My NFC Wild Card Cook-Off: Philadelphia vs. Seattle

I have had the privilege of visiting both of these American cities during my travels. From a triple DDD perspective, Philadelphia eateries (Honey’s Sit and Eat and Silk City Diner) are in my top 5 whereas my favorite Seattle spot (Voula’s Offshore Cafe) clocks in at a respectable 15th. Philadelphia also historically has a number of celebrity chefs outputs including Morimoto, Jose Garces and Eric Ripert. Seattle, of course, has the original Starbucks and the Pike Market which make it a very competitive culinary destination among many foodies whether Pearl Jam fans or otherwise.

From a pop culture perspective, I think an accurate way to illustrate the differences between these two cities are reflected by the shows “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “Frasier”… or in other words…rough and tumble versus plaid wearing pretension. This concept even extends to football; half of NFL watchers can’t even name the Eagles head coach whereas Pete “Peacock” Carroll struts around looking like an emaciated version of the most interesting man in the world.

Regarding the game, I think the writing was on the wall almost from the start. As soon as Carson Wentz went down early it was over. I mean, Philidelphia being forced to rely on long time and boring back-up QB Josh McCown to fill in as their potential savior was like adding Nick Tortelli to Frasier to increase ratings. A couple of additional observations:

  1. Pete Carroll is annoying. Watching him coach is like watching a teacher who should have retired 5 years ago trying to herd a group of whiny kindergarten children in from recess. I think if it was wasn’t for the professional nature and skill of Russell Wilson, Carroll would have been looking for a new gig years ago. To this day, he has continued to demonstrate the inability to harness clowns like Sherman and Lynch because all he needed to do was lean on guys like Wilson and Thomas to save his sorry ass.
  2. Philadelphia is one of the most boring teams in football. The only reason they were in the playoffs was because the rest of the NFC east is awful. I think you could even hear the announcer’s voices waiver when they tried to amplify the fortitude of the Eagles while clearly thinking they had no business being there in the first place.
  3. Two games at 17-9 within few weeks of each other? These teams should not be allowed to play each other again for a while if ever again.

For the cook-off, instead of a full menu, I focused on a street food battle for this match-up. Honestly, i was hoping to be able to steam up some clams to pay homage to the Seahawks but living in London, Ontario doesn’t give me the best access to fresh seafood. Instead, I focused on North America’s most ubiquitous street meat to represent Seattle..the hot dog. Allegedly, the concept stemmed from a rogue bagel vendor who thought slathering cream cheese (hopefully not Philadelphia brand of course because that would be weird) and fried onions on a hot dog would be a good idea. In this case, in addition to the cream cheese and onions, other acceptable toppings include jalapenos, sauerkraut and mustard. I opted for everything minus mustard for this battle.

I think when one thinks of Philadelphia street food, the cheese steak is a no brainer. What does require a bit of thought are the toppings. If one were to venture to Pat’s or Geno’s, “whiz” would be the cheese of choice but many hardcore cheese steak fans swear by more prestigious (or even real I suppose) cheeses such as provolone. To keep it cheesy, authentic and pedestrian, I used onions, peppers and whiz as my toppings. You still can’t go wrong…

Seattle Hot Dog vs Phili Cheese Steak

My Take

I’ve had many cheese steaks in my time including both Pat’s and Geno’s but I have never had a Seattle style hot dog as my time there was limited to DDD’s and the Pike market. Both are football worthy snacks accented by cheeses as questionable as Pete Carroll’s goal line decisions and Josh McCown’s playoff experience. As for the food, you can’t go wrong with meat (real or otherwise), cheese (real or otherwise) and onions (raw or cooked) on a bun…ever. I’d say the dog was better than I thought although I don’t think cream cheese will replace my tried and true toppings moving forward. As for the Philadelphia sandwich, whether whiz or provolone plus/minus peppers is your vice, it’s all covered beneath the cheese steak umbrella. The only thing cheesier than both sandwiches is Pete Carroll going Gangnam Style after every questionable call in his efforts to justify his over inflated reputation as a coach.

DDD:Philadelphia:Silk City Diner

It was stormy night, long ago in Philadelphia.  On the last night of a week long conference, after smiling in front of customers and running up the Rocky stairs, I was ready for Silk City Diner. Other than the fact it’s a  DDD and it’s foundation is a old school diner, I knew little about this Philadelphia icon.

