Craig LaBan: Mike Klein and I popped by this adorable little cart, Spot, to try their house-ground burgers, and cheesesteaks. They butcher the meat themselves from a big top round, pretty impressive for a place that's 6 feet long. They've got the system down pat, with someone taking orders beneath the shade of a red awning on the yellow cart, with a grill-master inside sizzling away at warp speed. You know they've got ambitions with ingredients like "mire-poix" (for the meatloaf) and an "Umami" signature burger (excellent, with pickled daikon, mushrooms, and gochujang). They even managed to cook the burger medium-rare — more than Lucky Old Souls has managed for me yet. Cheesesteak's not bad, either!
Reader: Last Friday we stopped at SoWe, the new spot replacing Divan Turkish Kitchen. Only had a few bites at the bar, but looks to be decent for some brews and grub. Not as good as Pub & Kitchen and other similar places, but not as pricey either.
C.L.: Thanks for this early report! I rarely make it to new spots for a couple months, so this is helpful. I wish SoWe luck, but miss the diversity of flavors (and sizzling doner kebabs) that Divan brought to the neighborhood. G-Ho (or Southwest Center City) cannot live on gastropubs alone.
Reader: Agreed. Can't believe Konak closed, too. There is a new Turkish spot in Old City I've not gotten to yet. Turkish, Thai, and Malaysian cuisine is woefully underrepresented here.
C.L.: Yes, I saw that a Turkish place replaced the Persian spot, Aromatic Kebabs, which I also liked. In addition, I understand another place called Divan (involving Divan's old chef) just opened at 622 S. Sixth St., so our Turkish restaurant offerings seem to be shifting, more than disappearing altogether. Don't forget Cafe Fulya, and S&H, on Passyunk just south of South. Not bad. Not fantastic, either. But good enough for an Iskender fix.
Reader: Have you tried Pizzeria DiMeo's yet? I had their thin-crust speck pizza three days in a row. Very impressive for Roxborough.
C.L.: No, not yet. (They just opened!) But it sounds really intriguing, like a very serious Neapolitan pizzeria. According to my colleague Michael Klein, they're even using imported Italian water. Philly's pizza scene, with a host of new pie contenders, is coming into its own.
Reader: My girlfriend and I are headed to Jeweler's Row next Friday and I'd like to find a great lunch spot nearby. Any ideas for a leisurely, romantic weekday lunch?
C.L.: You might want to make it memorable. Depending on what she likes, there's always Morimoto (for the big sushi splurge) or Aqua for a fun-yet-accessible Malaysian adventure (honeymoon idea?). Or, you could head down to 10th and Spruce for the Cypriot flavors of Kanella, another great place (and vacation inspiration).
Reader: This Saturday night will be the "super" full moon, the largest full moon of 2012. It will be bright red as it rises above the horizon then turn brilliant white. Something pretty spectacular to see, especially if you have young kids. Do you have any recommendations for a place to enjoy this wonderful view with some beers and bites?
C.L.:A beer garden, no doubt, and one a little outside the brightest glare of the city lights. Frankford Hall? I'm sure Starr and Co. might even get on that and install some observatory telescopes to go with the ping-pong. That way no one's bored. If unobstructed views matter, you might also consider hanging out in the lounge high in the sky at R2L.
Reader: What do you think of the brunch at Sampan? Looking for a good meal after Broad Street run.
C.L.: They did a nice job updating some traditional dim-sum items (corned beef bao?).