way north through a sea not only of cars but also of people.

    Ten minutes later, I saw what I thought must be the lights of a gaudy Las Vegas casino. Gaudy yes, casino no. It was Genos! Lord do they have some tacky and overstated lighting.



    It took another ten minutes orbiting this area to find parking, and then only when another vehicle exited a spot in a dimly lit alley about 3 blocks away and to the south. I wasn't thrilled with the location, but feared I'd find nothing better, and so I parked and then hoofed it to Geno's.

    It was right about midnight when I made it there, and there were easily 30 people in line and another 30 or so eating/socializing at the few available tables or while standing in groups. I had time enough to note the many framed photos of celebrities eating cheesestaks and/or posing with the owner, as well as a number of plaques and noticed memorializing a police officer named Daniel Faulkner. I resolved to check into that later. In any case, the line moved suprisingly quickly, tho, and not more than 5 minutes later I had paid the 7 bucks for a standard whiz wit, double wrapped as requested. I watched them make and top the sandwich, and while it looked good, the emphasis was clearly on speed - the meat was slapped on the sandwich, onions added, and the cheese wiz brushed by knife on top all in less than 5 seconds. I kid you not. Wrapping was another 2 seconds, would have been less had I not asked for the double wrap. In any case, in the scant two seconds I saw this sandwich (and others, as I got near enough the service area to watch other sandwiches assembled) it was clear that the cheese and onions would not necessarily be evenly or even consistently applied to the sandwich. Then again, had they used more care, I have no doubt the wait would be a LOT longer as the time to build each sandwich would be longer. I strongly suspect that if you ask at that moment for them to stop and spread things out a bit better, you would get - best case scenario - a glare from both cashier and sandwich maker. Worst case - back to the back of the line. Said another way - be prepared to redistribute the contents nestled within the excellent amoroso roll by hand yourself afterwards.

    I will add that I was very, very pleased to see that they did not chop the meat to bits like Chubby's does. I'm not sure they do this for any other reason than it takes less time as it eliminates a step - no chopping - but this is how I prefer my cheesesteak, tho admittedly I want to try more some day to be a better judge of this.

    Speaking of attitude - I had arrived prepared for it, but was quite suprised - I got no guff, no attitude, and was suprised to see that others who were not ordering as the helpful sign (immediately preceeding the order window) directed get much kinder treatment than I had expected - that is to say, their orders were clarified and taken - no "soup nazi" treatment here! I had already decided to bring both sandwiches back to the hotel, so I only paused briefly to examine the condiment area and some of the photo's, before I walked the 100 feet or so through the milling crowds to get to Pat's.

    Fourth stop - Pat's King of Steaks

    I found some differences here - ie it was indeed a different business, with far less garish lighting, but there were more similarities than differences. Same big crowd, similar array of framed photos, similar lack of eating areas, exact same pricing, same roll, and virtually identical emphasis on speed in the building of the sandwiches.



    One gent in front of me slapped down four 20-dollar bills and ordered 10 cheesesteaks. I groaned inwardly, thinking it'd be a virtual eternitey for me to get to place my own order, but his order was filled in under a minute. A minute! Where else in the world is such a large order filled so quickly? Again, no harsh words for anyone who violated the ordering protocols, which once again suprised me. From entering the queue to walking away with a sandwich with I knew had gotten much cheese whiz applied to it than I had gotten at Geno's took all of 7 or 8 minutes. Very impressive from a purely speed-oriented point of view, less so from a roadfood point of view. But it was late, and I knew my wife wouldn't be able to sleep til I got back, so speed had some value under the circumstances.

    There were a few anxious moments waking back to the car - less so when a woman out walking a dog who abruptly informed me as she passed that her dog liked to bite people, and then far more so with the fact that I couldn't retrace my steps back to the car in the deep darkness and only found it after doubling back and executing a brief search pattern. I decided against using the car remote to make it honk the horn unless I became desperate, as this area is as I said a tightly packed residential area and it was well past many folks bedtimes, and breathed a deep sigh of relief when I found the car without having to do so.

    I was amused briefly when I tried to pull out - another vehicle was waiting behind me to take my spot, just as I had taken the spot original as it's previous occupant pulled away. I worked my way eastward to I-95, and was back at the hotel in about 20-25 minutes. One comment - 3 or 4 different times during this particular drive, and at several other times when on highways in the Philly area - small groups of small-ish motorcycles zipped by me, easily above 90mph and perhaps over 100 - changing lanes every few seconds and generally scaring the crap out of me. Had this happened once - no big deal. It happened a half dozen or more times during our three day stay. Is this a Philly "thing"?

