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The Ugly American


philadining
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The City Paper gets a sneak peek at the menu for the soon-to-open "American Food" restaurant The Ugly American (1100 south Front St).

Ugly American Menu

Some potentially good stuff there, including (be still, my heart) Garbage Plates. Mustard Pan Sauce? We'll see... And I thought only professional wrestlers called Rochester NY "Roc City" but maybe I'm out of touch.

Even more exciting: Beef on Wick (a commonly seen variant of "weck.") You'd get beaten-up in Buffalo for putting something as frou-frou as caramelized onions on that sandwich, but it's probably good.

I think they really ought to cover more weird US regional foods, how about a Hot Brown? A good muffaletta? Puffy Tacos? Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches?

But hey, it's a start.

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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If they can execute, I think they will have a monster hit on their hands. It is a very timely concept. The menu reminds me a little of the competition in Paris on The Next iron Chef with twists on regional American dishes.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Re: Beef on Weck. The beef's the easy part, the weck is harder.

I haven't checked. Does anyone know if Wegmans sells kummelweck at their SE Pa. and South Jersey stores?

Yes they do. At least I see them quite regularly in the Downingtown store, and I'm told that The Whip Tavern orders them from there, so there's a steady demand.

After I first saw them, I emailed Wegmans and asked if they regularly stock them, and they replied that if there's ever anything I wanted, I should ask the bakery manager. So it's worth a shot: if you don't see them in the Wegmans near you, ask the bakery manager if they could whip up a batch for you. They have the recipe...

BTW, they're pretty good.

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Re: Beef on Weck. The beef's the easy part, the weck is harder.

I haven't checked. Does anyone know if Wegmans sells kummelweck at their SE Pa. and South Jersey stores?

Yes they do. At least I see them quite regularly in the Downingtown store, and I'm told that The Whip Tavern orders them from there, so there's a steady demand.

After I first saw them, I emailed Wegmans and asked if they regularly stock them, and they replied that if there's ever anything I wanted, I should ask the bakery manager. So it's worth a shot: if you don't see them in the Wegmans near you, ask the bakery manager if they could whip up a batch for you. They have the recipe...

BTW, they're pretty good.

Kummelweck in the Princeton store! But no roast beef from Schwabl's, so what's the point?

Rich Pawlak

 

Reporter, The Trentonian

Feature Writer, INSIDE Magazine
Food Writer At Large

MY BLOG: THE OMNIVORE

"In Cerveza et Pizza Veritas"

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  • 1 month later...

I went the other night and was impressed, it was much better than I was expecting. We started with the turkey consomme, made from broth that had obviously been tended with much more care than I tend my own, it was not cloudy at all. The venison chili was also good, though it could have used a bit more venison and a bit less of its accompaniments.

Of course I had to get the beef on wick. I had never heard of it before this thread so I can't say whether the Ugly American's version is true to the original, but it was a damn good sandwich. The kummelweck roll was studded with caraway seeds, but I didn't see any of the giant salt grains that are also supposedly traditional. Anyway, it was great, and they serve it with some of the best fries I've had since the Black Door closed.

We also tried the vegetarian spaghetti and meatballs, which were also much better than expected. The 'meatballs' were a delicious blend of wild mushrooms, nicely complemented by the black truffle sauce, which (thankfully) lacked the overpowering flavor you sometimes get when a chef is a little too generous with the truffle oil. I suppose it's also possible they were using actual truffles. The 'spaghetti' is barely-cooked julienned veggies, also very well done. The whole dish was just really well thought-out, something which is often lacking in the token veggie entree at some other otherwise meat-centric restaurants. Next time I think we'll try the mushroom po-boy.

It was somewhere in between apps and entrees that we finally got a basket of bread, and I didn't bother pulling back the napkin until I had started the beef on wick. I nearly yelped out loud when I opened the basket to reveal biscuits! I love biscuits, and it's damn near impossible to find a place that serves good ones, even for breakfast. Getting them without even asking, I felt like someone there feels the way I do about biscuits. Unfortunately I didn't get them in time to soak up the consomme.

