Dying for another bite: 99 miles to philly

Many months ago I was walking down 3rd Avenue on the way to something or other, and passed by 99 miles to philly, a Philadelphia style cheesesteak joint in the East Village. I scoffed, there’s no comparison to the real thing… or is there?

This past weekend we had tickets to a show at Webster Hall, so Greg and I decided to grab a quick bite before the show in the neighborhood. As we walked towards the restaurant I threatened, “If they’re serving steaks on Kaiser rolls, I’m out.”

The first thing we noticed when we walked in was the Phillies game on tv, of course. They were up and while we waited for our steaks, they racked up 3 more runs. I then immediately noticed that they were serving up their cheesesteaks on Amoroso’s Rolls. If you aren’t familiar, it’s the only roll for an honest cheesesteak. I became more hopeful. A quick look at the menu reassured me that I could order my steak with American, Provolone, or Cheez Wiz – just the way it should be, nothing fancy. Anyone who’s been to Pat’s in South Philly knows you order wit’ or wit’out (onions). I’m an extra American wit’out kind of girl. My mouth began to water.

Each second felt like a lifetime as the sound of metal spatulas scraped beef across the flat top grill and the scent of steak and onions permeated the air. When our order was up, I unwrapped the first half and dug in for a bite. It was…transcendent. I had to remind myself to stop and take a picture and wipe a dusty tear from my eye. For the next 20 minutes it all felt just like home with a cheesesteak in my hands, the Phillies on tv, and my best friend across the table.

I probably wasn’t hungry enough to eat the whole thing, but I couldn’t NOT eat the whole thing, you know? It was fantastic right down to the last crumb. And just like that I was on the streets of Manhattan again, a city that’s still not quite home – but closing the gap on those 99 miles.

99 miles to philly – Old Style Cheesesteaks
94 3rd Avenue (between 12th & 13th); (212) 253 2700/2730
Atmosphere: Philly dineresque.
Sound Level: Conversation, low television.
Price Range: $7.75 cheesesteak (meat, cheese & onions) extras $.25 – $3.50
CASH ONLY – ATM on premises

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The Best of the Worst – Vacation Food

Most chefs that I’ve met will eat almost anything. They’ve got good taste, but that doesn’t mean that they’re picky. Even if it’s bad, they’ll try anything…because you just don’t know until you try. Furthermore, while professional chefs may eat and cook well now there’s still a good chance a little bit of fast food or microwave mac and cheese is comfort food.

In honor of these foods, here’s the quick roundup of some of the not-four-star but tasty foods I came across on vacation.

Vacation was kicked off at the Norwalk Oyster Festival, where I convinced myself to finally give oysters a try. To ease myself into it I ordered some fried oysters, which taste like generic fried seafood I suppose. Yummy! Next I tried a raw one , and well – I just can’t do them. After spitting out my first, last, and only raw oyster I headed back to the fried oyster booth and got another. Also, tartar sauce is pretty good. Why haven’t I tried that before?

The Marchiano’s Calzone. I’m not entirely sure this is actually a calzone, but it’s calzone-like. Sunday mornings living in the East Falls & Manayunk neighborhoods of northwest Philadelphia were some of my favorites because of this thing. After a typically obnoxious Saturday night on Main Street we’d wake up and walk down the hill to Marchiano’s Bakery for one of these delights, and wander on home in time to catch the football game. I don’t even want to begin to analyze the nutritional values of this (or lack thereof) but it’s the definition of comfort food. Unfortunately, I’ve never tasted anything like it.

The entire time we were in Montreal, we kept meaning to try Poutine. According to our trusty guidebook, “The legend is that sometime in 1957 a customer walked into Le Cafe Ideal…and asked owner Farnand Lachance to add a handful of cheese curds to his order of [fries and gravy]. He shoved the result in front of his customer and muttered “Quel poutine” – which could be roughly translated as “What a mess.” ” Finally, on the last evening of our stay we went down to the Rapido diner on the corner for a fresh plate of poutine, and were pleasantly surprised. So surprised and delighted that we nearly cleaned the plate.

After tasting them and deciding I liked them, I mentioned to Greg that it was just like cheese fries, but with gravy on them. He reminded me that it wasn’t the gravy that originally made the dish strange, but the addition of the cheese – which I’m still having a little trouble understanding.

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