Archive for the Philly BYOB Reviews Category


Posted in Bona Cucina - QVC Award Winner with tags , on January 27, 2013 by ballymote


 Is Bona Cucina the best restaurant in the Delaware Valley? No, not really. However, I don’t think I have been to another dining spot in Philly or South Jersey that so consistently serves great food at such unbelievably low prices.

 Bona Cucina, at 66 Sherbrook Drive in Upper Darby has been a local favorite for almost 25 years. Pat and Frankie Buonadonna (Pat is the chef and Frankie runs the front of the house) have been serving meals to hungry diners with a quality and consistency that has folks returning often, myself included, and I live some distance away in South Jersey.

This fantastic restaurant has one of those menus where everything is tempting and it has been years since they have raised prices on their entrees or appetizers IMG_3665. It’s not a big place with perhaps 50 seats but it has a relaxed atmosphere and after one or two visits you’ll feel like family. I caution you that Frankie can be slightly irreverent but that only adds to her charm. She takes great pride in everything her husband sends out from the kitchen.

You will seldom, if ever, see Pat in the dining room, it’s just not his world. He prefers to lose himself in the wonderful food he is preparing. A large group of friends that I gre up with in Drexel Hill have been going to Bona Cucina for several years. My wife has heard me rave about the place so many times that last Sunday she insisted I take her, and my sister, who was celebrating a birthday for dinner. Since her  meal, I have heard her telling others about how delicious the food was at Bona Cucina. It’s not a place I read about often when great restaurants are mentioned but, that’s OK, business is booming and maybe it’s best if it stays a local secret.


  I was able, on one occasion, to coax Pat out of the kitchen for a photo of him and Frankie. They are rightfully proud of their restaurant and I am happy to be able to award them my very first QVC Award for Quality, Value and Consistency. Keep up the good work!


Posted in Tamarind byob with tags , , , , on January 20, 2013 by ballymote



  My wife, Kathy, and I joined one of her co-workers, Susan, at Tamarind, a Thai byob on South Street. There are so many restaurants in the area and Tamarind proved to be an excellent choice and we felt lucky to have obtained a reservation for a Saturday evening. The servers are all pleasant and knowledgeable about the items on the expansive menu. Lots of abstract art decorate the walls of this 40 seat restaurant.






 Knowing that our food choices would have a certain element of spice, I went with a wine that I felt was up to the challenge. The 2011 Bedrock, Sonoma Valley, Zinfandel. Deep purple in the glass with an intense nose of blackberry and pepper. Plenty of balance between the fruit and acidity and a nice lingering hint of smoke and strawberries. This was nice match with tasty Thai food.









All three of us chose an order of Spring rolls to being our meal. Kathy and Susan went with the vegetable offering while I opted for the chicken. Both orders came with glass noodles, shredded carrots and 3 delicious rolls wrapped in a pastry shell ready for dipping into the house special sauce. These were an excellent choice as an appetizer.








 I ordered the Yum Nam Kaow Tod which, of course, virtually everyone knows is a chicken salad with herbs, lemon and red chile, tossed with red curry and crispy rice. (ok, I confess that prior to eating it I had no idea what it was). I’m not sure what the women thought of this dish but I thought it had a nice tang to it and was brightened by the addition of the lemon. We were enjoying the wine, food and conversation and were now ready for our main courses.








 Kathy selected the Isan – Style Grilled Chicken. Isan style refers to a cooking style prominent in Northeast Thailand rather than the more commonly found methods of Bangkok. Her dish contained four nice-sized pieces of grilled chicken marinated in tumeric and coconut milk and served with sticky rice and Som Tum salad  (thinly sliced fresh cabbage and carrots tossed with a spicy chopped peanut and lime dressing). Kathy thought her dinner choice was delicious.








 Susan had no hesitation in making the Roasted Duck with Vegetables her entree choice. This dish consisted of half an oven roasted duck served with a sauce of sauteed ginger, sliced red onion and minced vegetables. It looked very good and Susan declared that the duck was nicely prepared and she had zero complaints about her dinner.








