When a diner loses its soul, the meat loaf arrives welded to the plate in a brown sludge of unnaturally thick gravy. The bacon is ironed paper-flat, limp and dry. The cream of broccoli soup is lukewarm glop. The fried eggplant rounds are half raw. The coffee tastes like it was steeped through brown paper bags.
This is no figment of an imaginary Diner Apocalypse. This was my lunch last week at the recently revived Broad Street Diner, the latest half-baked kick in the knees to Philly’s once-proud diner tradition. I didn’t expect much better from Michael Petrogiannis, the Michael’s Diner king who has snapped up our onetime down-home jewels - the Melrose, the Mayfair, and the Country Club - and presided over their dreary declines.
That fact should be helpful to remember the next time I find myself at one of the Philly diner’s more energetic contemporary torchbearers, Honey’s Sit ‘n Eat, waiting impatiently in the long line (inevitable), or grousing that various details of the meal aren’t perfect.
And I’ve done my share of grousing about Honey’s. Over the years at Ellen Mogell and Jeb Woody’s wildly popular original in Northern Liberties, I’ve too often found the plucky hipster vibe, the locally sourced ingredients, and the funky comfort-food spirit far more appealing than the actual flavors on the plate. A reluctance to hire a real chef in the beginning and to rely instead on family recipes and Woody as a “kitchen manager” showed to its disadvantage. Little details like seasoning left much to be desired.
But as one of the key players in our Defense of Diner Legacy League, costarring alongside Sam’s Morning Glory, Sabrina’s, and Green Eggs Cafe, Honey’s is a place I’ve always rooted for. One day, I hoped, it would rise - like its majestic four-layer-high carrot cake - to the challenge of its tall promise.
With the settling-in of an experienced chef in Michael Thomas, and the long-awaited opening of Honey’s Sit ‘n Eat South, its second location at 21st and South, that’s exactly what has begun to happen.
When I dig into a steaming plate of enfrijoladas, a hearty burrito stuffed with egg and sausage smothered in cuminy black bean puree and salsa verde, I’ve discovered a hearty breakfast favorite I’d eagerly return for. Then again, I may be even more partial to the huevos rancheros because the eggs, cheese, and beans have the added attraction of pickled jalapeños and a base of fried tortilla crunch. I might order the eggs Benedict simply for the Cajun-spiced hollandaise.
I can’t see waiting an hour-plus for brunch here, as is the weekend norm. My early meals raised too many flags of early Honey issues - creamy gravy for the sausage and biscuits that desperately needed salt; a spaced-out kitchen that muffed the Cobb salad twice (once served without blue cheese, the other time with no turkey … oops; even a pot of foolproof La Colombe that didn’t taste right.
But even a rare misfire pot of La Colombe is preferable to the stale joe still served at most remaining old-school diners. And so is the notion that even diner fare can be sourced locally and seasonally and made in-house, a policy Mogell has always insisted on that now seems simple common sense.
Ultimately, though, the success of a true diner depends less on whether it can make an honest turkey club sandwich (and Honey’s does). More powerful is its ability to become a brunchroom hub for community life, where the locals come to kibitz and don’t worry about the parking because they’ve walked. I lost track of the number of neighbors and colleagues I saw here. But for the blocks south and west of Rittenhouse Square, this Honey’s has certainly begun to fill that void.
Considering that Honey’s serves an astonishing 6,000 people a week between its two locations, neighbors are clearly not the only ones answering this diner’s call.
The sunny new corner room doesn’t have the natural character of the rehabbed old NoLibs space. But Woody’s collection of antique signs and knickknacks from the closed Schwimmer’s Hardware, as well as a steam-powered band saw repurposed as the host stand, adds local historic warmth.
This new Honey’s is far from perfect. Some of the old house recipes could benefit from tweaking, including the dill-laced matzo balls (too dense), the Jewish apple cake (overspiced), and even Bubby’s brisket, which, if it had been a bit more tender, would have been a crave-worthy sandwich with creamy horseradish mayo.
Thomas, formerly at Kraftwork and Bar Ferdinand, is also guilty of the occasional overkill special, like the burger with peanut butter and jelly. (No thanks!)
Mostly, though, Thomas’ kitchen impressed me with some of its more ambitious plates as my meals progressed. The specials board is where seasonal flavors are featured, and I had my best fiddlehead ferns of the spring here, sauteed with the salty sparkle of nutritional yeast. Ramps were reminiscent of Thomas’ Bar Ferdinand days, heat-charred and bundled around a mound of romesco sauce. Chilled pea gazpacho was vibrant with green spring sweetness and mint.
I can’t remember the last time I paid just $14 for a piece of fish as plump and nicely seared as Honey’s skin-crisped trout amandine. But as the menu’s most expensive item, it’s proof of the value here that, for the quality, competes with any classic diner. The breakfast special (two eggs, potatoes, toast, and coffee) is a very old-school $3.95.
