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No Roast Pork in Philly


VivreManger
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Many thanks for all the help and advice you gave on my airport to Penn question earlier in the week.

John's does say that its roast pork at available at about 6:45 AM. I picked up mine at around 8:45. I never got to Top of the Town for a sliced steak. I got to RTM, but the sandwich from John's so stuffed me that I could not eat anything else, though I was tempted. A small from John's would have been enough but I wanted the hoagie not the kaiser roll. I ordered my pork sandwich with greens, onions, and hot peppers, no cheese. As for directions, from the airport I left I-95 at exit 19, then a U-turn to go north on Front St. to east (right) on Oregon, to left (north) on Swanson (just past the underpass on I-95, but the street sign is bent), then to east (right) Snyder and another block or so to John's on the right.

The Philly airport taxi flat rate policy wreaks havoc with stops and detours on the way, but that is another matter and (incidentally) one of the reasons I did not detour to Top of the Town on the way back.

Now to the meat of the posting. The sandwich is what I expected, but it really isn't roast pork. What I like about any roast meat is the crispy edge, the crackling on the pork, the bit of well-cooked fat, but instead all that is offered is steamed meat, dull grey, with no hint of any interesting spicing, unlike the kind you can find in a Cuban roast pork sandwich for instance where the spicing is inserted into the meat prior to roasting.

At the RTM I did notice some beautifully brown-crisped pork roasts on the counter of DiNic's, but the sandwiches produced looked only marginally better than what John's makes. The meat in the sandwich had a bit of brown on the edge, but it did not look enough to make a taste difference. To be fair I did not taste a DiNic's sandwich and next time I will; it looked better than John's.

Please don't accuse me of responding to your gracious assistance by insulting a source of local pride, but I am curious as to whether or not any pork sandwich maker in Philly really serves properly roasted pork. I hope I am not offending anyone with this question, but for the greater good of gastronomy I think it worth some attention.

Now if I really wanted to get the juices going I would address the issue (problem) with cheesesteaks, but that is another question for another day.

Edited by VivreManger (log)
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I think the real take away is that no one (read: me, and perhaps the OP) wants the thin slices of meat endemic to Philly. If you look at, say, Tommy DiNic's roast pork, the roast is beautiful pre-slicing, but each slice has very little of the flavorful, Maillard-reacted outside. His pulled pork, however, is pure heaven: nice chunks, lots of flavor. Down near Cheesesteak Hell at 9th & Federal, Lupe's torta de carnitas and torta "La Lupe" have extremely succulent roast pork, albeit in a Southern-US saucy pulled-pork style.

Does anyone genuinely advocate the thin slices? According to Alton Brown, the original Philly Steak Sandwich was made with chopped (not sliced) chain meat, i.e., left-over tenderloin. So what's the deal?

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A Maine lobster roll fan goes to Connecticut, orders a lobster roll and receives a bun heaped with warm lobster.

"Bleah!" says Maine lobster roll fan. "Where is the wonderful contrast between sweet chilled lobster meat and warm toasted bun? Does anyone in Connecticut know how to make a proper lobster roll?"

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

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I think I might be able to clear up the OP's somewhat heretical statement with a somewhat heretical statement of my own: JRP's roast pork sandwich isn't that good. The pork is a little bland. It's not as good as Tony Luke's and it's not in the same ballpark as DiNic's.

The pork in all the above sandwiches is properly roasted. It's just not what you imagined (and, to be fair, what the general population would imagine) when you heard "roast pork sandwich." If you've ever seen the things pre-slicing, you know this is true.

Now as to whether or not the post-roasting technique is the right way to go: I'm not sure. I'd love to try a pork sandwich with big, crispy chunks covered by well-drained greens. On the other hand, DiNic's sandwiches are sublime as they are. The juicy wetness is one of their strong points.

Part of the problem with this approach would be a volume/surface area conundrum. Meaning there wouldn't be enough of the crispy stuff to go around. There are ways of dealing with this problem; to wit, Sweatman's BBQ has a giant sign behind the counter that says "WE DO NOT GUARANTEE TO HAVE CRACKLIN'S."

Edited by HD73 (log)
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This is really a preconception problem: if you go to a deli and get a roast beef sandwich, do you expect it to have chunks of roasty, crusty, herby crunchiness? Maybe they make roast beef sandwiches like that some places, not around here...

The roast pork in a Philly roast pork sandwich has been roasted, it's then sliced and served in a jus. That just happens to be the indigenous style. The appeal of this particular kind of sandwich is the tenderness of the meat and the garlicky herby juices, ideally mixing with greens and sharp cheese.

It is what it is, and different folks may like it or not. Just as it's not a failing of regional barbecue if they happen to use a sauce that you find odd, or a failing of a certain style of pizza if you happen to like it thicker or thinner or with more or less on it, it's not a failing of this sandwich that it doesn't happen to have crispy edges. You may or may not like cheesesteaks, but you can't dismiss them because you like your steak thick and medium-rare. Thats just not what the sandwich is.

I might agree that John's Roast Pork, the meat itself, is not as herby or bold-flavored as some. But the whole package, with the spinach, sharp provolone and that bun, works for me.

