Going Out: Soho Pizza

Chicken Parm Pizza from Soho Pizza

My friend Bri is currently visiting from Atlanta, GA, and she has commented on how it seems we New Jerseyans are consumed with eating two things: hoagies and pizza.

The more I think about it, the more I think she’s right.  Everyone around here has their favorite, hoagie place, cheesesteak place, chicken cheesesteak place, pizza place, thin-crust pizza place, their favorite chain pizza place, their favorite deep-dish pizza place, and so on.

When my family wants to order takeout, we don’t have many options.  Well, we do have many options, but we only ever really have to choose between two: pizza or hoagies.  From there, we either have to decide where to order pizza, or we call up Lee’s (we only order hoagies and cheesesteaks from one place in the world).

When it comes to eating out, we often run into the same problem… although, eating at amazing pizza places is not necessarily TOO big of a problem.  One of my favorite pizza places outside of my suburban bubble is in Philadelphia, and it’s called Soho Pizza.

Soho Pizza is on Market between Bank and Strawberry, just a block away from the bridge to Penn’s Landing.  They make amazing pizza, and they serve huge slices with delicious toppings.  My personal favorite is the Chicken Parm Pizza, which has perfectly cooked chicken parm atop a slice of cheesy pizza with marinara sauce.   It is absolutely mouthwatering and I highly recommend it!  They also make great cheesesteaks – Bri had a buffalo chicken cheesesteak when we went yesterday and it was oozing with cheese, sauce, and tasty chicken.

Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia, just a block away from Soho Pizza!

Soho Pizza is within walking distance from the historic district, so if you are looking for a place to cool down and grab a slice after seeing the Liberty Bell, I suggest you take a walk down Market Street and make a stop at Soho Pizza (it’s on the right side of the street if you are walking towards the water).  Plus, if you walk just a few more blocks, The Franklin Fountain will be on your right and you can grab a dish of delicious homemade ice cream or a freshly made root beer float!

Happy Eating!

Advertisements

Diner Culture

My friend Michele and I at the Marlton Diner on our last day of high school.

It’s 3am, and you and your friends realize you are all super hungry.  Maybe you know a pizza place that’s still open.  Maybe your Taco Bell has a 24hr drive thru.  Maybe you attempt to make some ridiculous concoction with whatever is in the fridge.

If you live in Jersey, you go to the diner.

There’s a classic list of “you know you’re from South Jersey” -isms that has been floating around the internet for a few years now, and one of them (near the top of the list, of course) is “if you wonder why there aren’t more 24-hour diners everywhere else in the country.”  The diner isn’t just a place to eat, it’s a place for friends to come together.  It’s a place for memories.

There are a few rules that basically classify an authentic diner.  First, it must be open for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  If the diner has “hours,” it’s not a real diner.  Second, the entire menu has to be available all day.  The best part of going to the diner is having waffles and ice cream for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  Third, it has to look like a diner.  Stainless steel, vinyl, and neon signs are a must.

I can think of at least ten diners that are less than ten minutes away from me, all of which have their own memories.  I usually don’t associate specific memories with restaurants, but diners are different.  There is something about the culture of the diner that makes you feel like everything that happens there is significant.  My friends and I piled into The Marlton Diner after graduation practice on our last day of high school for a celebratory brunch.  My dad took my brother and I to a diner after our first Eagles game and we sat at our own table and ordered milkshakes instead of dinner food.  I’ve had first dates at the diner, breakups at the diner, and celebrations at the diner.  When my friends and I were at Warped Tour last week, it was cold and we were tired and hungry, and as we sat listening to the last few bands, all I could think about was the short stack of chocolate chip pancakes that was waiting for me at The Cherry Hill diner on the way home.

I’m sure there are plenty of diners elsewhere in the country, but for some reason, whenever I think of my hometown, the diner is one of the first things on the list of things associated (mostly because I think about how much I don’t like the Marlton Diner; I prefer Medport).

The most important thing I’ve learned about diners is: it’s never just about eating breakfast or dinner.  It’s about eating breakfast for dinner.

Going Out: The Melting Pot

Ryan’s first time at The Melting Pot in Atlantic City, NJ. He loved it!

Confession time!

The Melting Pot is my absolute obsession right now.  I love everything about it.  It was my choice for my birthday dinner, and my family has a reservation for tonight at 5:45 in Philadelphia.

I’ve never been to The Melting Pot in Philly before, but I’ve been to the one in Atlantic City many times and the one in Boston once or twice.  I think their food is absolutely delicious and the concept is so much fun and so perfect for a long, hearty meal with good friends or family.  I am so excited to go tonight, especially because my dad and brother have never been before, so I can’t wait to witness their first experience.

