Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Best of Philadelphia Beer Awards

Best Local Beer

Gold - Iron Hill Oak Aged Old Tom – This gem was actually released in late 2008 but many local beer geeks kept growlers and hand bottles of this rare beauty floating around in ‘09. Pray that Iron Hill unleashes this one again…soon!

Silver РTr̦egs Nugget Nectar

Bronze – Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA



Local Brewery of the Year

McKenzie Brewhouse – Brewer, Ryan Michaels continues to expand upon the base knowledge handed down to him from previous McKenzie Brew Master & Farmhouse Ale expert, Scott Morrison. Ryan took home another GABF medal and is wow-ing the beer community with newly concocted Farmhouse Ales aged in barrels. Once a somewhat “sore” subject, the brewery has given into the demand by releasing special beers in bottles. They have also given patrons an incentive by offering the Sunday Passport, which offers 10% discounts, half price meals for the kids, and discount beer!

Local Bar of the Year

Gold - Capone's - Owners, Andrew & Angel Capone have invested time and money into making Capone's a more family friendly atmosphere. Beverage Manager, Matt, has gone full tilt on supplying the best beers in the area during events, and in the takeout room. Capone's was already a top notch bar by gaining accolades as Ratebeer.com's #1 Beer Bar in the World for 2008 & Beer Advocate Magazine's # 6 Beer Bar in the World for 2008. Since then, they've added 14 more tap lines(late November, 2009) to keep the great beers flowing at all times.

Silver - TJ's Everyday - TJ's always has wonderful events, meet-ups for beer fans, and specials on craft beer. They've got a nice selection of mix/match take out, as well.

Bronze - Teresa's Next Door - TND has rotating extreme beers, great events, pairings, and excellent burgers, mussels, and fries. On Sundays, they have brunch and 1/2 price cheese.

Honorable Mention:
Craft Ale House
Devil's Den



Local *New* Beer of the Year

Philadelphia Brewing Shackamaximum – Brewer, John Rehm told me before this beer was released that this had some similarities to a homebrew I had given him a few years back when he worked at John Harvard’s Brew House in Devon. This far exceeded my expectations...and blew that homebrew away.


Best Non-Local Beer in the Local Market

Look no further than the Belgian beers available. These 3 are the best emulations of Trappist Westvleren beers (not available in the United States ) that you will find. As with freshly bottled wine, it’s recommended to let these beers rest in the cellar for a few years for increased complexities, and a softer feel on the palate.

Gold – Trappistes Rochefort 10

Silver – St. Bernardus Abt 12

Bronze – St. Bernardus Prior 8

Honorable Mention (& a U.S. Brewery!) – Avery’s The Beast Grand Cru



Best *New* Non-Local Beer in the Local Market

Tied – Founders Brewing Hand of Doom & Arcadia Brewing Whiskey Dick’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Olde Ale.



Best *New* Non-Local Brewery in the Local Market

The Bruery

Honorable Mentions:

Cigar City

Dark Horse

Duck Rabbit

Sixpoint Craft Ales

2009 Best Philadelphia Pizza Award

Read my previous post for the Best Cheesesteak Award for details on changing champions. I've got MANY more pizza shops lined up for 2010.

The Best Philly Pizza Award goes to...
SLiCE - coming in at a score of 4.7!

Best of the rest(that have been rated this year)
Franzone's - 4.5
Charlie's - 4.4
Sam's Pizza Palace (Wildwood, NJ)
Carmine's - 4.2
Via Veneto - 4.1
Oaks Italian Deli - 4
Tosco's - 4
Corropolese (Tomato Pie) - 4
Moccia's Train Stop - 3.6
Iron Hill - 3.6
Valley Forge Pizza - 3.6
Pete's Pizza Joint - 3.5
Frank's Famous Pizza(Rio Grande, NJ) - 3.4
Dimeo Pizza - 3.3
Mama Velia's - 3.2
Goodnight Irenes - 3.1
Lorenzo and Sons - 3
Pizza Land - 2.5
Rocco's (Collegeville - Brick Oven Style) - 2.4
Santucci's Square Pizza (North Wildwood, NJ) - 1.9

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 Best Philadelphia Cheesesteak Award

I've already been asked by some but I'll explain it for everyone. Once a champion is crowned the Best Philly Cheesesteak Award, consider them the reigning champ until they are surplanted. Scores can always go up if my rating is proven wrong with a second try. Rightly so, I may change a rating for the worse if I feel the sandwich has gone downhill. Consistency is key!
Some will agree & some will disagree. The proof is in the pud-(ahem)...sandwich.
The Best Philly Cheesesteak Award goes to...
Tied for 1st Place - Tony Luke's and Pudge's, each bringing in an excellent score of 4.2 out of 5 to be the reigning champions of Philadelphia Cheese Steaks.

