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philadining

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  1. I just got a Facebook invite saying that the Khyber Pass Pub will open at 5pm on Christmas day. They've got an amazing beer selection and great New Orleans/Southern food. I'll be out of town, but if I were in Philly, that's where I'd be...
  2. Dining at Cochon solo would be no problem at all, as Mike said, there are two bars, and I'd actually say the kitchen bar is the best spot for anyone into food anyway, solo or not. Obviously bars are not great for larger groups, but in you're alone, or just with one or two companions, it's fun to watch the chefs, and you might be able to get in a conversation with them, depending on how crazed things are, who's working, etc. If you order interesting things, they might notice, and you could get some special attention, especially if they notice that you're on your own. That said, the place is packed to the rafters much of the time these days, so it's possible that the staff is not going to have time for any of that. You'll certainly have a better chance on a slower day. I've gone to both Cochon and Butcher within a few days of each other. They're different enough experiences that it's not like you need to pick between them. If you have time, do both. If you had to pick one, I'd choose the main restaurant. And as mentioned above, despite being right in a major tourist area, Johhny's Po Boys are pretty righteous. If you don't want to leave the quarter, you could do worse...
  3. I totally second Mile End. From Aloft, you're around the corner from Junior's if you're in the mood for a pile of brisket between two potato pancakes (or cheesecake.) Not actually inexpensive, or necessarily outstanding, but you get a lot of food for your money. And you're only about a mile-long hike straight up Flatbush Ave to Bark Hot Dogs, which is kind of expensive for hot dogs, but they're good... And then you're close to Franny's, which is likely to destroy your budget, but you'll be happy to sleep in a box on the sidewalk for a couple of nights after one of their pizzas.
  4. Looking forward to your reports Percy, sorry to hear about the camera troubles! Hope you can work it out, but in the interim, the iPhone will do... We had been wondering why we didn't see you at the Han Dynasty dinner at Le Bec Fin, but a flight to India is a pretty good excuse. If you're curious, I posted some pics here. I'll join Katie in testifying that Percy's cooking skill is quite impressive, so I look forward to any documentation of dhansak preparation. I still dream of that dhansak...
  5. In one of the more unlikely pairings I've ever encountered, Han did a guest-chef event at Le Ben Fin on Monday, October 24, 2011. Much like his earlier collaboration with David Ansill and Sam Jacobson, there were upscale interpretations of traditional Chinese dishes, integrations of luxe ingredients into conventional Sichuan recipes, and a few novel fusions. Some dishes were clearly from Le Bec's chef Nicholas Elmi, using Chinese ingredients and flavors in more traditional Le Bec Fin-styled plates. Others were clearly Han Dynasty dishes, employing some unexpected elements. We laughed about how those preparations were probably the first dishes ever to be served family-style at Le Bec Fin. Overall, I thought it was a great success: the food was both interesting and delicious, and there seemed to be a consistently full-house all night. In the final analysis, was this food better than the more traditional versions at Han Dynasty? Hard to say... maybe not... but it WAS quite good, and I'm always up for trying a new twist on an old idea. I have to admit that it seemed a bit surreal to be eating Sichuan food under the chandeliers of Le Bec Fin, tables set with multiple forks and elegant china, elegant servers delivering plates with synchronized precision. No dramatic reveals from under silver domes, but hey... The first course was clearly a Le Bec take on the cuisine: Tea Smoked Duck Brochette, with Duck consummé poured at the table. Skewered pieces of Duck Breast, Duck Liver and Duck Heart were suspended over a classic broth and modern foam, for a dish that wasn't as overtly Chinese-tasting as many of the courses, but was nonetheless quite delicious. Pork and Snail Buns was a bit more Chinese-feeling. I suppose one could find something like this at a creative dim sum place, but I can't say that I've ever seen that combination before. I hope to see it again sometime! Pork Belly with Long-Hot Salsa Verde featured rich, tender, slightly crispy chunks of rich pork belly, a mysterious spicy powder, and an assertively hot green sauce, buzzing with the flavor of fresh chili. Sampling all elements together made for an exciting and original flavor. Dry Pepper Foie Gras took one of Han's traditional preparations and substituted luxuriously creamy foie gras for the more typical meats or fish one usually sees in this dish. And it worked! I'm willing to be that this was the spiciest thing ever served in Le Bec Fin... "Eddie's Kung Pao Chicken" was obviously a Le Bec Fin dish - an expertly-prepared, tender piece of chicken, served over peanuts, with an