Friday, August 26, 2011

Green Eggs Cafe - NoLibs

Post birthday breakfast for the wifey at the semi-new Green Eggs Cafe on 2nd Street by the Palm market.  They've been open a few months now, but it's been a busy summer and there are so many good brunch spots in walking distance that we have overlooked it until now. It's a decent sized room, with seating for what looks to be 50-60 people at a clip. The menu is pretty standard brunch fare with eggs, omeletes, ubiquitous stuffed french toast, and breakfast burritos, plus a few specials to liven it up a bit. 

Green Eggs does not serve booze. So if you need a bloody to get you thru that hangover, better off stopping down the street at Standard Tap. The other thing that Green Eggs is lacking is a one-hour plus wait to be seated (see: Honey's, Sabrina's, Cafe Estelle).  It is such a pleasant experience to be seated immediately upon walking into a restaurant by an attentive, non-v-neck t-shirt-wearing server who actually cares that you are there (see: Hipster servers at above restaurants).  When did it become acceptable to stand in the rain or 40° temps for 45 minutes to get a chorizo omelete or tofu scramble? Really, are any of those places worth waiting THAT long for? I want coffee and a seat, pronto. 

Speaking of it, the coffee was good, and we were constantly offered refills. Guess they have to make up for the lack of booze somehow. They were also johnny-on-the-spot with the water refills; helpful on a post-birthday kind of morning. The wifey went the lunch route and had the Italian panini  with roasted red peppers, artichokes, basil, pesto, prosciutto, and mozzarella.  A good sandwich, even if it was a bit pedestrian, that hit all the required notes. It was big enough that a normal person should be able to take half of it home to reheat later on. I am not a normal person and helped her out with the last few bites. 

Italian panini sandwich w/ sweet potato fries

What caught my eye on the menu though was a revelation in breakfast foods.  The Philly style eggs benedict - served on a toasted pretzel roll with Philadelphia cream cheese, grilled pork loin, two poached eggs and topped with bĂ©arnaise sauce. Why has someone not thought of this before? This thing is so Philly it should be the official food of the Mummers. Get yourself a side of scrapple and you're basically a step away from growing green fur and dancing on the dugout at Citizens Bank Park.  Sure, the one poached egg was a little overdone and not really yokey enough.  And the pork loin could be a little more tender and juicy. But I'm willing to overlook that for the possibility that this plate represents.  Remember when we signed Cliff Lee in February? Green Eggs is like the Ruben Amaro of breafkast. They have put all the pieces in place for something great to happen. Even with a couple flaws, this was still a great meal and left me smiling for hours afterward. The side of rosemary roasted potatoes were perfect. A little crunchy, just enough rosemary, and perfectly seasoned. 

Philly style eggs benedict - with rosemary potatoes
Very much looking forward to coming back around in a few weeks to give the rest of the menu the once over. If you're in the neighborhood and don't feel like waiting for brunch next weekend, give Green Eggs a try. Get the Philly eggs benedict and then go for a run thru the Italian market. Adrian would be proud. 

Food Baby rating - It's a Boy! 

Green Eggs Cafe
719 North 2nd Street
215.922.EGGS (3447)
8am-4pm every day :: Cash only :: No reservations on Saturday/Sunday

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Late night eats in NoLibs

Warm summer nights (sans rain showers) mean drinks in the backyard and a late night run to one of the rapidly multiplying street cart vendors in the neighborhood. No longer do we have to endure crappy pizza at 2am with the likes of Dapper Dog, the Always Sunny Grilled Cheese Co. (when they bother to show up), Side of the Road Chicken and even Darlings Diner. We sampled a couple of the above mentioned one late Friday night. I like where this thing is going.

Do you have suggestions on other late night eats in NoLibs?  Hook food baby up and let me know where they're hiding.

Dapper Dog - located in the Garden Variety space at 2nd & Poplar
A standard on the Food Baby rotation. They specialize in super tasty dogs with specialty toppings like the Coney Island (chili, banana peppers, and shredded cheddar cheese), Dolce Vita (tomato sauce, pepperoni, sharp provolone, and parmesan) & Jersey (grilled potatoes, peppers, onions, and American cheese). This night I tried my luck with the Mack - basically one of the Dapper dogs topped with a mound of mac & cheese. It definitely does the job of filling the void in your stomach left by numerous beers. However it wasn't my favorite on the menu - that honor still resides with the Reuben special they had a few months ago - feel free to bring that one back anytime now. I'm also a fan of the Chicago.  
The Mack from Dapper Dog

Always Sunny Grilled Cheese Co.  - located in the Garden Variety space at 2nd & Poplar
Almost an enigma of a food cart, I've seen their links and menu posted on the Garden Variety website but have yet to actually see the cart to get a taste. Has anyone actually checked this place out yet?  Would love to get some feedback.

Garden Variety - home to Dapper Dog, Always Sunny Grilled Cheese Co, Chris' Taco Stand
2nd & Poplar
9pm-3am Fridays & Saturdays

Side of the Road Chicken - located on 2nd street just south of the Piazza
Run by a guy named James, who is super friendly and knows a thing or two about jerk chicken. You can smell his cart from a block away. That waft of undeniable authentic Jamaican jerk spice gets the blood pumping. I was lucky enough to find myself in Jamaica 10 years ago and have been searching diligently for anything close to that taste. This is pretty damn close.

For $7 you get two chicken quarters - thigh & leg - that have been slowly roasting and smoking over a charcoal fire for what must be hours. The pieces are nearly black when they come out, with an unbelievably good charred skin. James throws a piece of wheat bread into the bottom of each container, presumably to sop up any of the juice that happens to run out. You'll want to hold onto that for later. You also get a choice of 3 or 4 fruit/pepper sauces that he's prepared to suit different tolerances for heat. I got a dose of habanero pineapple that left my lips tingling. Yumm.

