Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Living just blocks from the Piazza and PYT, we've had the chance to sample the menu at least a half-dozen times now.  The milkshakes are straight out of Pulp Fiction, except these ones do have bourbon in them, daddy-o.  Try the Jack Rabbit Slim with vanilla ice cream and makers mark, or the Causasian featuring vanilla vodka & kahula with a nod to the Big Lebowski - the dude definitely abides.  Small list of beers on tap, but they always have High Life for $3 a pint, and a few local brews from either Yards or PBC.  We were drinking pitchers of Walt Wit on our most recent visit, with no complaints from anyone at the table.

The onion rings are among the best in Philly, and certainly the best I've ever had.   They are massive rings, and beer-battered in a mix featuring Kenzinger from PBC, fried to a light golden perfection that needs no accompaniment (don't even think about getting ketchup near these things).  They are a steal at $4, and the perfect snack if you're just sitting at the bar or great appetizer to warm you up for one of PYT's burgers.

Speaking of those burgers, I've gotten the chance to try three different offerings from the grill.  The Royale features two patties on a Martin's potato roll, bacon, cheddar, lettuce, tomato and onion dressed up with their secret sauce.  It's a "california" style burger reminiscent of In-N-Out (or at least the closest thing I've had this side of LA).  It's a juicy, sloppy taste of Americana and keeps calling me back for it's different variations - the single, sliders, and the Big Mic with 3 patties - haven't knocked that one off the bucket list just yet.

Next up was the Cheesesteak Pretzel Roll Burger.  This thing is a nap on a roll - single beef patty, slice of cheddar, then a pile of cheesesteak meat, smothered wiz-wit style all on a pretzel roll that is soft and chewy but able to stand up to the carnivorous bender that lies within.  Surprisingly enough, the whole thing really works well.  It's not just a marketing ploy, but a great burger that represents just about everything Philly is known for.  Don't plan on doing much after this one though, you're going to need to put your feet up and rest.  They should really think about installing hammocks in the backroom.

Most recently, I tried the Thanksgiving Burger (featured in Food Network Mag a few months ago) with a turkey patty seasoned with rosemary & thyme on a sourdough ciabatta roll, topped with applewood smoked bacon, apple-cranberry stuffing and turkey gravy, for good measure.  I had high hopes for this burger.  I'd tried on two prior occasions to order it but they only carry it on the menu for a few weeks at a time.   Disappointingly, mine came out kind of lifeless. The patty was bland and the roll was too chewy - making the thing hard to eat without it falling apart.  Bacon was great (but really when is it not?) but the cranberry stuffing was just ho-hum.  I'd rather go for a day-after turkey sandwich at home with stuffing and cranberry on a soft italian roll.  But that's just me.

Of the three, the Cheesesteak Pretzel roll burger is definitely my favorite burger at PYT, and one of the tops in the city, in my humble opinion.  We'll certainly be back for more beers and burgers soon.  Can't wait for summer again with the outdoor seating and Phillies games on the big screen in the Piazza.  One of my favorite places in NoLibs - and worth the trek from anywhere else in the city.

-T. Kaso

In the Piazza at Schmidt’s:
1050 N. Hancock St.
Philadelphia, PA 19123
(215) 964-9009

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Second time to Kraftwork, but my first review on here.  On both occasions I've been treated to their extensive draught beer choices ranging from the tasty Terrapin Rye Ale, a smooth Great Lakes Porter to the intriguingly smokey Rauchbier that conjures essences of the best bacon you've ever had.  Yes, beer that tastes like delicious, heavenly bacon.   It's served in a goblet (a pint would be over indulgence) and brought a smile to every red blooded American in the joint that had a sip.  Do yourself a favor and give it a go if they still have it on the ever-rotating beer list.