elegant sauce reminiscent of the traditional Kung Pao sauce. Perfectly pleasant, even elegant, but a little dull... There was a bit of a delay before the last dish, and Han admitted that they were slowed down a little by a technical issue: they were having some trouble getting the level of heat that he's used to getting from the intense wok-burners one has in Chinese kitchens. So our Crispy Sweetbreads in Garlic Sauce weren't all that crispy (also - they might have been rushing our order a bit - one of our party had a deadline...) They were nonetheless pretty tasty, but I definitely would have liked a bit of crunch... No texture problems with the dessert: Sichuan Peppercorn Ice Cream with mango puree and black pepper. The version that appeared at the earlier collaboration dinner with Sam Jacobson and David Ansill was SO loaded with peppercorns that one's tongue went into an immediate numb, buzzy, tingly spasm. It was kind of cool, but probably a bit much. This rendition, as one might expect, was a little more subtle! I probably would have enjoyed a tiny bit more peppercorn flavor, but as it was, especially combined with the fruity stripe on the plate and some powdered black pepper, it was quite delicious, and a fitting end to a very interesting meal. So congrats to Han and to Nicholas Elmi for pulling off what was likely a challenging concept. And thanks to the folks at Le Bec Fin for wanting to do it in the first place. We were a little afraid that they'd throw Han out after he started cursing, but then remembered that they're probably used to that... I'm not sure that any monumental culinary revelations were reached during this experiment, but some tasty dishes resulted. I'm really glad to have been there to experience them! (edit typos... )
  6. Ate here just the other day and forgot to ask Han about this issue. I can't say I recall seeing any actual sichuan peppercorns, but I certainly tasted them! I suppose it's possible that they're using it more in a ground form or infused in oil, who knows, maybe people were freaked out by crunching down on them. In any case, I definitely detected the flavor. In other news: Beer Duck.
  7. Some friends and I tried a few small dishes at Red Farm over the weekend. We really enjoyed everything: the cocktails, all the dim-sum and starters, the place itself, the service, chatting with Ed... Sadly we were in the midst of a food crawl, after several good snacks, and on our way to dinner, so we didn't sample any of the larger plates, or even as many of the smaller ones as we might have wanted, but I'm really glad we stopped here, and I'm looking forward to having a full meal here soon. They're doing an interesting thing here, actually a couple of interesting things: integrating traditional techniques with a contemporary search-the-greenmarket sensibility, and letting the chef be whimsical and even tricky. A couple of dishes were overtly surprising in different ways. Mushroom Springrolls sounded pedestrian, so we didn't bother ordering them. But Ed was kind enough to send out a couple of orders anyway, because he thought we'd appreciate them. I'm so glad we got to try them. They were perfectly-executed grease-free crispy cylinders filled with fresh, vibrantly flavorful wild mushrooms. Ohm, and they're kind of fun too, with their flowery tops adding some extra crunch. The other surprising dish was the Crispy Duck Dumplings. First, the dumplings were masquerading as manta rays... Second, while the crunchy pockets were indeed filled with rich duck meat, they also contained a crab claw, so the flavor was as much crab as duck. But then a dip in the excellent curry pooled between them, and they're something else altogether. Spicy Crispy Beef was also a bit of an eye-opener. For one, the slices of beef were in fact quite crisp, even crunchy. Also, room temperature. A bit spicy, but also sweet. It's a riff on Gun Ban Niu Rou Si, but less chewy... The Pac-Man Shrimp Dumplings met with good reviews from my dining companions. It's not just an amusing idea, the dumplings themselves are also tasty. And the various dumplings are not just different colors, but different-flavored as well. A special starter of Berkshire Pork Belly was wrapped around a lychee fruit, then grilled. These were delicious, but almost overshadowed by the smoked, spicy cucumbers. The flavors of those vegetables unfolded in stages: first juicy, then smoky, then spicy. Duck and Fuji Apple Wraps echoes that sweet minced chicken lettuce cup thing that's everywhere these days, but elevates it by virtue of vastly superior ingredients. Crab and Pork Soup Dumplings were executed well, featuring a rich broth bundled in delicate, but durable wrappers. (There are four in an order, but I couldn't resist eating one before I remembered to photograph them...) The Katz's Pastrami Eggroll sounded a bit like a novelty, but irresistible, and it's hard to find anything wrong with excellent meat, rolled-up in a very well-made eggroll. That's all we had room for, but because it was all so good, especially the Duck (and stealth crab) dumplings, and the mushroom springrolls, that we're looking forward to coming back to order these again, and to sample more of the menu.
