Philly food is so much more than cheesesteaks. Let us show you.
Full disclosure: LeeAnne is my beautiful wife. There isn’t really an “EatYourPHL Enterprises,” but we eat almost all of our meals together, so it’s safe to say that without her I wouldn’t get to try half of what I do. She’s also great at pictures, editing, promotion–basically everything. We’ve been eating together for almost nine years now, and it’s safe to say it was her that opened me up to so much awesome food. Yesterday was our fourth anniversary, so it made sense to feature her here today. She’s an amazing cook, a wonderful person, and an adventurous eater. I really lucked out with her, and now you can luck out with some of her great suggestions.
How long have you been part or drink of the food scene in Philadelphia, and what drew you to it?
I wouldn’t say I am “part of” the food or drink scene in Philadelphia – I am just an enthusiastic participant and consumer. I don’t work in the industry. That said, I have been nibbling my way through Philly since moving here in 2008. The scene here is vibrant and it’s easy to be drawn in. There are so many food and drink festivals that allow you to try new places that might not be on your radar. Social media has also been a huge factor, as well as local food blogs. When a blogger writes about a place and is positively gushing about it, I am compelled to visit that establishment. Same goes for non-pro pictures on Twitter or Instagram. For some reason, I trust the little guys the most.
What is your perfect day of Philly food – breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
This is really tough. Assuming money is no object and I’m on foot around the city, I would seriously pack my day full of delicious eats without worrying too much about “meal times” if this is my perfect day of food. I would start at Reading Terminal Market for an apple fritter from Beiler’s Donuts. Everything about this place speaks to me. Even standing in line is enjoyable because you get to watch them roll the dough, form the donuts, fry them, stuff them, frost them… everything that makes my inner fat kid really, really happy. I would eat the apple fritter on the spot, while it’s warm, and put a salted caramel donut in a bag to go. Then I would head to Sabrina’s in the Italian Market. During the 20-or-so minutes it would take me to walk there, I would surely work up a renewed appetite for their delectable stuffed French toast. Egg and spice-dipped Challah is griddled to perfection, then stuffed with cream cheese. Usually accompanied by some kind of fruit or special item, then drizzled all over with vanilla bean syrup. This will set me up to be positively giddy for the rest of the day. For lunch, I would make my way to Old City to dine at Han Dynasty. This is one of the best restaurants we have in Philly, if you ask me, and their lunchtime prices are perfect. An order of spicy crispy cucumber and Dan Dan noodles makes the perfect lunch. (If I was picking this spot for dinner, I would also order the Mapo Tofu.) After all that spice, I need to cool off. I would walk the 3 blocks from Han Dynasty to Franklin Fountain for some of their mint chip ice cream. This white peppermint ice cream—which actually tastes like mint leaves as opposed to that sweet fake mint flavor found most often—is swirled with green creme de menthe and dark bittersweet chocolate chunks. It’s oh so heavenly. At this point, I definitely need to go for a long walk, or maybe a run, but I would hang in there nonetheless. Surely after a long walk I will have worked up a thirst, so I would head on over to Tria Wash West for happy hour, Tria style. They call it “5 for 5”. From 5 to 7, they host a happy hour that actually makes me happy. For $5 apiece, they offer delightful selections of white wine, red wine, a cheese plate, and two beers. I would select one of the wine varieties, definitely order the cheese special, and enjoy myself a little pre-dinner snack. Now it’s time for dinner – the pièce de résistance. This is an easy choice for me because there is no place on earth I would rather have dinner than Zahav restaurant. Zahav is fun, funky middle-Eastern fare and easily the best restaurant in Philly with a modest non-wallet busting attitude. If you haven’t been, you have to go. Seriously. Order the Tayim, which is the taste of Zahav. This will include 6-8 veggie dishes to start, hummus and laffa bread, 2 small plates, one larger plate cooked over hot coals and a dessert for $45 per person. It’s the best deal in the city and CRAZY GOOD food. On my perfect day of food, I really can’t pack in too much in one spot, so I would skip the Tayim just this once. Ordering a la carte, I’d pick traditional hummus tehina, the haloumi, the house smoked sable (it’s served like a toad in a hole with a runny egg yolk!!) and the eggplant grilled over coals. Finally, in one last gut-busting push, I would make my way to Barbuzzo for a salted caramel budino dessert. Everything you have ever heard about the budino is true – it’s worthy of the hype.
If you only had $10 to spend on a single food item in Philadelphia, what would you get?
Hummus at Dizengoff. Easy choice. I would get whatever looked good that day, since the toppings change often, and I would marvel about how silky smooth and delicious it is with each and every bite.
What would you consider your “local” – the place you visit most often?
Tria. Always a favorite of mine, this place specializes in the three fermentatables… beer, wine and cheese! We’re talking about real wines with character, beer geek-worthy brews and world-class cheeses. The atmosphere here makes me really happy – low lighting but not too low, great music that’s not too loud, and friendly servers that are excited about their products without being pushy. Did I mention the bar “stools” have backs? This is make or break for me. AND there are purse hooks hidden under the bar overhang. I can sit around at Tria for hours, truly, because they make it so enjoyable and easy.
Where would you take an out-of-towner to get a true taste of Philadelphia?
Honestly, this is outside of my character but I would probably have them roam around with me for a day of Philadelphia sandwiches. Philadelphia is a sandwich town. Even though I am not wild and crazy about sandwiches like the rest of the population, there is no denying that sandwiches—particularly hoagies—are the food vein of the city. We would start at Reading Terminal Market for DiNic’s roast pork with broccoli rabe and provolone. We would then follow up with a hot pastrami Ruben on rye at Hershel’s East Side Deli at RTM. After that, we would head to Paesano’s, which is consistently called Philly’s greatest sandwich haven year after year. The sandwiches there will blow your mind. With an out of town guest, we would split the Paesano, and then either the Arista or the Bolognese. By this point my guest would be stuffed so we might just go browse food and nibble cheese at DiBruno Bros. after that.
What is your favorite food or drink event in Philly?
Brewer’s Plate. Every year, I can count on this event to bring together our region’s best chefs, farmers, food artisans, brewers, distillers, and winemakers. I could go on and on about how much I love this event, but instead I’ll keep it short and just call it “can’t miss.”
You can follow LeeAnne on Twitter at @LeeAnneEats.
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