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Chris Cognac

Time to let the cat out of the bag

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By the way - as someone who enjoys good wine/spirits at dinner - I find that BYO's are usually restaurants that are too marginal or cheap to get liquor licenses (or sometimes they're in places that are cursed with ridiculous liquor laws).  And - when you're a tourist - it is usually inconvenient - or very inconvenient -  to find a place to buy booze - and to schlep it to a restaurant.  And that's doubly true in a state like Pennsylvania - which (I think) still has state liquor stores.  Is it possible to buy even beer or wine in a grocery or other normal type store in Pennsylvania these days (last time I looked - Pennsylvania wasn't in the Bible Belt  :wink: )?  Robyn

Holly's taken care of the BYO angle. As for the state-run liquor stores, yes, they're still around, but they're light years better than they were when you last lived in the state. All are now self-service, brighter and more attractive, and many--especially the "superstores" and "Premium Collection" stores--have great selections of outstanding spirits and wines--some of the latter, thanks to the "Chairman's Selection" program, at jaw-droppingly low prices.

You still won't find the loss-leader pricing on the regular stuff that you will find in neighboring states, partly because Pennsylvania prices still include such absurdities as the Johnstown Flood (1936) Relief Tax (this is now rolled into the shelf price). But you will find some supermarkets now with "Wine & Spirits Shoppes" (what the PLCB would rather you call the State Stores now) inside them and unified checkouts. Beer you still can't buy in supermarkets, and the state's beer laws still make buying it less convenient than it ought to be. And even though Pennsylvania is far from the Bible Belt, it is the conservatism of much of the state's interior--combined with the clout of the State Store employees' union in Harrisburg and, to be frank, the revenue the state makes off the system--that keeps the system around.

Yup - state stores in states I've been to that have state stores (like North Carolina) are zippier than they used to be. But they still lack one thing that's essential to get the best your area can support - competition.

Even though we're a small city - I think we have a ton more than Pennsylvania. And on top of everything we had last year - we just got a new store - Total Wine & More. Amazing place. If you ever told me I could buy Pol Roget Churchill in Jacksonville I would have said you were kidding. I saw that it has a branch in Cherry Hill - although I don't know if that store is like the store here. Robyn

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OOOHHHHH!

are the street signs really in Viet? I might go for some Mexican there as it will be the best of the trip except L.A.

street signs are in Chinese (and english) in the "chinatown" area on Bellaire.

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Chris, I mostly hang out in the pastry forum, so I haven't caught up with all eleven pages yet but, Oh my gosh, multiplied congratulations on a wonderful opportunity.

My kid, aka Chef-boy, is at The Inn at Little Washington (in VA outside Wash DC). I heard the food there was pretty good ( :rolleyes: ). When the cameras were rolling in the kitchen of Chez Philippe in Memphis when he was there he never got on camera. So if by some chance you find yourself at The Inn, let him say Hi Mom 'k???

:laugh:

No really, what a tremendous opportunity for you--can't wait to see it on the tube. It sounds like a very interesting show that I would enjoy watching.

And it's a lot of fun to 'be along for the ride' a bit--THANKS, too cool!

<< insert clapping hands smilie face >>

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Chris - Congratulations on your achievement -- it certainly culminates many years of food writing.

If you're still open to suggestions for Miami, I recommend none other than Garcia's Seafood Grille & Fish on the Miami river. It is one of the favorite haunts of police officers, politicians, and attorneys. You will find Prosecutors and Defense Attorneys sitting side by side with Judges and other folks on the deck overlooking the Miami river. They offer phenomenal grilled fish sandwiches for under $5.00 and each dish is accompanied by the homemade fish dip. Its fun to watch the barges float by with the stolen bicycles headed to some island in the caribbean.

The place is certainly an institution and reminds you of the Miami from the days of Scarface or Miami Vice.

Enjoy,

Chirag

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Stirrin' on the Mount (Mt. Airy eating)

Philly folks:

I read an article about the Mt. Airy dining scene. Any personal comments or reviews of places you have eaten in Mt. Airy?

Thanks, Andy

Knew I should have attended the local NLGJA chapter brunch! (The event took place at the Cresheim Cottage Cafe, mentioned in the article.)


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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Chris, I'm not clear if your Texas visit will be Houston or Dallas, but I can clue you into a few great places in the Dallas area - like a Greek restaurant in the heart of downtown that's run by a husband and wife team, a Jamacian food restaurant that a friend of mine that hails from Jamaica swears by, a couple of market cafes and the most storied Italian restaurant in Dallas. All are affordable, and no donuts in sight.