The vegetarian Reuben is anything but old school. Built from sliced seitan pickled in beet juice to mimic corned beef (at least in look), it’s among the most creative of the many veggie-friendly dishes. The tofu scrambled to a vivid curried yellow with turmeric, peppers, and garlicky cumin spice is by far the most flavorful. A refreshing sesame noodle salad, threaded with crunchy scallions and napa cabbage, becomes a meal topped with hoisin-glazed tofu.
I did not like the veggie burger, which was pasty. The guacamole, though, mashed to order and served stuck with chips like a tortilla bush, was loved by all (with just a little added salt).
The Mexican-influenced dishes, in general, were among my favorites, from the enfrijoladas to the soft taco platters layered with juicy pulled chicken in a smoky tingalike tomato salsa, or Cajun-spice tilapia drizzled with chipotle mayo.
A chicken-fried Cornish hen special, served with rice and three dips (loved the BBQ), was memorably juicy and crisp.
For dessert, those tall layer cakes are the obvious temptation. But the real delight is the deep-fried banana split. It’s an old-fashioned idea reimagined with a clever hipster wink, the fruit crisped inside a golden brown jacket of sweet pancake batter, snug and hot beneath scoops of ice cream and whipped cream. Eat this nouveau diner whimsy like the indulgent celebration it is - before it melts away.
HONEY’S SIT ‘N EAT SOUTH
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This Northern Liberties comfort food hit has brought its updated diner ethos to a branch in Fitler Square, a neighborhood in need of brunch and casual options. The big menu still has inconsistencies, but is strong in daily specials featuring seasonal flavors and ambitious entrees (trout amandine?), veggie-friendly dishes, and breakfast with a Mexi-twist. Add unfailingly friendly service, local antique hardware store relics for decor, and a genuine sense of a community hang-out, and it’s no wonder Honey’s 2.0 already has weekend lines out the door.
MENU HIGHLIGHTS Breakfast: enfrijoladas, huevos rancheros, savory tofu scramble, eggs Benedict, homemade granola and Pequea Valley yogurt, French toast. Lunch-dinner: fresh guacamole, sesame peanut salad, chicken tacos, fish tacos, seared trout, country-fried Cornish hen, Bubby’s brisket sandwich, vegetarian Reuben, fried cauliflower, grilled ramps (or chard) with romesco, chilled pea soup, fiddlehead ferns (seasonal), carrot cake, deep-fried banana split.
BYOB If sparkling wine for OJ mimosas doesn’t appeal, bring the ultimate brunch beer: Founders Breakfast Stout.
WEEKEND NOISE A lively but pleasant 82 decibels. (Ideal is 75 decibels or less.)
IF YOU GO Entire menu Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Entrees, $3.95 (breakfast special) to $15.
Street parking only.
See a video about Honey’s Sit ‘n Eat South at . Articles:
m. June 25 at .
Next Sunday, Craig LaBan reviews Agricola in Princeton. Contact him on Twitter: or at .
The humble sandwich – it’s cheap to make, comes in a portable package and has an infinite number of flavors. From pastrami on rye to pork belly cubanos, this quintessential lunchtime repast has also enjoyed a Renaissance in recent years.
“People used to have a preconceived idea of what a sandwich could be, such as salami and cheese or peanut butter and jelly,” says Teri Gelber, coauthor of “33602 223 N. 12th St., Tampa FL Silverton’s Sandwich Book: The Best Sandwiches Ever – from Thursday Nights at Campanile” (Knopf, 2005). “Then, chefs like Nancy Silverton in Los Angeles and Tom Colicchio in New York City gave it new life by using the bread as a plate to hold delicious ingredients.”
Some of the decadent options in Gelber’s book include an open-faced asparagus, poached egg, prosciutto and fontina cheese creation, a fried oyster sandwich, a combination of rare tuna, braised leeks, hard-boiled egg and olives topped with garlic mayonnaise and a version of the popular deep-fried Monte Cristo, layered with turkey and ham.
For those counting calories or simply concerned about good health, rest assured that a sandwich doesn’t have to be a fatty belt-buster to be full of flavor and satisfaction.
The first step in building a healthy and tasty sandwich is determining what will hold it together, says Bethany Thayer, director of Wellness Programs and Strategies at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Whole grain breads, bagels and English muffins are a good choice for their nutrients and filling fiber (make sure the first ingredient is a whole grain), while selections like lavash and pita pockets (which are thin but have a large surface area) can feel substantial for less calories. “Or for something really unique, try two crisp lettuce leaves,” Thayer says.