          I had considered a number of choices before finally settling on the Angry Salmon. I wanted to try to figure out just what was this salmon so angry about. The menu describes the dish as Filet of Fresh Salmon, Red Pepper sauce. ANGRY! Our server explained that this salmon could be ordered on a scale of 2 to 7 with 2 being mildly upset to 7 indicating totally intense and unmitigated ANGER. That scared me a little and although I definitely wanted to feel some heat I was not sure I was ready for a fire-storm. I selected 5 and enjoyed my choice. I may have been able to go for 6 but the fish was nicely done and the sauce was spicy good. I am not a huge fan of all of the vegetables that topped the dish but that is my problem and not an indication of anything lacking in the presentation.






 The three of us finished off our meal with both the Limoncello Truffle and the Chocolate Truffle. The sweet ball of gelato was the perfect ending to a very good Thai meal.

Tamarind is a nice spot for some good Thai food in the heart of the South Street Philly nightlife.


Posted in Teresa's Cafe (2nd review) with tags , , , , , , on November 24, 2012 by ballymote

It’s hard to believe that it had been over three years since the three of us had been together at Teresa’s in Wayne, PA for one of our frequent wine dinners. It’s a place we have frequented quite often and was one of the very first reviews I ever did on this blog. How time flies. Anyway, it was nice to return and we were given what we almost think of as “our seats” right by the front window. The food and service are always good at this Main Line eatery and tonight was no exception.

You would have thought that as many times as we had dined together that Gerry, John and I would have used up every conceivable insult known to man but, not surprisingly, all came prepared with a host of new derogatory comments which leave no room for tender feelings. You can interpret that last sentence as meaning we totally enjoyed each others company.

 As usual we had some very nice wines with us, all of which did their duty in enhancing our dining experience. Gerry brought a 2008 Apex, Columbia Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a Washington State wine from the that I used to see often at Total Wines in Cherry Hill but I’m quite sure he purchased it at a PA State Store. It had a nice nose of red berries and chocolate and was well-balanced on the palate. John had a 2007 Padeletti, Brunello di Montalcino which was another of his purchases from Wines Till Sold Out (WTSO). I’m not sure I would have trusted this site for a Brunello purchase but this one did not disappoint. It had a beautiful nose with lots of typical bright cherry flavors in the mouth. Deep, dark and intense it was a nice companion to our food and proof that the 97 Brunello vintage was one of the best in Italy. My wine for the night was a 2009, Black Kite, Anderson Valley, Stoney Terrace Vineyard, Pinot Noir. This is a strong, intense Pinot with lots of plum and raspberry notes, very smooth in the mouth with a soft, lingering finish. Everyone commented on this one. It’s tough to pick a winner from this group. They were all nice wines.

Each of us started our meal with an appetizer of one sort or another. John had the Margherita Pizza, I had the meatballs and Gerry had a bowl of soup. All of them were excellent as usual.

 John selected the Four Cheese ravioli as his main course and had them add some spicy sausage to the dish. It was excellently prepared, full of great flavor and the meat helped him experience one more food group on his plate.


 It’s hard to get Gerry to choose anything at Teresa’s that isn’t the Penne Al Forno so we have given up trying. We also don’t blame him as I consider it a truly wonderful dish which I have had more than a few times. Baked penne, hot sausage, marinara, ricotta and mozzarella all married in one spicy dish. There was nothing about his meal that will having him changing his entree on his next visit.

              I ordered the Chicken Rosemarino, roasted chicken breast, a risotto cake, haricut verts and sun-dried tomatoes. Nicely done chicken breast with fresh green beans in a tasty sauce. No complaints about this one.

  We did have just the tiniest room for dessert and John finished off his dinner with a scoop of ice cream small enough to be described as minute. My Tiramisu was a healthy portion and it was an excellent representation of the popular meal ender.

 Teresa’s Cafe has been a Main Line institution for some time and their consistency of food and service has made them a great choice for dinner, any day of the week.


Posted in South Philly Tap Room with tags , , on September 30, 2012 by ballymote

       I don’t think I have ever had a post on my blog in praise of a single, specific food item. I thought long and hard about doing this but, in the end, this culinary masterpiece is deserving of this singular praise.