As for the food I've sampled both the berkshire pork sandwich, served with the braised red cabbage, and the fall-off-your-chair-good beer can chicken sandwich.  This thing was so amazing that I was convinced it couldn't be as good the second time.  It was actually better.  They somehow evoke shades of Tony Luke's or John's roast pork out of a simple chicken sandwich and up the ante with long hots and sharp provolone.  It stays so moist that the roll gets soggy by the end of the sandwich - you're going to need extra napkins. Both sandwiches are served with shoestring fries and a slightly spicy mustard dipping sauce that cuts thru the savory chicken & pork.

The beer can chicken sandwich alone is worth the trip up Girard ave.  The rest of the menu features a range of small bites, sandwiches, cheese & charcuterie boards, and even a few vegetarian items.  The beers on tap change almost daily.  When they're out of one, they move onto the next variety and encourage you to try something different.  The staff is knowledgeable and always happy to give you a sample.  If you haven't been to Fishtown in a while, Kraftwork is your reason to come see what's happening in this ever evolving neighborhood.

-T. Kaso

Kraftwork is in Fishtown, on the corner of Girard & Montgomery at:
 541 East Girard Avenue
 Philadelphia, PA 19125
12 noon to 2:00am Monday - Friday
10:30am to 2:00am Saturday - Sunday
brunch 10:30am to 3:00pm

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Founders Porter at Sidecar Bar

Tasty porter from Founders Brewing Co. at The Sidecar Bar last night.  Good toasty ale and a low abv, so you can have a few and not fall off your chair.  Always on the search for a great porter (Bell's Porter is my current favorite) but the Founder's ranked right up there. The fiancée was drinking the Reissdorf Kolsch, which was a great German pilsner that I happily helped her out with towards the end of the evening.

First time actually inside The Sidecar, having only previously seen it go by in a blur thru the bus window on last years Craft Beer Express (things got a little vague toward the end of the day). It's a warm, inviting little corner bar in the Gray's Ferry section of the city. Good rotating draught beer list of about 10 varieties, and a gastropub style menu.  We don't get out that way too often since there are so many comparable places in NoLibs & Fishtown that are in walking distance, and probably won't go out of our way to go back.  If we lived in the neighborhood, I think we'd be regulars.

T. Kaso

The Sidecar Bar
2201 Christian Street
Philadelphia, PA 19146
(215) 732-3429


Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Christmas lunch with my aunt, uncle & the cousins this year on the Moshulu at Penn's Landing. This has become an annual tradition, with previous locations at the Union League, Suzanna Foo, and other swanky joints where I have to put a coat on. It's fun to play dress up, and it's always a good meal - so it's something I look forward to around the holidays.

We started with a drink at the bar while waiting for the rest of the group. Decent manhattan, but they used jim beam, which isn't a very good start and I would expect more at a place with a reputation and prices like the Moshulu. If you go on a Saturday at lunch time, don't expect a big crowd at the bar. They had to call the bar tender out from some back room just to serve us.

A couple cheese plates started us off, and pretty solid offering of three cheeses for $12. A nice smokey cheddar, good blue, and a great humboldt fog goat cheese all came with appropriate accompaniments. We also had the calamari on a bed of thai asian slaw and dressed with red chili lemongrass sauce that was probably the best thing I ate. Just enough heat to be interesting, and cooked perfectly with a good crunch.

My sister got the filet mignon, one cousin had the burger (which looked pretty nice), two others had the smoked turkey sandwich with bacon & avocado, and my other quasi-vegetarian cousin had the pasta primavera (says he'll dabble with beef if it's grass-fed).

I went for the chilled seafood salad with shrimp, scallops and crab meat over bibb lettuce with bacon, blue cheese and avocado. The portion was perfect for a main and not super-heavy. I still had christmas errands to run that day, and wasn't trying for the proverbial food-baby experience at lunch. All the seafood was fresh but I kept thinking it was missing some key ingredient. Maybe some of that chili lemongrass sauce could amp it up. At $20, and the most expensive item on the menu, I expected a little more. I'd be happier with less seafood, and better flavor.

