What’s New?

Check out our very own “Mr. Row Home Eats” as a profiled luncher on one of our favorite sites, Midtown Lunch Philadelphia.  Midtown Lunch is a great site for cheap eats around Philly.  For all you Philly Phoodies out there who would like to be featured, email the fabulous Jamie at jamie [at] midtownlunch.com

The Happy Taco or Why I Love Food Trucks

Upscale food trucks are THE in thing these days and you know what? I’m very ok with that. What could possibly be better than freshly made, mobile and low-cost food? As a Philadelphia resident, I’ve been eating at food trucks for years. Luckily, we live in a city lush with carts, a city that beat the recent trend with its line of specialty trucks along Spruce Street on Penn’s campus. Trucks like Le Anh and Magic Carpet have been there since I can remember. In fact, there are so many, I recently (like, just now) learned that there is a website devoted to Penn food trucks–PennFoodTrucks.com. How cool is that?!

Philadelphia, along with many other big cities across the country, has fallen hard for food trucks. Recent, hip additions to the scene include Tyson Bees, La Copine Brunch Truck, Sweetbox Philly and, of course, Iron Chef Jose Garces’ Guapos Tacos. Many of these trucks have twitter accounts so their hungry followers can locate them with the click of a keyboard. Somehow, the mobile nature of these trucks makes it all part of the game.

My husband and I travel to Gloucester, Massachusetts a few times a year to visit family. Gloucester is a sleepy little Portugese and Italian fisherman’s town that is best known for the movie The Perfect Storm, Gorton’s Fisherman and this guy. While The Perfect Storm is a fairytale that falls far outside the understanding of most Northeasterners, the story hits a little too close to home for many fishermen’s families in the area. Each June, the city shuts down for the Festival of St. Peter, the patron saint of fishermen.

For the visitors to Gloucester and other coastal New England towns, lobster is a delicacy. To these fishermen and their families, it is their livelihood. Because I love to support the local economy, we do our very best to eat lots of lobster when we’re in the area. From rolls to benedict to boils, we don’t discriminate. In fact, it’s not uncommon for us to eat a lobster roll for lunch followed by a lobster dinner that night. At prices lower than a half-decent steak, how can you NOT eat lobster?

But then…

My fabulous sister-in-law, who recently moved to Gloucester with her husband, had some news that she just couldn’t wait to share. “Guess what?! There’s a FOOD TRUCK in Gloucester!!!” I was shocked to learn that a taco truck had recently popped up in town. I just had to try The Happy Taco.

After a fun day of shopping at an hour way too close for dinner, we decided to take the plunge. I love the friendly yellow truck with a literally “Happy Taco” logo.

We called my husband and cousin because we didn’t want them to miss out on the fun and ended up with two sirloin asada, one fish (recommended by the owners) and one pulled pork burrito. The owners were beyond friendly and accommodating. They were even nice to the woman behind us who thought she was at a Taco Bell.

We also grabbed a couple local Mercury sodas made by the nearby Ipswich Ale Brewery.

After a slightly too long wait–I’m hoping they’re just working out the kinks–our burritos were ready to go. Unfortunately, we had to resist digging into them until we met up with the guys but the smells permeated the car. Drool.

When we finally tore into them, they were worth the wait.

The sirloin asada (my order) was great. Tons of flavor and lot of crunchy lettuce. It was a touch heavy on the rice, though. It’s difficult to find the perfect balance in a burrito. To me, it’s about having a variety of flavors but also textures and a wet: dry ingredients ratio.

As promised, the fish was excellent. The battered cod played its role perfectly in creating that perfect balance in the burrito.

Check out that flaky fish!

And the pulled pork.

The pulled pork definitely wins for the most flavor-packed dish of the day. Besides, this guy likes it.

The Happy Taco is a great addition to Gloucester’s waterfront. The affordable prices create accessibility for a variety of customers and the fresh and nutritious food will keep them coming back. With a little tinkering here and there, The Happy Taco has the potential to be a serious contender–not just for the fishermen but on a national level.