  8. FWIW, I had a couple of Yonah Schimmel knishes (directly from the Yonah Schimmel shop, not from Katz's) maybe 6 months ago, and they were delicious. Also, this is probably obvious, but I once made the mistake of ordering a pastrami sandwich from a waitress, rather than going up to the counter and doing the routine, chatting with the cutter, asking for juicy, sampling, tipping, etc. Unsurprisingly, I got an OK sandwich, but not nearly as transcendent as I've gotten many times before. Ordered from a waitress at a table. Ordered from the cutter at the counter. At that same table-service lunch, my friend ordered a roast beef sandwich. He was warned that it was cold and rare, but he was unprepared for it to be SO rare, really quite raw in parts, with large expanses of fat, not very appealing overall. Amusingly, an older gentleman in a Katz's shirt was working the room, saying hello to everyone eating at tables. He came over to us, asked where we were from, told a few funny anecdotes, then glanced at my friend's barely-touched sandwich. He chuckled, said "wow, somebody ordered wrong" and walked away... Yes, it's true, I guess, but I kind of expected a little more sympathy... Anyway, I'll forgive them because the pastrami is so good. And I'll always go to the counter and order my own meat.
  9. Funny coincidence: last night a co-worker ate there and liked it. I'm hoping to check it out myself soon, and I promise to report back!
  10. I think a meal at Zahav is a great idea. Michael Solomonov's food is pretty unique, and delicious...
  11. I don't wish to speak ill of Joey Vento at this moment in time, but it's still worth noting that the controversy over the "speak English" sign didn't occur in a vacuum. He was an outspoken, politically controversial person, and while there's plenty of room for debate about any of these issues, it would be disingenuous to suggest that the sign was merely a polite request to speak the prevailing language so that the line would move more efficiently. I really doubt that they were having a problem with people expecting to order in foreign languages. It's perfectly fine for a businessman to hold, and express, whatever political positions he wants, but if he's going to make it an inherent part of his business by posting a sign next to the cash register, then he'll have to be ready for some people to disagree. I saw that sign as hostile toward Mexican and Vietnamese immigrants, who I see as revitalizing that neighborhood. I disagreed with the sign, and chose to not eat there any more. But I'm also willing to accept that he did good works in the neighborhood as well. If nothing else, I think it's pretty great that we have a weird intersection like 9th and Wharton and Passyunk, touristy or not, I'm glad that there's a place where I can go get a good cheesesteak at any hour. Yep, I said a good cheesteak. From either place.
  12. Oh, right, Bill, thanks for mentioning this, we discovered the same thing recently and I meant to post about it. We brought beer and wine, so we didn't ask about what they had to sell, or ask prices, but they seemed to have at least a few decent beers. The "corkage" ends up being basically glass-rental, for $1 per glass. Of course I generally prefer straight-up BYOB, but I can't really complain too much about that. In the grand scheme of things, that's not much money if I want to bring my own, and in many cases I'm sure I'll just buy their beer.
  13. philadining

    Lungs

    FWIW "Husband and Wife Lung Slices" (Fu qi fei pian) rarely actually has any lung in it, the word in this specific instance seems to be a casual reference to offal in general. The dish is usually made with tripe, tongue, kidney, etc, but no lung. It's delicious, but I'm not sure learning that recipe will really help you work through your supply of lungs...
