Cheu Noodle Bar

I love noodles. Give me pasta in any iteration from any cuisine and you have a happy camper. Vegetable lo mein? Yup. Spaghetti carbonara? Absolutely. Pho? Sure. Macaroni and cheese? I love you.

Philadelphia is a great noodle town. From my favorite red gravy restaurants in deep South Philly to the pho spots on Washington Avenue–and hand drawn noodles in Chinatown, of course–it’s easy to get a big bowl of carbs. Until a year or so ago, however, one noodle niche that we were sorely lacking was ramen. Much to the delight of many, ramen has recently become the next big thing. From Terakawa Ramen to Nom Nom Ramen to Hiro Ramen, there are growing opportunities to get a large bowl of chewy noodles with pork belly, soft-boiled egg and other accoutrements in a rich and steamy broth. When Cheu Noodle Bar first opened, as a series of pop-up dinners at Matyson Restaurant where Chef Ben Puchowitz works, they wowed diners with a ramen-centric Asian menu with a modern flair. Their pop-ups were all the rage, people (myself included) dialing endlessly to snag a seat at one of their popular events. I still remember the sweet Vietnamese sausage and broccoli that is now on the menu at Cheu. Almost as notable as the food was the neat and diverse play list which was much appreciated by our DJ dining companions.

Fast forward to Spring 2013 when Puchowitz and friend, Shawn Darragh (who has experience on the retail side of things) finally opened their store front. The space is small, with just a few tables and a long bar where you can watch the food being prepared. In my opinion, the bar is a prime spot as it affords you the opportunity to take in the show.

Because they do not take reservations, my husband and I stopped by for an early dinner one Sunday. The place was packed and we were lucky enough to snag two seats at the end of the bar. Note: they will take down your name and number and call you when your table is ready if you so desire.

Rather than bread, we were greeted with a snack of the dry ramen noodles that we are all familiar with.
IMG_3837It was a kitschy yet cute move that would only work for these guys.

We checked out the menu and had our usual conversations about what apps to split and what entrees we wanted to claim. You can’t order the same thing, of course.  We could have ordered every appetizer but stopped at three. It would be great to go with a group so you can get a little taste of everything.

We started with the black garlic wings with shishito peppers and herbs. We got them literally right out of the fryer and they piping hot but not spicy and the definition of finger licking good.
IMG_3838Following that, we tried the buns. This is the perfect example of their spin on traditional classics.

IMG_3839Buns are a staple at ramen houses and Cheu does steer slightly towards the traditional with their pork belly, but the cheeseburger option (you can select two. The other choice was mung bean) infuses the most traditional American food with this Asian standby. These are not the most “splittable” items on the app menu and I quickly found out why. As I carefully took my bite of half of the cheesesteak bun, I accidentally ate the entire pickle. Whoops! Even without the pickle, my husband confirmed that these were a tasty little snack to start the meal.

Our final app were the BBQ rice cakes. I really had no idea what to expect but had read that they were a can’t miss so we obviously had to order them.

IMG_3840

While my husband and I didn’t agree on these, I was ok with that–more for me! I had expected the rice cakes to be crispy but they were chewy, glutinous delights. When we had them, they were dressed with a sweet tatsoi, black bean sauce and sesame combination, although they’ve changed it up a bit since. While the rice cakes themselves could be considered an acquired taste, we both agreed that the dressing was worthy of licking the bowl.

Next up was the main attraction! While the cold sesame noodles are usually a weakness of mine, I was pretty set on getting one of the soups. I ended up going traditional (well, as traditional as you get get at Cheu) with the pork belly ramen and my husband got the duck pho.

IMG_3842While I love ramen, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m certainly no aficionado. I’ll just say that this soup was pretty damn good. The broth was smooth with a little funk and the noodles had just the right amount of bite. Oh, and the pork belly was pretty freakin’ tender.

I only had a bite or two of the duck pho but my husband declared the foie gras meatballs (foie gras meatballs?!) to be the best thing he ate all night. Delicate and fluffy, they melded perfectly with the slightly more refined pho broth than the ones that we are accustomed to.

IMG_3841Meanwhile, the soundtrack to the dinner had me tapping my foot all night long.

While I don’t usually take bathroom photos, I just couldn’t resist this adorable one. Glad to see they’re concerned with the environment.