 Allow me to set the scene. Eight of us were at The South Philly Tap Room on a Friday evening. I did not even bring my camera as I had no intention of blogging about the SPTR because I knew we’d all be drinking beer instead of wine. In attempting to choose a starter for the meal my eyes kept coming back to the Tomato Lager Soup. I have no idea why because I am not a huge soup fan and tomato soup would be way down on my list of soups to select. Nonetheless, for some unknown reason, I did order the Tomato Lager Soup. It was phenomenal!! A hot, tangy tomato bisque made with Yeungling lager and garnished with just the right amount of spices to give the liquid some real magic. If I stopped now in my description this would have been a delicious starter. What made it a truly awesome were the two little grilled cheese sandwiches on toasted crostinis swimming in the middle of the soup. The taste, the texture, the total experience was a foodies dream. I still keep telling myself it was only a bowl of soup but it was sooooooo much more. Even more amazing, if I remember correctly, it was only $6.00!! I’m sorry, I gotta go make a call to the South Philly Tap Room and see if they make deliveries.


Posted in Francisco's on the River with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 18, 2012 by ballymote

 A Sunday visit to the Michener Museum in Doylestown, PA provided an opportunity for four couples and a lovely, unattached lady to dine at Francisco’s On The River in Washington Crossing. It’s not an area that my wife and I get to very often as it’s quite a drive from where we live in South Jersey. Nonetheless, having weathered a brief summer downpour and watching the sunshine return to the Pennsylvania countryside, Francisco’s location on the Delaware River provided the perfect setting to end what had been a fun day.

 As usual, we had some nice wines to go with our meals. Among them were the (left to right) 2009, Alexander Valley/Dry Creek Valley, Redemption, Zinfandel, the 2008 Henry’s Drive, Dead Letter Office, Shiraz, the 2009 Thumprint, Dry Creek Valley “Climax”, the 2005 Fransiscan, Maginificat and the 2008 Finca Flinchman, Tupungato. All of the wines were excellent and all of them were wines we had enjoyed on previous occasions.

I didn’t get pictures of everyone’s food but some of us started our meal with salads, mine was the Blueberry and Pear Salad topped with Goat Cheese, another was the Crabmeat Salad over spinach and arugula and topped with a raspberry vinaigrette and the other was a Caprese Salad with pesto. All of the salads were fresh and flavorful.

For my entree, I selected from the page of “specials”. This one was called “Bob’s Plate”. It was nice of Bob to share his plate with me and I was happy to see that his plate consisted of scallops, shrimp, salmon and crabmeat (yaaaaaaay, no mussels or clams) served over capellini in a vodka pink sauce. The dish was delicious and the portion large enough that it provided a nice meal on the following night.

 I did not get a picture of the Eggplant Parmegian that two of the wives ordered and raved about, not only the taste and quality but the huge portion. I did get a picture of the Lobster Ravioli, black ravioli stuffed and served in a light lobster sauce.

 One of the guys went with Francisco’s Lasagna, layers of pasta, ricotta cheese and bolognese flavored with porcini mushrooms and smoked bacon and topped with mozzaerella cheese in a red sauce. It appears Francisco knows what he is doing when it comes to turning out a great lasagna dish.

Everyone appeared to enjoy their meal and the long trip was certainly worth it.

I finished off my meal with a dish of Vanilla gelato and chatted with the ladies while my male compatriots moved across the street to partake of their filthy habit of ending a great meal with an obnoxious cigar.

 They make every effort to entice me to join them in their evil ways but I have thus far been able to resist. (as is eveident by the empty chair).

Francisco’s On The River is a fine place for a great meal.


Posted in Figs Restaurant with tags , , , , , , on August 1, 2012 by ballymote

 Due to a camera malfunction there are no pictures of what was a very nice dining experience this past Saturday evening at Figs Restaurant in the Fairmount section of Philly (2501 Meredith Street).

 The occasion was a combination belated birthday for myself and a wedding anniversary celebration for our good friends, Gerry and Joann. I had actually thought that Gerry and Joann had been to Figs with my wife, Kathy, and I a few years ago but I was incorrect. They were not familiar with this Mediterranean/Moroccan influenced BYOB.