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Wow, that sounds cool....we do want to work in a "Miami Vice" bit.....now if I can only fit into my cheesy 80's clothing I would be set!

Copper Top, we have settled on Houston since it seams to have a better food scene and is near the coast (which means shrimp)...

We met as a group today and narrowed down the Philly and Boston choices....we leave in a litle over 2 weeks.....we will start hard on Miami, Charelston, Atlanta next week...

The entire production staff was amazed at the collective resources of eG...you guys are the best!


Edited by Chris Cognac (log)

Moo, Cluck, Oink.....they all taste good!

The Hungry Detective

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Copper Top, we have settled on Houston since it seams to have a better food scene and is near the coast (which means shrimp)...

The entire production staff was amazed at the collective resources of eG...you guys are the best!

Houston does have the advantage of a "Chinatown" district, according to one of my fellow techs (I had to retire from professional kitchens after surgical reconstruction of both knees and a shoulder due to 20 years of prep/line cook work) that has worked assignments in the Houston area. He said that it compaired favorably to the Chinese dining he left behind when he moved west from Brooklyn, NY. He also mentioned that the Central Market in Houston is not quite as good as the ones in Dallas and Plano, TX, (Think Dean and Deluca the size of a Kroger or A & P with a cafe and sushi bar inside). I'll see if he can call his former supervisor to get the name of the little Barbeque joint he hit when down there that was in the middle of nowhere that was absolutely fabulous.

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We are trying to narrow down our Philadelphia restaurant choices to five places. What is stumping us is that there are so many sandwich "musts". But we can't (with all due respect) do an entire show about Philly dining by only eating cheesesteaks.

So if one were to choose only one fantastic place in each of these categories in Philly, what would you choose:

-Cheesesteak

-Roast Pork sandwich

-Asian anything

-Italian anything

-Old time American/Philly restaurant typlifying Philly

Just to make this even more contentious, we seem to be leaning towards these restaurants:

Johnnie's Hots, Bitar's, Jamaican Jerk Hunt, Sarcones, Mofango, Steve's Prince of Steaks, Rita's Auto Mall, Melograno, Good Dog Burger, Devi, Sovana Bistro.

If you were to pick only five, and these five would be varied types of cuisines, which ones would you pick?


www.hereinvannuys.com

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We are trying to narrow down our Philadelphia restaurant choices to five places. What is stumping us is that there are so many sandwich "musts".  But we can't  (with all due respect) do an entire show about Philly dining by only eating cheesesteaks.

So if one were to choose only one fantastic place in each of these categories in Philly, what would you choose:

-Cheesesteak

-Roast Pork sandwich

-Asian anything

-Italian anything

-Old time American/Philly restaurant typlifying Philly

Just to make this even more contentious, we seem to be leaning towards these restaurants:

Johnnie's Hots, Bitar's, Jamaican Jerk Hunt, Sarcones, Mofango, Steve's Prince of Steaks, Rita's Auto Mall, Melograno, Good Dog Burger, Devi, Sovana Bistro.

If you were to pick only five, and these five would be varied types of cuisines, which ones would you pick?

Just for sandwiches:

You skipped Chickie's Deli for hoagies. That's a definite must see.

John's Roast Pork.

The Schmitter sandwich.

The grilled felafel or the Angelo Cataldi sandwiches at Bitar's.

I'd skip the cheesesteak thing altogether. It's had far too much coverage already. The story angle is that there's so many better sandwiches in Philly than cheesesteaks.

For quintessential "only in Philly" type places:

Carman's for breakfast.

Shank & Evelyn's for lunch.


Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Gotta do a cheesesteak.....its my "Haj" that I have dreamed of doing....wont do carmens for "non food" related reasons...thinking of that shmitter thing too....man its prety hard choosing stuff in Philly...much more than Boston..


Moo, Cluck, Oink.....they all taste good!

The Hungry Detective

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Chris,

Does the helicopter figure into this whole thing or will you be on foot?


John Malik

Chef/Owner

33 Liberty Restaurant

Greenville, SC

www.33liberty.com

Customer at the carving station: "Pardon me but is that roast beef rare?"

Apprentice Cook Malik: "No sir! There's plenty more in the kitchen!"

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The insurance company wont let me fly in any choppers! I was bummed when I found that out.....

oh well....I will have to foot it this season!


Moo, Cluck, Oink.....they all taste good!

The Hungry Detective

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The insurance company wont let me fly in any choppers! I was bummed when I found that out.....

oh well....I will have to foot it this season!

