Category Archives: The Friday 5

The Friday Five for December 6th

What I’m enjoying: Maploco. Stumbled across this website this week. It lets you post every state you’ve ever visited. My rules for visiting: must have had a meal there and either shopped or seen a cultural attraction. Zooming through at 65 MPH doesn’t count (I’ve driven through Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas, but have never “visited”.) I’ve been lucky enough to take two cross country trips in my life (humblebrag), which certainly helped knock a lot of states off the list. Of states I’ve enjoyed visiting the most, I think I’d have to say Colorado, California, and Maine. Well besides Hawaii, which is pretty much 50x better than any other state in the country.

What I’m watching: Like everyone else on earth, I’m watching the Irishman. I enjoyed it. The epilogue didn’t need to be 50 minutes, but otherwise I thought it was very good. If you’re like most people and don’t have 3.5 hours to sit down and watch a movie, I found the above breakdown quite useful. I’ve also thought Pacino was a bit overrated, but I have to say that I really enjoyed him as Hoffa. I thought Sheeran should have been played by someone younger than DeNiro but it didn’t bother me too much. And I thought Scorcese was great. This is when he’s at his best, telling a slow, sprawling story. The details were a ton of fun. You could look at the screen and tell by the fashion, furniture, etc. what year it was. That was really a highlight of the film. If you enjoyed the movie, you should ABSOLUTELY listen to our interview with George Anastasia.

What I’m reading: Read a couple of awesome long reads this week. This GQ article about conditions atop Mount Everest is absolutely nuts. Basically anybody with a few bucks can climb to the top, no questions asked. Meanwhile, this NJ.com article about a 1990 high school football game that devastated a coach and the star QB is absolutely terrific…and involves the Eagles offensive coordinator. The video above is also by NJ.com and accompanies the piece.

What I’m Listening to: The Dropout, a podcast about Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos, is absolutely riveting. I watched a documentary about this, and it was actually kind of boring. But this podcast by ABC News is terrific. Just amazing what a huge scam she was running, and how many people got duped because they wanted to believe in it. In the words of Public Enemy, Don’t Believe the Hype, and it was all hype. An insane amount of it. But no product.

Random Thing I Really Like: The “upcoming shows” bulletin board at Franky Bradley’s. Just walked by it on my way to the store the other day, and really enjoyed looking at it. A well done, colorful and sexy collage.

See ya next week. In the meantime, follow me on twitter.

The Friday Five

What I’m Listening To: Philly artist Son Little has been on my radar for a little while now, and I’m thinking about checking him out next week at the World Cafe Live. Not even sure how to categorize his music. Sort of an indie/soul/R&B/ rock mix. Mostly originals (check out Alice and O Mother), but his occasional covers show off the breadth of his influences. Check out his Zeppelin cover here, and a Drake cover here. Great stuff, great voice. Been listening to it all morning.

Piping hot steamed dumpings at Chinese Restaurant.

Where I’m Eating: I tried out Chinese Restaurant (Tai Jiang) this week, and it may be the least pretentious restaurant in Philadelphia. It’s basically three small tables and a handful of stools in front of a tiny counter. The menu is a piece of paper taped to the wall. The only sound in the room was the iphone of the guy sitting behind me watching a show in Chinese. I ordered the steamed dumplings, and in literally 5 seconds they were in front of me, piping hot. And really good. Got a piping hot bowl of wonton soup too. All for $6.50. The cuisine served is from the Fujian province, and the tiny spot is reminiscent (apparently) of restaurants in Fuzhou, the capital city of Fujian. I then watched this vid and learned more about Fuzhou, a place I had never known existed until this week. This is not just a “Chinese Restaurant”, it’s a portal into a place I’ll probably never get to visit. But thanks to the people running this restaurant, I’ll get to try to cuisine every bit as authentic as that served in Fuzhou. For a mere $6.50. How awesome is that?

Where I’m Shopping: Last week the fam and I took a short road trip to Media. Fun little spot to hang out in for a few hours. One of the highlights was a walk through Deals, a large general store on West State Street. Took me back to being a kid and hanging out at Connie’s Corner, the old general store in Nassawadox that shut down in the early 80s. The creaky floor, the overwhelming size of the place, the old school toys all took me back to a time when I was my son’s age. He decided to get a ball that you could mold into different shapes but which when you were done would also resort back into being a ball. He had a lot of fun with until it exploded in the car. But even the exploding ball couldn’t spoil the trip down memory lane I got by walking through Deals. Neat place.

My wife and what was left of the exploding ball.
Photo courtesy of Billy Penn.