IMG_3844Overall, I was beyond pleased. After the pop up at Matyson, I knew I’d like it. Didn’t know just how much I’d love it from the vibe to the friendliness of our waitress to, obviously, the food itself. While I came for the noodles, everything on the menu was top-notch and eating there just made me feel good.

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Not Just Pork at Jake’s Sandwich Board

Since its opening two years ago, Jake’s Sandwich Board has gotten great buzz from the foodie world and Center City lunch crowd alike.  I’d been meaning to go and finally ventured there when Level Up ran a promotion where anyone using the app would get $10 to spend at Jake’s. What the hell, free lunch.

We popped in and got to know a little more about Level Up, but then we got down to business with our order. During our conversation with the friendly Level Up gentleman, he pointed out one of the specials–BBQ brisket with swiss, sauerkraut and Russian dressing. Sold. My husband went with the Barnyard–pork, ground veal, sharp provolone, spinach, roasted peppers and roasted garlic spread. I also wanted to try the fried pickles that Midtown Lunch had raved about. There was a quick moment of terror when they thought they might be out of pickles. As it turned out, they had ONE order left. It was obviously meant to be. Then I saw the farm fries. Crispy fries topped with sharp provolone, pulled pork, bacon and homemade pork gravy. STOP IT RIGHT NOW! We obviously had to get them too! With the $10 promo and $5 for signing up, we ended up paying just $10 for all that food! I took a seat and twiddled my thumbs as we awaited our bounty, which came in just a few short minutes.

The Barnyard had a nice, Italian flare. It was stuffed to the brim with meat and topped generously with sharp provolone and fresh veggies (to make you feel a tad bit healthier.)
But I was more interested in this.

The dill pickles were thinly sliced and coated with a light batter with a creamy sriracha dipping sauce. It was the perfect side dish and a complete steal at just $2. The pickles were warm and crispy and the sauce provided the perfect heat to balance out the crunch. Heaven.

My sandwich was pretty darn good too.

Just look at it! Brisket slathered in sauce and topped with gooey Russian dressing, Swiss cheese and a hearty portion of sauerkraut. This is a six-napkin sandwich, folks. There is nothing not to like about it. The BBQ sauce was sweet but not overwhelming and the tangy kraut is always a palate-pleaser.

While one might think this sandwich would distract me, I also managed to dive headfirst into these guys.

LOOK AT THAT!!! These are no Caffe Chicco “gravy fries,” my friend. You can SEE the hunks of pork and crispy bit of bacon slathered generously atop these fries. When I’m looking for a gravy fry, THIS is what I’m talkin’ ’bout.

Jake’s Sandwich Board is making some of the better sandwiches in Philadelphia these days. Not sure why it took me so long to get there but I can certainly promise I’ll be back soon. Farm fries. Swoon.

Editor’s note: If you’re not using LevelUp, you’re missing out! It’s a way to pay using your smart phone by linking it to a credit card. It’s fast and you gain rewards by using it at certain merchants. For example, for each $100 you spend at Giunta’s in The Reading Terminal, you get $10. Sign up here using my referral code (172989)  and we’ll both get $5 to spend anywhere!

Square Peg

The first thing we noticed when we walked into Square Peg was the young woman standing awkwardly close to the door.

“Welcome,” she greeted us. As I prepared to tell her our name, she directed us to a counter over her left shoulder.

“You can check in with the hostess over there.” A little baffled as to what exactly her job was (greeter?) we made our way to the hostess counter to let them know that we had arrived a bit early for our 7pm reservation. We were prepared to grab a drink at the bar but there were plenty of tables and they walked us over to a small 2-top by the kitchen. Prime spot for watching all the food pass by!

Our waitress delivered our menus, took our water order (seems a bit ritzy for a place like this, no?) and returned a few minutes later with our ice water and an adorable glass bottle of water for the table. I love when restaurants do this. I’m a thirsty gal and hate to have an empty water glass, almost more than I hate to have an empty wine glass. As I admired the bottle, we perused the drink menu. Square Peg has adopted the “drink local” agenda with an impressive list of local to the U.S. spirits. Combined with an exciting cocktail menu–Frisky Whiskey!!–we had more than enough options. I was in a whiskey kind of mood and went with the Whiskey Cocktail (Jim Beam Rye, maraschino, combier liquer and an orange twist) while my husband opted for an Old Fashioned (Wild Turkey bourbon, agave nectar syrup, bitters, muddled cherries and orange.) We told our accommodating waitress that we wanted to enjoy our cocktails prior to ordering, as if we were grabbing a drink at the bar before dinner. She happily agreed and checked in on us occasionally but not too annoyingly.

