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We covered this ground a few years ago, around the time Tastykake was selling out to Flowers Foods.  Since that purchase Flowers has added a few generic products that it sold in its other lines and slapped the Tastykake brand on it, but otherwise it has kept producing the baked goods it inherited.

The brand and its products hold a special place in the hearts of many Philadelphians, myself included.  But the slow changes to the products prior to the sale were cause for consternation. When Flowers bought the line, we hoped it wouldn’t change things further.

Now Tastykake and those with taste buds less attuned to such matters will tell you we’re nuts.  That they haven’t changed anything.  But we know better. Continue Reading »

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Grilled Cheese & Crab Cake Company

I have driven past the Grilled Cheese & Crab cake Company in Somers Point, NJ a hundred times over the last half dozen years with every intent of stopping in some time.  Because it is along the route into or out of my destination Ocean City, NJ I am usually not in search of a meal when I pass and think of it.

On Good Friday, the last non-meat Friday in Lent this year, the restaurant came to mind when I was thinking about dinner.  So, I took the trip over the bridge out of Ocean City to Somers Point.  I arrived at 7:30 p.m., with dinner service running until 8 p.m.  Two other tables of diners were seated and ordering.

I was quickly greeted and a drink order taken and menus left for me to peruse.  As you would expect the menu had many choices involving crab cakes or various takes on a grilled cheese.  A full slate of seafood and non-seafood appetizers was available as well as Chili, Cream of Crab Soup and Cream of Tomato soup offered daily, along with specials including Chicken Orzo.  Any soup can be made “angry” by adding jalapeno and chinese spicy oil.

I ordered the Cream of Tomato soup and a dinner basket combination of Fried Shrimp and Crab Balls, fried miniature crab cakes.

Cream of Tomato Soup

Cream of Tomato Soup

The soup arrived about 10 minutes later.  It was very good, but it was either a dressed up Campbell’s canned tomato soup or it was a remarkably successful attempt to recreate the Campbell’s recipe at home.  I enjoy Cambpell’s tomato soup, but I was expecting something a little creamier.  Next time I would try their “famous” Cream of Crab soup as several other tables ordered it and it looked very good.

Fried Shrimp and Crab Balls Basket

Fried Shrimp and Crab Balls Basket

The entree arrived shortly after I finished my soup.  The shrimp and crab cakes rested on a large bed of french fries, which I picked at but barely ate, along with two containers of cocktail sauce (both it and tarter were offered) and a very creamy side of cole slaw, which I also enjoyed.

Crab Balls (Miniature Fried Crab Cakes)

Crab Balls (Miniature Fried Crab Cakes)

The crab balls and shrimp were boiling hot and it took a long time for them to cool on top of hot french fries.  The miniature crab cake balls were a healthy mix of crab and filler.  A little more filler than I would normally enjoy, but I found these to be a nice balance.  They were not too firm, but not runny either.  A nice crispy fried coating helped hold it all together.

The fried shrimp were fresh and large with a double fried coating on the outside.  The shrimp inside were fully clean (sometimes you get surprised by shrimp that haven’t been deveined) and tasty.

I burned my mouth a number of time because I was too impatient to wait for it all to cool.

Dinner was $22.00 and the menu included a wide range of sandwiches, platters and appetizers.  Homemade desserts in a cold case display looked good and included a vanilla buttercream Easter cake, apple pie, regular and chocolate cheesecake and an offering that looked like coffee cake but lacked a label.  I wish I had room to try dessert, but I did not.

Service was friendly and attentive.  My only gripe was they offered only Pepsi products, no Coke.

I will try this place again some time.  I waited too long.  Their website does not appear to be functioning at this time

55 W Laurel Dr
Somers Point, NJ 08244
(609) 601-7533

Underwhelimingways’s @ the Grand.

It has potential, but boy did it disappoint.

We really wanted to like the place.  I saw them advertise in Wildwood Catholic’s playbill for “The Little Shop of Horrors” and thought I should patronize them because of that.   “Add it to our list,” I said.