Where I’m drinking: My son had a karate demonstration in Mount Airy last weekend, and as a fan of historic taverns, afterwards we just had to grab a quick drink down the street at McMenamin’s. (Well, my wife and I did. My son didn’t. He’s 6.) It is a refreshingly diverse bar, just as Mount Airy is a refreshingly diverse neighborhood. And the area is just far enough away from the city to lose a little bit of the city’s edge. You can feel it…people let their guard down a bit out there. Conversation spilled from table to table. Just a really warm, friendly place. I suspect it also has that homey, comfortable feel because it’s been owned by the same family since 1936. I came away feeling the same way that Danya Henninger did about the place a couple of years ago: I left McMenamin’s not just happy that I grabbed a beer, but thinking about what life would be like out there permanently.

Where I’m Eating, Part 2: This place hardly needs any more hype, everybody know how insanely good it is, but my God: the roast pork sandwich with provolone and broccoli rabe at DiNic’s at Reading Terminal might be what I’d want for my last meal. I had one this week and it truly made my day. Warren Zevon famously said, “Enjoy every sandwich”, so follow his advice and go to Dinic’s. Perfection.

If you enjoyed the Friday Five, click like below and be sure to follow me on twitter where I’m always blabbing about this shit, not only on Fridays.

The Friday Five for November 15th

So Long Sal.

Where I’m eating: Decided to try Middle Child this week. Got the So Long Sal. It’s an Italian hoagie, basically, and a few bucks more than your typical hoagie spot ($11.75 plus tax). But man oh man is it terrific! One of the best hoagies I’ve had in some time. Highly recommend.

What I’m Watching: Did you watch The Devil Next Door yet? If not, drop everything and watch it now! But set aside a few hours…once you start you’re not going to want to stop this one, and it’s a 5-part series. It’s about John Demyanyuk, a rather common diesel engine mechanic in Cleveland who oh by the way just might have been Ivan the Terrible, one of the most horrific Nazi monsters to ever live. The twists and turns start early, and by the end you’re like, “You couldn’t write fiction like this, because it would be too unbelievable.”

Where I’m Grabbing Coffee: The Italian Market is quite possibly my favorite “wander aimlessly” spot in the city. Sometimes I buy stuff in the market, sometimes I don’t, but there are few better places in the city to people watch. And both Gleaners and Anthony’s are perfect for people watching. Just great big windows to look out on the people who make the Italian Market such a magical place.

What I’m listening to: Marty Smith, who is a bigwig at ESPN these days, is sort of my Sam Wainwright. We were the two hotshots of sports journalism at Radford University in the late 90s, and he’s on ESPN every day while I’d like to remind you that beers are a buck off during quizzo. (Not complaining, my life is great and I’m really happy for Marty, who’s a solid dude, but I suspect most of us have a Sam Wainwright.)

Anyways, Marty hosts a regular podcast called Marty Smith’s America, and this past week he had an incredible guest on the show. Charles Csuri was an all-American at Ohio State who went off to WW2 right after graduating college. He earned the Bronze Star in the Battle of the Bulge. When he returned home, he went to work on computers, which were in their infancy. He became a game changer in that field, and is now known as the Father of Computer animation. The interview is terrific…he talks about playing football in the 40s, the horrors of war, and his work with computers. But what grabs you is that this guy, who has had such a remarkable life, is so incredibly humble. In an age of bombasity, it’s really refreshing that one of the few people who’s really DONE IT, JACK, is so refreshingly humble. Great interview.

Where I’m Drinking: On the rare occasions I’m upstairs at Tattooed Mom’s, I think, “How am I not here more often?” It’s basically everything you want when you wanna grab a drink in the city. Hip, urbane, but not pretentious. The walls are covered in graffiti, but not because it’s the “look”…it happened organically, and it changes constantly. They host art shows, raise money for charity, have great beers on tap. What’s not to love?

Until next week, be sure to follow me on twitter and Instagram. And be sure to check out our podcast, the Philly Blunt.

The Friday Five

Where I’m drinking: Pub and Kitchen. The lighting is perfect, the drinks are solid, and Donnie is one of my favorite bartenders in the city. Last night he turnd me on to Last Call, a terrific book that just came out and features several Philly cocktail bars. We interviewed former P&K chef Jonny Mac a couple of months ago on the Blunt, which you should check out.

What I’m reading: this excellent article about Robert E. Lee and how the school Washington and Lee is grappling with his legacy in the wake of Charlottesville. This is a really smart piece. Beautifully done. I’ve got my own opinions about Robert E. Lee, but I’ll have to save them for a longer piece. (Short story: not a fan).

Who I Became a Big Fan of This Week: A local photog named Shawn X. This dude has two Philly based instagram accounts and they’re both awesome. One is called Mediumsizedports, and is essentially headshots of various Philadelphians, most of them in black and white. It’s just beautiful. His other page, Mediumsizeddeal, is mostly cityscapes. Much more colorful than the other page, and just some really terrific shots.