Best of the rest(that have been rated this year)
Steve's Prince of Steaks - 4.1
Steve's Steaks on South Street - 4.1
Mr. D's in Wildwood - 4.1
Ace's - 4
Satchmo's - 4
Angelo's Pizza - 3.9
Pie in the Sky - 3.9
John's Pizza - 3.9
Sonny's Italian Deli - 3.9
Gateway Cafe - 3.8
Sonny's Famous Steaks - 3.7
Lou's Too - 3.6
Mama's Pizzeria - 3.5
Franklin's Classic (I really owe these guys a revisit though!) - 2.7
Michael's Jewish Deli - 2.5
Original Philly Steaks - 2.3
Grey Lodge Pub - 2.4
Pat's King of Steaks - 2.1
Jim's Steaks - 1.4

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Valley Forge Pizza (Phoenixville) - Pizza


Appears a large, 16" long rectangular pie. At first glance, one might mistake this as a Sicilian pie but upon closer inspection, it's a Greek pizza. Not nearly as thick as a Sicilian...more like a thin, pan pizza. The only weird part is that they bring it to your table in a cardboard box. What's that about? VF Pizza is actually a nice place inside and the waiter brings a cardboard box over to the table side stand. The outer edges are a deep golden brown, as is the underside with a few char marks near the outer edges. FYI - this pizza had extra sauce added to the top. - 3.5

The crust is medium with a thicker outer crust that is crunchy on the outside. The crust underneath the sauce and bread is mildly crispy on the underside. It has a distinct sweet flavor similar to Pilsbury bread dough. - 4

The sauce seems to be of a decent quality canned crushed tomato. It's a lightly spiced, tangy, sweet flavor that has a rustic appeal to it. Not the best sauce I've ever had but it seems to hold it's own. - 3.5

The cheese is alright. Seems to be a part skim mozzarella & whole mozzarella blend but it fits in nicely with the texture of the pie. As it cools, it gets a little rubbery but the flavor, itself is good. No oils seem to ruin it. - 3.5

Overall, this is a decent pizza. It's been talked up a bunch on Chowhound in the past and the establishment, itself, boasts that they've been rated #1 Pizza by Citysearch for whatever that is worth. I'm not itching to get it again but I enjoyed it enough to write about it. My wife wasn't as kind as I was. To her, the sauce is a make/break deal but it hit the spot for this particular night. - 3.5

Total Score: 3.6/5

Valley Forge's Website: http://www.valleyforgepizza.com/

Valley Forge Pizza and Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Jim's Steaks (South Philadelphia) - Cheesesteak


Appears a 10" open faced sub roll with lots of open space that looks hidden with the extra thick slices of onions piled on top. Gristle and little bits of meat make me wonder why I bothered. - 2

The roll is an Amoroso roll. They're ok, as told in another post. The really start to tear apart before you're finished the sandwich. - 3

The meat is finely chopped into little pieces by the grill man. After watching him chop away into tiny remnants(not totally bothered by this after having Pie in the Sky & Angelo's)I watch the guy pour what looks to be either dirty water, or an oil/water mix all over the heap of meat remnants causing steam to rise up. Hmmmm. Tastes a bit bland & "watered down" to me. A little bit of peppery spicing but not much more in terms of flavor. Furthermore, I believe I was served meat from an already finished pile because it was luke warm at best. - 1.5

The cheese - It's like Pat's all over again. Ok...maybe not that bad. Looking back, the Pat's steak was completely unmelted. This cheese is slightly melted but not by much due to the luke warm meat. - 1.5

Overall, this was the worst cheesesteak that I remember having since starting the blog. I could tell you that these guys have been given praise and won awards from Philadelphia Magazine for Best Cheesesteak, etc. None of that matters now. Even my buddy, Steve, said that this was a huge let down. There was really nothing appealing about the sandwich that would make me want to repeat again. - 1

Total Score: 1.8/5

Jim's Website: http://www.jimssteaks.com/

Jim's Steaks on Urbanspoon

Lorenzo and Sons (South Philadelphia) - Pizza


Appears a thin, large slice of pizza that is covered with an abundance of mozzarella cheese. It was served to me in Lorenzo style with the end of the slice flipped back onto itself. For the sake of the picture, I flipped it back down to show how giant the slice is compared to the white picnic plate. Intimidating size but maybe not so much anything more than that. The underside is a dark brown but not reaching the charred look that I favor. - 3.5

The crust is thin with very little in terms of CO2 pockets near the outer crust, as if it had been completely pressed out of the dough when flattened. The underside of the crust has a bit of a crackle to it but the amount of heavy cheese and oils are weighing the slice down, making it very flimsy when held. You'll need both hands to tackle this, or do the taco fold. - 3.5

The sauce...to be honest, I got so little of the sauce due to the overwhelming cheese, I can't really give much of an opinion on it. There was a tiny, tiny bit of tomato sweetness that comes through in the bite but it is mild, at best. - 2.5

The cheese tastes good but it's way, way too much. It tastes like a part skim mozzarella but becomes rubbery and really chewy when it's piled on this much. - 2.5

Overall, this pizza is a staple for South Street after hours munching. I've been a patron for over 15 years. While I used to claim this as my favorite, my tastebuds have moved on to other finds. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad slice...there are just several other options out there. - 3

Total Score: 3/5

Lorenzo's Website: http://www.lorenzoandsonspizza.com/home.html

Lorenzo & Son Pizza on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Steve's Steaks (South Philadelphia) - Cheesesteak


Appears a 10" steak roll cut and placed in a basket. Nice looking roll with a scattering of melted cheese, chopped onions, and thinly sliced, chopped ribeye. - 4

The roll is from Liscio's Italian Bakery. Believe me when I tell you that this is one of the best rolls that I've had the pleasure of eating a cheesesteak on. This is my first experience with these guys and I'm very happy with the firmness of the outer exterior, to the spongy center that does an excellent job of soaking up all the goodness and maintaining the integrity of the bread. It's almost as good as the rolls that Tony Luke's uses. - 4.5

The meat is thinly sliced, chopped ribeye that is lightly seasoned, and juicy. The flavors in this steak are really good. The only knock against it is the amount. There could be a bit more ala Tony Luke's, or Pudge's to hang with the big boys. - 3.5