We went on a friday night in January.  Good crowd inside, the bar was full and the restaurant area was perhaps half full.

Three cokes and a cocktail took ages to get.  At first we werent’ sure if it was the bartender or the waitress.  In retrospect, it was the waitress.

Appetizers:  Again, took ages, despite the waitress repeating it would be out shortly.
Sunset Salad – “one of the best things I ever had”
Wedge salad –  Best part about my wife’s meal.
Shrimp Cocktail – This must have been just prepared (and iced) because part of the shrimp was warm, while other parts of the shrimp were ice cold.

Main courses: Took too long.
Kid’s filet mignon tips – too rare for “medium rare”, had to ask for ketchup (which took forever)
5oz Petit Filet – maybe it’s hard to cook a small steak medium rare, but it was mostly well done and dried out.  The garlic mashed potatoes were good.
8oz sirloin – “dry and tough”
Veal Maryland – veal was tougher that it should have been (at a restaurant like that), but the sauce and crabmeat were good.

Our drinks were emptying by this point and the waitress brought refills without our asking.  Which was a pleasant surprise.

Dessert:
Looked like everything was some variation of chocolate – very attractive.  But we had enough of the slow service and went to a diner for pie.

Sorry guys, I don’t think I’ll be going back.


The original Levis Hot Dogs on Sixth Street in Philadelphia closed in 1992 after nearly a hundred years in business.  I never got to try it as my food travel adventures began some years after that.  But I have memories of my dad telling me he and his dad would go to 76ers games and then stop at Levis for a hot dog and a Champ Cherry soda.

I tried the Champ Cherry a few times in bagel shops and deli’s that carried bottled versions of the famous cherry-apple soda that was a Levis exclusive.  I’ve always felt the drink needs stronger carbonation, but it’s a perfectly fine drink.

The new incarnation of Levis in Abington, twenty years after the original closed, is by Elliott Hirsh, who is locally known for his Elliott’s Amazing Apple Juice (and other juices as well).  He bought Levis and its assets in 1990 to gain the rights to Champ Cherry, figuring he could add it to his beverage empire

Banking on nostalgia and an aging baby boomer population who remembers Levis, Hirsh decided to open up a suburban shop and see if folks would bank on nostalgia.

I had made a mental note since January to try it out and on a slow Saturday in August I finally got a chance to do so.

The menu is pretty straightforward:  hot dogs of many variations (not the original Levis recipe), fishcakes, deli sandwiches and hoagies, soup, a few grilled sandwiches (a grilled cheese was ordered by a family when I was there) and various homemade sides (cole slaw, potato salad, bowties and a few others).

I ordered two hot dogs, one with chili and raw onions and one with ketchup, spicy brown mustard and sweet relish.   I also got a side of cole slaw and a Champ Cherry soda.

I ordered and paid at the register and found a seat.  Within 5 minutes the food was delivered to the table.  The rolls are a little more substantial than a normal steamed hot dog bun, but they aren’t so substantive as a hoagie roll.  The food was fresh and hot and the toppings were all flavorful.

The cole slaw was a little too creamy and sweet for my tastes, but it was homemade and had high quality ingredients.

I did not order the fish cake/hot dog combo, which is one of the things Levis was famous for.  I have tried fishcakes a few times and I’m just not a fan of the breaded fish/potato cake.

The meal was substantial for $9 and it is worth a visit to try this Philadelphia classic.

A Philadelphia Inquirer story on the January opening can be read by clicking here.

The Levis store is at 966 Old York Rd., Abington, Pa., 215-572-1895.

The Union Trust steakhouse in Philadelphia has been on my list of places to visit for the last few years.  It opened in 2009 in a grand old bank building at 717 Chestnut Street.  A January visit to Morimoto, a few doors away, reminded me that UT is the last of the big Philly steakhouses I had not yet visited.  A slow Memorial Day weekend provided the perfect opportunity to slip into the city and try it out.