The only slight letdown was dessert, but I'm tough on desserts. Usually when I get something chocolatey for dessert I end up just wishing I'd eaten a hunk of good chocolate, and that's what I thought after this one, a brownie with peanut butter ice cream and banana sauce. The peanut butter ice cream was excellent, if they served that all by itself that would be fine with me. Unfortunately the brownie it was served on wasn't up to the same standard, it was pretty dry. I like a nice 50/50 fudgy/cakey texture in a brownie, this one was 75/25 cakey/chalky.

Service was friendly, a little slow but not so bad that it was an issue with our meal. I think they may just be overwhelmed at the crowds they're getting: we waited about 20 minutes for a table and we got there late, around 9:15 or so if I remember correctly, though it was Friday night.

Oh, there was one thing that kind of sucked, but they are supposedly going to fix in the very near future: there are no beers on draft. Only bottles. The bottles are good ones (Rogue Dead Guy, Troeg's Nut Brown, among others), but with the food they're serving, there have to be beers flowing freely from taps. As Philadining said, the wine list is kind of an afterthought, only a few reds and whites available by the glass, but we had a couple of the reds and they were good for the price.

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Wow, I really thought I had posted about my visit in this thread, but I guess it was just over here.

The short version is that aside from a few quibbles, we generally liked it. The Beef on Wick (BTW, that's what my relatives around Buffalo always called it, not "weck") was very good, with a really nice roll. One of the bartenders confirmed our suspicion that they're made in-house. And ours had salt on it, I think you can see it...

gallery_23992_3894_9614.jpg

Buckethead, how present was horseradish?

And damn, we didn't get any biscuits... that sounds good.

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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The po-boy is described on the menu only as 'mushroom po boy' with rabe and goat cheese. From the two dishes we got that had mushrooms in them, it's obvious that someone in the kitchen cares about mushrooms, so I'd expect the po-boy to keep that up. Does a po-boy traditionally consist of fried stuff inside? My only experience with them is from the old Gumbo Shoppe in Aston, they had fried and non-fried po-boys there.

There was no horseradish with my beef on wick, Philadining, so if you had to ask them for it and I didn't get any either, I'm not sure what the deal is. The menu says it should be there. Is it supposed to be part of the jus they give you for dipping? I didn't really miss it, I was so impressed with the fries and the sandwich as is (and the biscuits!)

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The po-boy is described on the menu only as 'mushroom po boy' with rabe and goat cheese. From the two dishes we got that had mushrooms in them, it's obvious that someone in the kitchen cares about mushrooms, so I'd expect the po-boy to keep that up. Does a po-boy traditionally consist of fried stuff inside? My only experience with them is from the old Gumbo Shoppe in Aston, they had fried and non-fried po-boys there.

I'm thinking of shrimp and oyster po' boys, which in my experience are made with fried seafood. In theory, you could do a mushroom po' boy in lots of different ways; I'm just thinking that fried mushrooms are about the same size as shrimp (and are tasty as heck), and would make for a great sandwich.

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I was here about 3 weeks ago on a cold sunday night, I was unimpressed.

The service was rotten, We were the only table in there and we were ignored. The waiter forgot the cheese on my boyfriends sandwich-- come on!

They were hosting some kind of party and we totally felt like we were a burden. I had read about the restaurant on this site and I was excited because it is only 5 blocks from my new home, but I will not be returning. I was all excited about having something with a good bar menu and some good beer nearby to stumble home from, but alas. Also, why dont they have the bar menu and the regular menu together? I had to ask for the bar menu like a chump. And, for a new restaurant the owners or whomever could have taken a second to stop by my table-- the only one in there-- and say hi. We are neighbors. A certian someone I used to work for always said that a person with a good expierence at the restaurant might tell one person if you're lucky. A person with a bad expierence will tell everyone with ears. Its a shame because Pennsport could use some sprucing up in the bar catergory. Unfortunately this is not it for me. The fries are awesome though, but I can get them at Brasserie or 5 guys or at home.

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I'll be interested to hear what the po' boy is like -- report back, Buckethead!