 The menu has some interesting and unique choices and all four of us were able to find more than a few items that tempted out taste buds. Kathy started with a Hummus and Applewood Smoked Salmon Pizza, something you don’t find nightly at your local pizza joint. She liked it a lot. I tasted a slice and it was very good. I had the Pepper-crusted Scallops with tomatoes in a tangy sauce. The scallops were cooked perfectly and the sauce was an unexpected treat. All of the sauces were unusual and tasty and that is part of what makes trying entrees from different cultures a rewarding experience.

 Gerry ordered the Steamed Mussels, Moroccan-style with Charmoula, Moroccan pesto and roasted tomatoes. He thoroughly enjoyed the mussels and everyone ended up dipping bread in the sauce. Joann was perhaps the most daring member of our culinary quartet as she chose the Mediterranean Tapas Platter, consisting of fish salad, Baba Ghanoush and Stuffed Grape Leaves served with grilled flat bread. Baba Ghanoush is a dish made from roasted eggplant. I did not know that at the time and I didn’t sample any. I have long been the leader of the infamous anti-eggplant coalition. I realize I am in the minority but, what can I say.

Both Kathy and Joann selected the Angel Hair Pasta Greek Style with feta cheese, roasted Roma tomatoes, Kalamata olives and garlic infused oil. Kathy had hers with Chicken, Joann added the shrimp. Both ladies loved their entrees. Kathy brought home half of hers and I enjoyed it two nights later. Excellent and plenty of chicken, too. I actually can’t remember what Gerry ordered. I do know he liked it and I also know I will have an email from him tomorrow telling me what he ordered and commenting on my inability to remember much of anything. I do know what I had because it was delicious. It was the Oven-roasted Swordfish served with a date-barbecue sauce that was a wonderful accompaniment to the flaky fish. The swordfish was topped with spinach and rested on a yummy bed of vanilla rice. Really a unique and flavorful entree.

Was there any wine you ask? Absolutely!


      I thought everyone would love the 2007 Lagier-Meredith, Mt. Veeder, Syrah. I thought it was the best of the three but the others were more impressed with the 2007 Whitehall Lane, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. I can’t make too much of an argument since it was also very good. There was no debate on the 2009, Landmark, Overlook, Chardonnay. The four of us loved the creamy toasted pear and vanilla notes of this flavorful chardonnay.

I think both Gerry and Joann were a little apprehensive when I chose Figs for our dinner. I also think they left hoping to some day return to this excellent BYOB not far from the Art Museum in Philly.


Posted in Fond, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 20, 2012 by ballymote



With our “Hall Pass” securely tucked into our wallets and our wives sipping frozen cocktails in St. Maarten, Gerry, John and I were about to finish off  our day with a visit to Fond, a highly regarded BYOB at 1617 E. Passyunk Ave. in the heart of South Philly. We had just finished watching the Phillies lose another game at Citizens Bank Park. Gerry and John were staying over for the evening at the Bella Vista B & B and we had just showered and changed clothes in preparation for our much-anticipated reservation at Fond. During their pre-dinner cigar John asked if mediocre service would put a damper on a meal where the food and ambience were both first-rate. We finally agreed that it might not have too much affect as long as the service was adequate while other factors were top-notch. Ironically, we were only about an hour from changing our opinions, not because we ran into poor service at Fond but rather the opposite; we were shown emphatically just how much GREAT service can add to the overall dining experience.


 This would be Steve, our server at Fond. I had read somewhere that he was recently named the Top Server in Philadelphia. He reluctantly confirmed that he had indeed been singled out for that high praise. After two hours of watching him perform great feats of customer service, the three of us concurred with whomever made that selection. Steve was professional, extremely knowledgable and exuded a sense of pride in himself and his restaurant. Later, I will mention one more trait that sets Steve apart from his compatriots in the industry.




 As usual, we had some very nice wines with us to serve as appropriate beverages for our meal. Gerry provided the 2005 Los Astrales Astrales Christina, Ribera del Duero, Spain. This was a big, bold Spanish red rated 97 by the Wine Advocate and not often seen as there were only 150 cases produced. Intense flavors of leather, licorice and blackberry fill the palate and linger long after the swallow. Made from 100% Tempranillo, this was my favorite wine of the evening. John chipped in with a 2003 Arrowood, Sonoma County, Cabernet Sauvignon. Lots of dark fruit, well-balanced with soft tannins and a medium finish. Perhaps just a nuance of mint. Went well with several of our dishes. My contribution was the 2007 Phillips Hill, Oppenlander Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Mendocino County, CA. Lots of black cherry fruit and earthiness in this smooth Pinot Noir. Nice lingering finish; a nice wine.