Fuel on East Passyunk

It’s tough for a food blogger to eat healthy. We’re always checking out the hottest dishes at the latest restaurants and dining (and boozing) out with friends. We try to make up for our fat and carb laden weekend splurges by eating relatively healthily on weeknights. A general summer dinner consists of a grilled protein and two veggie sides.  On Friday nights, we usually order out and spend the evenings watching movies or playing with our new Apple TV.  Our go-to is Los Jalapenos, which stills delivers to us despite their move, but we also love Circles Thai, many of the local pizza/cheesesteak spots and New Noodle Heaven, the Chinese store on 12th and Snyder. Some nights, however, we get a little too comfortable with our routine and are itching for another cuisine. Recently, we didn’t quite know what we wanted, but we know it needed to be healthy. A former student of mine, who loves food just as much as I do, had raved about Fuel, the healthy dine-in/take-out spot who advertises all of their dishes under 500 calories.

Fuel has two locations–Center City and Passyunk Avenue in South Philly. Their menu is a little odd as it has a salad section but you also have the option to order any of the sandwiches without bread, thus making them a salad. I decided to go with a traditional chicken caesar salad, while my husband ordered a grilled chicken sandwich (hold the bread, please) with artichoke, mixed greens, provolone, sun dried tomato and balsamic reduction. I was a little hungry so I added the sweet pea dip as an appetizer. Fuel has the nutritional information along with Weight Watchers points on their menus so you can have a clear snapshot of what you are eating.

Our food arrived promptly. The green pea dip was phenomenal. My parents used to make mashed peas for us when I was growing up and this sweet vegetable was certainly reminiscent of the past with nice, chewy bites of sun-dried tomatoes to add some texture.

I’ve ordered this salad again since this meal and still don’t quite understand why they don’t cut up their lettuce. The salad is simple, yet tasty but it can be difficult to eat.

Also, if you’re a “light on the dressing” kind of guy or gal, you might want to ask for it on the side. I thought it was just dandy.

My husband’s salad sure was pretty.

That’s all I know, though. Between the pea dip (I must have “forgotten” he didn’t like peas when I ordered it) and my whopping salad, I was too full to check it out. He gave it two thumbs up, though, so that’s good enough for me.

Fuel is a great option if you want to eat out (or in) without letting the calories pile up. They have a dessert and smoothie selection as well that I have yet to check it out. Let me know what you think.

Salem Beer Works

One rainy day in Massachusetts, we decided to take a trip to Salem to check out the history. My husband, who has known me for over eight years, learned of my fascination with witches and the Salem Witch Trials and agreed to take the 30-minute drive from Gloucester to explore the town. Once we mentioned that we were going to Salem, everyone said that we just HAD to go to Salem Beer Works and try their fried pickles. Fried pickles?! You had me at hello.

We made our way down 128 and settled in for a morning at the Peabody-Essex Museum, which had a fantastic exhibit on ManRay and Lee Miller (seriously, check it out if you’re in town) and a fun, interactive exhibit on water. After a little culture, we headed over to the big event: the Salem Witch Museum! I was so excited.

Following a lackluster, but slightly interesting tour of the museum, we headed to the Beer Works for a late lunch.

While we knew the fried pickles were a definite, we checked out the beer menu to select our beverages. We had heard chatter of a tasty watermelon beer but I was drawn towards a few different options and ended up with a pick-your-own flight while my husband opted for a 12oz pour of the Victory White. My flight ranged from Witch City Red and Watermelon Ale to a Bunker Hill Blueberry Ale (made and garnished with Maine blueberries) and a Cask IPA.

I’m no beer expert like this guy but I enjoyed each of them, especially the light and playful watermelon ale and the blueberry ale, which had some richer flavors. The cask IPA was mellow and more drinkable than I expected. Best of all, the 4 ounce pours were only $1.50 each so I got the whole flight for $6. What a deal!

We each ended up opting for two of their many burgers, after seeing the construction workers to the left of us devouring theirs with gusto. I went with the Charlestown Burger topped with bacon and cheddar and he went all out with the Fenway topped with chili, scallions and cheddar. The Beer Works has a ton of different french fry cuts and seasonings, any of which we could pick to accompany our burgers. I went with the potato sticks while he opted for the more traditional hand cut fries.