For those of you who have never been, the meal comes out in four courses.  The first is a cheese fondue, and you have a choice of about five or so varieties, all of which are delicious and very distinct.  I really like the Wisconsin Trio and the Traditional Swiss.  Along with the cheese comes your dipping selections, which include veggies, granny smith apples, and several varieties of bread.

The second course is the salad, which may seem boring among the other courses, but they certainly do not disappoint in this department.  My absolute favorite is the California Salad, which comes with candied pecans that are arguably one of my favorite parts of the meal.

Third is the moment everyone has been waiting for, the main course.  You can choose from individual entrees that come with one or two types of meat (or vegetarian selections), or you can opt for the “Four Course Classic,” in which case the third course comes with a variety of meats, including tuna, shrimp, chicken, and sirloin.  This course is my favorite because you get to cook your own food, plus their dipping sauces are AMAZING.  With the meats, they bring out a pot of hot broth, into which they pour mushrooms, potatoes, and broccoli.  You let the veggies cook for awhile as you skewer your meats, one at a time, and cook them in the broth.  When they are finished cooking (each one takes about 1-2 minutes), you put them on a separate plate and use their signature dipping sauces (the waiter tells you which sauce goes best with which type of meat) and enjoy!   It is so much fun, and since you are cooking the food yourself, it spreads the meal out and makes the enjoyment and excitement last even longer.

The final course is dessert, and they definitely make sure you finish with a bang.  I have tried almost all of their chocolate fondue varieties, and each is as good as the one before.  My favorite is probably the Chocolate S’mores, but not by much, since all of them are so delicious.  I mean, you really can’t go wrong if there’s chocolate involved.  They bring out a huge plate of dipping choices, including cake, marshmallows, graham crackers, strawberries, bananas, and brownies.  By the end of the meal, you are already so stuffed that it seems almost impossible to finish off the final course, but trust me, you will make a valiant attempt.

I really just love the atmosphere of The Melting Pot restaurants.  I love that you don’t feel like you are waiting forever for your food to come out, and I love that you get to enjoy the experience of being constantly involved in the cooking process.  The level of interaction is beyond compare, and the taste lives up to all expectations.

The Melting Pot is, of course, super expensive, but if you find specials or coupons it can cut the price nearly in half (trust me, I’m a broke college student and I always look for the deals!).  I love going during AC Restaurant Week, when you can get a 3-course lunch (Salad, Entree, and Dessert) for only $15 per person!  You can also go during any other time for dinner and forgo all courses besides the main one, and pay as little as $19 per person.  Another great way to get part of the experience without the full price is to go for just salads and dessert, which are reasonably priced and just as delicious as all four courses.

Even though it is a chain, I think they do a great job of making the experience very personal no matter which location you are at.  I highly recommend that you give it a try, no matter where you are located!  You can find a map of their locations here.

Happy Eating!

Going Out: The Franklin Fountain

Image

My little brother Ryan outside of The Franklin Fountain a few years ago, patiently waiting for his Cotton Candy ice cream on a sugar cone (he gets the same thing every time).

I am an ice cream person.  I will totally admit it.  I eat way more ice cream than is normal for any one person.  I would probably be about twenty pounds lighter if it weren’t for all of the ice cream I eat.  

I have a favorite ice cream place.  I mean, I love all ice cream places, but I do happen to have a favorite one.  My all-time favorite ice cream place is in Philadelphia, and it’s called The Franklin Fountain.  

The Franklin Fountain is an adorable little shop on Market Street in Philly.  It opened in 2004, but it feels like it’s been around since 1700.  The employees dress up, the signs are all old-fashioned, and the bathroom is labeled “the water closet.”  Its quirkiness really sets it apart: they serve their to-go orders in Chinese takeout containers.  Cutest thing ever. 

 

Besides that, the ice cream is absolutely delicious.  They have every flavor you could ever imagine and they are all homemade.  They also have a huge menu filled with awesome sundaes.  They also make old fashioned flavored sodas and fantastic milkshakes.  

My absolute favorite thing about The Franklin Fountain is their homemade hot fudge.  It is made using local ingredients in antique copper candy kettles, and it is to die for.  The best thing I’ve ever had at The Franklin Fountain was simply a dish of vanilla ice cream with their delicious hot fudge drizzled on top.  

The Franklin Fountain is perfect on a hot summer day, and the line wraps all the way through the store and out the door on Friday and Saturday nights.  I highly recommend it to anyone visiting the Philadelphia area, or to locals who are looking for a great way to finish off a long day in the city.  

