It’s been a while, readers. Last time I wrote, I was just getting to know Philadelphia, scouting the city for the best cheesesteaks and farmers markets. And then, being a first year law student finally got the best of me–finals period. Fortunately, many frozen dinners (gasp!) and late nights at the library later, I’m happy to say that I survived. After a much needed and well deserved Christmas break at home in Los Angeles, I am back in Philadelphia, in the midst of my second semester.
Looking back over the past couple months, one meal in particular stands out and proves that good food can come from the most unlikely of places. I’m talking about Peter’s Gourmade Grill, located (literally) at a gas station convenience store in Tustin, CA.
I’ll admit that I was skeptical at first. When my boyfriend and I pulled up to the gas station, it looked pretty deserted except for one other parked car. The car’s windows were up, and completely black, but I could hear laughter and voices coming from inside. Thinking this could not possibly be a good sign, I beseeched my boyfriend to leave and find somewhere safer to eat.
Fortunately, for both of us, he declined my desperate pleas. We walked up to the window, where a very affable and pleasant waitress took our order. When we couldn’t decide between the gyro fries and the sweet potato gooeys, she generously threw in an order of the sweet potato gooeys on the house. As we waited for our food, we could see Cordon Bleu-trained chef Peter Stavros deftly navigating the tiny kitchen, carefully flipping burgers on the grill and slicing fresh tomatoes and lettuce.
Our food was ready in no time and we hurried home to eat while everything was still hot (Peter’s has no tables, so most customers either take out or eat in their cars–hence, the sketchy parked car full of people we saw on our way in!).
We started with the sweet potato gooeys: crispy sweet potato fries topped with marshmallows and maple syrup, all of which become caramelized and, well, gooey after a quick spin in the broiler. Though the dish sounds like it would be overwhelmingly sweet, it somehow managed to remain perfectly balanced. The sweetness of the marshmallow, saltiness of the fries, and caramelization of the maple syrup added up to a surprisingly sophisticated take on a classic dish.
Next, we tackled the gyro fries. My boyfriend and I harbor a strong love for gyros (as evidenced by my first ever blog post), and this dish shamelessly catered to our every desire. Tender gyro meat, chopped tomatoes and onions, cool cucumber tzatziki, and a generous pinch of oregano all sit atop a mountain of fries. It was well-executed, flavorful, and will convert even staunch gyro haters.
Finally, we moved on to the main event of the meal: our ABC burgers, named for the star ingredients of avocado, bacon and cheese. What struck me most about this burger was not so much the flavor (which was excellent), but the quality of the ingredients. The bacon was thick cut and crisped to perfection, the avocado creamy and ripe, and the tomato fresh and juicy. It was certainly much higher quality than anything I’d ever expect to find at a gas station.
That’s really the beauty of Peter’s Gourmade Grill: it reminds food snobs like me that good, quality food and talented chefs can be found anywhere, especially at gas stations.
16851 McFadden Ave.
Tustin, CA 92780
Follow their Twitter account for updates: twitter.com/gourmadegrill