    Final stop - The wife decide the best is.....

    I brought in all three sandwiches - the untouched Geno's and pat's carryout as well as the half sandwich leftover from Tony Luke's. The wife first took a bite of the roast pork italian and said it was inedible. Inedible? How could this be, I asked - it's outstanding! After a brief discussion, she said comes down to the fact that she really, really doesn' like the taste or smell of the sharp provolone, which I in turn came to love. So there you go. I think she really, really wuld have liked a plain old unadorned roast pork sandwich, and that's what i will get her next time.

    I then laid out a towel on the bedspread and upon that unwrapped the geno's and Pat's sandwiches and pulled them into rough haves for ase of sampling. She pronounced them both good, but definitely liked the Geno's better. More meat with better flavor, fresher bun, and ore cheese. This time, I wholeheartedly agreed with her - the Geno's was notably better even though it looked and smelled much the same. We ended up eating all of the Geno's sandwich and throwing away about half of the Pat's sandwich. I regretted trashing the Pat's sandwich, but only had enough room in the cooler for one or the other leftover and the Roast Pork Italian was hand's down the better of the two (the wife didn't want any leftovers and so she got no vote)

    A footnote for the next morning - the kids hate broccoli, and I am always kidding them about inserting more broccoli in their diet. They'll ask for a hamburger one night, I tell them no problem, we'll go get us a broccoli hamburger. They want pizza? You guessed it, I tell them I'll order us up a broccoli pizza. This has gone on so long that at easter, I woke up to find my basket filled to the brim not with candy, but broccoli. My kids understand I am really kidding them, that I am not going to eat a broccoli sandwich or a broccoli pizza or broccoli ice cream with my broccoli birthday cake, but it is good for the occasional laugh.

    So in the morning, I woke them up, and said "hey you two, look what daddy has for our breakfast". They love breakfast, so they ran right over, expecting pancakes or waffles or some other treat. It took them a few seconds to realize the horror - there really is a BROCCOLI SANNDWICH in this world! And daddy was eating it with obvious enjoyment! I had a good long laugh as they pleaded piteously with their mommy to not have broccoli sandwiches for breakfast. Mommy played along just long enough to pull out a box of Tastykake donut holes purchased the night before, chuckling, calling me horrible to torture the girls so. I didn't care - I had half of a wonderful leftover sandwich for breakfast - knowing I was in for another day of horrid food at the amusement park.

    As a footnote - I took no pics of the Geno's or Pat's steaks in part because I felt it was unfair treatment of these sandwiches to photograph them after such a long delay. I also felt these two sandwiches are well documented elsewhere. I will say that laid side by side, you could barely tell the difference between them.
    #11
    TJ Jackson
    Filet Mignon
    • Total Posts : 4596
    • Joined: 2003/07/26 22:24:00
    • Location: Cincinnati, OH
    • Status: offline
    RE: Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006 2006/07/08 20:56:36 (permalink)
    Part 8 - Carlisle PA - Middlesex Diner - Tue July 4, 2006

    also known as "why didn't TJ stop at Larry's?"

    I had spent a great deal of my own time and effort - even posting on Chowhound hoping someone there would have some useful input - trying to find a good cheesesteak establishment open on the 4th of July. I didn't want to venture downtown, knowing there'd be large crowds there, and in any case we were eading westward towards home that evening. So limited by the need to make some headway, unwillingness to go downtown, and the fact that virtually every cheesesteak joint in town with any reknown was closed on the 4th - some for the entire week of the 4th - I had a very, very hard time finding a place where I could get that one last quality cheesesteak before leaving Philly

    The good news was - Cheesewit sent at least a dozen different suggestions, and every single one of them was closed with the exception of one - [url='http://philadelphia.citysearch.com/profile/8975880/philadelphia_pa/larry_s_steaks_hoagies.html']Larry's Steaks - which I had never heard of, but was on the western side of town and therefore not too much out of my way, and again was recommended by the estimable Cheesewit. So before I left, I had mapquested it, adjusted my on-paper itinerary, and fully expected to have my last meal in Philly there.