  14. Yeah, as Katie said - there's nothing food-wise at the stadiums that can't be had elsewhere (and probably a little better.) It's totally cool that one can get good food at the ball park, and avoid the institutional fare one is usually stuck with in places like that. I can certainly see the appeal of having some unique Philadelphia food while watching a game, but the ballpark is not really a dining destination in and of itself. There's nothing you can ONLY get there, other than the experience. I guess it does have the advantage of offering several local specialties in close proximity to one another, but I don't think that all of the surrounding logistical hassles are going to make it more efficient than just going to the original locations. Getting to the park, getting in, meeting up, standing in lines for food (and there ARE lines for the good stuff) getting the food back to a communal area while it's hot, will, as Ronnie suspects, mean throwing away a big chunk of time. But, maybe that's OK, and the combined experience of watching a baseball game and eating a Tony Luke's sandwich would be worth the time (and not-insignificant money) to the folks who are visiting. So it's up to you folks, really. As a local, I'd suggest spending the time, and money, on more food...
  15. It's always possible to make a case for one shade of gray over another, but I can see the logic in picking the specific places he did. It's tough to pick one place to stand-in as a representative for a whole class of restaurants, but I think he made some very clever choices. I happen to like Mémé, but even if I didn't, it certainly works well as a representative of the small, personal, chef-owned/chef-directed neighborhood place that's such a big part of the Philly dining scene (and relatively rare in many other cities.) I think we often lazily refer to those kinds of places as BYOs, because so many of them are, but that's not really the defining characteristic. With Mémé, not only did he get the two-fer of the interesting, quirky fried chicken lunch, but by choosing this place, he takes the focus off the BYO-ness. Of course that BYO culture is pretty important in Philly, and perhaps could have been highlighted more, except that an article in a national publication is inherently targeted toward visitors, and BYOs are most treasured by residents. I think tourists often find them confusing and annoying... I liked the choice of Krakus Mart, even though I'm more likely to eat at Syrenka or the New Wave. But I'm certainly going to pop into Krakus for some sausages, or a container of bigos, or a package of frozen pierogies, and the tiny dining area is certainly charming, so that's a good way to sum-up that neighborhood. As for John's, again, I see it as a good iconic symbol of a Philly thing: the old-school, small, neighborhood water ice place. It doesn't really matter whether it's the best. I have to admit that their storefront, and their ice, is what pops into my head first upon hearing that phrase "wooder ice" each summer. And even if I wouldn't necessarily consider Cafe Lutecia in my top 12, his descriptions of the soups vividly communicated the appeal of an iconoclastic neighborhood spot. There's probably one near you worth treasuring, that deserves a place on your list. So, let's see some lists!
  16. I think that's a great list. It's nice to see sincere selections from a food lover, rather than something the Chamber of Commerce might have put together, in a national publication. I'd be interested to see what some other folks' lists would be. I'd have a hard time not just copying Drew's, but I might work on one...
  17. Cajun Kate's 5th Anniversary this weekend! (August 12-13, 2011) They have a special seafood gumbo, oyster po-boys, and more: http://cajunkates.com/ Be sure to pre-order that gumbo if you want to be sure to get some, they sell out...
  18. I'm not sure whether Franklin Fountain makes theirs, or has it made, but it's not just some mass-produced commercial root beer. The other local Root Beer that I know of is from Yard's, a very good local (beer) brewery. As far as I know, the Root Beer only available at Percy St BBQ on South Street, but dropping in there for a mug of root beer would not be a terrible idea. (And if the pervasive smoky aroma creates a craving for texas-style brisket, you probably wouldn't be disappointed...) And for what it's worth, I think you folks should definitely come to our lovely city: I think you'll find the Philly eGullet folks to be shockingly friendly and eager to share our food culture (or at least as friendly as surly east-coasters get...) As a consensus is being developed about destinations, let me join a few others here in saying that, amidst the wealth of culinary options in the area, neither Amish food nor Colonial food rank very high in my book. Both are certainly worthy of consideration, and each has played