The pickles were actually whole spears battered and fried with a ranch dipping sauce. While I expected them to be sliced, I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

The creamy ranch, hot and crispy coating and warm, sour pickle all did a little dance in my mouth together. What great beer drinking food!

The burgers followed and were top notch. Mine was cooked to a perfect medium–something I’ve had trouble finding these days.

I didn’t care for the potato sticks, however. I was expecting matchstick fries and what came out were, quite literally, potato stix (remember them?)

My husband’s burger was messy but received two chili-smudged thumbs up from him. And I got over my fry disappointment by eating most of his.

Look at all that chili!!

After finishing lunch, we picked up to six-packs to go (for under $9 each!) They also offer growlers but we were walking around and they were a little less portable. We headed over to my tarot reading and I’ll find out in 4-7 months if any of the work, health, financial and travel predictions she made are true!

Beer Works has a number of locations around Massachusetts, including one across from Fenway Park. Stop in and check out the fried pickles if you’re ever in the neighborhood!

La Rosa Pizza: Potato Pie!

I kept hearing about La Rosa’s. Not from just anyone but from people who knewwhattheyweretalkingabout. You know, Dennis from the Saturday morning Reading Terminal coffee crew or Philly Phoodie. What intrigued me was not their supposed simplicity, square pies or local charm. Instead, I was drawn towards their potato pie. Potato pie?! I live steps from La Rosa and folks were SHOCKED upon hearing that I had never tried their pizza–in particular the potato pie. POTATO? On a PIZZA? I had to check this out. My husband, on the other hand, was a bit skeptical. He’s never been a carb fanatic and the concept of potato on dough had him leery.

I waited patiently until he left for a weekend visit to his grandparents’ place in South Carolina. Three nights of eating for one. I obviously had to plot accordingly. On the second night, I decided that I would finally go in for the kill. I googled “La Rosa menu” to no avail and wondered how I would decide what to order. I saw somewhere that they would do halves and the question arose–what do get on the second half? I ended up asking the friendly man who took my order for a half potato (duh) and half sausage pie. One size.

After a brief wait, my pie appeared. The simplicity of the place is evident in my order and contact info scratched quickly onto the bare box before it is filled with my cheesy, doughy bounty. The weird photoshop smudge on the upper left is my erasure of my phone number lest I get overwhelmed by my myriad fans.

I opened the box to a thing of beauty.

Wait, hold on. Let’s get a little closer here.

Look at that rosemary, eeeeh!!!

I started with a piece of each (actually, I finished with a piece of each too. Two pieces was more than enough for me.) The pizza, despite the speedy delivery, was a little cooler than I’m accustomed to. Regardless, the sausage was phenomenal. It had an excellent ratio of dough: cheese: topping and the crumbled sausage was just. so. flavorful. The slight fennel flavor subtly imposed on each bite. The potato on the other hand was, well, different. The flavor was absolutely spot on–the traditional marriage of rosemary and salty potatoes was managed perfectly. The pizza suffered from the temperature, however. I did not realize until the next day (when I had a slice reheated in the oven) that the best way to enjoy the potato half of this pie is hot and crispy, right from the oven. So, if your order takes a little longer or (ahem) someone insists on having a photo shoot before eating, stick it in the over for a few minutes. You’ll thank me. Despite the minor temperature woes, I dare you to try the potato pie. I know you’ll like it.

Cuba Libre: Brunch Without Borders

When I was invited to a bloggers’ lunch at to check out Cuba Libre’s new Brunch Without Borders menu, I jumped at the opportunity. I had never been to Cuba Libre and am not as familiar with Cuban food as I am with other cuisine. I dragged my very willing (all you can eat brunch!) husband along to check things out.

We walked in and the decor looked exactly like a Cuban garden cafe (or at least what I would imagine it to look like.) It was bright, lush and airy.

