Thursday, April 7, 2011

By George - that's a cheesesteak!

In June I plan to go to New Orleans, and when I tell people this I instantly hear "You have to go get a Beignet from Cafe Du Monde!" Because I already know this,  I'm letting them cater an event I'm hosting with my job (WT Cox Subscriptions).  When I went to Portland last year, everyone told me I had to visit Voodoo Donuts, and I did!  AMAZING!  I had a peanut butter and Oreo donut that was totally yummy! In Memphis, you're told to go to Rendezvous for Ribs.  They won't disappoint and you will find yourself licking your fingers.  When in Chicago you have to get a deep dish pizza from Giordano's.  You'll leave stuffed.  And when you go to Philly, you know you're going to be told to get a Cheesesteak.

Last week I was in Philadelphia for a conference and was staying in "Center City" (the heart of the convention center area).  Reading Terminal Market is a jewel that gives Philadelphia a distinct personality for convention goers.  It gives the city some personality and a distinctive feature that the city can be proud of.  It has heart, it has soul - and even the day before the convention started, it was bustling with traffic.  In the movie "National Treasure" Nicholas Cage runs through the market. How he didn't stop for something to eat causes me to believe the movie isn't all that realistic...

This market is like a farmers market, meat market, dry goods market, bakery, flea market and a scattering of many counter restaurants all in one.  The mouth watering aromas almost drove me crazy.  The Amish goodies had me salivating. The fish markets had me gagging.   There were so many places to eat that I had a difficult time deciding where to choose.  I was following the tweets from the conference and attendees were saying "try this place" & "try that place."  So I did.  The market was fun!

On my first day in Philly I ate at a stand called Carmen's.  I pounced when I saw an empty seat at the counter!  The empty seat just happened to be right in front of the cash register.  The cashier (and I'm guessing the owner) rudely told me I was to wait in line, place my order and then get a seat if there was one available.  I thought he was rude, but by the end of the week, I realized that's just the personality of people in the market.  Brash. Loud. Obnoxious.  No southern charm there!  There wasn't a line so I was able to order from my seat, and the sandwich quickly came.  It was good - but nothing to write home about.

But by George, I was going to find an outstanding cheesesteak!  The next day I saw several tweets about a place called "By George" and I set out to find it.  The steak in this sandwich was real steak, not just "meat" sliced so thin it looked like a product called "steakums." It was real steak, and a very healthy portion was sizzling on the grill.  And the cheese - there was lots of cheese.  It was cooked with onions and placed on a roll that was perfect for the sandwich.  I had found it, I had found a GREAT Philly Cheesesteak!

Even in the midst of all the options surrounding me, I ended up eating at "By George" twice.  The food was fabulous, and the guy at the cash register was actually kind.  They had a wide range of Italian dishes to choose from but their cheesesteak appeared to be one of the hottest selling items.  Like many others, I tweeted of this exceptional cheesesteak!

I do want to mention another place too - Delilah's.  Back in 2003 Oprah said she had the best Macaroni & Cheese in the country.  I'm sure that got this place some business. The mac and cheese was good, but the fried chicken and blackeye peas with rice were exceptional.

I just had an observation - we had two customer dinners where the bill was well over $1,500.  Yet I am writing about an $8 Philly Cheesesteak.  It's pretty obvious to see where my taste buds gravitate.

And just in case my boss reads this - Yes, I did spend some time in the convention center and spent time at our booth.  Our customer dinners were a huge success.  It was a great conference with many leads generated!  But it was Reading Terminal Market that made this conference stand out from the recent ones.

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