Tag Archives: Philadelphia

Kings and Queens Liberian Cuisine in Philadelphia

liberiaWe’ve been back to Philadelphia twice in the past year – after having not visited since 2008! It’s good to be back to try all of our old classic haunts like Jim’s and Isgro’s – but we also like to branch out and try new things too. We knew that West Philly has a strong West African food scene, and though we were familiar with the East African stalwarts we were intrigued to try something new. There are actually a handful of Liberian restaurants in Philly, but we decided to give Kings and Queens (4830 Woodland Ave Philadelphia, PA 19143) a shot after reading its positive reviews.

achekeKnow before you go: Kings and Queens is cash only and takeout only. The menu is handwritten, and there are only a few things to choose from (all with either the option of fried fish or chicken for between $10-12) : Acheke/Attiéké, Kenkey or Jellof/Jolloff rice. Other options include Fufu and Pepper Soup, and a side order of plantains. You can get a ginger drink or Vimto soft drink to wash it down – but that’s the entire menu! We asked the cashier what his favorites were and he heartily recommended the acheke, which is a fermented cassava couscous, with a great sourdough flavor.

peanutstewWe ordered the acheke and peanut stew (which seemed to be a special – above), both with chicken, along with a side of plantains. The acheke itself was topped with a big helping of fresh-out-of-the-fryer fried chicken. The chicken stew came in a separate container, and was a combination of a rich peanut and tomato sauce, a bit of palm oil, and grilled on-the-bone chicken. We ended up pouring most of the peanut stew over the acheke. Along with the main courses and the delectable side order of fried plantains, we also received pickled veggies and super hot habanero sauce. The food only took about 20 minutes to come out, and as you can see above – we got a ton (and that’s only half).

kingsqueensWe took our big platter of food to go and ended up eating on a bench on Penn’s nearby campus. When we saw the amount of food that came in a single portion, we can’t really imagine how much food was in a party platter. Everything, by the way, was totally delicious. The flavors were similar to Senegalese food, but a bit spicier. If you are up for some adventurous eats definitely try Kings and Queens. It’s a no-frills place, but the food is great and they couldn’t have been friendlier.


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Our Favorite Italian Bakery in Philadelphia: Isgro Pasticceria

ItalyWhen I went to school in Philadelphia, an essential component to my foodie explorations was a monthly pilgrimage to Isgro Pasticceria in South Philly (1009 Christian St., Philadelphia). I used to bring home a box of cannolis from there on the holidays, despite some major flak from the TSA (the major question: Is ricotta a liquid?). Year in and year out, I still think Isgro has the best cannolis, and I think it’s about time they were featured on ETW. Isgro’s is the type of old-school Italian bakery that once graced most major Northern metropolises, and they have been doing business in Philly since 1904. The difference is, Isgro’s is still here, and they are baking up pastries and cookies like it is still 1940. IsgrosStepping into Isgro’s is like stepping back into time, from the retro store, to the gruff but friendly service, to the shelves piled high with cannoli shells. There is definitely too much to chose from, so long story short, get the cannoli. The traditional type, filled with ricotta with chocolate chips my favorite, but you can also get special chocolate or mascarpone varieties.  However, I think the ricotta strikes the perfect balance of a sweet, but not too sweet, filling and super fresh crispy shell, which is filled to order. The filling to order is essential – as it preserves the integrity of the crispy shell. M pointed out that Isgro’s website is Bestcannoli.com and while that is pretty somewhat boastful – we think it’s true!Cannolo1Beyond that, Isgro’s serves a huge variety of Italian-American favorites like pignoli, biscotti, Rum Baba, Sfogliatelle and tiramisu. On the American dessert side they have heaps of fruit tarts, brownies and spritz cookies. On our last visit, there were even special pastries and cookies dedicated to the Pope’s 2015 visit (and Isgro’s was even tapped to make him dessert). Everything we tried there has been excellent, but we keep coming back for the cannoli. If you are in Philly, definitely give Isgro’s a try, if you like cannolis it is an absolute must.We wish we lived closer!

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Zahav, a taste of modern Israel

israelWhen we are traveling, there is nothing we like more than checking out the top spots in all the towns we visit. We drove to New York this fall, and on the way we stopped in Philadelphia. And as we heard, the top place to go when in Philadelphia is Zahav (237 St James Pl, Philadelphia, PA). Zahav has gotten a lot of press recently for chef and co-owner Michael Solomonov’s innovative take on Israeli cuisine. It is notoriously hard  to get a reservation at Zahav, though if you are willing to eat at 5 pm (as we did at the last minute), you should have a little more luck.

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36 Hours in Philadelphia

Philly is one of our favorite foodie spots so we are happy to see it getting some love in the NYTimes Travel section. Naturally, food features prominently on the list, including our favorites the Italian Market and Silk City. If you’re thinking about going to Philly (and you should) you should check it out!