 Narrowing your choices from the menu at Fond is no easy task. Chef Lee Styer (just back from his marriage and honeymoon to Pastry Chef Jessie Prawlucki) puts forth more than a few exotic offerings  that will tempt your palate. Steve explained that their was one small course of octopus remaining so we shared this between the three of us. The perfectly grilled octopus was served with Spanish rice, chorizo and mussels and the presentation was beautiful.





 John was delighted to find the Escargot on the menu. The delicate snails were served with hearts of palm and fennel in a mint pesto sauce. His silence while devouring his appetizer was proof enough that he was quite happy with his choice.





 Gerry wasted little time in choosing the Foie Gras Pate served with toasted croutons and a mustard sauce.

 I, too, could not resist the Foie Gras but I had mine seared with rhubarb, lemon-ricotta and almonds. This tender French delicacy was cooked to perfection and an excellent start to the meal. Two different ways to serve this dish and both Gerry and I were pleased with our choices. 




 For our entrees, Gerry left the menu and went with one of the evening specials. He settled on the Roast Quail stuffed with, what else, foie gras. The quail was cooked nicely and the sauce was a perfect marriage with the delicate bird.

 John thought long and hard before making his choice. He went with the Harpoon Caught Swordfish, served with gold beets, radish salad and lemon grass sauce. I can’t vouch for the harpoon as the weapon that captured this fish but I can vouch for the fact that it was cooked to perfection and that John was absolutely thrilled with the rich flavors of the entree.



  I had thought about the swordfish. I had not considered the quail. My eyes kept returning to the Pork Loin and that’s what I finally decided on. It was a fine choice as the meat was tender and juicy. It was served with roasted red peppers and arugula and the dish was plentiful. All three of us were content and happy with both the great food and superior service.


      I had mentioned earlier that our server, Steve possessed one other quality that made him stand out from others. He has an uncanny knack of knowing each customer quickly. By that I mean, he is able to almost instantly know who he can joke with, who he must be serious with and just exactly how far he can go. This may seem like not much of a big deal but to me, it makes all the difference in the world. It was obvious he felt comfortable enough with us to offer his personal opinions of each dish and even trade barbs with us. It was like being waited on by a good friend rather than a stranger and I think I speak for both Gerry and John when I say he played a big role in making our dining experience at Fond a memorable one.


 I had read so much before we got to Fond about the dessert “brownie” that I was quite disappointed to find there were none on this Thursday evening. John went with the Triple Sorbet of tropical ices with a couple of waffle cookies and he found it a nice ending to his meal.





 Gerry’s dessert was picture perfect but I can’t remember what it was except that it had a fruit filling with a tart and some creme fraiche. I also remember that he liked it a lot.






  With the much-anticipated brownie not available I went with the Malted Milk Chocolate Ice Cream, peanut brittle, chocolate crumble and peanut butter ganache. It was almost good enough to make me forgive the absence of the brownie.

 Our dinner at Fond was absolutely wonderful. Chef Styer is a marvelous chef and the atmosphere is warm and friendly. Seating is limited to 34 hungry foodies on any given night so make sure you make reservations early.



 Steve had suggested that there was an outside chance we might find one of those elusive brownies up the street at Belle Cakery, if they were still open. We lucked out and they were open and although they had no brownies, John and I were able to pool our remaining cash and pay the women there to have their picture taken with Gerry so that in years to come he can look back and pretend he actually did something with his “hall pass”. Thank you, ladies, our money was well spent and we appreciate your sacrifice.


Posted in Daddy Mim's (2nd review) with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 14, 2012 by ballymote


 In less than a month removed from our first visit, Gerry and I were so impressed with our previous experience at this Phoenixville BYOB that we couldn’t wait to have our friend, John, discover for himself what we had raved about. So, with our wives off on a week-long jaunt to St. Maarten the three of us had a Tuesday night reservation at this Creole restaurant. On our previous visit we had Heather as our server, we were slightly disappointed upon arrival to find that Heather was no longer there, but Melanie proved to be a capable replacement. The picture I took of Melanie turned out blurry and in fairness to her I shall leave it out of the review. She did prove to be both charming and attentive and was truly concerned that the three of us enjoy our meal.