The drinks were tangy and well-mixed.
I did notice that there was a slightly older crowd when we came in, and I assume it was the theater crowd. As the night progressed, however, the crowd grew noticeably younger. It will be interesting to see how this food-forward place caters to the sometimes tame pre-theater crowd while maintaining its integrity and mission.

As we enjoyed our drinks, we spent some time perusing the menu. Who am I kidding. I already knew what looked good to me thanks to the good old internet, but I still hadn’t made any final decisions. Although 2012 has marked the beginning of a quite successful healthy lifestyle kick, the weekends are our cheat times and we certainly made it count at Square Peg!

We ended up choosing the mac and cheese “grilled cheese” with drunken tomato soup and the tacos in a bag to start. My fabulous husband knows how difficult it is for me to leave a restaurant without ordering their version of mac and cheese and Square Peg’s certainly didn’t disappoint.

The buttery bread perfectly contained the cheesy mac such that it didn’t fall apart when you dipped it into the tangy tomato soup. Cheese, butter, carb, tomato–there’s pretty much no better combination.

The tacos in the bag were interesting. It came to the table and we looked at the dish.

We rotated it and looked again.

“What are we supposed to do?” we whispered to one another. I tugged gently at the top, wondering if they had made a slit that would allow us to open it. No dice. What the hell, I thought. And dumped it out.
I must note that Square Peg had the most perfectly shredded lettuce which is one of my most favorite fixins’ in the whole wide world. Shout out to the lowest man on the totem pole who probably shreds many, many heads of lettuce each night. The meat was tender and flavorful, each bite containing a little meat, a Frito and, of course, some shredded lettuce, provided the perfect mouthful. This is a big app, though, and maybe slightly heavy on the Fritos (not that anyone’s complaining.)

OK, by that time I was full. Too bad the entrees were on their way and I was EVEN MORE EXCITED for them. Ever since the moment I laid eyes on the menu, my eyes gravitated to one thing and one thing only: cheesesteak pot pie. For someone who didn’t eat meat for as long as I did, mention the word cheesesteak and I just swoon. Cheesesteak spring rolls? Yes, please. Cheesesteak pizza? Check. Cheesesteak pierogies? Well, you get the idea. Had ’em all, love ’em all. Not to mention, friends had been there a few days earlier and the pot pie came highly recommended.

How cute is that little spicy ketchup bottle alongside the dish? I also ordered a side of collards which were my best attempt at getting something healthy. The pot pie, as expected, was phenomenal. While I enjoyed the flaky topping, the real winner was under the crust. The meaty, rich, creamy, cheesy pot pie filling was just plain delightful. In fact, I couldn’t finish it and had the second half for lunch the next day. Score!

My husband got the other highly recommended dish on the menu, the BBQ brisket with brown butter gnocchi. When he ordered, the waitress told him that it was being served with pappardelle that night, which was fine with him. However, our friends said theirs was served with pappardelle as well. Is this a menu change that hasn’t been updated on the printed menu? A friend who went to the friends and family opening had that dish and thought it to be quite heavy. I wonder if they recognized that and subbed the gnocchi out.

While the menu said nothing about the roasted broccoli and marcona almonds, they were both pleasant additions to the dish. I’m a pasta girl and I thought this was buttery and salty without being overly done. My husband thought it was a touch heavy, although I didn’t get that–granted you’re talking to someone who just ate a cheesesteak pot pie so maybe my sense of “heaviness” is a bit skewed.

While we were finishing up our entrees, the General Manager, Michael Spector, came over to chat with us. What a nice guy. Michael owned the recently-closed Delicatessen on 7th and Chestnut and stepped in to manage Square Peg during its opening. Throughout our meal, I noticed Michael wandering the dining room, greeting people, asking about their meals and checking on every detail, down to the light dimmer. After the theater crowed (read: old) people left, the room got noticeably darker. His attention to detail and his concern for the restaurant’s patrons was evident in not just him but all the staff from the aforementioned greeter to all of the servers. It made us want to be there.

So we stayed.

