Monthly Archives: October 2010

Meat Fest at Tony Luke’s

If that video doesn’t make you salivate, I don’t know what will.  I’d heard about the venerable Tony Luke’s while watching some of my favorite TV shows: Man v. Food and Throwdown with Bobby Flay.  I knew that once I moved to Philly, Tony Luke’s would be one of my first destinations for a Philly cheesesteak.

And so, on a beautiful fall Saturday afternoon, my boyfriend and I headed to Tony Luke’s in South Philly, ready to devour some of the best cheesesteaks in town.  Even at 2:00 in the afternoon, the line went all the way down the block.  But despite the daunting line, not a single customer was deterred; more and more people kept queuing up, lured by the sights and smells of sizzling meat on the grill.  I could tell these were pretty die-hard fans.

After about a half hour wait, we eagerly sat down to enjoy our food: a Philly cheesesteak ($7.25), roast pork Italian ($7.95), and a side of fries ($3.00).  The cheesesteak definitely lived up to its reputation.  The meat was tender and juicy, its flavor accentuated by the gooey, melty provolone cheese (we forewent the wiz–next time!).  The bread provided just the right amount of crunch and soaked up the meat drippings well.

Surprisingly, my favorite turned out to be the roast pork Italian ($7.95): slow-roasted pork with pungent broccoli rabe and sharp provolone.  The combination of flavors in this sandwich was enough to make me swoon with joy.  The pork was perfectly seasoned with tons of black pepper and fresh herbs, while the broccoli rabe and sharp provolone provided a nice bitterness and complexity.  Though I meant to save some for later,  I couldn’t stop myself from eating the entire thing, right then and there!

After we finished, we got a real treat: the famous Tony Luke Jr. himself made an appearance (pictured right)!  He filmed a segment for Comcast Sports, which aired during the Phillies-Giants games.  Even during filming, he was gracious and receptive to customers, posing for photos and taking special order requests back to the kitchen.  With such a personable leader at the helm, it’s no wonder why Tony Luke’s customer service far surpasses its competitors.

A few more notes on my visit: Tony Luke’s offers only outdoor seating, so make sure to dress warmly if it’s a cold day!  And as for transportation, if you don’t have a car, I would just cab over (and make sure to call one in advance for the ride home, too).  Buses and cabs were few and far between down there, and I  didn’t notice a subway station nearby either.  But, as you can tell from this glowing review, Tony Luke’s is worth braving the elements for its signature Philly style sandwiches.

Tony Luke’s

39 East Oregon Ave.

Philadelphia, PA 19148

(215) 551-5725

Tony Luke's on Urbanspoon

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P.S. Happy Halloween, everyone!

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Cafe Lift Perks Up Your Mornings

I’ve never been a fan of brunch.  Waking up early on a Sunday and waiting an hour for some eggs benedict never had much appeal to me, especially after reading Anthony Bourdain’s harrowing account in Kitchen Confidential.  In short, brunch is not my fave.

After dining at Cafe Lift, however, some of my reservations about brunch have been lifted.  Located in Philly’s Spring Garden neighborhood, Cafe Lift is tucked among loft apartments and industrial warehouses.  On a Sunday morning, the area seemed abandoned except for Cafe Lift, which was bustling with hungry patrons.

The word “funky” certainly comes to mind when describing Cafe Lift’s interior. Contemporary paintings and quirky chandeliers add some fun and liveliness to the otherwise minimalist dining room.  Exposed ceilings and floors pay tribute to the area’s industrial feel.

The brunch fare is the real draw at Cafe Lift, where fresh ingredients and attention to detail set the dishes apart.  The menu is divided into savory stuff (such as eggs), sweet stuff (with decadent dishes like pumpkin cannoli french toast), paninis, and salads.  Since everything sounded so tasty, we had a hard time deciding what to order!

We finally settled on the buttermilk pancakes topped with strawberries and bananas ($7.50), the breakfast burrito ($8.50), and a side of spicy fennel sausage ($3.00).  The pancakes arrived under a pile of freshly cut fruit on top, dusted with powdered sugar.  The pancakes were light and airy, just the way buttermilk pancakes should be.  My only complaint (if you can even call it a complaint) was that instead of butter on the side, they gave us whipped cream.  Interesting, and not bad, but not what either of us were expecting.

