Philly food is so much more than cheesesteaks. Let us show you.
I, along with about 3,000 other people, met Jon when he started RUN215, the Philly running group that took off like a shot and became a city-wide phenomenon. It’s a little surprising we hadn’t crossed paths before, since he is a beer rep for Southern Tier and I’ve been running a beer website for the last four years – and it’s not possible I would have run into him and not remembered it. His exuberant personality gravitates people to him, which is probably one of the reasons RUN215 became so popular so quickly. Either way, it’s Jon’s job to work with bars and restaurants in the city, and to run all over the place, so he’s got a pretty good idea of where you should eat. Check it out.
How long have you been part of the food and drink scene in Philadelphia, and what drew you to it?
Oh man, I’ve been in the service industry since I was like 15 years old. I was a dishwasher at a tavern in Springfield, PA. Then I went from there up the ladder from busboy to server to bartender. From there I went to Temple and started working in bars/restaurants in the city. The food scene was already pretty legit by then (mid-2000’s) and was only getting better. I toured with a band a little and got to see the country and what was happening outside of Philly, and nothing came even close. Cities like NYC are in the stone age compared to what’s happening here, and three times the price. Then I started working for Yards Brewing Co & bartending/managing at a place called Prohibition Taproom, which were two of the best jobs I’ve ever had. Prohibition had one of the best kitchens. The food was just crazy awesome, and I got REALLY into the beer scene. Then I took a job with Southern Tier Brewing Co, and get to work with bars and restaurants on the other side.
What is your perfect day of Philly food – breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
Try to keep it at one place…oof. Ok. I’m not big on eating out for breakfast, because I can’t justify spending money on some runny egg dish and cheap champagne watered down with OJ (the brunch people are gonna kill me). HOWEVER, Café Lift in the Loft District does things with breakfast food that you simply can’t create at home, and that’s how I gauge the best spots. I’m not interested in pancakes or 2 eggs with bacon and coffee. That’s kid stuff. But Cannoli French Toast? DONE. (Full disclosure, it is owned by the same people as Prohibition, so I’m biased…. ). Lunch is a tough one, because there are just so many amazing spots, and I feel bad only picking one. I also travel a lot, so I’m never in one place, but I’ve always had awesome lunches at Kraftwork, and the beer is outstanding. Same owner as Sidecar, which is another top spot of mine. Dinner would be at Varga Bar. Again, killer draft selection, and the Chef Evan is an absolute madman. A few weeks ago he was outside roasting a whole pig on the sidewalk, and then a month later is doing a full scale BBQ ON TOP OF their regular menu. Also, best wings in Philly.
If you only had $10 to spend on a single food item in Philadelphia, what would you get?
I would get the Hand Drawn noodles with Peanut Sauce, and Scallion Pancakes at Nan Zhou (and would still have money to spare). This place is an institution. A treasure of Philadelphia. I used to go when it was a little 5 table nook on 10th and Race, and now its triple the size, but just as incredible. Anyone that knows me, knows that I only take my favorite people to eat there. It’s my little escape. When my daughter and I go for dinner it is an EVENT.
What would you consider your “local” – the place you visit most often?
Royal Tavern! Hands down my favorite bar in the city. The staff is awesome and welcoming, the food is consistently amazing, beer is great, and they have one of my favorite sandwiches in the entire city, the Tempeh Club. Yeah, a vegan sandwich. Try it and prove me wrong. You can’t. You’ll definitely find me there on a weeknight unwinding from my day.
Where would you take an out-of-towner to get a true taste of Philadelphia?
John’s Roast Pork. Nobody does cheesesteaks here unless you’re wasted and its 4am, or from the suburbs.. If you want a REAL Philly sandwich, John’s Roast Pork. Paesano’s is super legit too. We will probably hit Bob & Barbara’s for the Thursday night Drag Show, and then to the P.O.P.E. for some craft beer. Also, if it IS 4am, you can bet we’re heading to Little Pete’s before it closes. They’re trying to turn the building into “Brooklyn Style Lofts”, whatever the hell that means.
What is your favorite food or drink event in Philly?
Philly Beer Week. I’ve gotten to experience it on both sides, and it’s just awesome. A TON of work for people in the industry, but there’s just nothing like it. I would pick some foodie event if the food in this city wasn’t already outstanding, but throw in some of the best breweries in the world for 10 days straight? Winner.
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