I skimmed the broad range of offerings and began to plot my meal. There were so many tasty looking offerings.

As we discussed our options, a bread basket was delivered to our table with a churro, muffin, banana bread and a guava cream cheese “hojaldre” pastry with mango butter and guava preserves. Oh my.

We decided to order a handful of items to start and we held onto the menu for later rounds of ordering.

First up was the cuban style shrimp cocktail. For someone who doesn’t normally love shrimp, this was one of my favorite dishes of the day. It was swimming in a tangy cocktail-style sauce slash  gazpacho that left me clamoring for more.

Continuing on our seafood tour, we had the truffle and citrus marinated grilled baby octopus over eggplant salad. This dish was surprisingly cold and refreshing but didn’t have quite enough of that charred flavor as I would have liked.

Next up was their version of Eggs Benedict. A crabmeat and potato cake topped with a poached egg, avocado and a tomato hollandaise. I love crab and I love eggs benedict, so this dish was a no-brainer to me. While it was good, the potato-crabcake had a little too much potato and not as much crab, which took away from the subtle sweet flavor I enjoy in crab.

We moved on to land with the beef, pork and pine nut meatballs. This was probably my least favorite dish of the day. Nothing quite wrong with it, the flavors just didn’t stand out like the other dishes did.

Now we’re getting to the good stuff! The meatballs came with what my husband described as the “ultimate stoner food.” Papas con chorizo are smashed potatoes with chorizo, sour cream and monterrey jack cheese. Mmmmm…extra points for an adorable serving vessel!

To accompany the stoner food, we had to try the beef, pork and chorizo burger slider. I let my husband eat most of the slider as I was completely enamored by the shoestring fries. I really dig an authentic (read: super thin) salty shoestring fry. And they put them ON the burger.

After a few heavier dishes, we lightened things up with the house-cured smoked duck with huitlacoche vinaigrette. I had to Google huitlacoche to make sure I spelled it right. I’m always a sucker for a smoky flavor and this meat did not disappoint. The vinaigrette added a nice tang to the rich smokiness of the meat.

The adobo-rubbed charred tuna was up next. This dish seemed kind of random for a Cuban restaurant, but my mouth didn’t seem to mind. I wish there was just a touch more of the avocado salsa that topped the fish.

The next dish was a disappointment, not because it wasn’t tasty but because I had REALLY high hopes for it. I expected the spinach and manchego cheese puffs to be crispier and gooier. Instead, they were more on the doughy side of things. Again, this was a solid dish but just not what I expected.

It was around that time we thought we were done. I then, as I’ve been wont to do in the 8 years we’ve been together, surprised my husband by ordering two more dishes.

I had been eyeing up the sopa levanta muerto. This coconut-based broth was “swimming” with (ooh, that’s a bad pun) crabmeat, mussels, scallops and shrimp. My husband and I did what we do best–I happily slurped the rich and tasty broth while he chomped contentedly on the seafood.

And we couldn’t leave Cuba Libre without trying the Guacamole Cubano with PINEAPPLE (!) in it, served with wavy strips of fried plantains (interesting info about me. I hate bananas with a passion and even hate regular plantains. I love me some friend plantains, though. Always have.) This dish was a light and citrusy end to our meal.

The End.

Just kidding, just kidding. Executive Chef Jasper Alivia–a very nice guy–came by to chat with us and convinced us to try the ropa vieja hash. Our friends, Ryan and LeeAnne, were sitting at a nearby table and I think they sent him over to twist our arms. My husband tried to resist but Chef Jasper said it was his favorite too and besides, it was brisket. You can never pass up brisket!

So we ordered our last and really final dish of the day–beef brisket stewed with tomatoes atop a potato hash, topped off with a fried egg. OK fine, everyone. It was delicious. The tomato brought out the sweetness in the brisket and it was my kind of dish; the one where each bite gives you a little bit of everything. What a beautiful way to end our meal.

