Beef, cheese, roll. This week, we explore Philly’s iconic sandwich, and bring you word of a new events space from the Zahav crew, news about the closing of a kosher bakery, and tell you where to score free doughnuts for National Donut Day. (It’s a literal roundup.)
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Cheesesteaks to savor
Who makes the best cheesesteak in the Philadelphia area? Heck if I know. Who can pick only one? So we offer you 12 of our favorites. Yours not on our list? Email me and we will explore further. Oh, and scroll down for a pic of John’s Roast Pork, which just reopened after a major renovation.
From soy to seitan to mushrooms, here are the city’s best plant-based cheesesteaks. Don’t forget the (quotey-fingers) Whiz (end quotey-fingers ).
Why NJ Farmers Against Hunger is literally outstanding in its field
Columnist Kevin Riordan shares the tale of NJ Farmers Against Hunger, which distributes fruit and vegetables to those who can’t easily access it. The group is relocating its operations to a former peach orchard turned park in Burlington County, where a small plot of crops will help teach the public about healthy eating.
Homemade Goodies by Roz has closed
The pandemic has not been especially kind to bakeries, as many customers learned the art of breadmaking at home. Roz Bratt at Homemade Goodies by Roz, one of the city’s last kosher bakeries, wrapped her 24-year run in Society Hill last week and she is winding down her wholesale business. She is selling the shop to a former apprentice, who does not plan to seek kosher certification.
Steak 48 sparks debate over its new policies
Steak 48, a posh Center City steakhouse that opened last September, drew uproar over its new dress code and $100-per-person minimum policy. Some accused the restaurant of racial profiling, while others took a cheekier approach — even pointing out the “touch of Velveeta” in the mac and cheese.
The move to indoor dining can only be a good thing for a restaurant like Laser Wolf in Kensington, the Israeli-style skewer house by CookNSolo that recently was named among the best restaurants in the world by Conde Nast. Though Laser Wolf has been serving outside in a streetery, I think it’s best experienced in the energetic dining room, where amid chef Andrew Henshaw’s open kitchen, friends rub elbows over the assortment of tasty salatim, or side dishes, plus some of the city’s most memorable hummus and pita, and Middle Eastern-inspired drinks (both alcoholic and non). The setup: You order an entree, such as chicken or sirloin shisklik, beets with dukkah, or a Moroccan-spiced whole chicken or a whole branzino for two, and dig into the 10 salatim, which is unlimited. You can also order just the salatim for $18 a head, as well. Dessert right now is a cup of brown sugar-vanilla soft serve with a Sicilian pistachio-rice crunch and sour cherry.
Italian finds in Irish restaurants
Two unexpected places for Italian food:
One, you probably know about: Murph’s Bar in Fishtown, where Francesco Bellastelli, a Puglia native and friend of owners Greg and Theresa Walton, serves a drool-worthy menu of pastas, meats, and fish in the oldtime Philly barroom atmosphere, served by some of the sweetest folks around. (There’s a streetery outside — same food, though Girard Avenue is not an ideal backdrop.) Bring friends and run the menu. Pay special mind to the arancini, the meatballs, the tagioline you see above, and the garganelli Amatriciana tarintina. It’s cash only, befitting the mainly sub-$20 prices. No reservations.
Second, one you probably don’t know about: The Commodore John Barry Arts and Cultural Center, the club in Mount Airy that made two smart moves over the pandemic. It brought in pizza whisperer Daniel Gutt and his crew from Circles & Squares and Pizza Plus to do a menu of sandwiches, pizza, and a few Irish theme dishes, and it started takeout and delivery as The Commodore. (Now I have Lionel Richie in my head.) Ergo, some of Mount Airy’s tastiest delivery pizzas come from an Irish social club. For $25, you can get a membership (a quirk of the state liquor law) and eat in the ‘80s-throwback-style dining room, where manager Emmeline McIlvain mixes mean drinks from the full bar.
National Donut Day is Friday, June 4. Duck Donuts will give away doughnuts (bare, cinnamon sugar, or powdered sugar, one per person) with no purchase necessary. Same deal at Krispy Kreme, which will lay two on you if you show your COVID-19 vaccination card. Dunkin is giving away a free classic with the purchase of a beverage. Tiffany’s Bakery at the Fashion District Philadelphia (between 10th and 11th Street and Market) will give away its DOYO, a steamed (not fried) cake doughnut) to the first 200 people Friday. Shop opens at 10 a.m.
Philly Beer Week is back from Friday, June 4 to Sunday, June 13 with dozens of events: beer tastings, happy hours, tap takeovers, live music, game nights, educational workshops, and charity events.
Closings to report include Classic Diner’s West Chester location; Pura Vida, the Latin BYOB at Sixth and Fairmount; and Bocconcini, chef Crystal Fox’s Italian BYOB next to Giorgio’s on Pine in Washington Square West.
Wolfgang Puck’s name is gone from Borgata in Atlantic City. The casino restaurant will be called simply American Bar & Grille when it reopens June 19 under its longtime chef, Aram Mardigian. A reminder that Bobby Flay Steak will remain open only through the summer at Borgata.
After five years, Mike Stollenwerk and Felice Leibowitz are moving Two Fish, their Haddonfield BYOB, to Medford Lakes. Reservations are being taken in Haddonfield through July 18. The new spot will open in the fall. You’ll recall that they recently sold their companion BYOB, The Little Hen, to chef Alan Lichtenstein.