Before I get to Philly, a few of you have asked about the restaurant where my cousin is the pastry chef. It’s called City Limits Diner, and there are two locations, one on the edge of White Plains near Yonkers, the other in Stamford, Connecticut. My cousin is the pastry chef and her husband is the executive chef. I wouldn’t bring it up if I didn’t genuinely like the food. If you do go, make sure you have dessert, and tell your server that Tracy’s cousin Keith sent you (not that it will get you anything, but it’ll score me some points).
I ate all of my non-ballpark meals in Philly at Reading Terminal Market, an eating paradise on Filbert between 11th and 12th streets, right across from the Market East train station. I could have stayed a week and still had places there I wanted to try.
For breakfast, I hit the Dutch Eating Place – Dutch as in Pennsylvania Dutch, a community responsible for at least ten of the stands around the market. They’re best known for their blueberry pancakes, which were solid average or a bit above, and for their cured meats, which were a mixed bag – the pork sausage was meaty and peppery and the portion was beyond generous, but the turkey bacon was gamey and greasy. I also tried their “apple” french toast, which as far as I can tell, was just some whole or multi-grain sandwich bread, dipped in egg batter, fried, and topped with too much cheap cinnamon, with no evidence whatsoever of apples. The pancakes were worth a trip, though. Cash only, cost $10 including tea and tip both days.
DiNic’s serves hot Italian sandwiches in just a few varieties, but everyone recommended the roast pork, thinly sliced, served on fresh crusty Italian bread, with just a few possible toppings – sharp provolone, roasted peppers (sweet or hot), broccoli rabe, or spinach. I went with the rabe and sweet peppers. The sandwich was about a foot long, so I barely got halfway through it, and the inside of the bread was soaked with the juice of the pork (that’s a good thing). For about $8 it’s a bargain and was the best thing I ate on the trip.
Delilah’s Soul Food had some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten. Even though the chicken was more warm than hot when I got it, the crust was still crispy, not greasy, and was well seasoned with salt and pepper without having too much of either. For $8.50 or so you get chicken, cornbread (the sweet kind, unfortunately), and one side; I chose collard greens and got a big bowl that I got maybe halfway through and then poured the juice at the bottom over the cornbread. It’s one of the few places in RTM with table service.
The Famous Fourth Street Cookie Company had a long line around lunch time on my first trip there; the cookies are constantly coming out of the oven, so you can get something hot at that hour, although I found that at room temperature a few hours later, they were just average cookies. They’re a good four inches or so in diameter and cost about $2 apiece. The “double chocolate chip” is just a chocolate chip cookie with a lot of chips, and the chocolate chip with pecans didn’t skimp on the nuts.
I grabbed a pumpkin muffin from Le Bus Bakery for the flight home; it was a bit greasy, staining the paper bag, but it didn’t have the usual pumpkin muffin flavor of stale pumpkin pie spice mix, and it wasn’t overly sweet. There was a faint spicy note, almost like cardamom, but otherwise the pumpkin was allowed to take its place at the center of the muffin.
Leaving RTM, La Colombe is a small cafe best known for its coffee-roasting operation, as they apparently supply many of the best restaurants in town. I found their espresso to be far too watery with no body, but it did have a defined flavor, with strong notes of cocoa beans and a pleasant acidity. My guess is that the beans were from Africa, although I’m no expert on varietals since I always use blends to make espresso at home.
I learned about Capogiro Gelato a few years ago on the short-lived Food Network show, The Hungry Detective, a good concept dressed up with a few too many gimmicks but with plenty of emphasis on the actual food. They have at least one more location now, at 13th and Walnut, very close to my hotel and the RTM. The gelato is very expensive – a medium, roughly 3/4 cup of gelato, cost $6.15 with tax – but outstanding quality. I got three flavors, figuring that was almost an obligation to my readers: dark chocolate, coconut, and toasted almond. The almond was a waste, as the gelato itself had almost no flavor; it comes with toasted slivered almonds, but the flavor needs to be in the gelato, not on it. The coconut was ultra-smooth with a strong, clean coconut flavor. The dark chocolate stole the show, probably the darkest, richest chocolate ice cream I’ve ever had, with a thick consistency more like cocoa pudding ice cream than a typical chocolate gelato; a medium cup of that might be overkill, but I’m willing to risk it.
I didn’t eat at any concessions at CBP, but it’s worth mentioning that the press box food was, by press box food standards, impressive. The worst part of eating while traveling is how hard it is to eat fruits and vegetables while sticking to quick, inexpensive places, and the CBP press box had cups of fresh fruit, a basic salad mix that wasn’t brown or wilted or dried out, and a few vegetable side dishes each night. I know this isn’t of much use to the majority of you, but I wanted to give credit to the Phillies for doing a nice job.