Jerk Chicken from Side of the Road

Side of the Road Chicken
2nd Street between Wildey & Laurel
Friday & Saturday nights
(215) 240-8268

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sunday morning Tacos

What's the best thing about the Sunday morning Headhouse farmer's market? The overpriced produce? Maybe the ridiculous layout with the vendors facing into the market and making it impossible to navigate?  Or is it the random sighting of Shola inciting hushed whispers from the gathered Queens Village foodies? Nope, it's got to be the tacos from Los Taquitos de Puebla. Located at the east end of the market (actually facing out) this little stand slings out fresh made tacos by the hundreds every Sunday morning.

Los Taquitos de Puebla stand at Headhouse market

Friends of ours that live in walking distance from the market are regulars at the stand, and have been gently encouraging us to come for a taste. WOW. These are some of the best tacos in the city. Everything is made by hand, including the tortillas and salsas. You get a choice of slowly marinated chicken or beef, with a scattering of eye opening cilantro and a fresh lime wedge.  Close your eyes and you're sitting on a beach in a Corona commercial. These tacos are worth getting your ass out of bed early. No matter what you did the night before, these things will make your Sunday right.

Making the tortillas

There's normally a small line of people in the know waiting for their weekly fix, but you get the added bonus of watching one of the girls press the tortillas right in front of you. Plus there's a great lemonade stand right next door that seems to go oh so perfectly with tacos. Grab one while you wait and ponder the question of taco or quesadilla, chicken or beef, red or green salsa (Hint: there's no wrong answer). And at $7 for a plate of 3 tacos, this might be the best brunch deal in town.


Los Taquitos de Puebla is only here Sundays, but you can visit their regular restaurant in the Italian market during the week - which I mean to do shortly.


Los Taquitos de Puebla
1149 South 9th Street, Philadelphia, PA
(215) 334-0664 
Open daily 11am - 12am
Sunday mornings at the Headhouse Farmer's market

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pho - Sho!

Being the good little food blogger that I am, plus several years of catholic school obedience drilled into me, I did as I was told by Philly mag and ventured over to 6th & Washington to check out Pho Ha - ranked as best pho in the city. Just back from Thailand, and a new found lover of all things from southeast Asia, the smell when you walk into the place brings back the fresh ingredients and sultry smells of Bangkok street vendors. There's a lot of cross-over between with Thai & Vietnamese food, with lemon grass, rice noodles, limes & cilantro all playing major parts in the cuisine.

Pho, if you've never had it, is the Vietnamese version of chicken noodle soup. It comes in a ridiculously large bowl, and is served with a huge range of condiments and extras (think Fixins bar at Roy Rogers)  that you can add in for flavor or heat to your liking. The base is always rice noodles, but you can get any mix of sliced beef, tripe or pork as a protein. Add in fresh lime juice, siracha, hoisin or soy sauce, thai basil leaves, and bean sprouts to your heart's content. The key to good pho of course, is the broth. Basically a mellow beef broth, but with hints of exotic Asian spices like ginger, cloves, star anise, and fish sauce. At it's best it is both subtle and complex, warming your belly and your soul. It should taste like a little old Vietnamese grandmother has been slowly boiling and stirring it for a day or so.
the fixins
Our experience at Pho Ha, during a torrential downpour outside, was nothing short of magical. There seems to constantly be a small crowd of people waiting at the door, mostly Asian (which is a good sign) but plenty of others seeking out their pho fix. They don't seem to follow the hostess/server/food runner/bus boy approach, but rather employ a team strategy where everyone working in the front of the house can and does do every job. We lost track of who our server was at least twice. The menu is small and concise, offering just a few appetizers - we got the spring rolls and summer rolls - along with a small collection of noodle and rice dishes. But everyone is here for the pho. You can order a small or large bowl, with your choice of meat (or veggie if you swing that way) and it will be delivered nearly instantly to your table, along with hot tea and all the required fixins.
summer roll - with a whole shrimp inside

spring roll with chili dipping sauce
The table turns here would make other restaurant owners jealous. From the time you order to the time your food is delivered has to be under 3 mins. They don't even mess with place settings - your chopsticks, spoons, and napkins are all stacked ready to go at the end of the table. There's a steady din of happy eaters slurping and sipping their pho, but with tile floors and glass walls reverberating everything the noise level would be a bit much for a first date. Once the pho comes out though, you won't be doing much talking. Trying in vain to cool the hot noodles and broth to get it in as quickly as possible, you are instantly consumed with the process of using chopsticks to grab those slippery little rice noodles that have now soaked up that amazing broth. Slices of beef float on top, just barely pink in the middle, on their way to cooking thru in the hot liquid. A shot of hoisin, some soy sauce, basil leaves and some house made chili sauce put this dish over the top. You'll find it hard to come up for air.
the pho
You can't beat the price at a place like this either. For less than $10 a person, you get a meal worth writing home about (or blogging about) and possibly even some left overs (not in my case). I've had pho only a few places in the city, but it's going to be hard to justify looking further than this - I feel like I've been spoiled. Pho Ha is earned a special little place in my heart with just the one visit. I'm certain we'll be back for more. Now I just need to get one of those little Asian grandmothers to show me how to make that broth.

-T. Kaso

Food Baby rating:  Twins!!

Pho Ha
610 Washington Ave, 
Philadelphia, PA 19147-4836(215) 599-0264