But they will let you decide who has the best Cheesesteak in Philly? You would be safer trying to autorotate a Hughes 500 :laugh:


John Malik

Chef/Owner

33 Liberty Restaurant

Greenville, SC

www.33liberty.com

Customer at the carving station: "Pardon me but is that roast beef rare?"

Apprentice Cook Malik: "No sir! There's plenty more in the kitchen!"

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So if one were to choose only one fantastic place in each of these categories in Philly, what would you choose:

-Cheesesteak

-Roast Pork sandwich

-Asian anything

-Italian anything

-Old time American/Philly restaurant typlifying Philly

I think you could efficiently knock-off cheesesteaks and roast pork by going to John's Roast Pork or Tony Luke's. John's is a bit more of a "find" but Tony Luke's is a bit more of a Philly institution kind of place, but just off the beaten path enough to not be touristy. Tony Luke's is also open a lot more that John's is, so it's a more useful recommendation to give people, if that matters...

You MUST get a hoagie. Got to Sarcone's, or Chickie's Deli as Katie advised.

Asian anything: Nan Zhou hand-drawn noodles. Great, freshly-made, hand stretched noodles, about $5 for a huge bowl of soup. The act of stretching the noodles is inherently telegenic. 927 Race Street, in Chinatown.

Italian anything: there are traditional, neighborhoody, basic "red gravy" places like Ralph's, Dante and Luigi's (both have been open since the dawn of time) Villa de Roma, Marra's, etc. Very Philly, hard to go wrong at any of them, they will be thick with neighborhood characters.

Less typically Philly Italian-American, Melograno is more of a contemporary, Italian-Italian place, and also happens to be a tiny BYOB run by a husband and wife, which is a very Philly thing these days.

Old Time American... there IS the City Tavern which does a colonial shtick for the tourists. I don't know anyone who actually eats there, and I'm not sure anyone goes there for the food. It could be good, I wouldn't know, it's just too corny for me. It's probably not what you're looking for, but the Franklin Fountain is a very authentic-looking retro ice cream place. It's really quite good, but it hasn't actually been around 250 years or anything... The Sansom Street Oyster House is very old-school Philly, but I haven't eaten there in a long time, so I can't comment on it intelligently.

Just to make this even more contentious, we seem to be leaning towards these restaurants:

Johnnie's Hots, Bitar's, Jamaican Jerk Hunt, Sarcones, Mofango, Steve's Prince of Steaks, Rita's Auto Mall, Melograno, Good Dog Burger, Devi, Sovana Bistro.

If you were to pick only five, and these five would be varied types of cuisines, which ones would you pick?

Johnnie's Hots: the surf and turf is unique, and reports are they have lots of other good sandwiches, strong contender.

Bitars: the grilled felafel is unusual, and really good.

Jamacan Jerk Hut: very good place, not sure how unique to philly it is..

Sarcones: yes!!

Mofango: is that a restaurant? Never heard of it.

Steve's Prince of Steaks: I've never gone because it's geographically out-of-the-way for me, but many in the know insist it's the best of that genre. I don't know if that's a production concern, it's way out in Northeast Philly. Of course compared to LA, that's right around the corner.

Rita's Auto Mall: A Philly Water Ice is a good idea, but I'm not sure you have to go to that one in particular... there's lots in South Philly.

Melograno: (see above)

Good Dog: keeps being mentioned as one of the best burgers in town, but this is not a big burger town. With your limited time, I'd concentrate on the really philly-ish sandwiches.

Devi: This is excellent South Indian vegetarian food, but for practical purposes, it's WAY outside the city (45 minutes if you're leading a good life and all the traffic gods are with you - over an hour if you may be carrying around unreconciled sins....) And it's a plain-looking storefront in a suburban strip-mall. Inside, basic tables, a steamtable buffet, etc, nothing too thrilling visually, except for the outrageously big dosas you can order. It's good food, just might be impractical.

Sovana Bistro: this is even further away from Philly than Devi is, practically Wilmington Delaware. And I haven't been there, but i get the sense it's good bistro food. Is that worth the trip?

Hope that helps.


"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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I believe mofango, a dish, got confused with Freddy and Tony's in the North 5th Street area which mashes up a mean mofongo. Rita's Auto Mall Cafe is not the same as Rita's Italian Ice. They take pride in their home made chicken cutlet sandwich.


Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Do not, pray, overlook the cities of Minneapolis and St Paul. They have some of the very best Viet/Hmong restaurants in the Western Hemisphere (liitle hole-in-the wall places on South Nicollet and the Frogtown district along University in St Paul where cops actually do hang out) as well as tremendously good traditional fine-dining. Also a large Somali population, with a couple of good eateries to be found. The City of Minneapolis has nicknamed Nicollet Avenue "Eat Street," with good reason. Please don't highlight the State Fair, with their deep-fried experiments onna stick. It's been done.


This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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I believe mofango, a dish, got confused with Freddy and Tony's in the North 5th Street area which mashes up a mean mofongo.  Rita's Auto Mall Cafe is not the same as Rita's Italian Ice.  They take pride in their home made chicken cutlet sandwich.

Ahh, that makes sense! Just checked out Rita's Auto Mall Cafe on Holly Eats, and that does look good. I'd never heard of it, but I think you have to go just for the name!

But you know, a South Philly wooder ice is not a bad idea... it's the summertime...


"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Understood why you wouldn't want to visit Carman's, Chris.

I'd second Tony Luke's and the recommendation that for the show, you skip the cheesesteak in favor of the roast pork Italian, which is a truly transcendent sandwich not well known outside Philly; Tony Luke's is the ne plus ultra roast pork Italian. (You can always eat a cheesesteak for your own edification later; Tony Luke's not too bad in this department either.)

Rachel Ray did Villa di Roma for "$40 a Day," so you might want to consider one of the other old-school red-gravy places if you decide on one of those.

Caribbean fare is hardly either unique to or closely identified with Philly, but I for one enjoy it, and I still haven't been to the Jamaican Jerk Hut yet...

I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "old time American/typical restaurant," but neighboring South Jersey is Dinerland, and Philly has some excellent examples of the genre too--and they still serve their classic social as well as alimentary functions*. "Everybody who knows goes to Melrose," so if that's what you were referring to, I'd zig where "everybody" zags and feature the Mayfair Diner in the Northeast instead. (Melrose Diner: 15th Street and Passyunk Avenue; Mayfair Diner: 7373 Frankford Avenue.) Further comment: Craig LaBan, the Inquirer's restaurant critic, reviewed a different Northeast Philly diner whose name escapes me about five years ago and gave it three bells (Excellent; the scale is zero to four).

*The closest diner to me is the Midtown II Restaurant (11th and Sansom). It's popular with the club crowd after the bars close. A friend who goes there more often than I do told me that when he dropped by Sunday, the waitress told him to tell me about the model train show at the Convention Center, to which he responded that we were going together later that day (I ended up seeing the National Train Show alone). Philly diners are like that.


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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Gotta do a cheesesteak....its a Haj for me....I have wanted an authentic one my whole life...and now I am gonna get one...leaning towards Chinks at the moment! I think the 1st day of shooting is going to be the 27th...


Edited by Chris Cognac (log)

Moo, Cluck, Oink.....they all taste good!

The Hungry Detective

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Hey Chris, congratulations and enjoy the show. For Philadelphia, I recommend the Grey Lodge for their food and atmosphere. Nick's Roast Beef is also recommended. For DC, I recommend Ray's the Steaks in Arlington.

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I had a couple more thoughts about Atlanta for you. There's a place in the Northern suburb of Lawrenceville called Sophia's Valentino. Really good American-Italian dishes with a few Greek ones thrown in. It is just off Highway 316 which is a busy road that runs between Atlanta and Athens, GA. But it's not visible from the highway - it's off in a little industrial/office park. If you didn't know it was there, you'd pass by and never realize it. Across the highway is a small local airport.

Another place that seems to be the type of place you'd like is El Molino. It's a taqueria in the back of a tiny Mexican/Hispanic grocery store in a small strip mall. I've only eaten there once, but the jamon torta I had was quite good. As you go through the grocery store, you pick up a soda out of the cases, go to the window to order, and sit in the little back room while they cook your food. I've also heard that they have specials on the weekends, but haven't tried any of them myself.

And there's always a ghetto burger at Ann's.

-Greg

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We are planning the Atlanta, Miami and Charelston episodes this week and next....ghetto burgers are always good...wait till you see the one I took Alton too for Feasting on Asphalt....its the ulitimate!

El Molino as potential as well....

gbredben...I think we are set for Philly except for one final place....if you want to check out the shoot we will try to get you on screen in some shots (as well as any others that come)...Holly Moore will have the shoot and location times when we get them set....I might not have internet access while I am there...


Moo, Cluck, Oink.....they all taste good!

The Hungry Detective

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