Pic of the Ben Franklin taken by me last weekend behind Sugarhouse.

Where I hiked with my kid this week: Believe it or not, down by Sugarhouse…well I guess they’re calling it Rivers or whatever now. A really pretty walk by the river.

What I’m watching: I watch educational stuff with my kid each morning before school and unfortunately he’s obsessed with spiders, which I hate. This week we watched some nut job open black widow egg sacks. This shit is horrifying. You shouldn’t watch it.

The Friday Five

Not as much locally to talk about this week, as I spent a long weekend in Richmond, but still some fun stuff to talk about:

What I’m Watching: Just watched Dolemite Is My Name on Netflix, and it was a hell of a lot of fun. Highly recommend. Love movies about people who aren’t the most talented or most gifted, but simply the most determined, and if there was any one word that described Rudy Ray Moore, it was “determined”. Reminded me of another Rudy. And the acting is terrific. Eddie Murphy is at his best, and Wesley Snipes is just terrific.

What I Learned This Week: That Ballad of a Thin Man by Bob Dylan was one of the main theme songs of the Black Panthers. From an article on Red Bull Music Academy: The song’s lyrics, which describe a man who enjoys watching circus geek shows, struck a chord with (Huey P.) Newton. He saw the titular character, Mr. Jones, as an upper class white man who indulged in exploring the black ghetto on Sunday afternoons to check out the prostitutes and inhabitants of the decaying community. The fictional Mr. Jones was a voyeur of sorts, and got off on watching what Newton called a freak show...According to Newton, the circus freaks mentioned in the song, including the sword swallower and the one-eye midget, represent the disadvantaged ghetto residents who aren’t interested in serving as entertainment for Mr. Jones. They instead demand payment for a trick or some food or drink. Otherwise, they’d like Mr. Jones to shove off and go home.

What I’m Reading: Great 1985 Esquire piece on Dr J. Interesting dude, and a great article. Can’t imagine too many elite athletes today discussing the tenets of religion with a reporter.

But it wasn’t until our discussion in his office, during a laborious spiel of mine concerning the duty of the seeker to examine the varieties of religious experience, that Julius began to get pissed.

“I just can’t agree,” he said, “because even if you do manage to synthesize all these systems, what good is it going to do you? Even if you’re the smartest man on earth, even if you’re Albert Einstein, you’ll still only have a thimbleful of all the knowledge in the world. Where does that lead you? Digging and grinding on this unbelievable quest? Is there happiness in that? So it comes down to making concessions … down to knowing you’re not the wisest or the smartest, not the ultimate of anything, but knowing too that you have this powerful need to grasp something meaningful, something purposeful … you want a way, a way that makes sense for you, that you can embrace.”

The guy who wrote it, Marc Jacobson, would 15 years later do a piece on Franck Lucas that would be the inspiration for American Gangster. Also worth a read.

The lychee martini at Xiandu.

Where I’m eating and drinking: Xiandu Thai. I’ve really come to love this place over the past few months. My move is to get their for pickup before 7, have a Happy Hour cocktail while I wait for my takeout, and then come home a conquering hero with terrific Thai food. Get the lychee martini! This past time I got the the drunken noodles and the pineapple fried rice, but no matter what I get there it’s great. It’s my favorite Thai place in Philly.

Goofy Little Project I’m Working On: I started this awhile back, took a long break, and just started back on it. I’m a huge fan of the book Travels in Philadelphia by Christopher Morley (you can read the entire book online, though I’d suggest you get a physical copy if you really like it.) I decided awhile back to start an instagram page where I went back to places he wrote about in the late 1910s for the Philadelphia Evening Ledger and take pictures of them 100 years later. Kind of fun to see what’s changed and what’s the same after this much time.

The Friday Five: What to Eat, Drink, and Listen to in Philly

Carving a pumpkin at Craft Hall.

What I’m listening to: Ok so let’s get the nepotism out of the way; the artist known as Reef the Lost Cauze is one of my best friends in Philly. He’s the kind of guy that everyone who knows him considers one of their best friends. He’s just got that kind of energy where to know the guy is to love him. But before I knew him as a friend, I knew his music, and I truly thought him to be right up there with Black Thought among Philly MCs. He still occupies that rare air, and his latest album was his masterpiece. The Majestic is an album of heartbreak, anguish, but most of all, love. Check out this song about his second born son that he performed on XPN. He also just released a new video this week, and it’s another tour de force about family. It’s a song about his grandparents, and it pulls you in right off the bat with the blues guitar riff and the first few lines:

Well the old man is dead, his wife is in a home
And just like that my childhood is gone
Forever never seems that long until you're grown
Never thought you'd pass away I assumed you were made of stone

It’s a beautiful paean to two of the most important people in his life, and will have you thinking about your grandparents as well. It’ll also have you interested in his album. You should listen to it, then buy it. Support local artists, but even moreso, support a classic album.

