The Endless Road Trip — Philadelphia’s Top 10 Eats 10. Tastykake Tasty Test

Any Philadelphian will tell you that an integral component of their local food culture is the Tastykake. Upon first glance, a non-native such as myself might think, “What’s so different about these packaged snack cakes compared to Hostess or Little Debbies?” Well, watch your mouth. Tastykakes are a beloved Philadelphia institution and locals do not take kindly to outsiders looking down on them.

Wondering what the deal was, I decided to bring a grab bag of Tastykakes back to Seattle and have a handful of native Northwesterners sample and give their opinions on these little cakes with the cult following.

Butterscotch Krimpet

Tastykake Says: Our signature sponge cake, which is both moist and fluffy, is either accented with our legendary butterscotch icing or infused with a variety of delicious jellies.

ES Says:  This one was most heavily favored by a friend who has had mild Tastykake experience in the past. She says: “My ex was from Philly. I always asked him what was so great about Wawa, if it was just like another 711 or a Subway, and he said it’s like both but better. He would bring me Tastykakes all the time. I think more than mourning the loss of our relationship, I mourn the loss of my Tastykake connection.”

Why does she most heavily favor the Krimpets? “The flavors are the most combined and congealed together.” Tasty description.

Peanut Butter Kandy Kake

Read More
Sponsored Content

The Endless Road Trip: Philadelphia’s Top 10 Eats 9. The New Cupcakes

Ever since the cupcake trend died down (at least a little bit), everyone has been looking for “the new cupcake.” I found it.

I never particularly like the cupcake trend because there didn’t seem to be flavors in a cupcake I couldn’t get elsewhere. Red velvet cupcake? Yeah, I can just get red velvet cake. Move along. Nothing to see here.

So I was a little apprehensive of the new, “trendy” donut and fried chicken place opening in South Philly. Another baked good trend? Meh. But on Monday morning I headed down to the opening of Federal Donuts, the brainchild of Philly chef Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook (of Zahav), BODHi Coffee owners Thomas Henneman and Bob Logue, and local food-and-drink expert Felicia D’Ambrosio (aka the tour guide on the Philly episode of Bizarre Foods). This place already had an advantage in my mind, since the hummus and salatim at Zahav is my kryptonite. When I die, I want to be slathered in that hummus. Preferably by Solomonov himself. Or any of the male servers from Zahav. I’m not picky.

I went along to Federal with my former flame (The Artist), because he has a few fabulous qualities for an eating partner: he shares, he knows what he likes, he’s been to Zahav and he isn’t afraid to park in the city. But then we walked in, and The Artist asked if they had decaf coffee (they did not) and then I remembered why it didn’t work out between us. One point for Federal, though.

Read More
Sponsored Content

The Endless Road Trip: Philadelphia’s Top 10 Eats 8. A Plate of Cheese and a Pail of Grapes

Sometimes it takes more than just a glass of wine. Actually, for us over at ES it usually takes a bottle (or two). But why have a bottle when you can have a bucket?

Trekking around Philly can be exhausting, but luckily there are no shortage of BYOBs where you can put your feet up. Based on several strong recommendations, we ventured to Wedge + Fig,  a gem of a market-cum-restaurant in Old City. If the weather is right, head thru the side door and walk down the exposed brick walkway to a secret courtyard at the rear of the market — it really isn’t a secret but you’d be forgiven for thinking so — here you’ll forget about your day and find yourself enamored with the tall walls, rusting fire escape and silence of the city. Oh yeah, and the cheese.

The menu is simple: tell the kitchen what kind of wine you brought and they’ll pick the cheese and meats. The nearest wine shop, Pinot Boutique had a display of Pardocx Vineyard’s paint cans full of paint cans full of wine, and obviously we couldn’t resist. Despite our klassy choice, the folks at Wedge + Fig were still nice enough to pick out a matching cheese plate for us:

Read More
Sponsored Content

The Endless Road Trip: Philadelphia’s Top 10 Eats 7. Love on the Run


As a life-long Philly guy, I think I speak from experience when I say that this city isn’t usually on the cutting edge of the latest trends and fashions.  For all of its charms, this place can be bit more traditional…parochial, even, when it comes to new ways of doing things.  So it’s no surprise that the food truck phenomenon arrived a little bit later in Philly than other cities like New York.  That said, Philadelphia has been working hard to narrow the gap a bit with some inspired new mobile options, a few of which go beyond the everyday taco truck.