The cheese...these guys got it right! American cheese that is melted and running throughout the meat without going overboard like the other Steve's(Prince of Steaks). 4.5

Overall, I was impressed with this South Street stop. Delicious sandwich and friendly help behind the counter. I will be back! - 4

Total Score: 4.1/5

Steve's Website: www.stevessteaksphilly.com

Steve's Steaks on Urbanspoon

West Bradford Grill (West Chester) - Hot Wings


The texture is of a soaked wing...dare I say, "soggy"? The interior is ok but the exterior feels like it was drenched a bit too long in the sauce. - 2

The sauce is just ok. I'm not sure what went wrong here but we ordered them "hot", which these were simply not. I can't even really say they were "medium". Tastes buttery with a very mild bit of hot sauce flavor coming through. I guess I'll have to get them super hot next time to scratch the surface. - 2

The flavor is really just so-so in my opinion. The chicken itself is ok but the flavor of the exterior just bring the whole thing down. - 2

Edibility is alright, I suppose. I did come back to them, whether it was just from being hungry, or that I enjoyed them has yet to be determined. I think it would be the former though. - 3

Overall, I don't need to get these again. There are other options. The pizza is ok at this place too...nothing to write home about. The mussels, however, are tasty. Anyone willing to do a mussel blog?? :) - 2.5

Total Score: 2.3/5

West Bradford Grill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Capone's (East Norriton) - Buffalo Wings



The texture is of a crispy, well done on the outside...yet tender on the inside wing. The sauce is generously lathered over the wings, leaving much sauce to coat the exterior. - 4

The sauce is excellent. One of my favorites in Montgomery County. It's still got enough heat and flavor to make your eyes water when held up. - 4

The flavor is great. Once you sink your teeth past that outer crisp shell, it's all tender chicken hidden beneath the hot sauce. - 4

Edibility is superb. These ones are just hot enough that you can keep coming back without having to constantly wipe off your hands, or face. - 4.5

Overall, these are some of the better wings to grub on...especially with one of the many craft beers that Capone's offers. - 4

Total Score: 4.1/5

The beer pictured with the wings? Bell's Rye Stout, which was pouring from the tap that day.

Capone's has been rated a Top Ten World Beer Bar by Beer Advocate Magazine, and has been rated the # 1 Beer Bar in the World by Ratebeer.com. They have 16 drafts (soon to be 30) and a nice takeout beer consisting of craft beer, and imports.

Check out their hours, specials, and periodical updates @ caponesdraftlist.blogspot.com

Ask for Matt & tell him I sent you!

Capone's on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Standard Tap (Northern Liberties, Philadelphia) - Beer etc.



What can I say about this place that hasn't already been said? These guys were "gastropub" before the word even existed in the United States. They've been serving up craft beer, tasty meals, and gourmet sandwiches since the demise of Sam Adams Brew House (currently Nodding Head Brewery).

They sport 11 taps and 2 cask conditioned ales. The burgers and fries are excellent. Flavorful, juicy burgers that are filling and unforgettable. Local brews that will satisfy beer fans.

The beer pictured below with one of their signature burgers is Philadelphia Brewing Company's Hop Harvest.



Standard Tap's Website: www.standardtap.com

Standard Tap on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sonny's Famous Steaks (Old City, Philadelphia) - Cheesesteak


Appears a 10" sandwich with just enough meat covering the inside of the sandwich. - 4

The roll is an Amoroso roll 10". It's decent enough. The interior is a little soft but it gets the job done. I won't complain about it but I would take a Conshy roll over it any day. - 3

The meat is thinly sliced ribeye. It's very, very tender and juicy. Some pieces of the lightly seasoned steak show a hint of residual pink left in the freshly cooked meat. Great stuff! If it were packed like a Mama's, or Pudge's steak sandwich, it would warrant a perfect score. - 4.5

The execution of the cheese is ok. Not really mixed throughout like I like though. Most of the cheese is sticking to the bread. Every place really does it different. I'm just set on having it done where you've got it on top, middle, and bottom...not to the extent that Steve's does it but enough to be fully integrated into the sandwich. - 3

Overall, it's a good sandwich. Sonny's is the place in Old City to get a cheesesteak. Some people swear by those Amoroso's but others(myself included)have had better examples. The shining light was the steak. Succulant, juicy, tender meat that hasn't been overcooked into grissle is a treat. Based on that alone, I would love to stop in next time I'm in the area - 4

Total Score: 3.7/5

Sonny's was voted Best Philly Cheesesteak for 2001's Philadelphia Magazine.

Sonny's Website: http://www.sonnysfamoussteaks.com/

Sonny's Famous Steaks on Urbanspoon

Pete's Pizza Joint (Old City, Philadelphia) - Pizza


Appears as a thin slice with dark brown bottom. Melted mozzarella coats the top of the pie with a medium sized crust on the edge. - 4

The crust is thin, dark brown, crispy, and crunchy. It's got a bit of a bitter, wood-like bite on top of a thin Italian bread flavor - 4

The sauce is ok. It's of a tangy, acidic, and mildly sweet of fruit. - 3.5

The cheese is alright. It's of a part skim shredded mozzarella. It's got some nice flavor behind it but it's nothing that stands out among the pack, either. - 3

Overall, this pizza is a good find. It's a popular spot for the crowds that roll out of the bars late at night. It's a good pie to chew on when you're passing by. I wouldn't make a special trip for it but it's decent enough to mention. - 3

Total Score: 3.5

Pete's Telephone: (215) 629-0150

Pete's Pizza Joint on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 16, 2009

