The Culinary Monuments of Philadelphia
I haven't posted in several days because I have been in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It's been a fun but hectic trip. I spent the past two days in Philadelphia, and I've fallen in love with the city. It's very vibrant. Beyond the rich historical and cultural monuments, the City of Brotherly Love boasts some amazing food.
Philly is famous for its cheesesteaks, and so of course I had to try one. I asked several locals, and although passions ran high, the consensus was that Jim's on 4th and South was the best cheesesteak joint in town. It didn't disappoint. I made it in just before a horde of visiting middle schoolers, and they all seemed to enjoy their dinner as well. The bread is nicely toasted and the beef is very tender. I couldn't finish the sandwich, and so I had the leftovers as a midnight snack. It tasted even better than it did when I first got it.
But the real hidden treasure of the Philadelphia food scene though is Saad's Halal Restaurant at 45th and Walnut. Before arriving in Philly I looked online to see what eateries were popular with the locals, and Saad's Restaurant kept getting mentioned. Just check out Yelp to see how obsessed some people are with this place.
Saad's Halal Restaurant has two menus, one with Middle Eastern fare, and another with American food. Halal is like the Muslim equivalent of Kosher, and so the restaurant is very popular with observant Muslims looking for a Halal cheesesteak. I was more interested in the Middle Eastern dishes that so many people raved about online.
My husband and I arrived at the restaurant for a late lunch. I ordered the Lamb Shawarma sandwich, and my husband got the falafel sandwich. We also got a plate of cheese fries. Each dish was as amazing as the next. The meat was tender and juicy, and had that strong lamb flavor that I love without any unpleasant smell. The falafel were exceedingly moist. What was interesting about them was that they were more disk-shaped than spherical. I don't know whether that is the way they are cooked, or if they flatten them out when they put them in the sandwich, but I'm definitely going to try it out at home (and share the results with all of you, of course).
The french fries are dredged with some sort of batter that makes them extra crispy. I've had fries prepared this way at other Lebanese restaurants, and I'm determined to find the recipe for them. Someone told me that they are called "jojos", but I'm not sure. If anyone has the recipe, please let me know!
We finished the meal with a dessert of chocolate baklava. It was buttery without being greasy, and not overly sweet.
The best way to explain how good the food at Saad's is is to quote the comments of the patrons sitting next to us. They were college students from UPenn, which is just a few blocks from Saad's. One of them said to the other that this was the third time he had been to Saad's in two days. The other said that he has cut back his "habit" to once a week. After my first meal there, I understood their devotion / obsession.
As we were finishing our meal, someone walked by with a Chicken Maroosh sandwich. The smell was intoxicating. My husband and I both agreed to come back the next day and I got to try the Maroosh. It was amazing. The bread is crunchy but soft and the chicken is marinated to perfection.
On that second visit we also got to meet Saad. He is a gregarious man with a perpetual smile on his face. It's the perfect personality for the restaurant business, and even more so when your name is on the front door.
I told him about Pham Fatale and I said I'd be writing about his restaurant. I then asked him what he puts on his fries, and he of course told me that it was a secret. I should have asked about the fries before breaking cover. What can I say? It was a rookie mistake...