Oh, sure, we have those, too.  And not just any taco truck.  An Iron Chef taco truck:  Guapos Tacos is run by Jose Garces’ local restaurant empire and serves some tasty fish tacos.  But what if I told you that there is also a Mexican-Thai fusion truck that makes creative use of a favorite kids’ breakfast cereal?  How about a truck dedicated to Trinidadian food?  That’s not something you see every day.

Read More
Sponsored Content

The Endless Road Trip: Philadelphia’s Top 10 Eats 6. A Stand-Up Slice

Very few truths remain intact through adulthood. Televised wrestling proved to be acting, although my across-the-street neighbor Anthony always told me so, but I never believed him.

I also thought a slice of NY/NJ cheese pizza beat any other type of pizza. While that is mostly still true, throw an egg on a pie and the story changes.

A sunny side up egg frequents plenty of pizzas these days, as well as many other unusual ingredients. In fact, I’d say most “gourmet” pies become overloaded, creating soggy crusts and a dreaded fork-and-knife induced experience. Complicated pizzas rarely work.

Philadelphia’s Barbuzzo selected the right mix of flavors and textures to create a simple and addictive pie: Brussels sprout leaves scattered across a cheesy, truffle-oiled disk, dotted with guanciale. Diced pig jowl posed as garnish, a modern and effective way to use the most out of a moderate amount of meat.

The yolk arrived already nicked, ensuring that the egg ran all over the pizza. This oft-overlooked detail—hellloooo 8 out of 10 of my last Eggs Benedict orders—is much appreciated. And in a balancing feat, the crust stays stiff, letting the utensils sit this course out.

It’s enough to make me believe in the tooth fairy.

The Endless Road Trip: Philadelphia

1. There Will Be Blood…and Beets
2. Soup Dumpling Surprise
Cheesesteaks Gone Wild!
4. Duck in a Pot
5. Pretzels, Pretzels Everywhere
6. A Stand-Up Slice
7. Love on the Run
8. A Plate of Cheese and a Pail of Grapes
9. The New Cupcakes
10. Tastykake Taste Test

Sponsored Content

The Endless Road Trip: Philadelphia’s Top 10 Eats 5. Pretzels, Pretzels Everywhere

New York can have its bagels, Chicago its hot dogs, LA its churros and  I will even spot NOLA its delectable beignets. For me, Philly’s signature on-the-go edible blows them all out of the water. I’m not talking about cheesesteaks or even wudder ice, but pretzels.  You can find Philly soft pretzels on just about every corner in the city and everyone has their favorite place to pick them up. The city even has a park named after the doughy treats!

Like any signature city snack, there’s significant debate about which variety is the very best. There are a few different styles you can find, so here’s a crash course for next time you’re in town.

1. Philly Soft Pretzel

This is the traditional version. A slab of pretzels shaped in figure 8s, baked and sold in multiples of twos. Fresh, soft and chewy, there is just the right amount of coarse salt. Walk on by the ones that look moist, as they have been sitting around too long, but just try to resist a batch of these fresh out of the oven. All these beauties need is a squirt of yellow mustard (forget about Grey Poupon). To this day, I am convinced these pretzels actually taste better when they are bought and then wrapped in a brown paper bag, which many mom-and-pop shops provide.

Read More
Sponsored Content

The Endless Road Trip — Philadelphia’s Top 10 Eats 4. Duck in a Pot

On the second night of our Philadelphia adventure, the intrepid ES crew was treated to a feast at JG Domestic, Iron Chef Jose Garces’ farm-to-table restaurant anchored in the bottom of Cira Center. Supposedly a small plate, made-to-share type of joint, we found that most of JG’s offerings were fairly large and satisfying… not that it didn’t stop us from trying almost everything on the menu!

But… BUT…

There is one item that stands above the rest. I’m not even saying it outshines everything at JG Domestic, I’m saying it outshines almost any meat-based appetizer I have ever eaten. And trust me, there have been a bounty of them in my years as an insatiable epicure.

Allow me to introduce you to the Hudson Valley Potted Duck with foie gras mousse and orange gelée, served with cornichons and crostini.

Read More
Sponsored Content
Page 1 of 212