Tosco's Pizza (Eagleville) - Pizza


Appears a large, 16" round pie with a cooked, crimson sauce layered with melted mozzarella cheese, and dark brown edges of crust, nearing black at some parts. - 4

The crust is golden brown underneath and well cooked towards the outside of the pie. There are some char marks, which is a nice sight. The edges of the crust are light, crispy, and airy like a hearth baked wafer. The middle of the pie droops slightly due to the weight of the cheese but overall, it's decent enough. - 4

The sauce is good. It's a very light scattering of crushed tomatoes blended with a bit of paste and thinned out around the crust. Italian seasoning is utilized in there. A mildly sweet, tangy flavor. - 3.5

The cheese is the Grande cheese, mentioned in this previous post. It's light, tasty, and springy for a little bit of texture. - 4

Overall, this is a nice pie. I like that it's near charred along the some of the crust. I liked the flavor. I went back for a few more slices. All good things. Tosco's uses a brick oven. This particular brick oven is fired by gas(I believe)& not by wood, or coal though. They are also a BYOB, so feel free to run across the street at D&J Deli to pick up a few beers, or bring in a nice bottle of red for a slice, or a bottle of white for linguini with olive oil and garlic. With all of the favorable revues on Urbanspoon, I figured I would check them out. I'm glad I did. - 4

Total Score: 3.9/5

Tosco's Website: http://www.toscopizza.com/

Tosco's Pizza & Italian on Urbanspoon

Mama's Pizzeria (Bala Cynwyd) - Cheesesteak


Appears a huge, overflowed mass of meat jammed inside a 12" steak roll. A molten glob of cheese is shown hardened on top of the meat and onions. This one looks like it'll eat me! - 4.5

The roll? Take one guess...yup! Conshy! Not a whole lot of need to carry on about the roll, as I've done before. Unfortunately, this time, the Conshy roll's integrity was tested. I think it did a fine job. - 4

The meat...wow, I guess I'm caught in a conundrum with this. The amount of beef rivals, perhaps even surpasses the legendary amounts that Pudge's gives out in their steak sandwiches. Heck, I've read that Mama's is only 8 ounces in a sandwich. There's no way. When you lift the bag, it feels like a small sack of potatoes in there...but I digress. The steak is a nice cut too. I'm pretty certain it's thinly sliced rib eye that has been cooked nicely, retaining some juiciness. Here's the kicker: while the meat is plentiful, there is virtually zero seasoning found in there. In fact, I usually take out some strips just to taste it alone from the bread and cheese. Tastes like margarine. Lots & lots of margarine. It almost kills me to give this score(based on the size!) but I have no choice. Flavor is probably the biggest factor when making this score. - 3

The cheese: I try to keep the ratings even on the same playing field but sometimes I hit a snag that I just have to accept and chalk it up for what it is. I use American Cheese as my baseline. Mama's uses a "secret blend" of cheeses. If I had to guess...Swiss, Mozzarella/Un-aged Provolone, Mild White Cheddar. These 3-4 together(per my guess)would be ok for a topping on onion soup, or maybe a fondue base. I just don't think it was working for me. Too mild of flavors to cut through anything. It seems to meld together with all the margarine flavored meat & onions, making for a bit of a let down. While they have a nice method of getting this cheese melted throughout the sandwich by throwing it on the hot grill, it's the actual cheese choice that is the downfall here. Would American cheese have made it better? Possibly. I'll never know though. - 3


Overall, this sandwich is a beast. It's giant and I would recommend trying to split it with a friend, rather than trying to tackle it by yourself. It's good if you have the munchies, or just need a quick fix to be filled. If you want the best steak sandwich you've ever had, I'd keep looking. Mama's was one of my go-to steak places when I attended Saint Joe's on City Ave. My taste buds must've graduated since then too. - 3

Total Score: 3.5/5

As a side note, this place has a nice sized following. If you want a steak sandwich, be sure to call your order in because you'll either get stuck waiting for quite some time(my wait was 20 minutes), or they'll run out of fresh rolls.

Mama's Website: http://www.mamaspizzeria.com/menu/


Mama's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ranking on UrbanSpoon usurped???

Just a short bit of me venting...

I happened to notice that my ranking on Urban Spoon had been taken over by another blogger's site. Upon further inspection, I come to find that this particular blogger is pimping out their "reviews" (aka 3-4 sentences without much substance...or identity, for that matter)- all over the country but they seem to have risen out of nowhere.

With less than 1/3 of my blog postings in the Philadelphia area, they amazingly have much more traffic linked through Urban Spoon in such a short span of time.

I could be completely wrong on this one but I'm guessing that these people have way too much time on their hands. Am I insinuating that they could be falsifying stats for their own benifit by clicking their own link? I don't know but I'm not buying that amount of traffic just comes out of thin air. As a part time project manager, I'm familiar with statistical spikes, laws, etc. Unless their followers in New Mexico, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, etc are clicking their Philly blog reviews, it doesn't add up. I know that I'm not too concerned about what's going on in Santa Fe eateries right now...maybe it's just me.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Iron Hill (Phoenixville) - Traditional Pizza


Appears a 12" round, thin pie with golden brown outer crust and a mixing of whole milk mozzarella atop a thin layer of crimson sauce. A scattering of chopped basil is scattered randomly along the top. - 4

The crust is flavorful. It has a mildly fruity, yeasty flavor that is cooked to a light, golden brown. The outer crust is crispy, crackly, and crunchy. Light pockets of fermentation cells are shown from a side-view along the outer crust. The interior crust is a little flimsy towards the center of the crust, not holding up to the weight of the sauce and cheese. - 3.5