an important part in the food culture of the area, but when it comes down to a limited-time event, I think devoting an entire excursion and/or meal to either would be a waste of time and calories. As Holly mentioned, there IS quite tasty Amish food to be had at the Reading Terminal, and visiting there is an absolute must, so I think one could get a sufficient dose of Amishness during an RTM crawl. If one had lots of time, it's true that many Amish farms out in Lancaster are lovely, as is the Central Market in that city, and there's a certain appeal to the homey, family-style restaurants out in that area, so it's a totally valid foodie field-trip. But given limited time, I'd put it down a few rankings on the list. Just to complicate things a little: I might suggest that one of the appeals of the Philly food scene is its ethnic diversity. It's actually pretty efficient to get a taste of that just by touring through the "Italian" Market, which is now significantly Mexican, and bordered by Vietnamese restaurants and businesses. Roaming through the Italian Market should probably be part of any foodie tour of the city anyways, but it's worth noting that Taquerias, Panaderias, Banh Mi shops, Pho restaurants, and enormous Asian grocery stores could/should be part of that. Oh, and yes, the legendary dueling Cheesesteak joints, Pat's and Geno's, are right there too if one really wants to partake. And although I'm NOT in the camp that believes those places are worthless, we Philly foodies do feel an obligation to take visitors to better places, or to divert their attention to the much tastier roast pork sandwiches that are almost as ubiquitous, but not as well-publicized. But if anyone wants to say that they went to Pat's and/or Geno's, it wouldn't be hard to squeeze in. Similarly, the Reading Terminal Market is adjacent to Philly's Chinatown, so a visit to the RTM could be pretty easily extended to include a tour through Chinatown. That could, of course, involve eating, or just sightseeing. Greater Philadelphia also has a small but lively Polish neighborhood, a huge Russian supermarket, and a cluster of very good Korean restaurants. These neighborhoods are a little bit outside of center city, and not easily accessed by public transport, but there was some talk a few posts up about a bus... Of course, there's only so much time, so perhaps those neighborhoods would be a distraction, but they're certainly a part of what I find exciting about Philly's food scene. It's also true that the proximity of excellent produce has shaped the scene as well, so a farm/dairy/cheesemaking tour is certainly valid. But that kind of thing is not necessarily unique - so I'd ask the folks coming in from elsewhere: what's more intriguing to you? We could show you (excellent) local farms, we have ethnic neighborhoods worth exploring, there's plenty of diversity right in Center City... And we shouldn't forget the sizable Italian neighborhood surrounding the Italian Market. I think we locals sometimes forget that the homey Italian-American food served at what are often referred to as "Red Gravy" joints is actually hard to find in many parts of the country. I've had lots of visitors go crazy over the food at some of those humble places that I never think of as destination restaurants. I'd say that any gathering such as this must include the Reading Terminal Market, and the Italian Market. Touring either of those spots should certainly also do double-duty as real shopping for a pot-luck dinner. And if desired, tours of those places could very easily be extended to include Chinese, Vietnamese and Mexican shops and/or restaurants. If there is time and desire to venture out further, you visitors can decide whether you'd prefer visiting a farm, or some other urban ethnic attractions. As has been mentioned, we're pretty beer and booze crazy here (it's not just me is it?) so visiting a craft brewery and/or distillery would be high on my list of recommendations. And then, there are certainly more than a few bars where one can find good beer and cocktails... So, yeah, I vote that you folks come here, I suspect that we could show you a good time. And yes, I think you should extend the gathering to be two-weeks long. Or longer.
  19. I thought the season was more like May-July-ish, but perhaps we're still in the tail end of it. I haven't really been paying attention to the specials boards recently, but if they're in-season and available fresh, they're pretty common in many kinds of restaurants around here. Oyster House is certainly going to be a good choice. We've had some really delicious ones at Ken's Seafood in Chinatown, and a crazy spicy version at Han Dynasty in Old City. Softshell Po-Boys pop up as specials at Cajun Kate's out in Boothwyn, and at Khyber Pass Pub in Old City. I've had both, and they're really good, but you'd have to check to see if they're available.