 We can never know for sure that our food will be first-rate but we can usually be fairly certain that we will have, at least, three good wines to share. I usually bring a second bottle to make sure we don’t run dry and I am doing my best to have Gerry and John subscribe to that same generous way of thinking. Unfortunately, it’s a slow process and I haven’t yet won them over to the “second bottle” program. By the way, one of the great joys of having your own blog is being able to shade the truth without any dispute. Anyway, we had some nice wines with us. Left to right in the photo is my 1994 Far Niente, Napa Valley,  Cabernet Sauvignon. I had traded for this with a co-worker several years ago giving him some Eagles tickets in return for this 18-year-old classic cabernet. We had some trouble opening the bottle as the cork fell apart but Chef/Owner John Mims took the bottle back to the kitchen and worked his magic and in just a short time had cleanly removed the broken cork without even noticeable pieces dropping into the wine. We let this sit in our glasses for about an hour and watched the color change to a darker red and the funk burn off to reveal some nice notes of cedar and chocolate on the nose. The tannins were virtually non-existent and the soft berry flavors were well-balanced and smooth as silk. The finish was medium but we were all glad to see that the life had stayed in this one for almost 2 decades. Gerry had the 2007, Paul Autard, Chateauneuf du Pape, Cuvee Juline. This one has many years of life remaining. Nose of cedar and oak with dark cherries then smooth on the palate, mild tannins, hints of leather and cinnamon mixed with the blackberries. A very nice wine. John had brought with him the 2005 Fattoria Galardi, Terra di Lavoro, Roccamonfino. This dark Italian beauty is produced in an area about 40 miles north of Naples using some unusual grape varietals. It’s composed of 80% Aglianico and 20% Piedirosso and shows dark red with hints of leather and tobacco mixing with the dark berry fruits. It has solid structure and the wine went well with lots of the spicy Creole dishes we had.


 Gerry was determined long before we arrived that he was going to order the Lobster Tasting Special Menu that he had enjoyed immensely on a prior visit. He spent little time looking at anything else on the regular menu. John, however, is more of a meat and potatoes kind of guy and he was examining the menu until he found out that the main course on the Lobster Tasting Menu included a small filet and that was all he needed to make his decision., So both of them had made the same choice and the parade of food was on for them.


 Both Gerry and John raved about their soup, the Lobster Bisque. They thought is was absolutely perfect with one of them declaring it was in the running for the best soup they had ever tasted.





 The Crab, Lobster and Crawfish Cake was another hit. A nice blend of Creole flavors drew more praise from both of my dining companions. It looked like Daddy Mims was headed toward another culinary crowd pleaser.





 When the main course arrived it looked initially like a home run. Unfortunately, it ended up as just a long “foul ball”. John and Gerry were very disappointed with both the lobster and the filet. The lobster was described as “nothing special” and lacking in any flavor. The steak was so poor it made the lobster seem delicious. As both of them shared a small portion of their “filet” with me, I would have to agree. This was not a good piece of meat. As I mentioned earlier, Gerry had ordered this same item on a previous visit and loved it. I guess any place can have an off night or a disappointing course. Remember, the both loved their soup and crabcake course.












I had opted for the four course, Chef’s Tasting.


 My first course was the New Orleans Style Red Bean Soup with Smoked Sausage. Although the soup was good ( really like cajun spices in my soup) and the beans were plentiful, I was unable to find any semblance whatsoever of “smoked sausage”. I actually blew the photo up to 10x on my computer thinking the sausage had to be in there somewhere but not a piece was to be found. Perhaps they had simply waved the sausage over the soup. Anyway, a tad disappointing but tasty nonetheless.




 My next course, the blackened Louisiana Redfish topped with lemon aioli and served over gingered string beans was excellent. The fish was perfectly cooked and the sauce blended well with the spicy string beans. I was mucho pleased with this one.




