PROFILE: Philly Luncher “Matt”
As is customary at Philly Lunch, every Tuesday we turn over the site to a different lunch’er for his or her recommendations for the best lunch in Philadelphia. This week it’s Matt, a consultant with a passion for burgers.
Where in Philly do you Work?: Center City, 18th & Arch
Favorite Kind of Food: This is like asking a father to choose which of his children he loves the most. Sure, he’s got a favorite, but he can’t bring himself to admit it publically. Besides, it’s close enough that on any given day Chicken Tikka Masala could overtake Spicy Tuna Roll with an A+ on a math test.
My stomach is perpetually jealous of Noah’s Ark, as I’ve never met an animal that wasn’t delicious. I love culture-specific cuisine, especially Asian and European, and the more authentic the better. I’m blissful at Tony Luke’s and Le Bec Fin alike. But my true passion has to be burgers, which I love to irrational extremes. I’m on a mission to eat, rank and review every burger in the city. I lay awake at night, wondering if there’s a better burger out there and defying the notion that I should be content with a personal favorite without testing every candidate (I’m tracking my results at www.awesomeopolis.com/burgermap).
Least Favorite Kind of Food: In general, I can’t stand food that tries too hard and restaurants that over-reach. I don’t care what I’m eating, as long as it’s done well. I’d rather eat a Shank’s chicken cutlet sandwich or a Hershel’s pastrami on pumpernickel than the filet mignon at a kitschy tourist trap or foie gras from a Denny’s. I’ll take the best of any category over mediocre execution in an allegedly “better” category any day of the week.
Specifically, my least favorite food in town is the last burger I had at the Applebee’s on 15th Street—its mere existence is an open declaration of war against food itself.
Favorite Place(s) to Eat Lunch in Philly:
Chung King Garden (915 Arch St): Water Boiled Fish; Green Pepper Chicken. This place has the best and most authentic Szechuan cuisine I’ve ever had.
Varga Bar (10th and Spruce): Kobe Beef Burger; Truffle Mac and Cheese. Best new gastropub in Philly, and they do a good brunch too (which is half-lunch, right?).
Shank’s Original (120 S. 15th St): Any of the chicken cutlet sandwiches, which are rightfully considered among the best in the country.
4th Street Deli (38 S. 19th St): Pastrami Cheesesteak; Challah French Toast; any sandwich. Forget the possibility of leaving hungry; come close to finishing a zaftig-sized sandwich here and you’ll be lucky to retain the ability to walk erect.
Reading Terminal Market (12th and Filbert): Follow your nose. This place is inspirational, and no, I’m not using that word too liberally.
Mama’s Vegetarian (18 S. 20th St): Falafel. Best lunch for a kosher/vegan; freshest fries in town.
DiBruno Brothers (Various locations): They make my favorite sandwiches to eat while working, but try not to go at around 11:50AM (that’s when I like to sneak in early to beat the line).
I could go on for quite a while, but I would consider any of these places at the top of their particular categories.
“Go-To” Lunch Place You and Your Coworkers Eat at Too Often? Square on Square (1905 Chestnut). They have some of the best (non-authentic) Chinese food in Center City, but I definitely break my own rule about looking for the best every time we walk into this old favorite. The reason Wawa isn’t my answer here is because, as any Philadelphian will tell you, it’s not possible to eat there too often.
Place you discovered thanks to Philly Lunch? If I have to pick just one discovery? I’d have to say that Philly Lunch itself tops the list.
If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why? The Oval Office. I feel like if that’s your job location, you probably can get anything for lunch anytime you want. Barring that…if I had unlimited funds, New York City, just for the density of choices and the quality its status attracts on the higher end. But if money were a consideration, I’d pick a place with much better lunch values, like Philadelphia or New Orleans. Or France (lunch is a 3 hour experience there, as anyone who’s ever been frustrated trying to go to a bank around noon will attest).
Is there anything you’d like to ask the Philly Lunch readers? Where are the best places to try exotic new animals? I’ve yet to eat bear, moose, or emu, and I’d like my first experiences to be good ones.
I know you can get goat head at Kanella if you call ahead… if you call a… head… ha? no?
If you would like to be next week’s Profiled Philly Lunch’er (or know somebody you’d like to nominate), email me at email@example.com.