Overall, this meal was a smashing success. While there were no real lowlight, highlights were definitely the shrimp cocktail, potatoes and ropa vieja. For $25/person, this would be a great place to bring a group to celebrate a certain occasion. Check their website as our waitress told us that they sometimes have live music or DJs to accompany brunch. Chef Guillermo Pernot travelled to Cuba and spent a great deal of time researching and rewriting the menu and that energy was certainly evident in this meal. I look forward to going back (when I’m done this silly diet, that is.)

10 Arts Happy Hour

Last Friday, a couple of friends and I planned to meet for happy hour. In our flurry of email suggestions, I threw out a few options that had good deals AND good food/drink. As I puttered around my house and did chores (read: played on the internet,) I came across this blog post from my friend, Madame Fromage. I’d been wanting to visit 10 Arts and a $5 cheese plate and wine beckoned.  It was a rainy and dreary Friday evening but I still felt extra-fancy walking past the noble white columns and through the doormen-held-open doors. 10 Arts encompasses the entire lobby with a huge, round white cooler/cellar/storage thingy? as the centerpiece. The area is comfy and welcoming but we all agreed that the hot pink uplighting just didn’t fit a regal place like the Ritz Carlton.

As we waited for our third party, my friend, Emily, and I ordered a glass of wine. I asked our server what wine specials they had and she proceeded in reciting “Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc, etc.” She was a little taken aback when I asked who made that wine. I don’t think that’s such a strange question to be asking at an upscale place such as 10 Arts, regardless of the event or clientele. I ordered a Malbec and hoped for the best.

I was actually pleasantly surprised at my $5 gem that I enjoyed with our complimentary olives as we decided what snacks to order.

We started with the cheese plate, of course.

Unfortunately, I forgot what we were eating as soon as our server presented the plate. The one on the far left, however, was a fan favorite, with a wonderfully rich and buttery flavor. I especially enjoyed the candied walnuts (yum!) and little bit of honeycomb as our accompaniments.

The amazing thing about this happy hour is that ALL appetizers are $5, not just the cheese plate. In the spirit of checking it all out, we tried the pretzel bites and a spinach, spring onion dip. The pretzel bites were the perfect carby happy hour partner, with a trio of dipping sauces–cheddar, jalapeno jam and dijon mustard.

The spinach spring onion dip was more soup or fondue-like than I would have expected. It came with papadum crisps for dipping and the flavors couldn’t have been more fresh and seasonal. This dish tasted green.

This happy hour deal runs Monday-Friday from 5-7pm. If you want to check out 10 Arts without breaking the bank, this is absolutely the way to go. In fact, I’m heading back tonight. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Pure Fare

Toward the end of the school year, I had a hankering for rotisserie chicken so my co-workers and I decided to check out Rotisseur.  Unfortunately, they’re not open for lunch. I was pretty bummed but we thought we’d make a detour to Pure Fare, the new healthy eatery on 21st Street between Sansom and Walnut.

We walked in and made our way to the wall-mounted iPads.

I thought we were supposed to order from the iPads. Instead, you could peruse the menu and view all of the nutritional information for each item (you can do the same on their website.)

The place is cute, with a smoothie and coffee bar on one side of the room and a hot foods register on the opposite side. In the middle is a large, wooden communal table.

All of the sandwiches and salads are pre-made for a quick and easy grab and go.

I opted for the goat brie and fig sandwich which had arugula, roasted pepper and a caramelized onion fig spread. It sounded like it was packed with flavor!

Unfortunately, the sandwich was a bit heavy on the arugula and light on everything else. I enjoyed the flavors that were present, yet there were not nearly enough of them. I guess that’s what I get from 361 calories.

The only other item I sampled was the tandoori chicken sandwich on raisin bread. The tandoori flavor was spot on and the raisin bread complemented it nicely.

My friend, Alexa’s, salad looked fun but I didn’t get a chance to taste it.

Pure Fare is a decent option for those of us who are trying to watch our waistlines. I’d like to go back and try some of the other items such as their soups and smoothies. Although the sandwich was a bust, I’m sure there are better options for me. I also have my Pure card that allows me to gain points and keep track of what I’m eating.