We love to take the RiverLink ferry over from the Camden Waterfront after a day at the Aquarium or the Children’s Garden;  it is about a fifteen minute trip over to Penn’s Landing and is $7 per person round trip.  The Franklin Fountain is an easy walk from Penn’s Landing, and there are a bunch of great pizza places around that area if you’re looking to eat before you grab some ice cream (We like Soho Pizza on Market, just a few blocks down).  

Overall, I’d say The Franklin Fountain is the best ice cream I’ve ever had in my life, and I encourage you to give it a try.  You’re cheating yourself if you don’t try the homemade fudge, and I’d be surprised if you didn’t end up purchasing a jar to take home with you!

Enjoy! 

Going Out: Friendly’s

Today is my birthday, and we celebrated it by going to Friendly’s for lunch.

Image

My brother Ryan and I at Friendly’s for lunch

Friendly’s is far from fine cuisine, but here, it is a family favorite.  There is something about going to Friendly’s that just gets everyone excited and puts us all in a good mood.  We have celebrated everything there, from birthdays to little league championships to dance recitals to the last day of school, and it has always been a popular hangout for me and my friends after school dances and youth group meetings.

The menu is pretty big, and a lot of it is actually really good.  My absolute favorite is the Turkey Club Supermelt, but I also love their wraps, burgers, salads, and quesadillas.  In my opinion, their french fries are not all that great (super mushy), so I usually sub a cup of soup or applesauce instead.

Whatever the food may be, the dessert is really the best part of going to Friendly’s.  My family hardly ever gets dessert when we go out to eat, but it is an unspoken family law that we will get ice cream at Friendly’s.  They probably have over thirty different flavors of ice cream to choose from, with the option to order one of their predetermined sundaes or create your own concoction.  Nothing compares to a Friendly’s sundae.  Their milkshakes are also incredible, and not only do they fill your glass to the top, but they bring out the entire half-full metal mixing cup along with it.  My personal favorite is the Friend-z, which is comparable to a DQ Blizzard or Sonic Blast, but with more stuff and better tasting ice cream.

Whenever I go to Friendly’s I get to be a kid again, if only for an hour or so.  I love the atmosphere and the ice cream, and I love that it is chock full of memories from my childhood.  I hope to someday bring my children to Friendly’s on their birthdays and sing along to the Friendly’s Birthday Song: “If you’re good you’ll get your wishes/if you’re bad you’ll do our dishes.”

Thankfully, I’ve never had to do their dishes.

Eating Out: Husk

Victoria and I with her friends Devon and Katie outside of Husk in Charleston, SC.

Last week I was on vacation in Charleston, South Carolina (more on that here), and my friend Victoria, with whom I was staying, took us to this fabulous restaurant downtown called Husk.

The restaurant is a little bit pricey and VERY trendy, so Vickie made a lunch reservation about a month in advance.  The lunch prices were much more reasonable, around $12 a plate.  The restaurant is all about locally grown southern food, and when you walk in, they have a huge chalkboard with all of their ingredients listed next to the local supplier from which they were purchased.

The menu was small albeit slightly overwhelming, since there was a lot of unfamiliar territory in traditional southern food.  The bacon cornbread they ordered as an appetizer was not my thing (I’m not a cornbread person) although they seemed to like it a lot.  I had a hard time deciding between a few things on the lunch menu, but in the end I went with the most boring dish you can imagine – the cheeseburger.  Sometimes it’s better to be safe.

What I didn’t expect was that this cheeseburger would be far from safe.  Ordering the burger turned out to be the best decision I made that day, since it was probably the best cheeseburger I’ve ever had in my life.  It was a double cheeseburger, complete with sauteed onions, homemade pickles, melted cheddar cheese, and secret sauce (it felt almost like a honey mustard, but more savory and not quite as thick).  I wish I could effectively describe to you the incredible flavors this burger brought to the table, and I wish even more that I had taken a picture so that you could see the fresh cheddar cheese just oozing out of the homemade bun.

I also loved the staff at the restaurant, who were friendly and accommodating.   Vickie had booked her reservation through Open Table, and in the comments section had asked them to do something special for my birthday, which is coming up.  They brought out a pudding dessert in a miniature mason jar, complete with a candle and four spoons, at no extra cost.  It was absolutely precious and I was so thankful for the experience.

All in all, I highly recommend Husk if you are visiting Charleston anytime soon.  I also suggest that you make a reservation in advance, and stick with lunch if you are on any sort of budget.

You definitely will not be disappointed.