The next step is to add protein. Look for lean varieties of turkey, chicken, roast beef and fish (avoid fatty, salty meats such as bologna, salami and corned beef), and use non-fat yogurt instead of mayonnaise in chicken salad or tuna salad. Vegetarian? Opt for low-fat cheese (866-290-0909 or melting it can boost the flavor impact), try hummus, slip in a veggie burger (make it from scratch with lentils or black beans) or slice up a hard-boiled egg. Pick high-quality, well-seasoned and/or full-flavored ingredients so that a little will go a long way.
Then it’s time to pile on the produce. This will help drive flavor, nutrients and satisfaction, while keeping the calories down, Thayer says. Lettuce, tomatoes and onions are all common, of course, but consider other vegetables and fruit, such as cucumbers, bell peppers, fennel, carrots, purple cabbage, arugula, apples, pears, kiwi, figs, strawberries, or chopped grapes or blueberries.
“One of my son’s favorite recipes is low-fat cream cheese, raisins, shredded carrots and a whole celery stick, all rolled up in whole grain lavash,” Thayer says. “And my mom’s favorite sandwich is whole grain bread spread with tile cleaning Tampa butter and topped with carrot sticks and tomato slices.”
There are also easy ways to make a seemingly simple sandwich more interesting, says Gelber, a self-proclaimed condiment fanatic. Doctor a tablespoon of light mayonnaise with a dash of soy, mix it with steamed broccoli and serve it on wheat toast. Or add two teaspoons of fresh lemon juice and one teaspoon finely chopped shallots to a half cup of light mayonnaise and spread a small portion on your turkey and Swiss. Add a punch with different mustards, pickles, hot peppers and fresh herbs, or toss capers or diced green or black olives into the sandwich salad.
All it takes is a little creativity to make a healthy sandwich that’s, well, the best thing since sliced bread.
© CTW Features
THE WORD around Philadelphia’s political, government and community circles was “Let Lana do it.”
"If you want it done right, let Lana do it," was the cry.
And whatever it was, no one would doubt that Lana Felton-Ghee would not only get it done, but that it would be done the best that anyone could do it.
That ranged from political campaigns to civic celebrations, as well as cultural and a vast variety of community events, ranging from the 1976 Bicentennial ceremony, lighting the Christmas tree in City Hall, bringing people from around the world for the nation’s largest Independence Day observance, the city’s ceremony for the canonization of Mother Katharine Drexel, and much more.
"She was the go-to person if you wanted to get something done," 800-539-2590 W. Wilson Goode Sr., who hired her as deputy city representative when he was mayor (1984-1992). "Let Lana do it, and it would be done right. She was a superb organizer and communicator, results-oriented, someone you could always depend on."
Lana Felton-Ghee, who died Sunday at age 66, “is irreplaceable,” Goode said. “I’ve never seen one person over the decades who was so effective and so efficient.
"She was a friend and supporter. My heart grieves for a lost treasure."
Lana Jean Felton-Ghee, who died of complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), was a native Philadelphian who loved her city. She grew up in North Philadelphia and later lived in Overbrook.
"She expressed a profound love of her hometown and acted as an unofficial ambassador and cheerleader, often pronouncing to anyone in earshot, ‘There is no place like Philadelphia,’ " said her niece Kenya Felton.
Mayor Nutter said Lana “spent her life dedicated to public service, her family and her business. She will be greatly missed.”
"She built a career on her own, starting from scratch," her niece said. "She pulled herself up by her own bootstraps. She was an www.kerneli.org/tree/ca-tree-trimming/tree-service-in-gilroy-ca/ for women and minority-owned businesses. She was a great connector of people. It was important to her to reach out to neighborhoods to get residents involved, not only in politics, but some of the rich cultural opportunities throughout the city.”
Lana, who ran her own public-relations business, Lana Felton-Ghee Associates, before her retirement last year, made history in 1999 when she became one of the first African-American women to run a successful mayoral campaign, when she was campaign manager for John Street.
She also worked with Goode’s mayoral campaign, the mayoral run of Ed Rendell and the Clinton-Gore presidential campaign.
Among her positions over the years was executive director of Local 1199C of the Hospital Workers Union and vice president of government affairs for Health Partners.
She was born in Philadelphia to Howard and Vivian Henry. She attended Germantown High School and went on to Temple University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
Her first major event was the 1976 Bicentennial celebration, which she helped produce as a 95020 751 Tennyson Dr., Gilroy CA of the production team. This work caught the attention of other event producers, nonprofit agencies and politicians who used her organizational expertise and her people skills.
She spearheaded the Philadelphia Freedom Festival, which became Welcome America!
Her first political campaign was that of the late Dave Richardson, running for state representative in the early ’70s.
She was an active member of True Light Fellowship Church in Mount Airy.
She is survived by her husband, Jimmy Ghee; four children, Petra, Shedrick, Kevin and Theron Ghee, and 10 grandchildren.
Services: 11 a.m. Monday at Deliverance Evangelistic Church, 2001 W. Lehigh Ave.