Philly Beer Week on Passyunk Avenue

Although we did not get to visit as many Philly Beer Week events as we would have liked to, one of our highlights of the week was the East Passyunk Avenue Craft Beer Fest. After my husband returned from the Bike Race, we made our way west on Passyunk to our first stop–the beer garden at Le Virtu. My husband and I love everything about Le Virtu and one of our very favorite things to do is to stroll down there on a weekend evening and have dirty martinis (Belvedere for him, Tanqueray for him) with a side of arancini. We were excited to check out their outdoor garden, taste some Victory, Troegs, Innis & Gunn, Saranac and Riverhorse and have $5 tastes of their Abruzzese fare. When we got there, the place was popping. My husband hopped in line for some beer while I spotted two friends and grabbed a seat at the table with them.

I decided to check out a few of the beers.

My friends were especially excited for me to sample the Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer.

I tried the original and the one aged in a rum cask. You could definitely tell.

What a complex beer.

After we had a few tastes of beer, we decided to order some $5 snacks from the owner, Catherine Lee, who was acting as waitress for the day. We went with the fried olives stuffed with porchetta and sausage with polenta. Meanwhile, Chef Joe Cicala was serving up pieces of roasted pig.

The food was delicious, as usual. I hadn’t tried the olives before but my mother had them about three years ago and still raves about them. She was right.

For my olive-phobic readers, have no fear. This has only a very subtle olive flavor. You mostly taste the pork and fried goodness! The sausage was simple yet bursting with grilled flavor. I loved sopping up the polenta and getting a little bit of everything in each bite. My only complaint is that we didn’t order enough.

My friend, Heather, and my husband enjoying themselves in the sun.

After I ate, I spent some time exploring Le Virtu’s garden. Check out these zucchini blossoms!

I also fell in love with this contraption they have hanging on their wall that allows them to grow herbs in neat and organized “lanes.”

I had to run out to a graduation party for a bit and met my friends at Stogie Joe’s about 90 minutes later. Stogie Joe’s was concurrently celebrating the Craft Beer Fest and the Italian Fest on Passyunk Avenue. Thus the craft beer served inside and piss beer served outside. They were running a special of a bucket of five Riverhorse beers for $20. By the time I got there, however, they were out of Riverhorse and were allowing you to make your own bucket–they even let my husband sneak a Chimay in there! Stogie Joe’s was packed–there was a band playing right outside.

Our last stop was Salt & Pepper’s meet the brewer happy hour with Riverhorse. I was pumped to try some Riverhorse since Stogie Joe’s had run out. Unfortunately, Salt & Pepper was down to their last bottle as well. I let my husband have it and I got an Ithaca Apricot Wheat. That was yummy too.

We did get a chance to chat with one of the Riverhorse reps.

Then we ran into a friend and finished our beers with her and Robert Reilly, one of the owners.

And then, after that jam-packed day, I went home and went to bed!

Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll

Last year, the University City District kicked off a series of “Baltimore Avenue Dollar Strolls” in which local merchants along Baltimore Avenue in West Philadelphia sampled their wares for the low, low price of one dollar. They had a few strolls during the warmer months but I never had the chance to check them out. This year, I vowed to take part in at least one stroll.

Last Thursday was the first event of the 2011 season. My husband was working late and I figured I’d take the opportunity to hang out with my family. I grew up in West Philadelphia, just off 47th and Baltimore and the area holds a special place in my heart. I hopped on the 34 trolley after work and took the quick ride to 47th street. As I rode west on Baltimore Avenue, I noted the changes that have taken place since I moved out of the area seven years ago (I lived in West Philly for a year after college.) The Wurst House is now The Best House, there has been an influx of Indian restaurants, the old flower shop is now the wildly popular Green Line Cafe and West Coast Video is no longer…and that’s just a start. At the same time, Fu-Wah is still standing (although they’ve adjusted to the changing clientele–you can buy organic tampons there!,) the Ethiopian bar-restaurants are as popular as ever and good old Davis Pharmacy is still kicking.