    The best laid plans.....ah well. There was a late thunderstorm in the park that kicked up just as we were about to leave, and we huddled in a sheltered area for about two hours before it blew over. In that two hours, my wife and kids' moods also deteriorated rapidly. We had also intended to leave the park well before closing to avoid the crowd on the way out - but now, we lost additional 45 minutes just getting back to US 1. Deprived of nearly 3 hours of time, I had to shift priorities and get us speeding westward, and so that's what I did. Larry's - I will get back to you (and your house special, [url='http://philadelphia.citysearch.com/review/8975880']the bellyfiller[/url]) when I can. *sigh*

    We did have to make several call of nature type stops and the wife kept the kids happy with small snacks as I worked us westward toward my backup eatery for the day - the Middlesex Diner. There are no roadfood or hollyeats reviews or anything, but I did see some random [url='http://philadelphia.citysearch.com/review/8975880']positive reviews[/url] and diners are virtually nonexistent in Cincinnati, so I thought it was better than ending up at another Cracker Barrel. Turns out I was right

    I have to admit, this was more like a fairly big family restaurant, sorta like a Bill Knapps' of old, but despite the lack of a physical resemblance to a diner, they had a lot of diner classics on the menu, including a fave from my childood - chicken croquettes with gravey. The kids had spaghetti and meatballs - they'll eat that stuff anywhere and like it - and the wife made the surprising choice of catfish. I had never seen her order fish at a restaurant ever before, and in the less than cheerful mood she was in, I was figuring she'd go for something more tried and true, simpler.

    It was a good thing I was wrong. Further purusal of the menu (which I asked the waitres to leave with me after ordering, because it was was so very extensive!) showed that this diner was quite proud of it's reputation serving quality fish and seafood dishes. Their pride is well-deserved. The catfish came piping hot, lightly breaded and seasoned, and was flakey and mot throughout. Fried, but barely a speck of grease in evidence. Easily one of the best tasting pieces of fish I have had in years. I generously offered to swap my chicken croquettes for the fish, but the wife waved me off. :-) The crouettes were solidly good in that comfort-food-is-almost-always-good kind of way, but nowhere near as good as the catfish.

    I didn't sample the spaghetti and meatballs. Sad but true. The kids ripped through it like it was chocolate ice cream.

    They also had an extensive array of pies, but the wife and I were was too full to order one. The kids had small dishes of chocolate ice cream, which they ripped through like it was.....uhhh....yeah, chocolate ice cream. :-)

    I recall telling the wife as we left that we'd definitely be back for breakfast, and hopefully I could get catfish in place of bacon or sausage
    #12
    TJ Jackson
    Filet Mignon
    • Total Posts : 4596
    • Joined: 2003/07/26 22:24:00
    • Location: Cincinnati, OH
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    RE: Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006 2006/07/08 21:00:36 (permalink)
    Part 9 - Carlisle PA - Middlesex Diner - Wed July 5, 2006

    Not too much to tell here. The catfish was not available for breakfast the next day, so I settled on a regular seection of mine - corned beef hash. I can never figure out why some breakfast places side corned beef hash - which of course is often large composed of potatoes - with more potatoes. In this case, sliced home fries accompanied, cooked nowhere near the well-done level I had requested accompanied what appeared to be "fresh from the can" finely diced hash. Fair, but a place like this should be able to do better, even when the menu is so widely ranged

    The wife once again picked the winner here - the large tread belgian waffle. Simple but excellent. The kids blueberry pancakes were packed with plenty of what looked to be fresh blueberries, but the taste didn't measure up.

    We made several stops to empty swollen pea-sized bladders, but the only other food stop on the way back was at the golden arches for the budget friendly double cheeseburgers

    and so this too-short holiday came to a close.....
    #13
    TJ Jackson
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    RE: Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006 2006/07/08 21:12:58 (permalink)
    The best laid plans.......

    I was unaware that Black Cherry Wishniak was no longer available in Philadelphia. I wish I had known - I made several stops looking for it, and no one I talked to had even heard of it. I started to doubt my sanity at one point - had I imagined that this soda was discussed in regards to Philly?