The sauce is good. It's crushed plum tomatoes with a mildly acidic, roasted pepper bite. If it's sweet at all, it's the base tomato, itself, not from a sweetening agent. If I were the guessing type, I'd say these were San Marzano tomatoes. Tasty stuff! - 4

The cheese is whole milk, shredded, dry mozzarella. It's a decent tasting cheese. There are better options though. - 3

Overall, I think the pie is enjoyable. The flavors all come together and I'd say that they are using very good ingredients as shown by the scores above. They could tweak this pie slightly to be in the upper echelon but for right now, it's just better than the middle of the pack. - 3.5

Total Score: 3.6/5

Iron Hill has some of the best locally crafted beers in the area. I would highly recommend joining the mug club. For a small fee, you get a mug of beer instead of the standard pint sized offering. You are also eligible for Iron Hill promotions, and you earn a $25 credit for every 300 points earned. This membership pays for itself in no time.

Iron Hill's website: http://www.ironhillbrewery.com/

Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant (Phoenixville) on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 2, 2009

TJ's Everyday (Paoli) - Hop Devil Buffalo Wings


The texture is of a crispy skin wing with a nice coating of hot sauce, which is glazed on the outside. Really nice stuff. - 4.5

The sauce is awesome. It's an obvious Buffalo base with Victory's Hop Devil Ale added to the mix for an extra bit of bite mixed in with the heat. Delicious concoction. - 4.5

The flavor is of hot sauce, light butter, and spicy hops from the excellent beer. What a treat. TJ's is on to something with the beer infused menu. - 4.5

Edibility is outstanding. The more you eat, the more you want. The flavor grows on you because it's not just the typical hot sauce flavor jumping out. The hoppy, IPA flavors are in the background and even this one out, toning down on the heat of the sauce. - 5

Overall, this is such a nice surprise. The fact that they infuse the Hop Devil with the hot sauce makes it classic with a twist. - 4.5

Total Score: 4.6/5

The beer in the picture? That was Avery's Hand of Doom, which went perfect with the wings. TJ's has one of the best beer selections around in the area. They throw events and have daily specials. This is a sure fire winner for any beer fan.

TJ's Website: http://www.tjseveryday.com/

TJ's Everyday on Urbanspoon

Rocco's (Collegeville) - Hot Wings


The texture is of a wet, juicy, wing that's been soaked in a decent helping of hot sauce. If you lift the wing up, juice will drip off. The skin is fried but gives way to the drenching. - 4

The sauce is a nice blend. Upon inhaling the aromas, you get light watering in the eyes. The heat is well balanced with a mild sting that comes through after several wings are eaten. You get a mild burn around the edges of the lips. - 4

The flavor is very fresh with a blending of the fried chicken that retains the juiciness on the inside while blending with the hot flavors from the sauce. - 4

Edibility is really nice. Like I said, the heat doesn't even scratch the surface of being un-edible. It's hot enough to be tolerable and the peppers don't really kick in until after many are consumed. No tear jerking with this one. - 4.5

Overall, this is one of the better wings you can get in Collegeville. The last time my buddy, Carl came over, this was the selection that I made for wings. Sure, there may be some better ones out there if you venture out of the 19426 but this is a safe bet if you're in the 'burbs. - 4

Overall Score: 4.1/5

Rocco's Website: http://www.roccosbrickoven.net/collegevillemenu.nxg

Rocco's Pizza of Collegeville on Urbanspoon

Satchmo's (Collegeville) - Cheesesteak


Appears a 12" sub roll with finely chopped pieces of steak, and translucent chopped onions. - 3.5

The roll is a decent one. I'm not certain but I'd say it was either a Conshy roll, or one of similar quality. Semi-firm on the outside and soft interior soak up the juice. - 4

The meat is thinly chopped ribeye, which is seasoned superbly, and retains the juiciness. It's cooked just right. This would be getting a perfect score if there was just a bit more meat on the roll. High quality deserves high scores. - 4.5

The cheese is evenly mixed throughout the sandwich with most of the product landing underneath the meat. Not a bad job, though. - 4


Overall
, this is a really nice sandwich. I was actually thinking about getting another the following day. That's a good thing...I'm still thinking about it. This was recommended to me by my buddy, Tom Bastian. Great call, Tom. I'm glad I finally got around to checking it out. As a side note, every other sandwich I've had from this place has been great. With the newly expanded dining area, you don't have to get your food to go anymore. Grab some grub, hit the pinball machine, then indulge in one of the best milkshakes that your tastebuds will thank you for. - 4

Total Score: 4/5

Satchmo's Phone #: (610)489-7282

Satchmo's on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fingers Wings and Other Things (Conshohocken) - Spicy Wings


The texture is that of a "crispy" wing. Some people aren't too crazy about the well-done wing but I like them. I think it gives the wing some character on the outside before getting to that juiciness held on the inside. Perhaps some "crunchy" bits of fried skin along a few of the edges nearing the bone. - 3.5

The sauce is the next step up from Mild, and below the category of Extra Spicy, and Nuclear. For the sake of consistency, I'll try keep these all in the spicy/hot realm. The sauce is based in the Louisiana Hot sauce like Frank's, or Texas Pete's. This particular sauce seemed like it was on the salty side. Perhaps a good portion of butter is used in there but it was pretty distinct saltiness. Not a bad sauce but most of it had to be mopped up from the bottom of the basket. Certainly not a real "wet" wing. I would actually consider this a mild sauce, so I'm guessing that they must use Crystal, or butter crazy mix for the actual Mild wing they serve. - 2.5

