Sunday, April 24, 2016

Chickie's & Pete's (Philadelphia, PA)

At Philadelphia International Airport, Terminal D

Chickie’s & Pete’s is a local chain of “crab houses and sports bars” with over ten locations, most in and around Philadelphia. They even have four locations at Philadelphia International Airport (at four different terminals). As I find out later, it comes highly recommended and is even rated by Zagat. It serves the staples of a US sports bar but specializes in fried chicken, cheesesteaks, and crab and lobster.


I get a starter of Chickie's Fries ($6), which is a boat full of prefab thin wrinkle cut fries, crispy but fairly uneventful. The Chickie's Cutlers ($8) are chicken tenders that look like fried catfish tenders. They are fairly tasteless, as is the honey mustard sauce.


VERDICT: 80/100
For all the emphasis on originality and fame, this is all very ordinary.

Termini Bros Bakery (Philadelphia, PA)

N 12th Street, Philadelphia 19107

Termini Bros Bakery sells luxury Italian (-American) sweets from four locations in Philadelphia, including inside the famous Reading Terminal Market. In addition to a huge range of freshly baked cookies, it sells cakes and fresh cannoli (which are filled up upon order).

I get a horseshoe cookie ($4), which has a crispy cover, is filled with a soft almond paste, and has chocolate at the ends. It is so delicious that I come back the next day to get another one! I also get a fresh cannoli and a box of selected Italian cookies for my (Italian American) in-laws (all together $28). While not a cannoli fan necessarily, I really enjoy the fresh crust and the thick and not too sweet filling. The few cookies I eat from the box are very good!

VERDICT: 92/100
Some of the best Italian-American sweets I have ever eaten.

Federal Donuts (Philadelphia, PA)

3428 Sansom Street, Philadelphia 19104

Federal Donuts is a local chain of (so far two) small restaurants that serves, coffee, donuts, and… fried chicken. It is part of a larger chain of restaurants under the name of Cook n Solo. Federal Donuts is clearly popular among the hipster crowd of downtown Philly. It has a very limited menu: coffee, fried chicken with three different rubs and sauces and about four different types of donuts.

I get a Fried Chicken Sandwich ($6.75) and a Lemon Meringue Donut ($2.50). The sandwich is small but has a big chunk of delicious fried chicken on a soft potato roll with lettuce, tomato and a spicy sauce. Very tasty! The donut is thick but a bit dry; the lemon meringue is tangy.

VERDICT: 89/100
The attraction is partly in the hipster setting, but both the chicken and the donuts are original and tasty. 

Carmen’s Famous Italian Hoagies and Cheesesteaks (Philadelphia, PA)

51 N 12th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107

Carmen’s is the most famous cheesesteak place in the Reading Terminal Market in downtown Philadelphia. It has an incredibly rigid automated system, which makes ordering very slow. Fortunately this is made up by fast service. They by and large serve cheesesteaks, freshly made on the griddle.

I get a Steak Sandwich with onions and hot peppers. It comes on a nice fresh hoagie and the steak is well seasoned and tender. I should have asked for regular peppers too, as that would have added some more flavor. Still, the steak sandwich tasted very good.

VERDICT: 90/100
One of best steak sandwiches I have eaten.

Philly Pretzel Factory (Philadelphia, PA)

1532 Sansom Street, Philadelphia 19104

Philly Pretzel Factory is a chain of pretzel stores with over 120 locations worldwide. It offers the same range as other pretzel stores, i.e. hardy and sweet pretzels, pretzel dogs, pretzels with cheese, etc. Its claim to fame, or at least originality, is the soft pretzel, allegedly a specialty of Philadelphia.

I get one Pretzel Dog ($2.25), which is a tiny wiener rapped in pretzel dough. It tastes OK, nothing special.

VERDICT: 74/100
A regular fast food pretzel chain

Green Eggs Café (Philadelphia, PA)

212 S 13th Street, Philadelphia 19107

Green Eggs Café is a “brunch style restaurant/cafe that takes pride in serving the highest quality fare while maintaining an eco-conscious philosophy”. It has four locations in Philadelphia. This one downtown is quite big, has a modern interior, and a mixed crowd of (unionized white) workers, hipsters of all races, and young professionals. It has an extensive brunch menu with all the usuals: eggs benedict, French toast, omelets, waffles.

I am going for a basic breakfast: Eggs Your Way ($10): 3 eggs over medium, bacon, toast, and rosemary potatoes. The eggs are undercooked, the bread is grossly sweet, and the bacon is neither crispy nor particularly tasty. The potatoes taste fat and salty. The (small) glass of Orange Juice ($3) is ok.

VERDICT: 70/100
Thoroughly underwhelming

Hunger Burger (Philadelphia, PA)

1136 Arch St #427, Philadelphia, PA 19107

Hunger Burger is a burger joint in Reading Terminal Market in downtown Philadelphia that has a special motto: “buy one, feed one.” It uses parts of its profits to feed children in need. Beautiful! They serve various types of breakfast burgers, burgers (beef, chicken, and turkey), fries (including sweet potato), and shakes as well as some atypical “hot sides” such as Lobster Mac ‘n’ Cheese.

I get a Hunger Burger, single patty, no cheese ($4.50). It has the basic ingredients (lettuce, tomato, onion), so it's all about the quality. The burger is small but tasty; the bun and burger are crispy and juicy. The sauce is a bit watery and not very strong. Overall it looks and tastes like Shake Shack but smaller and not quite as outstanding.

VERDICT: 89/100
Good food, good cause

Beiler’s Bakery (Philadelphia, PA)

51 N 12th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107

 Beiler’s Bakery is a Philadelphia institution, which is houses in Reading Terminal Market, like several other Philly food institutions. It serves a dazzling variety of donuts, made on the premise by mostly Amish (looking?) staff. It comes highly recommended – one of 20 best desserts spots in America, according to Fodor’s Travel Guide – and has a long line around its stall. 

I order a Maple Bacon Donut ($.99): a basic donut with fairly gross marshmallow filling, strips of maple, and teeny tiny crumbles of bacon. Pretty gross! The Cinnamon Sugared Donut ($.99) is soft and uneventful.

VERDICT: 78/100
I like the old-school approach and the basic donuts, but there is too much mediocre sugary stuff on them.

Tommy DiNic’s (Philadelphia, PA)

51 North 12th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Tommy DiNic’s is in Reading Terminal Market, a huge hall with a broad variety of food stores in downtown Philadelphia. It is one of the main attractions of the market, as Tommy DiNic’s roasted pork sandwich has been elected “Best Sandwich in America” by the Travel Network.  They serve roasted beef and pork as well as some Italian staples: meatballs and sausages. All on big “hoagies” (the local term for a long, soft, white bun).

I get the Italian Pulled Pork ($11): a huge sandwich, cut in half, with heaps of pulled pork and broccoli rabe. Everything is very fresh, the pulled pork is tender and juicy, and the rabe gives it an edge. It is very good but not as good as the hype.

VERDICT: 90/100

Really good pulled pork sandwich but definitely not one of the best sandwiches in the US.