    Cheesewit emailed me that this soda was indeed a Philly thing, but the company had gone out of business some years ago, and so it is but a memory

    I had hoped to loop north for old forge pizza, hazelton pitza, binghamton spiedies, and possibly all the way to Niagara falls for Beef on Weck at Schwabls. A foray east into Atlantic City for White House Subs, Maryland for Crab Cakes, and/or NJ for Rutt's Hut was all in consideration at one point or another. So much roadfood on the east coast! Alas, there is only so much you can do in 5 days, particularly if your 3 companions have no real interest in roadfood other than that it happens to be food. Also, there was that whole problem with floods in north eastern PA as well.

    I had really wanted to get to Reading Terminal Market, but they are not open evening hours nor Sunday nor Holidays. Maybe next time. DiNics - got to get there.

    I had lesser interests in Tacconelli's, but the wife is a pizza lover so I see that as a definite possibility for the next trip. The kids liked Sesame Place so much another trip to Philly is not out of the question for 2007.

    I'll steel my nerves and get the Pork Roll next time. Can't be as bad as spam - can it?

    Oh - one last pic - this next to the entrance to a fancy retail store - I walked by it as the terrible storm that had raged through Downtown Philly on the evening of July 2nd was subsiding - don't know why I snapped this pic, just that I had the sudden urge to do so




    #14
    signman
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    RE: Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006 2006/07/08 23:10:50 (permalink)
    TJ, I'm a sucker for trying a pizza that has good word of mouth and certainly Taconelli's has plenty. But after making a special trip there last year, calling ahead to reserve the dough, then being the only people in the place shortly after they opened, I was very underwhelmed by the pizza. Absolutely nothing memorable about it. But of course that's just MY opinion.

    But Reading Terminal Market, now that's a reason to return. And definitely allow time to visit the White House.

    Great report, looking forward to reading about the rest of your sandwich/hoagie eating.
    #15
    mr chips
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    RE: Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006 2006/07/09 16:35:02 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by TJ Jackson

    The best laid plans.......

    I was unaware that Black Cherry Wishniak was no longer available in Philadelphia. I wish I had known - I made several stops looking for it, and no one I talked to had even heard of it. I started to doubt my sanity at one point - had I imagined that this soda was discussed in regards to Philly?

    Cheesewit emailed me that this soda was indeed a Philly thing, but the company had gone out of business some years ago, and so it is but a memory

    I had hoped to loop north for old forge pizza, hazelton pitza, binghamton spiedies, and possibly all the way to Niagara falls for Beef on Weck at Schwabls. A foray east into Atlantic City for White House Subs, Maryland for Crab Cakes, and/or NJ for Rutt's Hut was all in consideration at one point or another. So much roadfood on the east coast! Alas, there is only so much you can do in 5 days, particularly if your 3 companions have no real interest in roadfood other than that it happens to be food. Also, there was that whole problem with floods in north eastern PA as well.

    I had really wanted to get to Reading Terminal Market, but they are not open evening hours nor Sunday nor Holidays. Maybe next time. DiNics - got to get there.

    I had lesser interests in Tacconelli's, but the wife is a pizza lover so I see that as a definite possibility for the next trip. The kids liked Sesame Place so much another trip to Philly is not out of the question for 2007.

    I'll steel my nerves and get the Pork Roll next time. Can't be as bad as spam - can it?

    Oh - one last pic - this next to the entrance to a fancy retail store - I walked by it as the terrible storm that had raged through Downtown Philly on the evening of July 2nd was subsiding - don't know why I snapped this pic, just that I had the sudden urge to do so





    When I saw this picture, I was struck by an urge to buy golfing stuff.
    #16
    mr chips
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    RE: Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006 2006/07/09 16:41:13 (permalink)
    Great report, T.J. I realize how lucky I am that both wife and son are supportive of my roadfood obsessions.
    #17
    ken8038
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    RE: Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006 2006/07/09 17:36:10 (permalink)
    Yes, thanks for the detailed review of your trip. Reminded me so much of the trips my family took when my kids were younger. My wife was usually game for any side trip I'd plan, but the kids were another story: "I wanna go straight to Six Flags!!" (or whereever we were headed).

    Also, they'd always be embarrased when we'd get to family reunions in Boston (from NJ) because while it would take everyone else maybe 4 hours to get there, it would take us seven or eight with all the food stops and off-the-wall museums.

    My daughter went to Philly U for 2 years and Chubby's and Dellasandros are just up the road. IMHO there wasn't much difference between the two, I don't think you missed much by only getting to Chubby's. The Cheesesteak place we'd always find an excuse to get to nearby was Mama's (Also closed on Sunday's).

