Archive for the ‘Region – Norristown’ Category

Sorry to report that as of May 2009 BBQ USA is shut down.  Sad to see it go.

I’ve been sitting on this review for a while, mostly because I dined at Benny LaRoma’s Barbeque USA when I was insanely busy.  Now that things have settled down I came across the pictures of my lunch at this new establishment that opened early this fall in Fairview Village in a location formerly occupied by a string of pizza joints.

The new tenant is an improvement.  Ambience is not the key here – the barbeque meats are.  They offer turkey, chicken, beef and pork (as well as sausages).  All are wonderful and they offer a variety of six different homemade sauces and lots and lots of side dish choices.  Cornbread and biscuits are offered for those looking to carbo-load.

Homemade Turkey Noodle Soup (more…)

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Redstone is one of the new restaurants at the revamped Plymouth Meeting Mall (more stores and restaurants, less parking).

Billed as an American grill, I went on a Monday to avoid the crushing crowds that seem to flock to the place the rest of the week.  With good reason, my friends.

First, the bloody mary is presented with a gazillion garnishes (they call it “a meal in a glass”) including ring bologna, shrimp, lemon, lime, bleu cheese stuffed olive and a mini gherkin.  It’s a good bloody mary.

The spinach artichoke dip was good.  The cornbread.  Oh, my.  The cornbread appetizer, served in its own cast iron skillet the way Elvis’s cooks would have served it to him at Graceland, well, that is worth the trip.  Just delicious and the maple butter they include with it just enhances it.

As for the dinner, I had a tasty barbeque chicken and my companion had a half rack of the ribs.  Both were tender, smoked well and tasty.  The cole slaw was homemade and subtle and the baked beans were just like I like ’em:  full of flavor and bits of bacon.

Not too expensive:  $56 for two appetizers, two entrees and drinks.  I recommend Redstone.

Plymouth Meeting Mall


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So, my sister emailed me today and asked if I remembered “The Hungry Pilgrim” restaurant.

Of course I do.  She asked where it was.

I think there were two.  One in the Willow Grove/Warrington area (I think).

The other locale I am certain of:  It was at Germantown Pike and Plymouth Road.

It was The Hungry Pilgrim.  Then it became B. Rathbone’s.  Similar menus.

Pizza Soup

I remember one menu item:  Pizza Soup.

It had a “crust” (kind of like French Onion Soup has that bread at the bottom) at the bottom.

It had a tomato sauce style broth – and baked cheese.  And pepperoni baked into the cheese if you wanted.

It was awesome.  I remember eating it as a kid.  The rest of the menu was typical american fare.  It was a good place to grab a bite.

Rathbone’s folded up shop around the turn of the century (20th to 21st).  Pizza soup was taken off the menu a few years before that.  Coincidence?  I think not!

It is now a Mattress Giant.

If you stop in and try the Sealey or the Serta mattresses clear your sinuses and take a good whiff.  You might just smell the pizza soup in the kitchen.

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No, you can’t survive on the Asher’s chocolate and other goods sold at the candy counter on the ground floor of Strawbridge & Clothier.  You can’t even find Strawbridge & Clothier anymore.  It was purchased by the May Company in the 90’s.  They changed the name to Strawbridge’s and in the last year did away with that and it’s now Macy’s.

But oh what a wonderland Strawbridge & Clothier was.  With it’s old school employees who wore the name tags on long chains around their necks.  TV’s, carpet, furniture, clothes, appliances – you name it, they had it.  A few times a year they had “Clover Days”, where sales abounded in all departments.

Time to pay?  You’d whip out your trusty little blue Strawbridge & Clothier charge card at the reasonable rate of about 25% interest, and they’d offer not to bill you until the second coming of Christ – all while interest piled up.

But I digress.  On the first floor of Strawbridge’s was the housewares, electronics, candy counter, etc.  On the second floor was all the clothing, perfume, jewelry and other things that made a five year old lose life just having suffer through the shopping torture of it all.

Then there was the mystical third floor.  What was up there?

A restaurant was up there.  Back in the day it was a lunch counter and sit down restaurant to feed weary shoppers.  Nothing fancy, yet more refined then the Harvest House at Woolworth’s.  I remember eating there a few times with my mom and my grandmother during shopping adventures.

The restaurant survived until the late 80’s.  By the mid 90’s it was there, frozen, like a time capsule from the mall’s late 60’s debut.  Eventually it was gutted to make room for women’s dresses and the credit department.

I don’t remember if it had a name.  It was not the only one.  Other Strawbridge’s in other malls (and standalone stores) had restaurants.  The department store restaurant is a thing of the past now, existing only as a relic in a few places around America.

