Monday, October 3, 2011

LuLu's Pizza Bar, a good in-between

We recently stumbled upon the newly opened LuLu's Pizza Bar on Market St. While there's certainly no shortage of pizza in Old City(Gianfranco, Old City Pizza, Soho, Pizzicato, etc) LuLus fills a niche that we didn't even realize existed until we were already working on our first slices.

Gianfranco used to be our go-to spot for thin crust gourmet pizza. They have fun combinations and plenty of options to choose from. However, the small space was not very inviting for a dine-in option. Old City pizza is deep dish and way too greasy, Soho is cramped and doesn't have a big variety of slices. The only dine-in option in Old City is Pizzicato. We were never impressed by Pizzicato's pizza and their ridiculous placement of million tables on the sidewalk is annoying, so we choose not to patronize them.

Along came LuLu's with some nice sidewalk seating for prime people watching and a sophisticated bar/dining room. The pizza is just as good and just as cheap as Gianfranco's, they have a full bar, and great selection of craft beers. The Margherita pizza is crispy and light, with homemade mozzarella. The meatlovers is any red-blooded American's dream.

Its a great place to go when you want to have a slice or two in a nice quiet environment without spending too much on what really is just pizza.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


For months, the Hawthornes Cafe facebook feed has been tempting us with pictures of their daily food specials. So we decided to take advantage of the below average temperatures and trip down to 11th and Fitzwater to experience the "Beer Boutique and Gourmet Eatery".

The atmosphere of Hawthornes is slightly more upscale than the Foodery but not as rigid as a traditional gastro pub. The diners are encouraged to browse the beer coolers to make a selection and you can either order out from the counter, or opt for table service.

Hawthornes has an extensive food menu with things ranging from super healthy vegan options to traditional american comfort food. We opted for one healthy dish and one not-so-healthy dish. The salad du jour had roasted carrots and parsnips over baby spinach leaves with a sprinkling of feta cheese. A perfect summer salad with just the right amount of balsamic vinaigarette mixed in.

The not-so-healthy choice was what Hawthornes calls "The French Quarter". A little bit of southern, a little bit of French. Chicken stuffed with ham and cheese (Cordon blue) sat atop a heaping mound of buttermilk mac and cheese. Three large pieces of southern biscuit sat on the side, not covered in country gravy as stated on the menu, but okay just the same for sopping up the leftover gooey cheese.

To accompany this our meal, we had a refreshing shandy, which is lemonade mixed with an american pale ale and a glass of Port Mongo, an IPA from the West Coast. The Shandy was what Bridget wished every beer tasted like, very sweet, with just a splash of the dreaded beer taste. Steve's Port Mongo was the perfect compliment to his French Quarter.

Our night at Hawthornes ended with a perusal of the beer coolers. Their selection isn't quite as extensive as the Foodery, but the method of labeling is much more clear and most importantly, all the bottles are marked with prices.

As we were checking out the owner, Christopher, told us that if we liked our dinner we'd definitely would have to come back for brunch, because its "insane". We'll definitely be taking his advice sometime soon.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Summer 2011 Shore round up

Its been a feast or famine summer for us as far as dining out at the shore goes. Some weekends meals are spent squeezed around the dining room table with the whole family, eating burgers, hot dogs, or pizza. And other weekends, like this one past, we've been able to sample the local cuisine without too much of a headache.

Everyone knows that Memorial Day Weekend, Fourth of July Weekend and Labor Day Weekend are off limits for dining out. Too many people, too little space. So if you want to get to a popular restaurant during the summer months, you're best bet is one of the in between weekends.

Our culinary tour this weekend was very diverse, from Atlantic City's best to a Sunday evening sub sandwich on "seashore" bread. We did it all. So here's where we've been eating when we escape the city, and what we think of it.

Knife and Fork, Atlantic City: When we say this is an Atlantic City establishment, we mean it. The Knife and Fork has been around since the days of Nucky and the rest of the Boardwalk Empire crew. It certainly has had its ups and downs. Several years ago the Dougherty family (owners of Doc's Oyster House) bought the Knife and Fork and restored it to its former glory. The inside is cozy and old school. Dark wood and old fashioned fixtures certainly contrast the gaudy decor of some of the neighboring casinos.