(Incidentally, on the same principle as my wish that restaurants in other locales serving "Philly Cheesesteaks" with lettuce and tomato on sourdough or whatever would just call it a steak sandwich, I wish that restaurants outside of NOLA would not call their sandwiches a muffaletta or po' boy unless they're making an earnest stab for authenticity.)

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I was here about 3 weeks ago on a cold sunday night, I was unimpressed.

The service was rotten, We were the only table in there and we were ignored.  The waiter forgot the cheese on my boyfriends sandwich-- come on!

They were hosting some kind of party and we totally felt like we were a burden.  I had read about the restaurant on this site and I was excited because it is only 5 blocks from my new home, but I will not be returning.  I was all excited about having something with a good bar menu and some good beer nearby to stumble home from, but alas.  Also, why dont they have the bar menu and the regular menu together? I had to ask for the bar menu like a chump.  And, for a new restaurant the owners or whomever could have taken a second to stop by my table-- the only one in there-- and say hi. We are neighbors.  A certian someone I used to work for always said that a person with a good expierence at the restaurant might tell one person if you're lucky.  A person with a bad expierence will tell everyone with ears.  Its a shame because Pennsport could use some sprucing up in the bar catergory.  Unfortunately this is not it for me.  The fries are awesome though, but I can get them at Brasserie or 5 guys or at home.

Sorry you had such an awful experience mandabear. I was wondering if you had spoken with management about your bad dining experience? Since they're rather new, maybe they're still a little (or a lot) rough around the edges and could benefit from hearing from you. Since previous reports about the food have been good ones, it would be a shame for you to miss out on some good eats right in your own neighborhood. I have to agree though; that kind of non-service would really tick me off too.

Inside me there is a thin woman screaming to get out, but I can usually keep the Bitch quiet: with CHOCOLATE!!!

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I was just in a play down at Old Swedes Church at Front and Christian, so the Ugly American became our official hang. We did opening night AND closing night parties there, not to mention unofficial parties till the wee hours on the nights in between. I'll let you all debate the food, but I can say that they effortlessly dealt with the throngs of people we brought in with us each night, sometimes more than 30 people in one shot. Service was sharp, professional, and friendly in that way that a restaurant that is part neighborhood tavern should be. My only complaint is that the house CD system seems to be on a switch that abruptly turns it off the exact second that you select a song on the jukebox. My friends leered at me when their tune was knocked off by my selection of Paradise City. And yo, don't knock my musical tastes.

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I did not say anything-- and I don't feel like I should have because I felt slighted by them as much as I did by the server. The food was fine-- not great but fine

Boyfriend had the Roast Beef with no cheese and I had the vegetarian po boy

both were good but the whole place didn't make me feel welcome at all--- just like I was a pain.

I can't forgive that in the hospitality business

Hopefully they do well, but in Pennsport they should be a liitle more friendly

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Brunch is good. By way of proof, I will offer this:

gallery_23992_3894_81345.jpg

Really excellent homemade biscuits, creamy gravy studded with sausage, perfectly-poached eggs. The sausage is Italian, which seems odd, but it works...

more pics>>

Also, Lari Robling reviews the place in the Daily News. I don't think I follow her main argument, that the food has "too much going on," but she offers descriptions of a few dishes that sound pretty good.

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Brunch is good. By way of proof, I will offer this:

gallery_23992_3894_81345.jpg

Really excellent homemade biscuits, creamy gravy studded with sausage, perfectly-poached eggs. The sausage is Italian, which seems odd, but it works...

i will be flying home shortly for those obscene poached eggs (just the way i like them!) and the biscuits. thanks for the photo....

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  • 1 month later...

What buckethead said. Had the turkey soup (fresh mushroom dumplings), BoW (great combo of caraway and salt), and awesome (tad sweet) biscuits -- all great. Also an endive salad w/ roasted apples and carm. cauliflower. Really good. We sat at the bar, relaxed crowd, totally acceptable noise level. Dining room off the bar looks comfy. Food + 3 pints: $38 b/t/t.

It's still proto-hipster. Get there while the gettin's good.

Website w/menu here.

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  • 3 weeks later...