The flavor is decent. The actual chicken with the crispy outside, along with whatever sauce I could mop up was tasty. The saltiness just made me want to drink more beer but the overall flavor came together nicely. Perhaps it's just me though...I tried some straight Frank's and Texas Pete's when I got home and they both seemed "salty" to me. Hmmm. - 3

Edibility was nice. I downed 9 of these badboys while my cousin took care of the other ones in the 20 count combo we ordered. I kept coming back to them and the flavor wasn't "in-you're-face" heat. In fact, it was so tolerable that neither one of us asked for blue cheese, which I usually get with my wings. The cuz was scared to order the spicy because he's not a huge fan of hot stuff but if I was ordering again, I would go with the Extra Spicy for some a little bit of burn on the lips, which is always expected when I order hot wings. - 3.5

Overall, I enjoyed them. I wouldn't say the wings are the best I've ever had but they're decent enough for mentioning...definitely above average. As a side note, if I were rating their chicken tenders, they ARE the best I've ever had. They use a light batter, which leads to a flaky, crispy outer shell of the tender. The Irish Fries are really good too. - 3

Total Score: 3.1/5

This place recently started bringing in some craft beer for my fellow beer enthusiasts out there. Out of their 12 available drafts, 3/4 of them were decent gateway beers for those just getting started into craft beer. They had Flying Fish, Dogfish Head, Sly Fox, Victory, and Yards to name a few. They will fill growlers too, which would make FWOT the 2nd place that I know of outside of The Boathouse that will fill growlers.

FWOT's website: http://www.fwot.com/index.html

Fingers, Wings & Other Things on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Okay, okay...I get the point. Wings are coming!!!

Alright, I believe my balls have been thouroghly busted on not having any wings reviewed yet. I've been making promises for too long. I've got at least 5-6 places picked out that I'll be reviewing.

Wings will be rated on:
- Texture
- Sauce
- Flavor
- Edibility
- Overall

If anyone has a "go-to" wing place in the city, or the Philly suburbs, kindly send me the suggestion. Expect something to be up within the next week.

- Mike

Friday, September 11, 2009

Mr. D's Pizzeria Steaks & Subs (Wildwood) - Cheesesteak


Appears a 10" steak roll with a nice helping of chopped steak, onions, and cheese covering the interior of the roll and rising up to the top with a nice packing. - 4

The roll is from a New Jersey Bakery, called, DeLuxe Italian Bakery. It's actually better than expected, being as good as most of the Philly rolls I've had, and certainly better than most of the sandwich rolls you get in South Jersey. Semi-hard outer shell of the roll gives way to the spongy interior that soaks up the goodness inside. - 4

The meat is of thinly sliced, and chopped ribeye steak. It's lightly seasoned with herbs and pepper and is cooked just enough to remain juicy without a greasy, oil slick left behind. This is some of the better meat I've had...and it's a good helping, as well. - 4.5

The cheese is properly mixed, and melted throughout the sandwich, acting as an adhesive to keep the steak, onions, and bread together. - 4

Overall, I enjoyed this sandwich. If you find yourself in Wildwood and you need some comfort of home by enjoying a properly done steak sandwich, this will be enough to satisfy. Mr. D's claims on a sign out front of their establishment, & on the cover of their menu, "Voted Best Steaks at the Jersey Shore" though, I could not verify when, or by whom. Well, I suppose this could count after the fact as the possible reigning king. I've only had a few down the shore that could come close to touching this one. - 4

Total Score: 4.1/5

A great recommendation made to me by valued blog subscriber LMc1381

Mr. D's Phone #: (609) 522-2026

Mr D's Pizzeria Steaks & Subs on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Frank's Famous Pizza (Rio Grande, NJ) - Pizza


Appears a large, 18+" with a thick, outer crust and a massive pooling of mozzarella cheese covering the entire pie. Some large pockets of CO2/steam bubbles trapped in the dough pop up at a few random spots. Based on aesthetics alone, it looks like it could be living up to the hype machine. - 4

The crust is interesting. To me, it smells and tastes just like a fresh loaf of Italian bread from a really good Italian bakery. That's not a bad thing but not what I was expecting, either. No cornmeal, or semolina used in this one. Looks like it's the 'ol straight flour method. The underside of the crust shows that there are a few spots that near char on the bottom(good!)but the overall thickness of the pie doesn't allow that crispy goodness to seep more than an 1/8" past the underside. Based on the small indentations found on the underside of this pie(and the lack of a rotating track oven in the establishment), I'm guessing that they use a "pizza screen", which is a nifty little device that you place the stretched dough on before placing it in the oven. It prevents the dough from charring too much against the hot oven, and allows air flow, so that the moisture doesn't collect on the bottom, leaving a crispy underside. The good part is that they've achieved the aforementioned by using the screen. The "possible" bad part is that the airflow of heat gets pushed towards the outside of the pie...hence the juicy, bready outer crust that puffed up like an Italian loaf. The other thing that I'm getting out of this crust is that it has had a long fermentation time. This is not necessarily a bad thing either. Some feel, as I do, that this gives some pizza & bread a bit more character & flavor. The other side of that sword is that with longer fermentations(not counting a slow rise fermentation done in a cold box), more CO2 builds up in the dough, leading to a thicker end product. If that's what Frank's was shooting for, then they've achieved their goal. It's certainly not the boardwalk style, grip & flip, quickie ferment, Neapolitan flatbreads that are found just one town over. - 4