The menu is diverse and can satisfy any craving. Perfect french onion soup was enjoyed along side a bowl of crab and corn chowder and a beautifully decorated plate of yellow and red beets with goat cheese. For our entrees we had quiet the variety. We had a perfectly cook strip steak, a delicious and moist pork chop, and exotic filet of halibut and a well stuffed (with crabmeat) flounder. Despite our food babies we couldn't resist ordering the Jersey fresh Blueberry Tart. And it was insane. There's nothing like a Jersey blueberry in the summer, so add sugar, butter and put it in a graham cracker crust. Amazing.

We've driven past the Knife and Fork a million times and had never been in. It certainly won't be another 29 years until we get there again.

Barrel's of Margate: Oh Barrels...That was our reaction to the unilateral change made by the hostess regarding our reservation time. Barrels is notorious for booking too many reservations and having a lobby full of angry hungry people wondering what the hell is going on. We arrived at 8:25, knowing that just 25 minutes before that we had called to see when they could seat a party of 2. 8:30, no problem, we were told. We finally were seated at 8:51 and as we walked into the dining room an old man looked at us and said "worth the wait". He was more than right. This wasn't our first time at Barrels so I don't know why we expected anything different from the teeny bopper running the hostess stand.

Things ran much more smoothly once we were seated. Barrel's olive oil garlic dip alone can make up for an hour plus wait. We filled up on bread and decided to forgo the Caprese salad. Steve was looking for some protein, but couldn't resist the cheese lasagna, so he ordered the lasagna with two meatballs. Both the lasagna and the cheese gnocchi were piping hot and covered in Barrels marinara. If we had any will power and had resisted the bread and olive oil, we both would've cleaned our plates but we were actually excited to bring home leftovers, so we could experience the flavors all over again. Unfortunately for us, we left them in the fridge when we headed back home on Sunday. Hope my parents enjoyed it!

So we've determined that you need to do one of three things to enjoy Barrels food without getting frustrated. 1) Be prepared to wait, despite a reservation. 2) Go in the winter when its only half as busy. 3) Take out.

Atlantic City Sub Shop: The most important thing about a sub, hoagie, grinder or sandwich is the bread. Atlantic City Sub Shop is owned by Formica Bakery, so you're pretty much guaranteed a delicious sub. Another great thing that we love about them is that they are literally on our way home to Philadelphia. One last taste of the shore before heading out for another work week. They are not in Atlantic City, so no need to worry about parking. Their Tilton Road location is much more convenient than anything by the casinos, and once you're inside, sitting in a booth fashioned to look like a boardwalk rickshaw, and surrounded by old time pictures of Steel Pier, you feel like you're there.

The "Regular" is filled with all your typical italian hoagie fixins. All the right proportions too! I was a little adventurous and ordered a spinach veggie sub. Sometimes traditional sub shops have veggie options on their menu for show, but don't really master the proper way to prepare it. I opted for no cheese, which made me think there was a chance of one bland-ass sandwich. But much to my enjoyment the sauteed spinach, red peppers and onions stuck together perfectly. Just enough salt to bring out the flavor of each veggie and not too much grease to negate the fact that this was all vegatables.

We completely enjoyed our late lunch at the Atlantic City Sub Shop. Sometimes you really need a nice meal before the trek home through all the shore traffic.

A well rounded culinary weekend for sure. Still haven't been to Smith Clam Bar, so we'll be trying to fit that in soon!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Getting burned at Champignon de Tokyo

Champignon de tokyo has been on our restaurant list since the beginning. We were in the mood for sushi and decided that we should do soemthing different than our usual Old City Asian Bistro. Despite all signs pointing to the fact that the night was going to be weird, we strolled down to Headhouse Square and popped our head inside Champignon. 

