May 27, 2011

BEST Philly Cheesesteak

My family and I once went to China for three weeks. Enter Jimmy D, the driver who met us at the airport upon our return home. It was late, we were tired, but more importantly we were STARVING. So Jimmy D took care of us. An Italian born and raised in Philly, Jimmy D knew everything about the city - including where to find the absolute best food. So after an 18 hour flight, we took a detour going home, for a short stop in South Philadelphia to visit the only REAL place to get Philly Cheesesteaks.

Let me tell you, these cheesesteaks are about as real as they get.

Recently, I found myself late at night driving through South Philly. I was starving. There are so many great places to eat in Philadelphia, but I only have eyes for one as I'm traveling through town (it should be noted I have them in my cell phone, AND in my gps, just for those chance times when/if I might be driving around the area). Close up on the roast beef Italian choice, pictured above: succulent, juicy roast beef is piled just high enough on a freshly baked roll that's crisp on the outside but fluffy on the inside. The spinach adds a nice flavor of salt to each bite, and the extra sharp provolone could ONLY be from a local master - we're talking high quality cheese you'll cut yourself on, it's so sharp. Each bite is better than the last. The freshness and quality of the ingredients just make your mouth sing the whole time you're eating (which sounds impossible...but that's just how good it is).

There are lots of locals' stories about who eats here and how often (apparently the Philadelphia Eagles order the whole team Tony Luke's cheesesteaks for breakfast every morning before practice). I'm sure most of the stories are true. All I know is this is the only place in the world I will order a cheesesteak!

Tony Luke's [original location]
39 East Oregon Avenue
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

May 25, 2011

Italian-style Pizza

The best judge of genuine Italian pizza is how long it takes between when it goes in the oven to when it comes out on your plate. Less than five minutes? You just found the real deal! Or probably close to it. Real pizza has such a thin crust that it literally takes just a few minutes in the oven before it's ready to be served. Seventh Hill Pizza just around the corner from Eastern Market in DC has just that. With service that makes you feel like you're part of the family and pizza toppings combinations that have you wishing for a slice of everything, all I can say is this was the perfect lunch to grab on an unexpectedly cold and rainy day.

Where you can enjoy this yourself:

Seventh Hill Pizza
327 7th St. SE
Washington, DC

May 18, 2011

BEST Pulled Pork Sandwich

Pulled pork is one of my favorite types of sandwiches. It all started in high school, when friends of the family would come over once a month, right after their trip to the big, local Amish farmer's market. Fresh, tender, once-fell-off-the-bone-now-falling-off-the-bun pulled pork with their family BBQ sauce was always in tow. Clem's BBQ in central Pennsylvania is the closest I've come to Pulled Pork Sandwich Perfection since those friends moved down to Florida.

The meat is in a nice combination of bite-size chunks and stringy bits, all smothered - but not drowning - in a sweet and tangy barbeque sauce that's just as enjoyable as the meat itself. Served throughout central PA at local stores and pit stops, it always comes with a fresh, locally baked roll that just perfects this lunch. The actual location is about as dive-y as it gets: small wooden hut off the side of the highway that normally I wouldn't go near - let alone actually stop and get out of my car at - with a twenty foot pole. There are large barrels set up as makeshift seating and it's really not much to look at - but talk about a diamond in the rough! I actually kind of love that it looks like such a dive and then blows you away with the juiciness of the meat and more than memorable secret BBQ recipe. Rumor has it, Clem's was invited to be on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives but they refused to give the recipe for their BBQ sauce, so they didn't get a slot on the show. But that's okay. Just means it's Centre County's best kept secret, just between you and me.

Where to enjoy this yourself:

Anywhere you see a "WE SERVE CLEM'S!" sign in the greater State College area
- OR -
Clem's BBQ
427 McFarland Road
Tyrone, Pennsylvania

May 16, 2011

Blueberry Pancakes

I came across this coffee shop on a local's recommendation. I was actually cruising around Old Town Alexandria (Virginia) in search of another breakfast spot, which woefully turned out to be closed (even though it was 9 am. On a Saturday. And their hours said otherwise). It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as a man sweeping his stoop nearby was happy to recommend this place just down the street!

Now, I LOVE pancakes. Give me batter, blueberries, and real maple syrup, and I will be one happy girl. But I'm always a little cautious order them out because (well for one, most places don't offer real maple syrup, but also) they're often just too sweet for me. I like my breakfasts more "hearty" than "sugary," but a lot of restaurants like to sweeten up their pancakes, muffins, etc. However, these cakes were GREAT - they had a real home-made taste to them. I could have taken a few more blueberries cooked in, but the fresh berries that came on the side more than made up for anything missing inside. This was definitely a meal I'd come back for - and freshly squeezed orange juice, too!

Where you can enjoy these yourself:

Extra Perks Coffee Shop
822 North Fairfax
Alexandria, Virginia

May 13, 2011

Western Omelet

I love visiting friends. It's great fun talking the night away and catching up, learning what's new in their lives and sharing stories - and of COURSE going to all their favorite local meal spots! Babycakes is a cute, chic little cafe that greets you with a GORGEOUS display of pastries beneath their chalkboard menu - gorgeous enough that you forget about breakfast or any of those other silly meals and can only think about dessert.

My omelet was CHOCK FULL of fresh ingredients, with the egg really just acting as a binding agent to hold everything together. Ham, peppers, onions, and mushrooms were complimented by the small fruit and toast sides.

Where to enjoy this yourself:

Babycakes Cafe
1-3 Collegeview Ave.
Poughkeepsie, New York

We took home some croissants to eat later. They were fluffy but with a nice shell and deliciously buttery.

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