The sauce is so-so. I'm a bit of a sauce snob, in case you haven't figured that one out yet. I expect something to really jump out. While it tastes freshly made with highlights of crushed plum tomatoes and paste as a thickener, it's really lightly seasoned, and a bit "ho-hum" in my opinion. You could pick up a can of Red Pack Crushed Tomatoes, or 6-in-1 and virtually have the same sauce with very little effort. - 2.5

The cheese...well, they aren't holding back. It actually is a quality cheese. I'm guessing a part-skim mozzarella that is flavorful and gooey. It seems to overwhelm the mediocre sauce but I'd rather have a heavy handed helping of the cheese than an abundance of so-so sauce. - 3.5

Overall, I was expecting a bit more based on the recently won award of the 2009 My Fox Philly - Best Pizza in the Jersey Shore. While I thought it was a good pizza, I certainly won't be running back to get some, or be thinking about it while I'm away from the shore. Frank's was virtually off the map until they came up on the radar this year and won the MFP award, which is based off of user reviews. Nothing personal against Franks(& I'm not calling it a rigged affair) but I just don't get it. Some of the comments that led to Frank's receiving the award:
-"Absolutely the best pizza i have ever eaten in my life!!!!"
-"I used to live in New York and nothing compares to the pizza from there or so I thought. Frank's Famous Pizza is the like being home. I had actually stopped eating pizza until I ate at Frank's. Its all about the crust and they make it right and you can tell all the ingredients are fresh and high quality. I recommend Frank's to everyone!"
-"Their pizza is by far the best i've ever had!!"
On that note, sometimes you need to call a spade a spade. I can honestly report that Frank's is not the best pizza I've ever had, contrary to the exuberance and enthusiasm shown by the voters on MyFOXPhilly.com. Ironically enough, of the 40 posted ratings(out of169 reviews)I happened to check, only 1 voter had ever voted in more than this category. I'd say that falls under the guise of suspicion in anyone's book & I'm not a believer in conspiracies. If I happen to be driving by, I'll gladly grab a slice to go but I wouldn't go out of my way for it like the reviewers would lead you to believe you should. - 3

Total Score: 3.4/5

Frank's Website: http://www.franksfamouspizza.com/

Frank's Famous Pizza on Urbanspoon

Goodnight Irene's (Wildwood) - Margherita Pizza


Appears a 12" round pie that is covered with a thin layer of crimson sauce, a few dollops of whole milk mozzarella, and a small scattering of finely chopped basil. The crust is a light, golden brown around the edges. - 3.5

The crust is a light golden brown both around the outer rim, and the bottom of the pie. It's a tad "airy" around the outer crust with a sweeter tasting dough that reminds me of a tasty French bread, nearing the tang of a sourdough. The outer rim has a mild crunch to it, as do parts of the flatbread pizza nearing the middle. The 500+ F oven cooks it enough before reaching the crispy, crackly pies that are highly sought after- 4

The sauce is just ok on this one. To me, it doesn't taste like a whole lot has been done to it in terms of blending with herbs, sugars, or much of anything. In my opinion, it's like it was a pre-blended tomato sauce from a can. Not a terrible thing but it's missing some big components that move pizzas into the league of the big boys. - 2

The cheese, itself, is good. It's a whole milk mozzarella which is tasty. The only problem is that there just isn't enough as shown by the photo. - 2.5

Overall, the pie is aliright. It's not going to make you drive over to get it but it's a good snacking pizza, which is made in-house. They claim that it's a "wood-fire pizza" but this an electric oven with wood chips added to the flame for flavoring. Look...go to this place for the great beer selection and expect above average bar food. - 3.5

Total Score: 3.1/5

Be sure to ask about their special pies when you're there.  They now have Chicken Teriyaki Stir-Fry Pizza on certain nights, which is really good!

Goodnight Irenes Webpage: http://www.goodnightirenes.com/

My Beer Advocate Review: http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/18256/?view=beerfly&ba=weeare138

Goodnight Irene's on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Oaks Italian Deli and Pizzeria (Oaks) - Pizza


Appears a large, 16" pie with some doughy bubbles risen towards the outside of the dark, golden brown crust. A scattering of sauce and cheese are mixed throughout. - 4

The crust is golden brown on the bottom, and more towards dark brown along the edges of the crust. As it gets closer to the crust's edge, it becomes crispier, much like that of a crusty, artisinal bread due to the brick oven that they use. The center is that of your standard thin, pan pie...perhaps a bit more done than typical(a bit of a charred marshmallow shell) but it's like you get 2 textures in one pie, which is a good thing, IMHO. - 4

The sauce is nice. It's of a crushed tomato base but there's something a bit fruity and tangy about this sauce that I enjoy. It's almost like an "apple" & wine-like flavor that seems to grow on me. It could just be an unrefined sugar that they use...or it could be a touch of apple brandy, or a wine mix that I'm getting. Hmmm. The mystery remains but the flavor retains. - 4

The cheese is decent enough. According to the proud signs, they use Grande cheese, which is the choice of several pizza parlours that I've visited. I'm guessing that they use the whole milk mozzarella, or the 50/50 blend with the provolone. It turns a nice golden brown and stays together well, especially as the pie warms. - 4

Overall, I probably give these guys a huge portion of my local business when I'm grabbing a quick dinner for the family, or having company over. I trust the pizza, as it's consistent, and good enough for anyone to enjoy. - 4