If you haven't been on the Moshulu, it's a unique experience eating on a real ship. They do a decent job of playing up the ship's history (it's featured in the Godfather II bringing a young Vito Corleone to America) but not going over the top with the nautical theme. Parking is $12, so if you can manage to hoof it over from South or Spruce street you can save that for another drink. Just make sure to ask for good bourbon in your manhattan.

-T. Kaso

The Moshulu is located at 401 S. Columbus Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19106.

Friday, December 17, 2010


After braving the slick and barely salted streets of Philadelphia for some final Christmas presents, we stopped into Parc for a welcome respite of wine, cheese & French fare. We'd dined at Parc before, but always during the summer at outside tables overlooking Rittenhouse square. I'd almost forgotten how large the interior was, and how cozy this bistro can make you feel on a chilly evening.

Our meal started with a cheese plate that featured an amazing stilton-like sample that was filled with those magical little veins that lend its dark blue coloring. I have dreams about cheese like that. We also had a great camembert-ish cheese that was soft and oozy, served with an addictive bit of real honeycomb and slices of perfectly made French bread. We didn't get the names of the cheeses, unfortunately. The carafe of house wine probably had something to do with that.

Dinner for the finance was roasted salmon with a black trumpet mushroom crust that was cooked perfectly, served overtop fennel puree and fresh chevril (a tarragon-like herb). She loved her meal, and this is from a girl that eats salmon all over the city, and not a huge fan of fennel either.

I went for the special that evening, coq au vin. It's been years since I've even ordered it, but one bite made me start questioning myself for passing on something so good and so French. Chicken legs & thighs braised in good red wine till the meat is falling off the bones, this is heaven on plate. This is the kind of meal that makes you do a little happy dance in your chair.

Overall, Parc does the French bistro thing about as well as anyone in the city (still have a special place in my heart for Bistro la Minette). The menu is brief but well executed from top to bottom, and the atmosphere makes you feel like you're in a neighborhood Parisian bistro. The carafes of table wine are a decently priced at $28, and you should not leave without trying a cheese plate. Can't go wrong with the essentials.

-T. Kaso

Parc is located at 227 S. 18th Street, on Rittenhouse Sq. They accept all credit cards and 11pm on weeknights, midnight on weekends and 10pm on Sundays.


A cold Tuesday night found us celebrating the arrival of my sister (very pregnant and home from London for two weeks) at cozy little Xochitl on Headhouse Square. This was my first time there, but the fiancée had been for drinks with the girls a few times, and I have to say that the cocktails did not disappoint. She had the margarita (perfectly made) and I went with the Senor Barriga - a great mix of tequila, muddled lime, sugar, thyme and a kick of jalapeño to warm you up on a chilly December night.

Having lived in London myself for a brief stint on a study abroad program in college, I understand the dearth of decent Mexican available there. Shocking, really, given the amazing collage of cultures and foods - it's where I had my first Thai & Indian meals, sparking a love affair with curry that has only gotten more intense with the years. So, dutifully, we escorted the big sister out for a night of guacamole, tequilas and perfectly made tortillas.

We decided to skip the big meals - although they all looked very good (must come back to try those veal tongue meatballs). Instead we went with a bunch of appetizers, each one excellent in it's own right and reminiscent of dishes I'd had in Mexico. Guacamole made table side started us off, mashed in an authentic molcajete, with your choice of additions including minced onions, jalapeños, habeneros, and cotija cheese. Spot on, and the hot chips right out of the fryer were perfect - we had to ask for more to nibble on after the guac was gone.

Along with the guacamole, we had chicharrones - a wonderful Mexican version of pork rinds that are puffy and light with not a hint of grease, served with a spicy salsa verde for dipping. We'd had a different version of chicharrones in Peru that were actually fried bits of pork, but these were excellent in their own right and a nice little surprise. Sopa azteca was a tasty soup served with fried tortilla strips, chunks of avocado and cheese, all floating in a deep flavored broth that was poured into bowl at the table to keep the tortillas crunchy. Well played.