The first sign of trouble was the waiter/hipster sushi chef who told us at 6:30 that he wasn't quite ready to serve yet. Really? Not ready at 6:30? Usually this would be prime dining time, especially on a Tuesday night.  As suggested we headed next door to Headhouse, and sat at the bar. Not really sure how this operation works but Headhouse and Champignon share a bar and a menu but have two seperate kitchens.

We decided to plants ourselves and eat our sushi at the bar instead of playing musical chairs. We ordered Edamame and Veggie dumplings at 6:40 and 3 sushi rolls at 6:45.

The apps didn't roll out until 7:10ish. They were good but took too damn long to come out. There were only another 7 diners in the whole place. Our patience was wearing thin.

At 7:36 our sushi still hadn't arrived despite a reassurance from the weirdo bartender that it would be right out. We looked at the time and promised ourselves that if it wasn't out by 7:45 we were asking for the !check and walking out. Sure enough, two minutes later the california roll arrived, followed by the spicy tuna roll and finally after another five minutes the tokyo roll.

The rolls were mediocre. Too much rice and not as neatly packaged as we've seen before. Everyrthing tasted fresh,thank god!

The icing on the faux pas cake was when the bartender cleared our plates while Steve was still chewing his last bite. So it took an hour to get the food,but you can't wait two seconds before clearing? Bizarre!!

The whole atmosphere was weird, aloof waitstaff, slow service, empty dining room and the little old asian lady chef wandering around in house slippers.

We got burned, lesson learned.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

One Shot Coffee

Part II in an ongoing series on Philly's worthwhile cafe's with better brews...

Tucked away on pedestrian George street in Northern Liberties is a gem of the philly coffee scene. One Shot fits right in to its surroundings, and is very welcoming, even in the rush hour of Saturday deprived morning caffeine addicts.

We were greeted warmly in the narrow first floor, but told that the place isn't set up for pour-over, yet... not sure we understood why, as there's not much of a setup necessary.

The Stumptown brew was great, although it still doesn't  compare to local heroes like Blue Water or La Colombe.

We had one very simple breakfast sandwich- unadorned, just fluffy good brioche, egg and stringy melty cheddar. Service was extremely fast, and ketchup was not forgotten. Top notch eats, and there were plenty of other options, including mounds of great looking pastries.

The space has plenty to draw the eye, being of salvaged tin ceiling, found furniture pieces and the obligatory dim-filament light bulbs. It's also loaded with books, relieved of their jackets and arranged in completely random order; this makes for an interesting mental trip for those with active minds, inspired by coffee.

Upstairs is a wide open, well appointed lounge. They'll even bring your order up to you if you decide to climb the stairs. And a very funky book nook with two leather couches, coffee table and seemingly unattached acoustic guitar waiting to be plucked.

A nice spot, with good food and coffe that deserves some more time to be spent within its walls.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Green Line Cafe - Locust

Widening the horizons, I'd almost forgotten how beautiful West Philadelphia/Clark Park area is. I actually missed my target of hitting their location at 44th and Baltimore and ended up at the Locust street place at 45th.

But that was a-ok. This location is spacious and well arranged with comfortable seating at table, couch, church pew or window bench. The clientele was very interesting and diverse - most of the conversation I overheard wan not in english, weathered foreigners discussing god knows what in a friendly way- this is why city life often feels like constant vacation. Strange chatter and unfamiliar faces can easily transport you to a place imagined or real, the effect is amazing.

The offerings were various - toasted multigrain bagel was great, coffee also excellent. I didn't venture into the vegan sammich selection, but that looked impressive. Also there was quiche and some other options I can't remember.

In summary- very good!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Coffee Tour

We're addicts. It's not our fault- this city is foul with dark rich aroma brewed by folks wearing colors other than green. Coffee shops, unique and accessible, grow like weeds around here.

Some favorites we've already established are Mugshots, Cafe Estelle, Bodhi, Shot Tower, and the unparalleled La Colombe.

It's time to branch out. Tomorrow we'll be waking with a stiff brew from somewhere we've never been yet, and it probably won't be close to home.