Since I was already an expert in the Philly landscape (based on my previous walk to Honey’s Sit n’ Eat), I lead my band of fearless eaters down Spring Garden St to our destination.  The diner was a little more than I expected, housing a lounge on one side and a beer garden on the other.  Despite the promise of a late June storm, we weathered it out and sat in the latter.  Adorned with metal trellises, Christmas lights and coloured stools and picnic tables, it looked like it could have been decorated by Don Ho or a creative grade 7 class inspired by Claude Monet.

Silk City Diner Beer Garden
Silk City Diner Beer Garden

The Thai Style BBQ ribs were delicious…meaty and flavourful and likely the best thing I ate that night.   The pickles, peanuts and hoisin sauce was an odd combination but it worked so well.

Thai Style RIbs
Thai Style Ribs

Other than a little joint in Toronto (see grand electric in this blog), this is the best fried calamari I have had. It was an abundant pile of hot, tender and spicy all rolled into one.

Spicy Fried Calamari
Spicy Fried Calamari

Philadelphia may not be the haven for comfort soul food, but Silk’s buttermilk chicken reminds me of the deep south (well not really…I’ve never been to the deep south but it did have collard greens and a corn muffin!); a delicious, big ass home cooked meal.  Crunchy skin, juicy chicken and all the fixin’s.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Buttermilk Fried Chicken

In a world filled with burgers approaching  $20, a $10 burger (well..$12 with the guacamole and long hots) is an endangered species.  Silk’s offering was simple and solid.

Silk Burger
Silk Burger

The pork belly empanadas were decent but not the highlight of the meal.  The slaw and the mango attempted to add some different flavour and texture to the dumplings, but they were a bit doughy.  The cilantro cream did little to enhance the dish.

Pork Belly Empanadas
Pork Belly Empanadas

I can’t turn down bread pudding, so I was happy to see Chocolate Banana Brioche Bread Pudding on the menu. It was a little more bread than it was pudding so I let out a little sigh or two.

Chocolate Banana Brioche Bread Pudding
Chocolate Banana Brioche Bread Pudding

This is another let the pictures do the talking place.  The food is diverse and tasty and there’s a bit of something for everybody. There’s plenty of cocktails and a great beer selection, ranging from $2.50 Tecates to a $4 Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils.  The portions are huge and the prices are cheapish.  The environment is fun and lively, even in the midst of a pending summertime storm.

Verdict: 5 Guyz!

Silk City Diner on Urbanspoon

DDD:Philadelphia:Honey’s Sit ‘N Eat

Hindsight is 20/20 and looking back, a random walk solo from downtown Philadelphia to North Liberties without research was not a good idea.  Sometimes in my search for culinary excellence I pull a Scooby-Doo.   I ignore zombies, monsters and ogres to pursue a wafting scent in a effort to fulfill my internal hunger.

This is not to say that the neighbourhood of North Liberties is bad. It’s just the fact I didn’t do my homework. After all, it was Will Smith who warned me of the perils of West Philadelphia, so I felt that North Liberties was safe. I was quite relieved to reach my destination.  More so, I was happy to see that a couple was skipping the same conference I was to order to indulge in Philly’s local cuisine.

The 20-minute wait seemed palatable, especially when sitting among locals and tourists alike.  When I finally had my name called, I  maneuvered between kids, the elderly and the locals alike to get to my seat at the bar.  I was promptly served a great coffee, given a menu and had the specials explained to me in great detail by a friendly dude behind the counter.

In the end, I stared at the blackboard and opted for their version of  Toad in the Hole.  There was no yorkie and no sausage. It was grilled bread with a fried egg as a centrepiece and mildly seasoned with truffle oil.  Despite the deceit, it was prepared perfectly. It came with a potato latke and applesauce to create a bit of a carbohydrate overload. The latke was a bit chewy but the applesauce was terrific.  At the suggestion of a regular patron, I also ordered a side of blueberry jam which was delicious even from the perspective of a Northern Ontarian who grew up sucking on frozen blueberries instead of a  teething ring.

Honey's Toad in the Hole
Honey’s Toad in the Hole

Highlighted by great food, this place just works. Just shy of pretentious but with enough muscle flexing, you can order  everything from Jewish-inspired dishes to reasonably priced kid’s meals.  You feel cool (ie. Will Smith as opposed Carlton) and like you belong, even when you are in line.  There are few places that give you that feeling so easily and for that reason…

The Verdict: 5 Guyz

Honey's Sit 'n Eat on Urbanspoon

Diners, Drives-Ins and Dives: The List

As mentioned earlier, I’m a big fan of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  The closest I have come to meeting Guy Fieri  was through a window during a recent filming in Toronto.  I also managed to meet his signature red Camaro in a parking lot across the street.