  20. This might be a little late if you're talking about this week, but as has been implied above, you're actually not in a complete food wasteland in Kensington. You might have to travel a short distance, but the greater Fishtown, Kensington, Port Richmond area has gained many new places in the last couple of years, as well as maintaining some great old traditional spots. Your biggest problem is that you're looking at a Sunday night. I'm not sure how many of the potential places will be open when you want to go... but a quick phone call ought to clear that up. I'll second several of the above recs, and add a few. The Memphis Taproom is pretty close to where you'll be, and they'll almost certainly be serving something. They've got a great beer list, a diverse, if not huge, menu, and they might even have their hot dog truck active in the beer garden. Maybe not destination cuisine, but pretty fun on a summer night. Food till midnight on weekends. http://memphistaproom.com Only a little bit further, deeper into the Port Richmond neighborhood, as mentioned, the New Wave Cafe is pretty great. (If you call them or google their address, or whatever, make sure you're looking at the right one: there's another New Wave Cafe on south 3rd st. Also a bar with food, but totally different thing, different neighborhood. You want the one at 2620 E Allegheny Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19134 phone - 215-634-3224) The foods all pretty great: the Borsch (red and white), the Pickle Soup, the grilled Kielbasa, the potato pancakes (especially the Hungarian one with meat stew between two crisp pancakes!) the pierogies, the Polish beer selection... The trick is that they often turn into more of a disco dance club than a restaurant as the evening goes on. But I'm not sure about sunday nights. You could call and ask. Also, not too far from there is the legendary Tacconelli's Pizza. http://www.tacconellispizzeria.com/ The trick is that they have the quirk of preferring that you call ahead to "reserve your dough." You don't have to pre-order, you just have to tell them how many pizzas you intend to order. Generally, they prefer that you call a day ahead, BUT! from their website: "It's recommended to call ahead to reserve your dough, but its not always necessary." So you might be OK just showing up. But I'd call ahead. Also - last seating on a sunday is 8 pm. Cash only. There's also really good Vietnamese soups out in Kensington proper, at Thang Long Noodle. http://thanglongphilly.com/ The chicken soup (Pho Ga) is outrageously good, and perhaps even better is the Beef Stew Noodles. They're only open until 5:30pm on sundays though. Only till 8:30 other nights. As Holly mentioned, you're not too far from Tierra Columbiana. http://www.tierrarestaurante.com/ They serve Sundays until 10pm according to the website. Very good, hearty South American and also Cuban food. As the name suggests, the center of the menu is Columbian cuisine but it's really more generally South American and Caribbean. And it's good. If you head not very far the other way, toward downtown, into Fishtown, you have many options. Fathom Seafood house is a casual fish house-ish thing from a well-regarded chef with some other swankier places in town (ooh- sorry, not open sundays, according to the website...but then, things change, could be worth a call) http://fathomphilly.com Johnny Brenda's is a music venue with very good gastro-pub-ish food (serving until 1am 7 days a week). http://www.johnnybrendas.com Frankford Hall is an attempt at a traditional German beer hall, from restaurant mogul Steven Starr. They say they're open until 2am, even on sundays, but I wouldn't count on food that late... http://www.frankfordhall.com/ Sketch Burger makes really good... wait for it... burgers. Open until 9pm every day "except when we aren't" according to the website. http://www.sketch-burger.com/ Modo Mio is a very good, if inconsistent, Italian BYOB. You're very likely to have something mindblowingly delicious, and something incomprehensibly bad in the same meal, but the highlights are worth it, and the prices are good, so it's definitely worth a visit. If it were open on sundays, which it isn't. They also seem to have let their website domain expire or something, which is just the kind of inattention to detail that characterizes that place. But the food can be really good! If you've come that far into Fishtown, you're almost in Northern Liberties, which offers MANY great options, too many to list here, really, but consider Cantina Dos Segundos (serving till 1 am, 7 days) Standard Tap (the granddaddy gastropub, also serving until 1am 7 days.) KooZeeDoo (modernized Portuguese - Sundays 4-9pm) Bar Ferdinand (Tapas) not quite as consistently delicious as Amada, but at a fraction of the price, and some of it's quite good. Nice vibe. Kitchen 5pm-10pm sundays. Then of course, there's the whole city... Places will close up earlier on sundays, but there's always Chinatown. If you're not already in the wild, feel free to ask for more details. But the short version is that you can get good food not far from where you're staying. And it's certainly worth keeping in mind that you're not very far from the middle of Center City, so the whole city is really your oyster if you're willing to drive for 10-15 minutes.