The mackerel ceviche was served on big crunchy tostadas, mixed with a tangy pico de gallo. Not quite as good as ceviche I've had at places like Amada or Tinto, but for $11 I was happy. This brings us to the queso fundido - one the most amazing bits of Mexican cooking that I've come across. The dish couldn't be simpler, melted chihuahua cheese served in a hot skillet with fresh tortillas. You scoop some cheese into your tortilla and add in the accompanying mushrooms, peppers, or pickled red onions and then slowly savor this gooey little delight from the gods.

The only disappointment was the cazuela de chorizo y papas (chorizo served with kale and potatoes). The dish was a bit bland, and not nearly enough chorizo or spice. Kale & potatoes don't lend much to the party, but do give it some backbone. I'd skip this next time back.

Prices are affordable for a decent meal with drinks (appetizers average $10 and entrées are between $15 and $20), and I'm looking forward to exploring more of the menu. They've also got a sturdy tequila menu that I'll be sampling on my next visit - not a school night.


Xochitl is located at 408 S. Second Street on Headhouse Sq. They are open for dinner from 5pm-12am 7 days a week, with the bar staying open till 2am. All major credit cards are accepted.

Quizzo at The Lost Bar

I'm a big fan of the Quizzo games in Philadelphia. Nothing like trying to recall the real name of Sting after 3 or 4 beers (it's Gordon Sumner, if you're counting). It's more than just the sheer nerd factor of being able recall the author of Crime & Punishment or know how many 3-letter body parts there are, it's about having a reason to drink on a week night. We've been making the rounds at different games for the past few months.

We hit up The Lost Bar in Kensington/Fishtown last night for Irish John's early game at 8:30. If you haven't played his game, it's pretty entertaining. Not for the questions so much as his vocabulary - this guy could make a sailor blush. His game is great though with a really good mix of questions, extra credit, and a lighting round. We had been going to Liberties quizzo on Tuesdays with Tom Asher but the questions seem to be geared towards those that were in college during the Carter administration.

As for the bar, it's a great shot & a beer joint with a good selection of beers - none more than $3. No food, but the cheap beers made up for it. The only fault I could see is that there's no ATM at the bar, and it's cash only. I had to walk 4 or 5 blocks to York street to get cash. Think we'll be back again next week though, early enough to get a table and cash in hand.

-T. Kaso

The Lost Bar is at Frankford at Hagert streets, across the street from the Philadelphia Brewing Company. Quizzo game starts promptly at 8:30 on Thursday nights. All PBC brews are $3, along with Magic Hat, Lager & other microbrews. Domestics are $2.50.

Mmmmm....Koch's Deli

One of the hidden jewels of west philadelphia, Koch's Deli might be the best thing for a hangover since gatorade was invented. Mountains of hot pastrami and melty swiss cheese on ridiculously good bread make for a nap and a lazy Saturday on the couch.

The quintessential Jewish deli, I started going to Koch's while at school at Drexel, and have been coming back ever since. It's a bit of an institution at UPenn, with the walls decorated in pictures and hand written letters to the Koch brothers to prove it. It's definitely not the fastest service, but thats part of the appeal. The almost overly friendly staff will chat you up and hand out free slices of turkey, muenster and homemade pickles while you wait for your little piece of heaven on a roll. And they warm up the meat & cheese for each sandwich individually, so that when they finally put it all together it just oozes with flavor and makes you realize that it was worth the wait.

I went for the reuben today and never looked back. A 5" high stack of pastrami, swiss cheese & kraut with homemade russian dressing on perfect jewish rye. I dare you to find a better one this side of New York. Not much has changed at Koch's in 40 years. They still have their original refrigerators & scales, which they are fiercely proud of, and they still know how to make a sandwich to write home about. Thousands of hungry college students can't be wrong.

-T. Kaso

Koch's Deli is at 4309 Locust Street, at the edge of UPenn's campus in West Philadelphia.