 My main course, the Braised Short Ribs topped with salsa and served over a jalapeno jack cheese quesadilla was pretty good. The beef was nice and the sauce was perfect but the quesadilla added nothing and I would have preferred it resting on some nice mashed potatoes bathed in the same sauce. Overall though, I was pleased with my meal. If you had to please one guy and disappoint two, at least they chose the right one to please.




  Their menu ended with Banana’s Foster and mine with Strawberry Mango Butter Cream Cake with fresh berries. Both desserts were satisfactory.

 Overall, we went into Daddy Mim’s with great expectations. As I mentioned before, our visit last month had been top-notch. This one didn’t live up to our own built-up hype. Daddy Mims certainly deserves another chance based on our first visit.


Posted in Ralph's Restaurant, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on May 28, 2012 by ballymote

 Ralph’s Restaurant, in the heart of the Italian Market in South Philly, may be just about as Italian and just about as South Philly as you can get. Ralph’s lays claim to be the oldest family owned restaurant in America and the second oldest Italian restaurant (Fior D’Italia in San Francisco 1893 being #1) overall having been serving food to the public since 1900. The list of luminaries who have dined at Ralph’s is lengthy and includes Teddy Roosevelt, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Rocky Marciano, Heather Locklear, Connie Mack, Frank Rizzo and hundreds more. Parking can be difficult but they have valet parking for $8.00 and that may well be your best choice.


The menu at Ralph’s is extensive and you will most certainly find more than one item that will tempt your choosing.

It is not a BYOB so wine lovers will have to choose something from their somewhat decent wine list which is not greatly over-priced in comparison to many other restaurants. We went with a 2007 Columbia Crest Merlot. This went well with a variety of dishes.







 I began with the Bruchetta, toasted Italian bread topped with plum tomatoes, fresh basil and olive oil. It was OK, nothing special and each of you has probably experienced a better version at any one of a number of restaurants.




 My entree choice was their Spaghetti and Meatballs. This very basic dish was reasonably priced at $13.00 and the spaghetti was excellent cooked al dente which is not a style I find in many places but proved to be very enjoyable. The meatballs were delicious and my only complaint was the I thought there should have been a third meatball. Most Italian restaurants give you so much with this order that you have enough to take home but this was not one of the larger portions. Nonetheless, I have no complaints because it tasted great.




Others in our party enjoyed the Black Lobster Ravioli with shrimps and capers in a cream sauce, The Fettucini Braciole and an interesting dish that combined veal and scallops.


 For dessert the group had either the chocolate cake drizzled in syrup or the traditional Tiramisu. Both were very good.




 There was a minor dispute when the check came. They had added an automatic gratuity of 20% to the total. I understand that it is common practice to add the gratuity for parties of 8 or more (we had 10). However, I think 20% is too much for an automatic add. Most places seem to add 15 or 18 percent and then you can add additional if you want. I personally think to assume 20% is a little presumptuous. We tip 20% or more on all occasions but there is just something about automatically adding 20% that bothers me. At any rate, they had calculated wrong and instead of adding 20% they had added 22% and it took them quite some time to recalculate. It does not appear that math is their strong suit. I enjoyed my meal but several others were less than impressed by Ralph’s.


 When I began this review about a week ago I mentioned that Ralph’s was the second oldest Italian restaurant in America; second only to Fior d’Italia in San Francisco. In the past few days it has been reported that Fior d’ Italia has closed its doors which now makes Ralph’s Numero Uno on the list of oldest Italian restaurants. That in itself is reason enough to give them a try on your next visit to the South Philly Italian Market.





Posted in Daddy Mims Creole BYOB with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 29, 2012 by ballymote

 Phoenixville, PA is much like Collingswood, NJ, a rejuvenated town brought to life by a preponderance of good BYOB restaurants. The difference between the two may be that Phoenixville adds in quite a few bars amidst the eateries giving the town a little more lively feel on the weekends. My wife and I, and our friends Gerry and JoAnn, had tickets to see Two Funny Philly Guys (Joe Conklin/Big Daddy Graham) at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville last night. We had decided on Daddy Mims for dinner and I was looking forward to some good Cajun cooking. We were not disappointed.


