On our second day of our Philly excursion, we got a late start and got picked up around 11:45 a.m. by some friends and colleagues of mine from Geiger-Allsbrook, whom I worked with at Garelick Farms. They are Philly natives and were kind enough to take us to Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks for a truly authentic Philly experience. We had "breakfast" at Pat’s, and then five minutes later crossed the street to Geno’s for "lunch." So who did we think was better? Geno’s bread was better and had some good steak, but we gotta hand the crown over to Pat’s. It was simply better and the onions that came with the "Wiz wit" (cheeze whiz with onions) were practically candy, they were so perfectly cooked.
Diane, Michael and Melissa from Geiger-Allsbrook were kind enough to continue our Philly experience by taking us to Termini Bros. Bakery. Now, I grew up with a family that ran a bakery, so this was particularly exciting, but I wasn’t prepared to open the door and find a BAND playing in the shop! We were there on St. Joseph’s day, so they had two elderly men playing classic Italian songs on guitar and accordion. What a great atmosphere with these men playing music and the little old ladies getting your pastries and wrapping them in boxes – with string, not tape, thank you very much.
We took our dessert and went next door to the little store (which happens to have been voted "best cheesesteak in Philly", which almost lead us to having a third sandwich…) for coffee (not being a caffeine addict, I went for some Chocolate milk) and sat at the sidewalk tables having pastries and coffee (and milk). Personally, I had a cognac chocolate bomb which was just insufferably good.
Our new best friends then took us over to the new sports complex area (you know, the home of the Philadelphia Eagles, who lost to the New England Patriots in this year’s Superbowl??) and then dropped us off at South street.
Which starts part two of this day… about four hours spent walking down South street, going into all the stores that interested us, from Rock and Roll Plus (great heavy metal and rock t-shirts and CD’s) to John going into the French Connection and adding to his increasingly eclectic wardrobe (while I couldn’t give two shits about fashion, I do have to admire someone who can go from buying a t-shirt that says "Heavy Fucking Metal" on one side and "Three Sixes Baby" on the other and then walk two blocks down the street and buy the trendiest crap out there). Eric and I spent most of our time in the record stores, where I picked up some great stuff that I will be reviewing here later.
About half-way down we went to Jon’s Bar & Grille for a mid-day drink. Jon’s has one of the oddest hooks for a restaurant… its located at the birthplace of Larry Fine of the Three Stooges.
We made it down to the end of South Street and turned up 2nd street to check out potential places to go later that night. A lot of promising places… but more on that later.
After an entire day of walking around, we went back to the hotel to decompress a bit, stopping to pick up some Tastycakes (hey, we wanted the full Philly experience while there) on the way back. After a while we made our way over to A Smoked Joint, a BBQ place I heard about through National Barbecue News. It sounded great, and it lived up to the article. A great appetizer of chicken wings, and some great ribs, brisket, pulled pork and chicken, as well as mac and cheese that was better than the "nation’s best" at Deliah’s. I was hoping that we would be able to talk to the chef or owner of the place, and we lucked out when I saw him in the front of the house. I stopped him (his name is Keith), told him that I’m a BBQ judge and that we were there because of the article. It resulted in a free jalapeno cornbread side dish, which was just the perfect match with everything. A few beers to wash it all down and we were on our way to go drinking.
Unfortunately, the rest of the free world was also planning on doing the same thing as we were… the bars on Second street were TOO crowded, making it impossible to talk, move, or generally be comfortable. The first place we went, some Cuban bar, was so packed and so hot, we stayed for one rum drink and got the hell out of there. Everyplace else was packed and just too uncomfortable to move around. We missed out on some great places, but we’ll just have to go back and try more.
In the meantime, a friend of John’s who he used to work with met up with us and joined us for a few drinks. We ended up at the Dark Horse Tavern, which was the only freakin’ place that didn’t make us feel like we were in a concentration camp… and going to the bathroom there made for one of the most memorable quotes of the weekend, though that will be addressed in a separate entry.
After the Dark Horse, we went up South Street again, to Mako’s Retired Surfer Bar, which had some of the best jukebox music we’ve ever heard. Even before it got to Eric’s selection we heard Metallica, Anthrax, Prong, Slipknot, and Iron Maiden, just to name a few. A great dive of a place, it wasn’t too crowded (nowhere near cool enough for all those frat boys and sorority girls) and while it there was great music, it wasn’t too loud that you couldn’t talk.
After that, we made our way BACK up 2nd Street, and Eric and I led the expedition on a quest to find a strip club for a little while (unbeknown to John and Johanna who were talking among themselves anyway), so we went to Front Street, but apparently we should have gone one more over to Delaware ave. In any case, we ended up at Warmdaddy’s a blues/soul/R&B bar. We were lucky enough to catch exactly one and a half songs from the band playing, so we stuck around for a little while after for one more drink. Johanna went back to her car, and we caught a cab (trying to beat the rush) to Pat’s steaks for another true Philly tradition: post-clubbing and post-drinking cheesesteak. Nothing like a hunk of greasy steak, onions and cheez whiz at 2:30 a.m. to settle the stomach, let me tell you. In the great gastro-intestinal souvenirs of traveling, Mexico has Montezuma’s revenge, and Philly has a cheesesteak at 2:30 in the morning. But we wouldn’t have traded it for anything – steak sandwiches, soda and fries covered in cheez whiz is the way to go.
At this point, I must share some disturbing occurrences… even though we were still in the process of eating them, the sandwiches immediately reacted with a night’s worth of drinking swishing around in John and Eric’s stomach and I was witness to some of the most epic displays of bodily gas expulsions ever seen. John’s belches started somewhere under his toenails and moved up through his body, gathering steam, until released as a thunderous cloud of noxious fumes that had to have woken up some of the neighborhood way more than any number of cars and drunken club goers ever could have. Then Eric let go from the other end, and the bench I was sharing with him actually fucking SHOOK as his ass unleashed the weapons of mass destruction that George W. said we were looking for in Iraq… In case you’re ever at Pat’s in Philly, you may not want to sit on the bench right across from the drinks and fries serving window, since I’m pretty sure its strength has been undermined!
We caught a cab ride home and actually had a Tastycake to wash it all down before passing out around 4:00 a.m.
The last day in Philly was the only one with bad weather – we couldn’t have asked for better weather for March in Philly the rest of the weekend. But since we didn’t even get up until 11:53, it didn’t matter very much. We packed our stuff, and went off to walk the city a little bit – which was surprisingly dead. We went to the Liberty Bell so we could say that we did that, I bought a pin and t-shirt at the Hard Rock cafe and we had lunch at an Italian restaurant. Then it was back on the plane (a f’ing crowded one) to Providence.
It was a fantastic, memorable trip, and I’m looking forward to doing it again with John and Eric, hopefully making it at least an annual excursion.