The Clover (Strawbridge’s discount chain that shuttered in the late 90s) around the corner from my house growing up had a “Clover Kitchen”.  It closed in the early 90’s and sat dormant at the back of the store.

Some day we’ll cover The Patio restaurant at Hess’s flagship store in Allentown.

Until then, sit down at the counter, order up an orange soda and a tuna melt and whip out your little blue Strawbridge & Clothier card to pay for it.

It’s Clover Day again.

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Cinnabon is proof that God loves us and so do cardiologists.

I was pleasantly surprised to come home last evening and find that someone had been to a mall and procured a “cinnamon roll” (don’t call them buns at Cinnabon) for me.

A few minutes ago, along with coffee, it constituted breakfast.

I remember the very first time I had Cinnabon. The Montgomery Mall and King of Prussia Mall were two spots where you could get it. You’d get within, say, 25 feet of the place and the smells would waft. It was like spare change to a bum or pudgy interns to Bill Clinton. You could not resist.

The Plymouth Meeting Mall, closest to my home, had no Cinnabon. At the old, original mall (as pictured above before multiple renovations) they had a quasi-food court w/ the obligatory merry-go-round in the center (which was added in the mid 80’s).

Cinnabon? No. We had TJ Cinnamons. A chain that still operates, but not much in this area. The product was inferior to Cinnabon. First sin (pun intended) – no cream cheese icing. It was a standard white sugar icing. I hated it so much. I also ended up working there for a brief time. I think it was my first job, but I’m not certain. It was brief and mostly unmemorable except for the homosexual manager and me listening to Beatles tapes in the kitchen while I cleaned pans and such.

Anyway, the rest of the food court: McDonalds. I remember one of the guys I worked with used to get a Filet-o-Fish and Chicken McNuggets every day for lunch. He called it surf and turf. He rode the SEPTA bus from North Philly every day to work there. I hope he’s at least graduated to the McChicken sandwich now that it’s on the dollar menu.

The Food Court had Bassett’s Original Turkey. Some day I’ll do my own blog entry about this lost franchise which was sold in the 90’s and promptly run into the ground. I miss it (though it lives on at the Reading Terminal Market under the name “The Original Turkey”).

Bain’s Deli and the Mandarin Garden chinese restaurant rounded out the food court. The Mandarin Garden had a big restaurant behind the counter out front – I miss that place too. There was an independent Pizza joint too.

Chick-Fil-A eschewed the food court and stood mid-mall on its own. Back then the mall also had two other delicious standalones: By the entrance to Strawbridge & Clothier was a bakery. A full-fledged bakery in the mall. And the Bavarian Pretzel stand on the 2nd floor. Those pretzels were awesome.

Centering the mall was the Harvest House restaurant outside Woolworth’s. Owned by Woolworth’s, it was an old-style lunch counter. The food was insanely good – like going to grandmas. Tuna salad, grilled cheese, awesome burgers. It went the way of the dodo along with Woolworth’s itself.

There was a Friendly’s in the mall too. No longer. It is worth noting there was a Friendly’s about 2000 feet away along Germantown Pike as well. They all closed with the great Friendly’s purge of the late 90’s, when management closed anything that wasn’t producing huge profits (they closed scores of profitable stores – just not profitable enough). There is a Commerce Bank now where Friendly’s once stood.

Today it’s all been replaced by the chain restaurants and bland food. No independent pizza, it’s Sbarro now. No bakery. Now it’s Auntie Ann’s pretzels.

I miss the old mall.

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Eve’s Lunch is a locally legendary luncheonette that recently went on a 9-month hiatus while they relocated from the once bustling and now dead Sandy Hill Road perch from which they fattened generations of Montgomery County residents.

Their new locale is 310 Johnson Highway in Norristown, next to Kennedy-Kenrick Catholic High School.

Eve’s is notable for fabulous sandwiches but they are famous for one in particular: The Zep. The zep (short for “zeppelin” since ostensibly that was how the sandwich was shaped – like a submarine, too) is hoagie-like, but not a hoagie. Don’t call it a hoagie. They will cut you and make you bleed if you utter that word.


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Blue Sky Cafe

I have been meaning to try the Blue Sky Cafe in the Hillcrest Shopping Center for some time. Shopping center restaurants often leave a lot to be desired in terms of atmosphere. That is not the case at this Caribbean inspired eatery. Walking into it is a bit like walking into a Jimmy Buffet concert, minus the drug and alcohol influenced Parrotheads (at least on this particular day at lunch).


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