Reporting Jay Lloyd
I wake up in the morning with cravings – food cravings. You know, real food – hot roast beef with gravy, a turkey dinner, chicken chow mein, spaghetti and meatballs. How crazy are my cravings? I once drove 70 miles for a Nathan’s hot dog.
But then I read the pieces by my favorite Philly food critics. They rave about kale on Passyunk Avenue and arugula everywhere. C’mon guys, how about food to cure the cravings? How about top restaurants where the top critics never lifted a fork? Away we go! – Jay Lloyd
When the craving for roast beef smothered in gravy calls, I steer a course to the Heritage Restaurant. It is so good that my Coast Guard Veteran’s group has made it a permanent lunch stop. The Heritage makes a mission out of serving comfort food, offering everything from liver and onions to mac and cheese, but I can’t break the hot roast beef habit. It’s more of an obsession. By the way, the Heritage also has a full bar.
There’s a reason that roast turkey is America’s favorite holiday gobble-up. It has robust flavor and, when blanketed with giblet gravy and paired with cranberry sauce, it is completely addictive. When the need for a hot turkey sandwich strikes, try heading for lunch at The Pub in Pennsauken, just a few minutes from the Ben Franklin Bridge. The turkey and gravy here could have come out of Bubba’s kitchen, and the cranberry sauce has just the right bite of citrus. And really, can scores of retired Philadelphia broadcasters and technicians be wrong? This is where they stage their monthly luncheons.
In 1940s New York and Philadelphia, you could feed a family of four on a dollar (including tip) at a Chinese restaurant. Thanks to parental frugality, I grew up on chow mein. The thought of it even now produces an incredible craving. When that happens, I head to the Golden Dragon in a small Plymouth Township shopping center. Every dish here is familiar. The flavors trigger memories and there isn’t a dan dan noodle or fusion dish in sight. I go for chow mein and that’s what I order, but it doesn’t hurt here to stray into other familiar Chinese-American palate pleasures – sweet and sour, moo goo gai pan, pepper steak or spare ribs. Your food comes with won-ton soup, fried rice and an egg roll. Time really can stand still.
Is there anyone who doesn’t have a red gravy craving at least once a week? Here’s the place to satisfy it. The bar at Osteria is often lined with heaping plates of spaghetti and meatballs, and who knows how much of that goes out to the dining room. The sauce at Osteria is smothering the lightest meatball mixture I’ve ever pierced with a fork. Yet I’ve never seen a top food critic here. A governor, a few state senators and a house member or two stop by, along with a local crowd that makes Osteria about as close to a “Cheers” bar as you’ll find. But mostly it’s about those meatballs.
I hoped to find my favorite beef and Guinness stew in Dublin or Cork. I found it in Philly at The Plough and Stars, a few blocks from the KYW Newsradio studios. The rich beef flavor is enhanced incredibly when blended with the traditional Irish stout. Throw in the sweetness of carrots and celery, the heat of an onion and the gravy over tender beef becomes comfort food velvet. Companions tell me the fish and chips also make the cut, but when you find ecstasy on a plate, you stick with it.
Have cravings of your own? Spend the time to scout out an eatery that matches your flavor memory, then tweet or post. Someone will appreciate it.