In a slight change from the usual, my girlfriend wrote the review. I'm just the man behind the C-C C-V.

We've been to the Ugly American twice, both for Sunday brunch. Both times, I came away with an overall favorable impression, and an inkling that we may have found our new favourite brunch spot (which is something we've been lacking ever since Cafe Sud closed down). The only low point, either time, was our waitress's tendency to vanish into the aether for extended periods of time. Perhaps the waitresses are taken into that mysterious oubliette at the bottom of that spiral stair up front, where they undergo some sort of deprogramming. Perhaps it ate her and spat out a clone, which then took some time in coming up to speed with current events. Whichever it was, it took an awfully long time to get our orders in and drinks on the table on our first visit, and on both visits we were obliged to get up and hunt down someone who could give us our check.

Some of the highlights from our trips:

- On our first trip, we ordered a basket of baked goods for a table - an option we noted was discontinued on our second trip, and what a pity that was. The cinnamon bun had the right amount of cinnamony tingle without being like biting into a cinnamon stick, the dough (a brioche, or brioche-like, perhaps - I'm no baker) was buttery-rich and yet kept its fluff, and a lovely medium dark caramel sauce nestled in all of the crevices therein, injecting the whole with its mellow sweetness. The croissant, enjoyed by lfabio, was pronounced an accurate representation of its kind, airy and flaky and buttery without being leaden. The danish was another classic rendition, but was rendered with the same competence (which is hard) and the same flair (which is much harder) as the rest. By the time we got to the cupcake (carrot with cream cheese frosting), there was only one out of four of us who dared to carve off a chunk, because by now we were beginning to understand that portion sizes at the Ugly American are very much American-sized, and we were already feeling a bit challenged by the pre-brunch binge on caffeine and sugar.

- After seeing philadining's review, I opted to try the biscuits with sausage gravy and poached eggs. The biscuits were outstanding - both the smothered and non-smothered versions. How do I know this, you ask? In the interests of scientific enquiry, I nabbed a chunk of a friend's biscuit and did a comparison. Neither were found lacking, which is always a good indication that the cook's hit on a winner. The sausage gravy had the right balance of creamy-sweet-peppery, the eggs were perfectly poached, and the whole shebang, once breached with fork and knife, ended up dissolving into a great, gooey, delicious mess.

- The classic breakfast was more of the same as the pastries - classic, homey stuff, but done with good ingredients, good technique, and gusto. The eggs (both scrambled) were fluffy, the home fries had a light crunch on the exterior and a tender, smooth, interior, the sausage wasn't the typical sweet breakfast sausage (which was just fine by all parties involved), and the biscuits, of course, very nearly stole the whole damn show.

- After our experiences with portion sizes, we were expecting maybe a whole T-bone to play the role of the steak in our steak and eggs. Instead, we ended up with what seemed to be a flank steak, sliced on the bias and cooked medium rare. It was pronounced tasty, and the hollandaise was not only the real deal but fresh, stable, and went very well.

- The lobster and leek omelet may have been the only low-ish point. Mind you, it wasn't bad, but the lobster was minimal and a bit chewy, and I question the addition of cilantro to the whole. But then, I often question the addition of cilantro in anything except perhaps for guacamole, so I would jot that particular note down under the 'entirely subjective' column and throw it to the side. Nevertheless, it took me by surprise, and getting ambushed by wild cilantro can be a terrible way to start your morning.

- The coffee was good. Nothing more than that, but many a perfectly good brunch has been spoiled by getting a steaming cup full o' Mobil 1, so I thought I'd mention it.

- Did I mention portion sizes. I think the table buckled when our entrees hit it. So, for that matter, did my knees. Good thing I was sitting at the time.

All in all, a welcome addition to the Philly brunch rotation. You won't find any high-falutin' cuisine here, but you will find a pretty solid selection of well-executed traditional fare at reasonable prices. And if the waitress takes a while to turn up with your check, well, it's Sunday. Roll with it.

Oh, and I'd also like to add a shout-out to Matt, who was observant enough to notice us sitting at a window table and kind enough to stop in and say hi.

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