    Thanks for reminding me of the good and the bad of raising 2 kids. Wait til they get to be 18 and 22, enjoy these years while you can, at least they can't drive yet! --Ken
    #18
    TJ Jackson
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    RE: Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006 2006/07/09 18:13:49 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by mr chips

    how lucky I am that both wife and son are supportive of my roadfood obsessions.

    Yep, and this is why I take every effort (ala Pamela's) to convert the wife....the kids will come along later, I hope :-)
    #19
    TJ Jackson
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    RE: Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006 2006/07/09 18:19:04 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by ken8038

    it would take us seven or eight with all the food stops and off-the-wall museums.

    For me, it was the endless stops for bathrooms. Seems like half the trip was ruled by bathroom stops. Little girls appear to have bladders the size of unladen african sparrows (gratuitous Monty Python reference fully intended) :-)

    quote:
    Originally posted by ken8038

    Chubby's and Dellasandros are just up the road. IMHO there wasn't much difference between the two, I don't think you missed much by only getting to Chubby's.

    I see a lot of praise on the Internet for Dallesandro's. www.bestcheesesteaks,com even makes a special point of it, noting everyone loves it, tho no one knows how to spell the name. Not so for Chubby's. I wasn't all that enamoured of the sandwich, either....Pat's and Geno's were better. And the service...grrrrrr. I pray you are wrong about them being the same, as I will get there someday :-)

    quote:
    Originally posted by ken8038

    The Cheesesteak place we'd always find an excuse to get to nearby was Mama's (Also closed on Sunday's).

    Mama's in Bala Cydwyd (what a cool name for a place) was also high on my list, but was closed at every possible time I could have gotten there.....many of the great cheesesteak oints were closed the entire week of the 4th, bizarre as that seems.
    #20
    The Travelin Man
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    RE: Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006 2006/07/09 18:35:32 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by mr chips

    Great report, T.J. I realize how lucky I am that both wife and son are supportive of my roadfood obsessions.


    mr chips, when you posted your lists of ballparks and Roadfood establishments, it occurred to me that you must have a pretty understanding wife, and you have regularly mentioned Sam in your travels. I don't know if it is luck or good planning, but it seems like a very nice situation to have.

    TJ and I may not agree on, well...anything, but I felt bad that his family didn't seem to enjoy the adventurous eating as much as he does. I don't know if the story was embellished for the sake of story, but I almost got the impression that he was about thirty seconds away from about a week of sleeping on the couch. I couldn't live like that!
    #21
    Pwingsx
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    RE: Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006 2006/07/10 00:22:31 (permalink)
    TJ, this is a great report. I found myself slathering over some of the sandwich descriptions and laughing in sympathy at your trials and tribulations. This sounds like a good but really rough trip.
    #22
    TJ Jackson
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    RE: Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006 2006/07/10 09:23:19 (permalink)
    SteveKoe: no embellishments, other than the two block deathmarch to Campo's - but it sure seemed that bad at the time! My kids are just as happy with a microwaved frozen pizza as pizza from Pepe's. Well, they've not had Pepe's, but the point remains that their "palate" is far different from mine :-) Which, come to think of it, so was mine at that age!

    The wife on the other hand loves chains, and is rather entrenched on this pot at the moment. 9 times out of 10 she'd rather go to a restaurant she knows she's enjoyed in the past -- even if it has been inconsistent or the last few visits were disappointing -- rather than try a new place. Her current favorite "adventurous" (her point of view, not mine) eating: the[url='http://www.wendys.com/food/Family.jsp?family=10']Frescata sandwiches[/url] at Wendy's.

    I do indeed envy y'all whose families are more roadfood oriented....but hey, I'm workin on them every chance I get

    Pwingsx: thankee
    #23
    Tony Bad
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    RE: Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006 2006/07/10 09:32:55 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by TJ Jackson

    I do indeed envy y'all whose families are more roadfood oriented....but hey, I'm workin on them every chance I get

    Pwingsx: thankee


    GREAT trip report and pictures! I have my wife about 50% converted, while my kids (5 and 6) seem to enjoy finding roadfood places as much as I do. I make it an adventure for them, finding it on the computer and planning what we are going to eat. My kids have especially enjoyed our exploration of many of the great New Haven and NY pizza places, and are always up for a good hot dog.
    #24
    TJ Jackson
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    RE: Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006 2006/07/10 13:41:16 (permalink)
    I desperately want to get to New Haven at some point.

