Pigskin Pursuit

An eight year odyssey across the backroads of America during the ultimate College Football roadtrip.

Tag: Philly

Temple vs East Carolina – Owls pillage the Pirates…

My trip to Philadelphia was a quick one, fouled by wet weather and a lackluster Temple squad that plays their home games in the sterile NFL confines of Lincoln Financial Field – home of the Philadelphia Eagles. Before any football was played however, I made sure to sample a few of Philadelphia’s finest sandwiches for breakfast. No, I’m not referring to the iconic Philadelphia cheesesteak, a City of Brotherly Love staple that I sampled extensively back in 2012 (read the reviews here). Instead, I decided to try out a few of Philly’s other, lesser known staple – the roast pork sandwich.

There are two spots known for these delightful porcine gut bombs: Dinic’s and John’s Roast Pork. I try the offering at Dinic’s first, located in the Reading Terminal Market, a converted rail terminal that houses dozens of enticing food vendors. Crafting the sandwich in this location since 1980, the Dinic’s example is exquisite – nice crusty bread holds the tender slices of pork, while the provolone and hot peppers all blend into perfect bite after bite. The sandwiches are crafted with care here, and it shows.

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From there I head down the road to John’s Roast Pork, a tiny stand with counter service on the industrial east edge of town. Dishing out the classic roast pork since 1930, they top it with provolone cheese and the “greens”. I retreat with my foil wrapped prize to one of the outdoor tables (there is no interior seating), and unwrap the hefty offering. While the John’s location has more of a nostalgic, blue collar feel – the sandwich doesn’t quite measure up to Dinic’s. The bread turns soggy and disintegrates into a mushy mess, and the pork, while nice and moist, lacks true “porky” flavor and eats rather bland.

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Overall winner: Dinic’s.

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Once I saunter over to Lincoln Financial and grab a quick ticket for twenty bucks, the game itself is a soggy, depressing affair. The rain pours the entire time, and wind whips through the stadium pelting my face in misty gusts. Temple lists the official attendance as 22,130, but if there were more than 2,000 fans there then I’ll wear a Dallas Cowboys to the next Eagles game. It’s a shame, however, that more of the Owls faithful didn’t turn out for the contest because the Pirates were easily the biggest home game match up of the year. Sporting a 6-1 record and lofty #23 ranking, the East Carolina Pirates were the juggernauts of the American Athletic conference, and had their sights set on climbing further up the ranks. But the Owls won’t be pushed around in their backyard. They take it to the Pirates, jumping out to an early lead and never look back, capitalizing on five turnovers from the sloppy East Carolina squad. Temple runs away with a 20-10 victory, and their first victory over a ranked opponent since 1998! The biggest Temple win in 16 years, and I just happened to be there for it – you’re welcome Owls fans….

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Philly Cheesesteak Showdown…

It’s the iconic sandwich the City of Brotherly Love is known for, and although glaringly cliché’ I wanted to eat a handful of these delightfully greasy gut bombs during my weekend in town.  While most visitors are immediately drawn to the vaporous neon glow of Geno’s and Pat’s, I wanted to find something beyond the usual tourist traps.  I’d been to of those places before, and while it may be blasphemous to any native Philadelphian, I found them completely underwhelming and substandard.  I’d love to hear a counter argument in favor of any dining establishment that espouses the use of “cheese wiz” on anything they serve.  So during my quick weekend in Philadelphia, I endeavored to find the real deal.

Three places emerged to the top of my research: Dalessandro’s, Jim’s and Tony Lukes. While each of these may be well known to Philly natives, they are not as familiar to outsiders.  In order to give an accurate comparison to the three contenders, I ordered the same sandwich at each – a simple cheesesteak sandwich with American cheese and grilled onions.  Why that combo?  Because I like it, that’s why.  And, it’s simple, and these are simple, working class sandwiches after all.

Tony Lukes – My first stop on Saturday morning. Hustling through the industrial wasteland part of town, I skirted past the beckoning entrance of Ricks Cabaret & Lounge – an adult entertainment club touting “divorce parties” and pulled into the red and white checkered confines of Tony Lukes.  A few yellow lights and some flashes of stainless steel trim round out the décor of the simple sandwich stand.

Tony Lukes2Whatever anticipation I held for the sandwich to come, however, was quickly extinguished by the gruff counterman who could barely be bothered to take my simple order.  Conveniently, Tony Lukes also refuses to provide water for customers, so I had to order an overpriced soda.  As if the dirtbag service and water miserliness wasn’t enough, Tony Lukes doesn’t have any heating in the dining area (in December) or provide public restroom facilities of any kind.  What a complete dump.

Fear not, however, because the sandwiches at Tony Lukes are thoroughly craptastic as well!  The french roll is chewy, and instead of being mixed into the steak, the meager cheese allotment is tossed uncaringly onto the top cold.  Even the steak itself is lazily sliced (not finely chopped) into lifeless, grey, gristly slabs of rubber that left my jaw feeling like I just went a few rounds with Rocky.  I made sure to take a good look around before leaving Tony Lukes, because I’ll never see this place again.

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 Jim’s – I visited Jim’s late on Saturday night after spending the entire day fighting off the blustering cold mist in Lincoln Financial Field during the Army Navy game.  Chilled to the bone, and thoroughly exhausted, I probably could have eaten the ass end of flattened roadkill – an option that still sounded better than a second sandwich from Tony Lukes.

Jims 2Fortunately, Jims fared much better.  Here, you watch the cook through a glass window, deftly whacking away at a pile of steak on the steaming cook top.  He chops the steak up finely, lays a few slices of American cheese into the bun, and tops the sandwich with a few caramelized onions.  Though I would have liked to see the cheese mixed into and melted across the steak, overall this was a solid sandwich.

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If I can think of one drawback to Jim’s, it’s the agonizing lines and wait time for a sandwich.  Located in center city Philadelphia, a bustling part of town on a Saturday night, throngs of hungry revelers lined up around the block for upwards of a 30 minute wait for a sandwich.  I don’t know if the wait times are always that bad, but it’s something to consider.

Jims Website:

Dalessandro’s – My final cheesesteak trial, I optioned for a breakfast at Dalessandro’s on Sunday morning before catching my flight out of Philly.  Making the fifteen minute drive to Northwest Philadelphia, the tiny corner shop is located a few miles outside the downtown Philadelphia area.  I line up promptly at 11AM, sliding into one of their counter stools soon after they opened the doors for business.  Not long after arriving, the place is jammed with takeout orders, clearly a popular neighborhood spot.

Dalessandros2Of the three, Dalessandro’s was finest offering of the classic Philly Cheesesteak.  The steak was finely chopped and browned, with the cheese completely folded in and melted across the steak.  A handful of onions garnished across the top, and the roll had a nice crunch on the outside but chewy inside.  It was well executed simplicity.  The perfect start to Sunday morning.  

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Dalessandro’s Website:

In the end, Dalessandro’s was a clear cut winner based on my criteria. Jim’s, however, would be a perfectly serviceable option if I found myself in the downtown area with a hankering.  But in case you missed it, I’d sooner eat three year old sofa pizza before returning to Tony Lukes again…

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