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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'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:

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:

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 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:

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:

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 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 @

Ask for Matt & tell him I sent you!

Capone's on Urbanspoon