    The wife and kids love pizza so this should be an easy buy-in.
    #25
    jillandgordon
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    RE: Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006 2006/07/10 16:19:05 (permalink)
    I also am truly blessed. Jill, my wife of 41 years, loves baseball and roadfood. Most of my male acquaintances at work envy us as we pursue our hobby of trying to get to every ball park in the country. I am retiring from the airlines on July 31 and we will retain our flight privileges, so we can get to even more ball parks and roadfood places.

    We lived in Philly as young newlyweds in 1965 and, to this day, the words hoagie and cheesesteak, make me salivate more than Pavlov's dog. Of course, when we lived up north, the words "Chicken Fried Steak, could bring me to tears.

    #26
    Drewmcdan1
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    RE: Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006 2006/07/11 00:15:54 (permalink)
    TJ,

    Glad you liked your eating tour of Philly. You were there during a busy time. I’m writing this before you post the details of the Middlesex Diner, so I hope you didn’t have a cheesesteak there as that’s not a strong point of the place. We ate dinner there Friday night after not being there for a couple of months. They serve a lot of good food, but I didn’t care for their steak sandwich, mainly due to the roll they used.

    I grew up in N.E. Philly and from 1982 to last year; my Mom lived about a mile away from Steve’s. I don’t know if you knew it, but there is also a Jim’s Steaks location about a block away from Steve’s. The advantage to Jim’s is that it has seats indoor and is climate controlled. I agree with you about the Italian Roast Pork being a great sandwich. It’s one thing I can’t find here in Central PA and I usually end up making a decent imitation sandwich on my own. I can get a decent cheesesteak at two local places that have Philly style bread, but I can’t get the place that I frequent to put a pork sandwich on the menu. I also prefer Tony Luke’s cheesesteaks to either of the tourist traps on 9th St. But since I moved out of Philly, if I’m going there, I’m devouring an Italian Pork sandwich.

    I hope you realize that most residents of the Philly area don't get their steak sandwiches from Pat’s, Geno’s, Chubby’s , Tony Luke’s, etc. Most of steak sandwiches in the area are sold through pizza joints or bars. It’s mainly when we get visitors or go to the sports complex in S. Philly that we’ll make a stop at one of the more famous purveyors. I worked for the Navy in N.E. Philly and we had a lot of foreign military coming through for meetings, and invariably they wanted a Pat’s or Geno’s steak, or both. To accommodate them during lunch, we either took them to a local bar, or made the quick trek to Steve’s. (BTW, their hoagies are also pretty good).

    As to pork roll, if you can handle scrapple, you’ll have no problem with it. Its texture is like fried bologna with more spices added. If you have a choice make sure it’s Taylor’s brand, if you can get it.

    Strawbridge & Clothier was once a locally owned department store chain with the anchor store being the one you took the picture of. Growing up, we had Strawbridges, Wanamakers, Lit Bros, and from NYC, Gimbels. Unfortunately they’re all gone now, replaced by the same old Macys or Bloomingdales. I guess an analogy could be what Roadfood.com is all about. These stores have either gone out of business, or merged into a bigger chain. What was the Strawbridges in the Cherry Hill mall will be torn down, and turned into several chain restaurants, including a Cheesecake Factory. I guess some people call that progress.

    If you come back to Sesame Place, you may find cheaper accommodations in either Mt. Laurel, NJ or Center City. The hotels in N.E. Philly/Lower Bucks County jack up their weekend and holiday rates, due to Sesame Place.

    Glad you enjoyed your trip.
    #27
    -Tricky-
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    RE: Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006 2006/07/11 13:32:46 (permalink)
    I'm glad you got to Isaly's and that you liked Pamela's. It's one of my favorites!
    #28
    tmiles
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    RE: Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006 2006/07/11 13:47:53 (permalink)
    Excellent report. I'll look it up again next time I am going down that way.
    #29
    lleechef
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    RE: Pennsylvania Trip Report - July 2006 2006/07/11 14:32:52 (permalink)
    TJ, GREAT report and GREAT pictures, looking forward to seeing the rest of them. I can understand your frustration with small children on vacation but sounds like all in all there was not too much pouting!

    I too am lucky to be with Zman because we both love roadfood and are always scouting out new places. Thanks for taking the time for sharing such a beautiful report!!!!
    #30
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