I had been told beforehand by a few friends it’s “not as good as Barclay Prime”.  You may recall I had two visits to Barclay Prime.  One was horrible.  The second was a spectacular meal.

My experience at Union Trust was somewhere in between.

The building’s interior is, as promised, grand and impressive.  And cavernous.  But we were seated in a booth along the back wall and the crowd was light.  I imagine the room can be much louder when the tables are full.

Service is attentive, but not overly so.  My glass was empty on a few occasions for 5 to 10 minutes and it seemed like the rolls took forever to get to the table.  A nice bread basket containing what tasted like a raisin, date and nut bread, a few cheddar biscuits and two fresh baked pretzel sticks were accompanied by butter and mustard.

Union Trust falls into one of my pet peeves:  a list of appetizers that include little or no non-seafood options.  Union Trust offered a half dozen seafood options, a full raw bar to choose from and a “Kobe” carpaccio.  So, if you don’t eat seafood (as my companion this night does not) and you’re not into raw meat…well, you’re out of luck.

I notice this at a lot of high end restaurants.

The salad list was well rounded with an interesting beet salad option, but we ordered a caesar and a wedge salad.  The caesar looked and was reported to be very good.   My wedge salad came with very little dressing and the center of the lettuce head wasn’t cut out.  I had to cut it out myself and then try to make the best of the salad.  Eventually I asked for more dressing once the waitress reappeared.  The wedge had grape tomatoes cut in half and a nice amount of thick cut pork belly bacon sprinkled throughout.  Overall, I wouldn’t order it again.

Dinner came shortly after and was cooked perfectly.  The UT menu offers a half dozen wet aged steaks and a half dozen dry aged steaks you can customize from a menu of available rubs, crusts, sauces and toppings.

I ordered the 24 oz. Porterhouse with a roasted garlic crust and herbed truffle butter.  My friend ordered the NY Strip with an espresso dust crust and some caramelized onions.  Both steaks were tender and delicious, though the strip was reported to have some gristle and tough parts.  The rub on my porterhouse was outstanding while not obscuring the tender meat it was crusting.

We ordered onion rings, brussel sprouts and the aged cheddar grits for the table.  All three were excellent and the brussel sprouts were aided by a nice mixture of the thick cut pork belly bacon that was with my salad.  The flavors mixed together well.

For dessert I ordered the German Chocolate Cake while my friend ordered the S’Mores.  The German Chocolate cake was an individual portion but sized to be shared, though the menu doesn’t note that.  It was dense and rich and I was not able to finish it despite it being extremely good.   The S’more was a scoop of peanut butter ice cream rolled in graham cracker crumbs and then topped with a meringue that was scorched.  I think I saw my friend lick his plate clean at one point.  It was that good, he said.

I would not turn down an invitation to return to Union Trust for dinner, but given the choice I’d pick another city steakhouse if I were going out for steak again.

Note:  I apologize for the not so great pictures.  I neglected to bring my camera to the restaurant and pictures from my cell phone had to suffice.

Union Trust Steakhouse

www.uniontruststeakhouse.com/

717 Chestnut Street  Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 925-6000

The Knife and Fork Inn was one of Frank Sinatra’s favorite restaurants in Atlantic City.  It’s been recently renovated and taken over by the Dougherty family, owners of Dock’s restaurant, a 100 year old oyster and seafood joint in AC.

The dinner at Knife and Fork was fantastic when I visited in April 2011.

Tuna Tartare, French Onion Soup, Wedge Salad, Spring Mix Salad, Fantastic Potatoes, Filet Oscar and the most unusual lump crab cake I’ve ever seen are pictured.

A slideshow of a January 2011 visit to the Melting Pot fondue restaurant in King of Prussia, PA.

Chicken, Beef and Seafood were all fondued along with a cheddar/beer mix appetizer and chocolate fondue dessert.