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Maybe a more productive question would be, "can I regularly get a porchetta sandwich in Philly?"

To which the answer is, I think, no; I've only seen them on special occasions, like at the Italian Market festival. Needless to say, I would be delighted to be proved wrong, because (heresy though it may be) I prefer that style of sandwich too.

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philadining is correct. The pork is most certainly roasted, just like a roast beef, then sliced thinly and placed into the porkylicious gravy in the steam table. It's ROASTED pork. It didn't go from its raw state to cooked in the jus. That would be braised or boiled pork and wouldn't be nearly as tasty. Just because it wasn't what you expected, I hope it didn't detract from the deliciousness.

You were clearly expecting something different because of a pre-conceived notion about what you believed it would be like. If you want crispy roast pork in Philadelphia like that which you imagined, you need to head over to Restaurante & Lechonera Principe in North Philly. That's the crispy pork right there.

Katie M. Loeb
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Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

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Actually I got what I expected. I had seen the pictures. I just was musing as to the difference between crispy roast pork and the roast pork that has been sliced, juiced, and steamed.

As for the roast beef served in many places that resembles this roast pork, it is not something that I would get excited about.

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Actually I got what I expected.  I had seen the pictures.  I just was musing as to the difference between crispy roast pork and the roast pork that has been sliced, juiced, and steamed. 

As for the roast beef served in many places that resembles this roast pork, it is not something that I would get excited about.

Now you've got me perplexed.

Whenever I prepare roast beef at home, I usually end up slicing it, and the resulting slices are usually moist, even if they do have a crust and have not been sitting in juices for a while. (They usually produce their own, which I then reduce to make gravy.)

What should a good roast beef sandwich feel like in one's mouth?

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Just a quick thought:

The classic Philadelphia roast pork sandwich is made using a fresh ham. Now, a fresh ham is not a particularly tender cut, so, you have two options: slow cook it for a very long time (like a pot roast), until it is so tender it is about to fall apart, or roast it relatively quickly and slice it very thinly on a deli slicer. When cooked like a pot roast (or like our pulled pork) it will have cook until about 200 degrees, that's just about when all the fat melts away, leaving an extremely moist and tender product. Although this is possible with a ham, no one would do it - you would just use a pork butt, which is much fattier, hence much more flavorful and better suited for long slow cooking. Where does that leave us, a roasted ham cooked to about 140 degrees at a higher temperature. Cooking at a high temperature and thoroughly browning the outside provides caramelization and a suitable basis for producing a stock. You could, theoretically, slice it extremely thin by hand, but that just wouldn't work very well during lunch. I don't believe that would necessarily produce a better product (only for the eyes, which do often convince the mind), it would certainly be less consistent. If you were to take one of our roasts, and try to carve it by hand it would be a mess. Tough, inconsistent, and really just improper.

As for the gravy, you're not talking about some cheap commercial stock. It's real pork stock, from bones, from meat, from skin. It's flavor. It's done properly. Just as a good dark chicken stock is made. Just as a French veal stock is made. The process of submerging the sliced pork in the stock may be unique, but it's good unique. Look at Vietnamese Pho - thinly sliced raw beef (which is usually an eye roast, and rather similar to our beef bottom round ) is plopped in a beef stock right before it's brought to you - it works. It's beautiful stuff, is it what people would imagine a beef soup to be? Probably not, but it's damn good.

So, like it or not, it's the traditional way the Philly pork sandwich is. In fact, it's roots really are dug heavily in Italian cooking. It is proper, it is exactly what it's supposed to be (ours certainly is). Roast a piece of meat, slice it thinly, drown it in natural stock, and plop it on a roll. If you ask me, I'd say it's a fine, fine thing.

Edited by jtnicolosi (log)
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Actually I got what I expected.  I had seen the pictures.  I just was musing as to the difference between crispy roast pork and the roast pork that has been sliced, juiced, and steamed. 

As for the roast beef served in many places that resembles this roast pork, it is not something that I would get excited about.

Now you've got me perplexed.

Whenever I prepare roast beef at home, I usually end up slicing it, and the resulting slices are usually moist, even if they do have a crust and have not been sitting in juices for a while. (They usually produce their own, which I then reduce to make gravy.)

What should a good roast beef sandwich feel like in one's mouth?

An Old Original Nick's, overboard on the outs.

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I would suggest that if you're looking for the crispy-roasty-tender-fatty-salty contrast of good roast pork, don't turn to the roast pork sandwich; instead, just try the roast pork entrees at Osteria (it's a special) and Cantina los Caballitos (on the regular menu). I have eaten my fair share of suckling pigs of several nationalities (Italian, Chinese, Mexican, Hawaiian, Dominican) and I think the versions at those two restaurants are stellar.

I do like me a Philly roast pork sandwich but yeah, don't go in expecting porchetta. It's more about a great roll, spicy greens, sharp aged provolone and tenderness/jus.

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Sadly, they were out of the pig at Osteria last time we were there (I think it was two weeks ago?), they seem to run out of it VERY early in the evening.

I think we may just go visit ClC based on your recommendation though.

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