 Matching wines with Cajun food can be tricky but both of us settled on zinfandels. I brought the 2009 Ridge, Pagani Ranch, Zinfandel. This one scored 92 points from the Wine Spectator and had a nice nose of leather and blueberry . a smooth mouthfeel with intense red and black berries and a hint os pepper and spice. Gerry had a 2008 Cakebread, Red Hills Lake County, Zinfandel. This one was from an area north of Napa and the dark fruits and flinty vanilla proved a good match for the spicy food we were sharing.

 Daddy Mims is a family affair while John Mims the Chef/Owner works his magic in the kitchen both his wife and step/daughter, Heather, are out front providing great service while evidencing total knowledge of the menu and displaying a terrific attitude. Heather opened our wines while going over the various menu options, and there are quite a few. There is a prix fix Cajun menu,  a Chef’s Tasting Menu and a special Lobster menu. We considered all three of them but ended up making our choices from the regular menu which offers more than enough choices to make things difficult.

 Kathy and I began by splitting my personal favorite salad, The Wedge. One half of a head of fresh lettuce with bacon, tomatoes and lots of rich blue cheese dressing always make this a perfect starter to any meal. It may have been the only food item that was not clearly creole.

 Each of us chose a different appetizer. Mine was the Chicken and Andouille Gumbo. Nice pieces of chicken and lots of andouille sausage in a classic New Orleans gumbo that had just the right amount of peppery spices to put the taste buds on full alert.

 My wife, Kathy, had her heart set on the mussels which she had spotted on the website menu. On this particular night they were substituting clams for the mussels. She was going to switch to something else but Heather explained that the clams were served out of the shell and in the same sauce (a white wine, Asiago and garlic butter concoction) that housed the mussels. Based on her recommendation, Kathy went with the Clams and thought they were very good.

 Meanwhile, on the other side of the table, Gerry was totally enjoying, not just both of the zinfandels but, his appetizer selection of Grilled Andouille Sausage topped with carmelized onions and mustard; another typical Louisiana dish that Chef Mims has mastered.

 JoAnn liked her appetizer every bit as much as the rest of us liked ours. She went with the Blackened Shrimp Remoulade served with a Cajun tartar sauce. There was a nice pace to the meal as we watched the dining room quickly fill early on this saturday evening.

 For my entree, I went with the Braised Beef Short Ribs topped with Port Wine demi-glace and served over cheesy fondue mashed potatoes. This dish tasted every bit as good as it looked. I sometimes find that as tempting as the short ribs always sound and you know the meat is going to be tender, they sometimes lack a lot of taste. This was NOT the case with these ribs as they were full of flavor while the potatoes were the perfect partner and the demi-glace was excellent.

 Kathy wasn’t 100% sure her stomach could tolerate a whole lot of Cajun spice so she was delighted to see that the menu offered a couple of choices that weren’t totally creole flavored. She chose the Chef’s Cut Filet served over truffle fries. Her medium steak may have been slightly closer to medium-well but she had no real complaints and enjoyed her dinner enough to bring home a good portion that may serve as tonight’s meal. I will have to settle as an observer as I had nothing left from my entree to wrap up and take home.





 Gerry had the Cajun Seafood Pasta, shrimp, crabmeat and crawfish served over pasta in a rich Cajun cream sauce. This one was chock full of seafood and it wasn’t long before his plate was clean.





 JoAnn probably went more New Orleans than any of us with her entree selection of Louisiana Red Fish with Crawfish Etouffe served over Jambalaya. She thought her dinner was outstanding.




We still had a little room for dessert and I had asked Heather prior to our meal while trying to decide which menu to choose from, if we could order the Coconut White Chocolate Cake which was only on one of the special tasting menu and not a part of the regula dessert menu. She said that we could, so each of the couples had a piece to share with one another. The cake was good but I thought the portion was much too small. It wasn’t until today that my wife suggested that may have been since it was part of a tasting menu and not an actual menu selection. Whatever, it’s the only small blemish on what was a terrific meal with great service by the entire staff. Our water glasses were filled constantly and our silverware changed more than once. Daddy Mims Creole BYOB is a great choice for dinner in the Phoenixville area. By the way, if you have never seen Joe Conklin in a live performance, it is truly a treat.