  21. Haunted by visions of the Jaegerschnitzel that the folks next to us were eating at our last visit to Swan's, I couldn't resist another visit while I was back in town again briefly. In fact this is the only place I managed to eat while in Rochester, and I'm convinced that it was the right choice, even though it was about 250 degrees in there... I don't know if they even have air conditioning - if they do, it wasn't working, so an upper-90-degree-day might not have been the best time for a sit-down lunch, but I'd do it again. Here's why: Jaegerschnitzel, with German Potato Salad and Sauerkraut. It's tender, it's crunchy, it's porky, the gravy is outrageous. Totally worth any small discomforts in the environment. It's hard to resist their sausage combo, so we got one of those too, featuring their Smoked Brat (again) and a "Cajun" sausage, which I'll admit is an odd offering at an otherwise pretty traditional German place (but it's really good...) There are only a few communal tables for seating, so you inevitably end up in conversations with the folks sitting next to you, and that's actually part of the charm. We heard some funny stories about visiting Oktoberfest in Berlin, and tips about other local festivals. The consensus around our table was that Swan's is Rochester's best-kept secret. It's a tiny spot, and not open much, and doesn't provide many options for the vegetarian - even if you're a carnivore, it's tough if you don't eat pork: most entrees and sausages are pork-based, the (fantastic) potato salad and sauerkraut are about 50% bacon... But if you're looking for homey German-style food, served in a friendly, casual setting, Swan's is just about perfect. It doesn't hurt that the it's a bargain, leaving you a few bucks to go up to the deli case and get some sausages or meats or salads to go. I've started a small cult around that potato salad down here in Philly. And no, I don't have any extra.
  22. I've only been to the one in Queens, but that was my reaction as well: the salads and larb were especially satisfying, and at a pretty serious level of (balanced) spiciness. We got that after having a discussion with the server and insisting that we wanted everything at an appropriate level of heat, something vaguely like "authentic." We were told that what we got was actually "medium" spicy, which was at least as hot as I've ever gotten in an American Thai restaurant. It wasn't just handfulls of peppers for the sake of heat, obliterating all the other components, the flavors were very vibrant and clear across the spectrum. The pronounced sourness in a few dishes was as notable as the Scoville rating. I'm sure that what we got would have been too hot for many of my friends, but it's nice to know that the restaurant will go to that level of spice if asked. I hope the Manhattan branch will do the same. Catfish Larb Sour Sausage "Clear Salad"
  23. I'm going to put in a recommendation for Dano's, and say that I don't quite understand Emily R's comment - "Austrian food isn't my thing." There's a pretty diverse menu there, offering small, light cold salads, cheesey spreads, roasted chicken, traditional sausages, house-made charcuterie, hearty goulashes, simply poached fish, a killer roasted eggplant dish, burgers, etc. It's not as if there's one kind of food to eat there, it's not all sausages and schnitzels. http://www.danosonseneca.com/menu.php Part of the point of the Heuriger concept is that it's flexible: one can just have a light snack, or a heavy meal or something in between. Of course it's perfectly valid for any given person to not enjoy the place, that's fine, maybe the several styles of food on offer there won't excite you either. But I'll just add that I've been there a few times with people with widely-varying tastes and preferences and we've always been able to find something appropriate. Like Bob above, I live several hours from there, but whenever I find myself nearby, I make a point to stop. I've been too obsessed with Dano's to explore many other places in that immediate area, but just down the road, is the Stonecat Cafe. I can't give a personal review, but I've heard good things, and it certainly looks interesting. http://www.stonecatcafe.com/Site/Menus.html Over in the town of Canandaigua, there's a very nice little traditional German restaurant called Rheinblick. If I were going to pick one, I'd chose Dano's, but they're not doing quite the same thing: Rheinblick is definitely more in the old-fashioned German food zone. But if you like that kind of thing, or just want to get a beer and a sausage, or a huge Schweinshaxe with the bone sticking out of it, it's a nice casual little place. I feel like traditional German food is hard to find in many parts of the country, so it's nice to see that there are a few spots left. There are lots of charming little cafes attached to wineries in the Finger Lakes, and I'm sure you can get a perfectly pleasant meal at many of them, but I can't say that I've had any that were outstanding, beyond the inherent appeal of sitting on a deck, overlooking a lake, drinking some wine... I'm not sure where you're starting from, but there's not a whole lot of especially exciting food around Corning, or between there and Niagara Falls. When near Buffalo, you can probably skip the wings at the Anchor bar, but you really should get a Beef on Weck sandwich, preferably from Schwabl's. If you're passing through Rochester, there's a topic about it here>> that has some recent postings (including, of course, German food!!)
  24. I've got no advice for you, but hey, congrats, Tim!
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