As I walked down 47th street, the sun glistened on the greenery around me and I was reminded, for a moment, how much I love West Philadelphia. I relaxed on my parents’ porch swing as I waited for my father to come home. When he arrived, we headed down the the first Thursday afternoon Clark Park Farmers Market of the season. I had heard that Guapos Tacos would be making an appearance at the market and, after picking up a juicy container of strawberries, I beelined towards the truck. There was no line! In the nature of blogging research, I just had to try some. The truck is adorable, of course, decorated with bottle caps.

I checked out the menu and decided on the chipotle short rib tacos. I’m a big fan of short ribs.

After a short wait and a conversation with the owner of an adorable (but not as adorable as mine) bulldog, out came our tacos!

Because I knew I’d be eating for the next few hours, my sister and I split the order, eating one taco each. She liked hers!

The verdict? The meat was chewy and plentiful with a nice amount of crunchy, fresh veggies but the chipotle flavor was nowhere to be found. Nowhere. In fact, I had to double check the photo I took of the menu to make sure that I had not mistakenly remembered that chipotle flavor. In the end, I prefer Honest Tom’s.

After finishing our tacos, we headed west on Baltimore Avenue and stopped into the pet shop to cuddle with their kittens and pick up a few treats for my dog. I refrained from the pink camouflage sweatshirt and the bejeweled “Bad to the Bone” shirt and stuck with some basic treats for my dog and a couple toys for my best friend’s kitties–cat toys were two for a dollar!

From there, we crossed the street to Desi Village where they had samosas, vegetable pakora, Mango lassis, milk balls (a dessert I love but don’t know the real name. Always call them milk balls) and another dessert. Growing up, my family ate a lot of Indian food. We ate at the Tandoor buffet when the occasion called for a night out and still frequent the restaurant. The owners love my family and dote over my father every time they see him.

We opted for a samosa and mango lassi, my sister’s fave. As she enjoyed her samosa (she was heading to work in a bit,) I grabbed a quick photo.

Meanwhile, I snuck sips of her mango lassi. My family loves this drink but I’ve never jumped on the bandwagon. Well, apparently I’m late to the party because mango lassis are the bomb!

Damn. If I had any foresight, I would have touched up my nail polish. Sigh.

From Desi Village, we continued west. I left my sister at 47th street and met my father outside Dahlak where he was chowing down on an injera lentil wrap–that little sneak! We weren’t supposed to get food until my mom got there. Well, if he was going to do it, so would I. I hopped in the Vientiane line.

Vientiane was serving up chicken or tofu skewers and vegetarian summer rolls.

The line was reasonable and I’m glad I grabbed their food early because by the time we looped back down, the line was almost a block long. I got a chicken skewer and veggie summer roll. They were both excellent. The skewer was tender and flavorful while the summer roll was perfectly crunchy and seasonal.

As we munched, we continued westbound and passed the current Mariposa Co-op storefront. Then we passed the new location. I’m so excited for them! Mariposa has grown HUGELY in the past few years and I look forward to seeing their continued growth.

Our next intended stop was Dock Street but they didn’t have a beer special and it was too hard to snag down a server so we headed to Elena’s Soul Cafe. Elena’s is the type of place you didn’t go to back when I lived in the neighborhood. Luckily, the atmosphere has changed a bit without losing its charm.  This was the first of three dollar beers we indulged in that evening.

The Pabst was icy cold, which is the only way to enjoy mediocre beer (more on that later.) My father and his friend, Arthur, chatted by the window and asked me to snap a photo of them in front of the artwork.

We threw back the beers and strolled out of Elena’s. By then, Baltimore Avenue was certainly hopping. Next up, The Gold Standard, who gets points for having a DJ spinning.

They had a large spread including sliders, chicken wings and something falafel-esque. Chicken wings were one for a dollar. C’mon man, one for a dollar? We could have gotten three for a dollar at Lucky’s Chinese store down the street and I’m sure they would have been just as good.  I believe they had a few desserts as well.

I was extra pumped for my slider…

…until I bit into it. It was a black bean burger!  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy vegetarian meals as much as the next former vegetarian, but I was really, really pumped for a juicy little slider. Oh wells. We ran into some neighbors as well as Rep. Jim Roebuck. What a stand-up guy he is.

