PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Question: Blow the bankroll on a dinner date or serve it up at home by candlelight and blow the bankroll on an after dinner club or theater tix? It helps if the guy can cook. I learned how to survive in the Boy Scouts and never looked back. So if you like the candles and crustacean option or a special concoction – high bucks or low, let’s shop Philly and Burbs.
Sure. It’s on everybody’s list. But often as a stop-by or a lunch. If you live in Center City, it may even be your market. But for a suburbanite, it’s a perfect one-stop for the splurge. Convenient to all commuter rail lines, and for that special dinner, you’ll find everything you need. The prices are also a reflection of the quality. Lamb Shank and Orzo? It’s here. Surf and Turf with primo Prime filet? It’s the spot. Produce too. Exotic spices, ethnic appetizers, desserts – even bagels and lox if the night turns into morning. For meats, try Martin’s and Guinta’s. Seafood at John Yi. The lox at Hershel’s. Bring 2 things – a cooler bag and money.
Just a few blocks from the Terminal and the commuter rail hub, Chinatown in Philly (same in New York) is the go-to place for seafood and produce for any dinner, at most reasonable prices. The selections at markets here favor both domestic and Asian dinner tastes. You’ll find the basics for candle-worthy Dungeness Crab, a special blackened or curried fish and Clam Casino Apps at the Great Wall on 10th next to the Imperial Inn. Want some take-out dumplings as an App? Pop into the Imperial.
In the suburbs, I’m hooked on Wegmans. They have proliferated from Cherry Hill to Downingtown, from Concordville to Montgomeryville, they have become destinations for weekend shoppers. Here you can splurge on hand cuts of meat including Wagyu beef and Cowboy cut veal chops or varieties of fresh whole fish or filets. Veal shanks for Osso Bucco are often available. Produce runs to Asian and Latin as well as all the domestics. It’s one of the only places outside of Asian groceries where I can find bean sprouts for stir fry. Breads and desserts are outstanding. And many Wegmans sport wine and beer shops alongside top-notch Pubs, serving craft beers and mussel pots.
And speaking of Asian, take a suburban drive to North Wales and the Assi Plaza Market. The fish is still swimming when you buy it. And, if your adventurous dinner night includes home rolled Sushi, all the fixin’s are here. For an Asian themed evening, Assi has the sauces, the produce, unique cuts of meat and seafood. If you need a wok, stir fry utensils, steamers and chopsticks – they’ve got it. And Assi carries an impressive supply of Latin basics. Prices here let you save rather than splurge.
SUPER GIGANTE INTERNATIONAL FOOD MARKET
1930 Main Street, Norristown, PA 19403 (no web site)
Latin in your life? Try this mid-size supermarket on the west side of Norristown. Super Gigante specializes in Latin cuts of meat, spices and groceries. Budget friendly fresh avocados, plantains and limes are on display. Store staff is bi-lingual and can help you determine your heat tolerance level for each variety of chili pepper in the bins. Tortillas and Taco shells are basic and there’s a full stock of Goya products . If you’re closer to Kennett Square, try El Nayarit Mexican Foods at 520 S. Union Street.
OTHER SUBURBAN SPLURGE OR SAVE MARKETS
Hills is long known for high quality, fresh seafood at 4 suburban locations in Delaware and Chester counties. Look here to build those cold dinner party shellfish towers – lobsters, clams, oysters, shrimp and crab fingers. (You didn’t know they had fingers, did you?) Prices here also reflect quality and availability.
Mexican operated, Produce Junction stores are scattered throughout the area in New Jersey, the Pennsylvania Suburbs and Delaware. The packed parking lots are a testimonial to popularity. The produce variety is extensive and you buy it in bulk at bargain prices. Flowers too. If veggies are your diet, this is the place. We shop at the Mont Clare store, just outside Phoenixville.
Now choose the recipes. But remember, they’re only guidelines. Be bold and chart your own course for taste.