Guy Fieri at Lakeview in Toronto
Guy Fieri at Lakeview in Toronto

Standing beside Guy's Camaro during DDD filming in Toronto.
Standing beside Guy’s Camaro during DDD filming in Toronto.

In my quest for great food, I have managed  to hit a number of DDDs in a number of different cities over the past couple of years.  My favorites are listed in order below.  Each will be reviewed under its respective city in the not too distant future.  In general, I have thoroughly enjoyed each experience and encourage everybody to support the locally owned establishments which exist along the path in your journey for love and passion on a plate.

The List

  1. Arnold’s Country Kitchen- Nashville
  2. Lucky’s Cafe- Cleveland
  3. Honey’s Sit and Eat- Philadelphia
  4. Dottie’s- San Francisco
  5. Silk City Diner- Philadelphia
  6. Clarkston Union Bar and Kitchen – Detroit
  7. Union Workshop- Detroit
  8. Chap’s Pit Beef- Baltimore
  9. Pastabilties- Syracuse
  10. The Tamale Place- Indianapolis
  11. Tomahawk Restaurant- Vancouver
  12. Bluewater Seafood- San Diego
  13. Sip and Bite- Baltimore
  14. Blue Ash Chili- Cincinatti
  15. Voula’s Offshore Cafe- Seattle
  16. Polish Village Cafe- Detroit
  17. Mulberry Cafe- Buffalo
  18. Red Wagon Cafe- Vancouver
  19. Meat and Bread- Vancouver
  20. El Indio- San Diego
  21. BopnGrill- Chicago
  22. Blue Moon Cafe- Baltimore
  23. Wallace Station- Lexington
  24. Milktooth-Indianapolis
  25. Peaceful Restaurant- Vancouver
  26. Flytrap- Detroit
  27. Lakeview- Toronto
  28. Georgia’s Greek- Seattle
  29. White Palace Grill- Chicago
  30. Hopleaf- Chicago
  31. Marlow’s Rib and Restaurant-Memphis
  32. Terry’s Turf Club- Cincinatti
  33. Jethro’s Fine Grub- Vancouver
  34. Momocho Mod Mex- Cleveland
  35. Kitty Hoyes- Syracuse
  36. Kuma’s Corner- Chicago
  37. Fresh, Local, Wild- Vancouver
  38. Senate- Cincinnati
  39. Falconetti’s- Vancouver
  40. Zest!-Indianapolis
  41. Studio Diner- San Diego
  42. Melt- Cleveland
  43. Blackthorn Restaurant and Pub- Buffalo
  44. The Barking Dog- Indianapolis
  45.  Nana’s- Chicago
  46. Showdogs- San Francisco
  47. Empire Brewing Company- Syracuse
  48. Bakersfield- Cincinnati
  49. Big and Little’s- Chicago
  50. Sophia’s- Buffalo
  51. Panozzo’s Italian Market- Chicago
  52. Steer-In-Indianapolis
  53. South of Beale- Memphis
  54. Yankee Lobster Company- Boston
  55. Tommy’s Joint- San Francisco
  56. Bizarro Italian Cafe- Seattle
  57. Miller’s East Coast Diner- San Francisco
  58. Tioli’s Crazee Burger- San Diego
  59. Good Dog- Philadelphia
  60. Parkette Drive-In- Lexington
  61. Funk n Waffles- Syracuse
  62. Hob Nob Hill- Philadelphia
  63. Lake Effect Diner- Buffalo
  64. Save on Meats- Vancouver
  65. Stockyards Smokehouse and Larder-Toronto
  66. Athens Family Restaurant- Nashville
  67. Alcenia’s- Memphis
  68. Bro’s Cajun Cuisine- Nashville
  69. Saus- Boston
  70. 3 Sisters Café- Indianapolis
  71. Parkview Nite Club- Cleveland
  72. Taste of Belgium- Cincinnati
  73. Joe Squared Pizza- Baltimore
  74. Byblos- Syracuse
  75. Pizzeria Luigi- San Diego
  76. Mike’s Chili Parlor- Seattle
  77. Traffic Jam and Snug- Detroit
  78. Sterle’s Country House- Cleveland
  79. The Ace- Toronto
  80. Memphis Taproom- Philadelphia