On our continued migration east on Baltimore, we passed Calvary Church with a band playing on its steps.

It was about this moment that I began to muse about the possibility of Passyunk Avenue hosting its own dollar stroll event.

We intended to hit up Vientiane so my mom could taste some of the awesomeness that was their skewers and summer rolls but the line was at least a half a block long. They weren’t that good. Instead, we jumped in line at Dahlak (note Lucky’s Chinese next door. Shoulda gotten the wings there…)

Dahlak was dishing up some tasty red lentil injera wraps.

I’ve spent countless hours in Dahlak, a neighborhood institution, but it’s been a while since I’ve eaten traditional Ethiopian food. I promised myself it wouldn’t be so long next time. The doughy injera is just so tasty with just a bit of a spongy tang on your tongue.

After finishing up wraps, Arthur noticed a sign in front of Abby’s Dessert Lounge advertising dollar beers. Unlike Elena’s, Abby’s is still the type of place I wouldn’t tend to frequent. In fact, amidst my early 20s bar frequency between 46th and 48th and Baltimore, I had never set foot inside the place.  Despite my trepidation, we made our way into the dimly lit bar and were greeted by a pleasant bartender and plenty of friendly folks, including a gentleman who gave me his seat so I could sit next to my mother. We enjoyed our frosty Buds (despite the weird trick the bartender did with the napkin that was, I believe,  her attempt at keeping the mouths of the bottle clean) and made our way.

As we ambled pleasantly towards 46th street, we noticed the increase in crowds which brought long, long lines. I wanted to bring my parents back to Desi Village but that line was down the block and around the corner.

At that point, we figured it wouldn’t hurt to have another beer, being as how we were approaching Queen of Sheba and all. When I was finally able to push through the throngs of people to get inside, the helpful bartender told me that they had run out of the cold PBR and had put a new case on ice. Warm PBR, albeit a dollar, just didn’t sit well for me. I dragged Arthur out of there, promising him we could return later.

We passed by this cute little cupcake truck that I’d never heard of before. People were chowing down.

When we passed a neighbor enjoying the Bassett’s ice cream being scooped by Milk and Honey, she offered up this crucial tip: “go to the line inside. It is much shorter.”  Thank you, Janet. That tip was a godsend! We bypassed the looong outdoor line and waited indoors for just a few minutes before my mom, dad and Arthur were happily slurping their mint chocolate chip. As we made our way down the block, I noticed another tent set up adjacent to the Milk and Honey ice cream scoops. My parents were chatting and I heard someone from the tent saying here she comes. I followed her gaze and caught sight of a woman crossing Baltimore Avenue with a full chafing dish in her arms. I quickly gathered my companions and hopped in line, not knowing what we were waiting for. We were in luck–Milk and Honey’s new prepared soul food store, Roost, was serving up chicken on a biscuit. In many ways, I consider that my best score of the night.

The biscuit was buttery and flaky without being too dry and the chicken was a carrier to the nottoohot hot sauce that I added.

I was ready to wrap up at 45th street, but my parents (mom) just had to go to Green Line. We walked the empty two blocks to the coffee shop and mom and dad enjoyed iced coffees and these cute little cupcakes. I  hear rumor they were vegan but missed the flavor.

We wrapped up at Green Line and my mother wanted to make one final stop at Desi Chaat House because she loves their samosas. As we approached the monstrous line, mom says “this line’s not too long.” We waited in line for about 10 minutes without moving until I decided to take action. I convinced the group that we’d be waiting until tomorrow if we stayed in line for a simple dollar samosa. As we walked away, my mother says “do you know how much they cost normally? $1.50.” I was floored.

The Baltimore Avenue Stroll is a beautiful way to bring together the community while exposing people to restaurants or cuisines they might not otherwise try. I loved strolling down the avenue that I called home for 20+ years while envisioning the same stroll on my new “Avenue.” It just reminds me how much I love this city–the diversity of people, neighborhoods and cuisines is beyond comparison.