The breakfast burrito ($8.50) was a behemoth of a burrito filled with scrambled eggs, roasted peppers, mushrooms, sweet onions, and jack cheese.  It was served with fresh pico de gallo salsa and homemade hot sauce, which added nice spice to the dish.  The burrito was so flavorful, and the freshness of each of the ingredients really shown through.  Though it was heavy, I powered through and finished the entire dish, potatoes as well!

The only disappointment of the meal was the spicy fennel sausage ($3.00).  I couldn’t taste the spice or the fennel, and it was cut down the center and cooked flat (see above photo, in the back).  Sausage, in my opinion, is supposed to be juicy and I thought by cooking it flat, it lost a lot of its flavor.

Our meal ended with the hugest cappuccino ever–and a steal for only $3.  Made with La Colombe coffee, a local Philly favorite, it was smooth and frothy, just as a cappuccino should be.

In short, Cafe Lift is sure to satisfy brunch lovers and haters alike with its fresh fare and moderate prices.  Weekend mornings just got so much better.

Cafe Lift

428 North 13th St.

Philadelphia, PA 19123

215-922-3031

Open Tues-Sun 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Cafe Lift on Urbanspoon

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Scenes from the Clark Park Farmers Market

I feel grateful to have lived near some incredible farmers markets in my life. Growing up in Los Angeles, I remember going with my mom to the Hollywood Farmers Market every Sunday. We spent the morning meandering through dozens of booths, selling everything from freshly picked strawberries to steaming corn tamales. During my college years at Cornell, the Ithaca Farmers Market held a special place in my heart. Just thinking about it makes me crave a latte from Gimme! Coffee and spicy chicken curry from my favorite Cambodian food stand. More recently, I was a loyal customer of the Dupont Circle Farmers Market, where Dolcezza Gelato and Toigo Orchards were my guilty pleasures.

And now, after having spent a month in Philly, I’m happy to say that I’ve found my go-to farmers market. Located on 43rd Street and Baltimore Avenue, the Clark Park Farmers Market is a gastronomic oasis for West Philly residents and Penn students and professors. Farmers and local vendors congregate in the park on Saturday mornings from 10a-2p and Thursday afternoons from 3p-7p (May-Nov; the market only opens on Saturday mornings from 10a-1p in the winter months).

There’s tons of fresh produce ranging from gorgeous swiss chard to butternut squash to apples galore. Amish farmers also sell their infamous baked goods, including whoopie pies (apparently a staple dessert in Philly), bread, and fresh fruit pies. Perhaps best of all, the prices at the market are very reasonable and for those in need, they accept food stamps as well.

But why tell you how fabulous this farmers market is…when I can just show you? Here are some photos from the past few weeks:

Head over to the Clark Park Farmers Market on Thursdays from 3-7 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.! (And check the website for winter hours starting in November.)

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Vote for Molly Pisula in the Sears Chef Challenge!

Today is the last day to vote in the Sears Chef Challenge, and Bethesda-based chef Molly Pisula is looking to take the cake. The proceeds from Molly’s win would go to the Capital Area Food Bank, one of the largest food banks in the DC area. Molly already has the support of DC food bloggers including Mary over at Girl Meets Food, and it would be great if she had yours too. Vote over at the Sears Chef Challenge today–voting ends at midnight tonight!

Here is a letter from Molly explaining more about the contest:

Hi Mackie,

I’m a personal chef based in Bethesda–started my business four years ago when my first daughter was born. Now mom of two (Piper, almost 4, and Ruby, 20 months) trying to balance life as a stay-at-home-mom with building a business.

Got the great opportunity to compete in the Sears Chef Challenge–spent a month demoing cool recipes at Sears stores in the area, which were then videotaped and posted online on the Sears website.

A couple of weeks ago, the voting started to determine which chef from D.C. (there are 3 of us) will move on to the next round–the semi-finals at Sears HQ in Chicago. That would be an amazing experience for me of course, but what’s even cooler is that Sears is giving $5,000 to the food charity of the winner’s choice ($20,000 if you win the entire thing). Mine is the Capital Area Food Bank–I’ve been volunteering in their Operation Frontline program for almost a year now and have been so impressed with them. They do so much for the D.C. area, and I would love to be able to support them with a donation.

Voting ends today, and the votes have been going dramatically up and down every day. Any chance to get a shout out on your blog? You can vote once a day per email address here until midnight tonight.

I would love to support the Food Bank with a win!

Thanks,

Molly

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