Hoagie, Not Sub: Taylor Gourmet Deli in DC

A new deli opened recently on the resurgent H Street corridor in Northeast Washington, DC, promising a taste of Philadelphia. No, not cheesesteaks…

9th Street Italian hoagie on proper damn bread.

Taylor Gourmet Deli, run by two Philly ex-pats, offers hoagies and chicken cutlet sandwiches, all on bread from Sarcone’s Bakery in Philadelphia.

No roast pork sandwiches, alas, but they do a fine job indeed with the hoagies, as the meticulously crafted 9th Street Italian pictured above demonstrates. That’s a properly built hoagie—you get everything in every bite.

The ingredients are top notch and in good proportion, with no one ingredient overwhelming another. A sausage sandwich (the Church Street) had hand-made sausage and well-seasoned red peppers, just a little crisp, allowing the textures of the sausage and bread and pepper to stand out, each in their own moment.

In the 9th Street Italian, the oil and vinegar, that often overlooked component of a real hoagie, fulfilled its role nicely, greasing the butcher paper and giving good mouth-feel but not soaking the sub, even after sitting for a bit, because of the sandwich’s construction. These things do matter, and you’re getting them at a price comparable to a lowly “sub” from one of the far-from-distinguished national chains.

The Washington Post write-up of Taylor Gourmet Deli notes that the lines there can be long, but I had the hoagies delivered for a modest surcharge. The person who took the order over the phone was gruff in a pleasant, Philadelphia manner and the delivery driver was good about keeping me apprised of where my hoagies were.

Hopefully they’ll get their website upgraded from the current placeholder soon.

A fine culinary drive up 95 without, you know, driving anywhere.

Bill Lyon on the Phillies

If ever a city had its Boswell, Bill Lyon serves that role for Philadelphia, encapsulating something of that city’s soul in print. The retired Inquirer columnist tends to re-appear at junctions of great moment in the city’s emotional life, and after the Phillies captured the World Series title last night, ending Philadelphia’s 25 years without a major sports title, he returns to help us make sense of it all:

And thus ended one of the most bizarre and controversial games ever played in the World Series, complete with a 46-hour wait between innings, and how fitting that was, for this is Philadelphia, after all, cradle of liberty, acid reflux, angst, anxiety and the sure and certain belief that we are doomed forever to walk along the Boulevard of Busted Dreams.

But not now. Not this time. No, you can go ice skating in Hades now. The Phillies have broken the Hundred Season Drought. The franchise of 10,000 losses is a winner.

The air already smells cleaner. The women are beautiful. Food tastes better. The shroud of dread has been pulled away.

To be on Broad Street tomorrow for the parade will be magical, an event that might not happen again for a long time, the fates being what they are. If you’re there, savor it.
Phillies Win!, on flickr.com, by melingo wagamama, via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License

The boos will start again soon enough, this being Philadelphia and we being Philadelphia fans, and we’ll bemoan the Flyers’ goaltending and the Eagles’ offensive line and the Sixers’ poor rebounding and, eventually, the lack of a winger with pace on the new soccer team, but for now, we’re happy, in our own way, just like Bill Lyon said.

(Image courtesy of melingo wagamama, via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License.)

Serious Sandwiches

Food blog Serious Eats presents a delightful illustrated guide to America’s hoagie heritage, featuring a small but respectful mention of the Official Sandwich of Movement Point, the Philadelphia Roast Pork Sandwich, with accompanying photograph by yours truly.

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The article attempts to decipher the real differences between subs, hoagies, grinders, and heroes. I don’t think I’ve seen the differences explained as other than regional dialect variations before. Just don’t read the article before lunch or you’ll get hungry.

Serious Eats did a recap of Philadelphia’s best Roast Pork earlier in the year, and their advice for John’s Roast Pork is spot on—do not order the small.

New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni made that mistake and missed out on a moment of epicurian wonder. When I visited John’s earlier this year, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what he had eaten and how it compared to the feast in front of me until I realized he got a small. Don’t get the small. Don’t order anything in a small in Philly.