It’s times like these in my relationship that remind me just why I married my husband. We were getting ready to leave when he asked if I wanted to split one of the “adult milkshakes.” I love this guy. We ended up with the “Root Beer Float” with White Tail Caramel Whiskey, Root liquer, vanilla vodka and chocolate.
I can’t remember the last time I had a milkshake but this certainly made up for it. It tasted exactly like a root beer float in milkshake form! All we needed was two straws.
I’m probably going to get in trouble for posting that.

We were a fan of Chef Matt Levin’s at Adsum and were excited for the opportunity to try his cooking again. While Levin absolutely proved his culinary skill during his time at Lacroix (hello, four bells!) Adsum and now Square Peg seem to be a divergence from that. He is cooking food that he wants to make and having fun with it. While it could be defined as stoner food, could be written off as kitsch, I challenge anyone who criticizes the concept to come on in and taste the food. While I wouldn’t mind a few lighter options, I think Square Peg has inched its way into the world of fun, creative and–most of all–damn tasty food. Although there wasn’t much of a bar scene while we were there, I think the great drinks list and unique menu offerings could make this a great Center City location for a beer (or a whiskey) and a bite.

Rotisseur

Finally! After one failed attempt and a summer away from Center City lunches, I finally made it to Rotisseur, the new(ish) rotisserie chicken joint in Rittenhouse. It was actually kind of destiny. My husband happened to call me, just as my meeting ended, to see if I wanted to meet for lunch. YES, YES, YES! Let’s meet at Rotisseur in ten. 

We wandered in and scoped the chalkboard menu.

The inside is very simple, with clean lines and a focus on the food. I admired the sides but drooled over the rotisserie.

Zach and I ended up splitting the 1/2 chicken meal with two sides and added a third side, just for fun. We knew we wanted mac and cheese (if you’ve spent enough time reading this blog, you know I’ll always order mac and cheese when it’s offered) and the watermelon orzo salad but had trouble deciding on a third. The sides rotate seasonally and we opted for the hyper-seasonal succotash to round out our lunch.

We ordered at the counter but the counter-woman delivered our food and real silverware to our table (my dad would love this place!) This was a little awkward as I didn’t know what to do about tipping when we left.

The chicken was super moist and packed with lots of flavor. However, I’m more of a side gal and I quickly attacked all three of them with equal gusto. The succotash was definitely the sleeper–the fresh corn highlighted the otherwise simple dish and made me keep coming back for more. The mac and cheese was delish, as always, but the watermelon orzo salad was another winner. Let’s get a closer look at that.

Yum!

Rotisseur is quick, tasty and affordable lunch option in Center City. I can’t wait to get back to try their pesto chicken salad sandwich and chicken banh mi. At $6, these sandwiches are a steal.

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.

Meme Fried Chicken Lunch

About two years ago, Chef David Katz opened Meme Restaurant and started a quirky lunch special. Each Thursday, and Thursday only, Meme serves a fried chicken lunch. The fixed price meal ($11) includes a thigh, drumstick, cornbread and a glass of iced tea or Miller High Life. For an extra $2 you can get the side of the day. Want something besides fried chicken? Sorry, Charlie. That’s the only option. There’s something about the whole situation that creates and allure and that allure has had me intrigued for the past two years. Unfortunately, I’m rarely able to enjoy a sit down lunch mid-week and when I’m available, my husband is usually working.

This past Thursday, the husband had off and I took a (much needed) mental health day. We planned on grabbing lunch at Meme before watching NCAA basketball that afternoon. We arrived at Meme around 1pm and were seated immediately. The room is small–it seems even smaller than when the restaurant’s former resident, Melograno, was there but Melograno packed that place with a bunch of tiny tables. Meme was a little more comfortable.

Our friendly waitress took our order (fried chicken, duh. All she had to do was find out what type of drink we wanted and whether or not we wanted a side) while I surveyed the restaurant. The diverse clientele ranged from business lunchers to contractors enjoying an end-of-day meal.  It was a beautiful and two women sat outside with young children and a large, large dog. I enjoyed seeing this unique conglomerate of Philadelphians all seeking the same thing–a decent plate of fried chicken.

And decent it was. The chicken arrived in a jiffy (my research tells me he cooks it in advance so it’s not piping hot and the flavors have time to settle.) I usually tend towards the crispier skinned bird but Katz’s chicken has a thinner crust.

The chicken was perfectly crispy with moist and juicy meat under the crackle of skin.  My husband was a fan of the smoky dipping sauce but I didn’t want to compromise the simple, salty deliciousness of the meat. Instead, I dipped my crumbly corn bread into the dip and washed it down with an icy cold Miller High Life. Life is grand.