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A trip to DiBruno Brothers Market in Philadelphia

ItalyDiBruno Brothers
930 S. 9th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19145diinterior

As you can tell by reading this blog, both L and M are big fans of cheese. When we’re traveling we never miss an opportunity to scout out the local cheese shops. On a recent trip to Philly had the chance to visit one of our favorite cheese shops – DiBruno Brothers. When L used to go to school in Philly, she visited this DiBruno Brothers location at least every couple of weeks (she also turned M into a convert). Though M is not from Philly, he lives in Wisconsin, so needless to say, he takes his cheese very seriously. It’s our cheese-loving opinion that DiBruno Brothers is one of the best cheese stores around. The first thing DiBruno Brothers has going for it is its location smack dab in the middle of Philadelphia’s Italian Market. The Italian enclave in South Philly is big, bustling and vibrant, unlike many others (our trip to the NYC Little Italy was underwhelming and frankly kitschy), and the famous Italian Market is located in the middle of this Little Italy. Philadelphia’s Italian Market, though perhaps less impressive than it was a few decades ago, still provides a wide range of small, authentic, family-run Italian shops that would be right at home on a street in Parma or Naples.di2

Though the market is full of great specialty food store, DiBruno Brothers has always been out favorite for its great selection and friendly staff. When you enter, the first thing you notice are the huge cheeses hanging from the ceiling, cured Italian meats sitting on sample plates to eat, a huge cheese counter on one side of the narrow store and a wide variety of dry goods on the other. It goes without saying that cheese is the star of the show. From Italian favorites like Parmigiano-Reggiano and Mozzarella di Bufala to Scandinavian and Argentine cheeses, DiBruno brothers has it all. If there is any variety you would like to try, DiBruno Brothers is generous with samples. The staff are all knowledgeable and helpful and have made great suggestions over the years. The selection is wide and varied, though some of the more unique varieties can be a bit pricey. On our last visit, however, M was on a mission for Garrotxa, a Spanish goat milk cheese he fell in love with back in Wisconsin. Since then he had not seen it anywhere, but DiBruno came to the rescue.

dbbcheeseAlong with a copious variety of cheese from around the world, DiBruno Brothers also boasts a selection of olives, meats and ready made foods. There is enough here to keep you occupied (and fed) for days. The DiBruno empire also stretches into a ready-made food store further up the block in the Italian market, and to a large store and cafe in Rittenhouse Square. However, for us, the DiBruno Brothers cheese store in the Italian market will always be the real deal. This is what heaven looks like!dbbmural

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[Philly Trip] Mexico: El Vez

Mexico FlagEl Vez
121 S. 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA

El Vez is kitschy, loud and fun, the perfect place for a fun dinner out with a friend. So, when my friend Kun decided on dinner there for our night out in Philly, I was excited. The food is decidedly Nuevo Latino, and in true Steven Starr style, the dining room is tricked out with all sorts of over-the-top touches like a sequined low rider and photo-and-memento-covered walls.

We ordered a molcajete of ‘El Vez’ Guacamole, with tomato, onions, jalapeno, cilantro and lime ($12). The guac was the favorite part of the meal (if a little overpriced), and came with a basket of bottomless freshly-fried corn tortilla chips. Since my camera is kaput, I have included this lovely molcajete picture on the right from Flickr user Texas to Mexico, which approximates the one we had at El Vez. For mains we both had mole dishes, at Kun’s recommendation. The Red Chile and Chicken Enchiladas with cotija cheese ($9) and chicken mole dinner entree with refried beans and tortillas ($14) were completely made by the rich, smoky mole sauce.

All in all, El vez was a little on the pricey side, but worth it for the kitschy ambiance and pretty good (if not entirely authentic food). I mean, check out the lo-rider bike from the Website…

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[Philly Trip] Netherlands 1: Maoz

Netherlands flagMaoz
1115 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA

This post about my favorite Amsterdam-based falafel chain has been a long time coming. I [L] first ate at Maoz several years ago in Philadelphia, at the time their only US location (2nd and South Street). I introduced M to the original Philly Maoz, if I recall, after we saw a late-night showing of Brokeback Mountain. My travels have since taken me to the Maoz in Paris, and all three Maoz in Barcelona. The Paris Maoz, pictured at right, was by far the worst Maoz of the bunch. The fries were soggy beyond belief. Maoz’ delicious Belgian fries are half the draw, so that ruined it for me, though eating our takeout at the Square du Vert-Galant helped fix everything. The three Barcelona Maoz, all located in the Barri Gotic were excellent, and I assume, owned by the same people. However, the Philly Maoz holds a special place in my heart, so when I heard there was ANOTHER Maoz open in Philly, I had to go on my next trip.

MaozFirst off, this 2nd Philly store is huge by Maoz standards, usually Maoz are only walk-up counters with maybe a bar stool or two. However, this brand-spanking-new Maoz has a nice big areas of wooden tables and benches. Notably the entire restaurant, tip to toe, was covered in shiny lime green tiles. Beware, epileptics, I’m talking lime green everywhere. You can make out the tiles in this photo my friend Dan snapped of the Philly Maoz (My camera died a horrible sputtering death on this tip to Philadelphia, so all of my photos come from my archives or friends).

Onto the food- your main and only choice is falafel, which Maoz does very well. The primary decision is if you want a whole pita (white or wheat), a half pita or a salad with falafel. I usually order a junior meal ($6.75) which is a half pita with falafel, an order of fries and a soft drink. Maoz falafel is Israeli-style, which apparently means that you then build your sandwich with lots of condiments. At Maoz there is indeed a nice salad bar of fixings, including couscous, eggplant, tomatoes, pickled carrots, spicy peppers and more. At the end of the salad bar are squeeze bottles of assorted sauces, including mango curry, tahini, garlic mayo and tzatziki.

The other attraction are the crispy-delicious, thick-cut Belgian fries, which come in a paper triangle covered in foil. The fries at right are a lovely sample from Barcelona, but the Philly Maoz fries were even better. These are an awesome snack, and are great accompanied with the garlic mayo. An interesting added feature of this new Maoz is fresh-squeezed juice. However, I prefer to get whatever exotic Israeli sodas they have in the cooler.

I would definitely recommend Maoz to falafel lovers, or to French-fry lovers. You will not be disappointed, and your delicious and filling meal will not break the bank. Apparently there is a NYC outpost now, as well. Hopefully they will make it out to Chicago, soon.

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