This is my last day at MenuPages and writing the last post is always a tough task. After more than two years at this company, I will be leaving to work on a MA program at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheva, Israel. It’s going to be quite a change to say the least.
But before I head out, I just want to say this. Philadelphia, stop being so self-pitying and self-hating when it comes to your dining scene.
There’s plenty in Philadelphia to be upset about. A horrific crime rate. Ineffectual, incompetent city government. A stagnating economy with a massive lack of job opportunities. The Sisyphean inability of the Iggles to make the Super Bowl. Phoenix kicking Philly’s butt.
However, the dining scene isn’t one of them. Philly is a great, unique restaurant city. Here are some of the things I’ll miss:
• Philadelphia boasts the East Coast’s best Oaxacan and Veracruzanan food. Tacquerias like Plaza Garibaldi, Acapulco and Taqueria La Raza beat Sunset Park, Brooklyn’s Mexicans hands down and easily surpass anything available in Boston or Washington.
• A dedication to creative food that’s unpretentious. Restaurants like the Standard Tap, Royal Tavern and Good Dog marry culinary school artistry to the classic American canon. Just don’t call them gastropubs.
• Talula’s Table, even if we never got to eat there.
• Watching Stephen Starr’s rise to industry superstardom firsthand. We won’t get into a comparison chart between the hospitality industry in Philadelphia and New York City, but suffice to say it’s an entirely different ballgame. Watching Starr have two of New York’s most successful restaurant openings with the NYC incarnations of Buddakan and Morimoto was a joy. His competition now includes national figures such as Danny Meyer and Jeffery Chodorow… and let’s face it, that’s awesome.
• Lo-fi ordinary food like cheesesteaks, roast pork sandwiches and pizza. Although most Philly pizzas are sad affairs, pizzerias like Tacconelli’s Pizza and Marra’s are regional treasures. Ditto for South Philly’s red sauce Italians and sandwich shrines like John’s Roast Pork and Shank and Evelyn’s.
• Chickie’s Italian Deli. Their veggie hoagie is one of the best meals in the world — tastewise, the equal of anything Thomas Keller or Marco Pierre White could ever churn out. We’re not kidding you.
• The bars. Yuengling Lager. The whole thing. Non-pretentious joints where you can walk in by yourself, have a $3 citywide special, put Motorhead on the jukebox and have the time of your life in a neighborhood where you don’t know a soul.
• Sarcone’s Bakery. Dear God you guys rock.
With that said, we’ll be having some special guest editors over the next few weeks overseeing the blog. Then… a brand new editor. It’ll be awesome, we promise.
— Neal Ungerleider