The macaroni salad was decent–not too heavy on the mayo–but the star of the meal was, of course, the chicken. Now I see what all the buzz is about.  All in all, we were in and out of the restaurant in well under an hour (probably closer to 30 minutes.) My husband said it would probably be the shortest blog post ever. Chef Katz is doing great things at Meme and I love that he’s made himself accessible to more than just the typical foodie. If you’re in Center City West and have 30 minutes to spare, be sure to check it out!

Marabella Meatball Company

Although I work in Center City, I rarely get a chance to actually eat out downtown.  I try to bring lunch most days and when I need to buy lunch, it’s usually a quick trip to Trader Joe’s, Primo’s Hoagies or Arch Gourmet, the deli across the street. On holidays, I try to meet my husband in his neck of the woods to grab a bite. Although we were prepping our stomachs for our Han Dynasty dinner that evening, we thought we’d grab an early lunch at Marabella Meatball Company, the lunch and dinner spot on 12th and Walnut that was recently opened by the Marabella family of Marabella’s fame.

I hopped on the 23 up 11th street and arrived at the front door before my husband, giving me some time to grab a photo and scope out the inside.

I walked through the door just minutes after their 11am opening and was greeted by the friendly staff. They obviously had some sort of catering delivery that was set to leave and the family members all took part in the process. As I waited for my husband, the incredibly friendly woman (the owner, I assumed) explained the vast menu to me as I pondered the possibilities. The menu is simple yet expansive offering four types of meatballs (beef, pork, chicken, veggie); four types of sauce (marinara, tomato sauce, alfredo, mushroom sauce); four types of cheese (aged provolone, fontina, piave vecchio, gorgonzola) along with a myriad of optional toppings and two types of rolls–long or round. On top of that, there were options for “slider” combos of three meatballs on mini buns, or sampler bowls of meatballs and sauce, hold the bread, please. Wow. Where would I begin? For those who could potentially become overwhelmed with all of the combinations potentials, MMCo offers a list of six “favorite” sandwich combos including the classic (beef meatballs, aged provolone, tomato sauce) and chicken ricotta (chicken meatballs, spinach, ricotta.)

I ended up walking the path of simplicity and ordered the classic with broccoli rabe (+$1.25,) even though my love for all things little had me leaning heavily towards the slider, while my husband wanted a little bit of everything and opted for the sampler bowl. We each got a San Pellegrino Limonata and the total came to $25 which was a bit more than we wanted to spend for lunch. Hopefully it would be worth it!  As we were ordering, I saw the chef (co-owner, I’m guessing?) boiling cauliflower and broccoli for the day’s veggie meatballs. It was refreshing to see that fresh ingredients being used when it is so easy to flash freeze these days.

We took a seat at one of their beautifully finished wood tables and waited a few minutes for our food. When it came, it was obvious that time and care had been put into the preparation. My sandwich was steaming with beefy deliciousness and gooey cheese.

Check out an inside view!

Look at the bright green of the broccoli rabe. Although I do generally prefer it slightly less al dente, I appreciated knowing that it was freshly made and the garlicky goodness just about made up for it. Let’s talk about the meatballs though. Oh, the meatballs. Most folks swear by the meat mix (pork, beef, veal) for meatballs but not Marabella’s. Their beef meatballs are 100% beef. They were dense yet airy and the meatball fell apart in my mouth yet maintained its integrity on the roll. My kinda ‘ball. As I’ve noticed before, however, the real winner of the dish was the cheese. As I savored the tang of the aged provolone, you know, the tang that makes your mouth water just a bit, I considered just how much it added to the dish.  Marabella’s definitely doesn’t skimp on the cheese (see picture above) but it is certainly the quality that makes the difference. What a sandwich.

The sampler bowl came out in a disposable plastic container which hurt my little green heart a bit but I quickly recovered.