Total Score: 4/5

Oaks' Phone Number: (610)666-0280


Oaks Italian Deli on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Via Veneto (Norristown) - Sicilian Pizza


Appears a corner cut of a thick crusted pie with a nearly charred outer crust, and a large amount of deep red tomato sauce with a smoldering of melted mozzarella cheese. - 4

The crust is crunchy and crisp along the edges and the bottom but it yields to a soft, Italian bread that you can really chew and sink your teeth into. Obvious high heat as evidenced by the near charred edges but the inside is the real winner with this Sicilian pie. - 4.5

The sauce is conjured up from the same base of crushed tomatoes that Sam's in Wildwood, NJ uses. It's fresh with a tangy flavor. - 4

The cheese is ok. I believe they use Polly-O whole milk mozzarella, as I see several buckets of it around the kitchen area. Creamy, milky, gooey...I'll take it. The cheese on this one plays second fiddle to the crust and sauce. - 3.5

Overall, this is a favorite pie for Sicilian pie fans in the Norristown area. This has been a family & friend favorite for years. If you dig the thick crust pizza, these guys make one of the best ones out there. - 4.5

Total Score: 4.1/5

Via Veneto's Website: http://www.viavenetopizza.com/menu/index.html



Via Veneto Pizza on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 17, 2009

Carmine's Pizza(Blue Bell) - Boardwalk Pizza



Appearsa medium slice with crispy edges, a thin crust, browned bottom, and a layering of red sauce and a mix of cheese. It looks appetizing right off the bat. There could be a bit more of the toppings spread closer to the edge but it's not too bad, overall. - 3.5

The crust is crispy, thin, with a nicely finished underside that works well as a "boardwalk" style pie. It works well with this pie. I give them credit for giving this option because their regular pie was a bit more bready, and airy with lots of visible fermentation cells. This one was flat and crisp. - 4

The sauce is meant to be sweet on this one. Some people take to it, others simply don't. It's got some sugar added to the sauce, along with a large helping of basil, which infuses with the acidic tomato base to make it more appealing(to kids) than a rustic style crushed tomato sauce. Heck, this sauce may even be as sweet, if not sweeter, than Franzone's of Bridgeport & Plymouth. Again, I'm a huge fan of the sweet basil sauces, so keep that in mind before ordering a full pie. I don't think Tom B. was much of a fan of the sweet sauce but I'm a sucker for it. - 5

The cheese is a mix of mozzarella & cheddar. It's got a nice flavor, and texture that goes perfectly against the crispy crust and the sweet sauce. They apply the cheese in bits of blotches, which makes each bite pop with a nice bite of cheese, or sauce. - 4.5

Overall, it made a good impression on me. I stumbled upon this delicious pie during a beer tasting at my buddy Steve's place. His wife, Trish, usually picks up different pies and happened to grab this one, which certainly won me over. If you're a fan of the Franzone's pie, or want to try something a little different, give this one a shot. It's a nice addition to the pizza options. - 4

Total Score: 4.2/5

Carmine's Phone # (610) 278-7500

Carmine's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 3, 2009

John's Pizza (Frazer) - Cheesesteak


Appears a 12" roll that is packed. I wouldn't say "overflowing" but it's got a good amount of meat piled in the roll. Sauteed, chopped onions sharing space with the thinly sliced sirloin & cheese. - 4

The roll...as I suspected(& confirmed), a Conshy roll. I'd be willing to say that 75% of the better steak sandwich places in the 'burbs use the Conshohocken steak sandwich rolls. I've been through the drill with this roll a few times. See any of my other posts. - 4

The meat is thinly sliced sirloin that is cooked just enough where it retains it's juiciness and tenderness. It seems to be seasoned nicely too. It's a good mix of mild spice, pepper, and oil coming through. - 3.5

The cheese is properly executed, here. It's abundant enough to stand out and touch most of the strips of shaved beef. - 4

Overall, this is one of the best cheesesteaks in the Main Line, Lancaster Avenue area. It's certainly the best place to get a cheesesteak in Frazer, or Malvern. I remember going to the old, smaller place back when I was a kid. Still the same sandwich that I remember. People come from surrounding areas to grab this sandwich. Get some. - 4

Total Score: 3.9/5


John's website: http://www.johnspizzaonline.com/


John's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Blue Ox Bistro (Philadelphia / Fox Chase)


I've wanted to check this place out for quite some time. While passing through the Fox Chase section of the city, I finally had the opportunity. They have a nice, spacious parking lot right on Oxford Ave. Upon entry to this establishment, you pass a small hostess area with stairs leading up to a seperate dining room. There are also seats arranged downstairs, and a nice sized bar featuring 10 beers on draft of mostly German, or German style brews. There are a few Belgian and American micro's featured as well. Over 30 bottles featured on the menu with mostly German standouts, and some of the better Belgian beers.
The food menu is rather large, consisting of American pub grub, pasta, steaks, seafood, chicken, burgers, sandwiches, and a small, authentic German menu.
We opted to go to the outdoor Biergarten, which is a small patio with 6-7 round tables shaded by umbrellas.
We opted for the pierogies as a starter with a Franziskaner Hefeweizen & a Radesberger Pilsner.
We moved on to the potato pancake & bratwurst sandwich. The only thing that made this German meal complete was the finishing touch...my favorite German beer, Aventinus.






With a lack authentic German brauhauses left in the Philly area, check this place out for some fine brews, pub food, and German fare.

Blue Ox Bistro's website: http://www.blueoxbistro.com/

Blue Ox Bistro on Urbanspoon