Bill Lyon on the Spectrum

The Spectrum, on flickr.com, by Cavalier92, via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivatives License
Bill Lyon returns to print with another column for the Philadelphia Inquirer today, reminiscing about the Spectrum, which is scheduled to be demolished in 2009.

There’s something sad about losing the Spectrum, as iconic as any featureless, parking-lot-bound arena could be, and with his usual grace, Bill Lyon captures the emotions involved with this significant piece of Philadelphia’s psychic architecture. The “boo birds” might have roosted in the Vet (and now perch in the Linc), but Flyers fans had their own ways of celebrating, and berating, their heroes at the Spectrum:

When a Philadelphia team was playing, you could stand out in the parking lot and the crowd noise would tell you how the home team was faring—if they were winning, the passion was as raw and bone-deep as a January night, an unrelenting, urging surge of support.

And if they were losing . . . ah, well, then it was a mournful wail, so haunting that wolf packs a thousand miles away lifted their muzzles to the heavens and bayed at the moon in sympathetic reply.

In the end, I guess it is just an old building lacking in amenities sitting on valuable land, but they can’t raze the memories.

(Image courtesy of Cavalier92 via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivatives License.)

Roast Pork at the Park in the Times

Movement Point‘s mission to bring the culinary delight that is the Philadelphia Roast Pork Sandwich to the unenlightened adds another of the country’s great newspapers to its list of supporters.

Three months ago, Tim Warren’s encomium on this sandwich made of pork, provolone, and sauteed greens that has labored under the heavy, greasy shadow of the cheesesteak appeared in the Washington Post. Now, we have the New York Times‘ Peter Meehan weighing in, declaring the roast pork sandwich to be among the nation’s most impressive ballpark fare. Meehan’s survey of ballpark food, “Buy Me Some Sushi and Baby Back Ribs,” in the June 8, 2008, Times, took him to Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park, where he found the grail:

Ashburn Alley is home to hoagies, Chickie & Pete’s crab fries (French fries dusted with Old Bay seasoning) and two of the city’s respected cheese steak purveyors, Rick’s Steaks and Tony Luke’s. Tony Luke’s had the better cheese steak of the two (though their other locations are notably superior). Even better is Tony Luke’s juicy roasted pork and provolone sandwich, dressed with tender broccoli rabe, as good a meat sandwich as there is in the majors.

Let’s just emphasize that last bit: “as good a meat sandwich as there is in the majors.”

CBP_Concessions, on flickr.com, by wallyg, via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivatives

OK, so it’s not a third Michelin star, but in the increasingly rarified (and expensive) world of stadium food, that’s quite a review. I have yet to sample a Tony Luke’s roast pork, but I can think of little better place to get one than at the ballpark while watching the Phils push to another pennant. Time for a road trip . . .

(Image courtesy of wallyg via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivatives License.)

An Ode to TastyPies

TastyPies, shortly before they were devoured.

Eight days. That’s all time you have to consume a TastyPie once it leaves the warm confines of the Philadelphia-based Tasty Baking Company’s ovens.

Oh, sure, it’s still edible thereafter, but we’re talking about a fresh product here whose flavor profile changes as time takes its ravaging toll. It may be packaged to travel and sit on a shelf, but Philadelphia expats will tell you that the TastyPie they find on some drug store shelf three hundred miles from the bakery just isn’t the same as a TastyPie bought from a South Philly deli minutes after the distributor’s truck has rolled away.

Living a good two to three hours from Philadelphia, I try to stock up on TastyPies whenever I’m up there, drawing knowing stares from other travelers in 30th Street Station when I purchase ten at a time prior to catching a Northeast Regional home. Or, if I’ve bought the last Blueberry, cutting stares that threaten bodily harm.

What inspires this devotion, this hoarding instinct in otherwise rational adults? Just look at the packaging itself. No hiding of the pastry behind a wrapper with an idealized illustration—there it is, preening behind cellophane, cracks and flakes and all. Love me as I am, it cries.

TastyKake claims to make a quarter-million TastyPies a day, but they don’t look stamped out, like some widget on a press. TastyPies have character.

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