I had to taste each meatball. For the blog, you know. My husband has been so nice ever since I commenced my blogging adventure. He quiets his growling stomach when I need to take a picture and he always, always lets me taste. What a guy! He started with the chicken meatball and I can barely begin to describe the morsel of velvety chicken. I barely tasted the “ground” part of the meatball and felt literally like I was biting into a moist and freshly cooked piece of chicken–but better. It was an incredible sensation. I make turkey meatballs at home quite often and have difficulty managing the dryness factor. These meatballs (well, all of them, but most notably the chicken) absolutely nailed it. The next ‘ball I tried was the veggie. First of all, I would like to give MMCo a shout out for not only offering a veggie option but actually putting some thought, time and energy into it. I was a vegetarian for a long time and am no stranger to Morning Star and Boca products but these meatballs had cauliflower, broccoli and chick peas and I COULD TASTE EVERY ONE OF THEM. What a phenomenal and honorable interpretation of a veggie meatball. I loved biting into a little hunk of cauliflower hidden among the sauce. I’m glad I didn’t find a piece of the golden raisins that are supposedly inside because I don’t like raisins. Guess I just got lucky.  I didn’t taste the beef because, well, I had beef of my own, or the pork (there’s still a little Jew left in me every once in a while.)  I did neglect to mention the two slices of bread that my husband eagerly used to sop of the meaty (or veggie) bits that melted into the sauce.

I don’t usually shill places like I’m about to (and I promise I’m not getting anything for it) but I implore you to go to Marabella Meatball Company–and let me know if you want company. I’ll be back for sure. Buon Appetito!

Erawan Thai Lunch Deal

A few weeks ago, my colleague, Michael, had a business lunch near our Center City school. He came back and excitedly shared the news that Erawan Thai, just a few blocks from us, has a great lunch deal. For $7.95 per person, you get a salad, soup or appetizer and entree (upon checking their website, there is a similar dinner deal for $15.95.) We decided that we had to check it out one day.

This week was jam-packed and seemed eternal, especially with an awesome conference we hosted over the weekend. By Friday, everyone was exhausted and VERY ready for the weekend. Michael and I decided to check out Erawan together for a mix of relaxation and business.

We walked a few short blocks over to 23rd and Sansom, across the street from Greenfield Elementary School. The outside of the place was cute.

When we stepped inside, the place was packed with people taking advantage of the special. There were a few large groups–this seemed to be a go-to spot for quick and inexpensive business lunches.  We were seated quickly and I checked out the options for the lunch special. The salad  included the “Erawan salad” with peanut dressing or “Thai garden salad” with creamy Thai dressing (whatever that entails.) Say peanuts and I’m sold. Michael and I both went with the Erawan salad. The salad came quickly and was a pretty unassuming plate of iceberg lettuce, cucumber, unripe cherry tomatoes, onion and shredded carrots and radicchio. Let’s talk dressing though. The peanut dressing was the bomb! Rich and nutty with chunks of crunchy peanut. That’s my kind of dressing.

The appetizer options were fried spring rolls, fried chicken curry dumplings, chicken dumplings, pork dumplings, veggie dumplings, fish cakes of golden tofu (any guesses on what that might be–I’m guessing fried tofu.) We both went with dumpling–he got chicken curry and I opted for veggie. The veggie are below.

The dumplings were fine. They were pretty skimpy on the filling but the ingredients were fresh and green (even the dumpling wrapper!) I didn’t grab a shot of Michael’s, but he seemed to enjoy them.

Our entrees, like everything else, came out quickly. There was a long list of entrees to pick from and I was torn between noodles and a red curry. I usually get awesome noodles from Circles Thai, so I figured I’d opt for the red curry that I love but rarely order. Michael went with the traditional pad thai. As soon as the waiter walked away, I started to have order regret. It continued when the entrees arrived. Check out this beautiful pad thai! Take an extra close look at the flurry of peanuts on the bottom right corner. That’s what I’m talking about!

I was actually so busy dealing with my dish that I didn’t grab a taste of Michael’s but I trust his report (and empty plate) that it was great. My red curry was listed as one star on their three star scale of spiciness. I don’t know if the chef had a heavy hand that day or if the star system (one star is mild with a little bite) is a bit skewed but holy hell, that dish was spicy!  The dish came swimming with yummy veggies like Japanese eggplant, zucchini, string beans. carrots, onions and peppers along with tofu–but not too much tofu, which worked perfectly for me. This dish was packed with flavor and heartiness but each bite was quite fiery!

I like heat but if I ordered this again (which I would definitely do) I’d ask them to tone down on the chili peppers a bit. Overall, the entire lunch was about 45 minutes from door to door and would have been even less had it not taken me about 20 minutes to eat my entree. Sure Erawan has its flaws but I declare it a solid place for a quick and tasty sit-down lunch that won’t make your wallet scream. I’ll definitely be back (and want to try the noodles!)