What else you should be listening to: You should be listening to the latest edition of the Philly Blunt, this one with legendary Philly mob writer George Anastasia. If you’ve ever wanted to learn about the Philly Mob, this is an excellent opportunity. He tells all and holds back nothing, talking about Skinny Joey, Frank Bruno, and why the mob isn’t as powerful as it was 40 years ago. If you enjoy the interview, do us a solid and leave us a 5-star rating on itunes. And remember: “vice is commerce”.

Where I’m eating: The Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House in Chinatown is a damn gem. Had the chicken stir fry this time and it was out of this world. Had soup the last time I was there and it was great as well. Can’t recommend this spot enough.

Where I’m getting coffee/tea: Stumbled across Bloomsday this past week while walking through Headhouse Square, and wow! What a space! It’s a wine bar as well, but I was there in the afternoon and I haven’t quite reached the point of drinking wine at 2 pm on a random Wednesday. So I got a Macha Latte (because I’m a fancy boy) and enjoyed the hell out of the scenery. Really cool space. Can’t wait to go back for wine.

Maccha Latte at Bloomsday.

Where I’m Getting a Beer: Holy shit, have you guys been to the Craft Hall yet? You probably have, because judging by the crowd there on a rainy Sunday I was the only one who didn’t know about it. It. Is. Awesome. Packed on a Sunday afternoon, and extremely kid friendly, it has a playground and on Sunday had pumpkin carving. Could have killed a whole day there if I didn’t have a damn family. Just kidding! My wife and kid loved it too, and we had to pull ourselves away. It’s in the old Yards Brewery space right next to Sugarhouse.

The Friday Five

What I’m watching: In preparation for our interview with George Anastasia for the Philly Blunt this week, I watched this National Geographic special on the Philly Mob (which features Anastasia quite a bit). It’s a fun watch, and gives you a good background on the past 50 years of the Philly mob. Interview drops on Monday and it’s a good one.

What I’m reading: Jemele Hill wrote a great piece in the Atlantic about LeBron James and the Hong Kong situation. I’m both massively disappointed in LeBron and massively disappointed in myself for believing that a business like the NBA really ever cared about anything other than money.

Oh, and my Pete Dexter book just arrived yesterday. Psyched!

Whose artwork I’m appreciating: Jenna, better known as @ifacepaint215. We took Avery to his friend Gabe’s birthday party last weekend. While the other kids were asking the facepainter to look like tigers and dragons, Avery said, “Make me look like a haunted house with a graveyard outside and also could we have a witch on a broom and a few ghosts escaping from the haunted house and a phantom walking in the graveyard?” Now this request came after she’d been facepainting all afternoon. But instead of doing what I would have done, which is packing everything up and quitting facepainting for good, she not only did everything he asked for but did an awesome job of it. If you need a facepainter, she’s your woman.

Where I’m grabbing a drink: Finally made it to Friday Saturday Sunday last weekend. Beautiful room, terrific drinks. How terrific? My wife got the Eggplant spritz. I hate eggplant and the damn drink was still delicious.

I got the Assassin’s Handbook, since it didn’t sound like anything I’ve ever had (what in the hell is cognac, really?). It was spicy (habanero!) and strong and tasted great on a cool Fall night. The space is beautiful, made me a feel a bit like I was in the bar in the Shining (that’s a compliment!). It’s a really fun place to grab a drink, and I’ve heard the food is great too.

Where I’m eating: Few places in the city where I love to eat more than Blue Corn in the Italian Market. Right next door to one of my favorite Italian places, Villa di Roma. Two first class restaurants, with no frills and no bells and whistles, just absolutely great food and drink. It’s a reminder of what a huge positive immigration has been for Philadelphia, and the importance of family in the two cultures that currently dominate the Italian Market: 15 family members work at Blue Corn, while Pip Deluca and his 5 siblings work at Villa Di Roma. You get that family feel when you walk into both. Really might be my favorite side by side restaurant combo in the city.

Got the Blue Tacos this week, and they were terrific. Can’t recommend this place enough. For what it’s worth neither can Craig Laban.

Until next week, if you enjoyed it, click like below. Be sure to follow me on Instagram, twitter, and facebook. And while you’re at it, follow the Philly Blunt on IG as well. We’re doing some incredible interviews on the show.

The Friday 5

I stuck my cheesesteak card into the Cheesesteak ATM and withdrew 4 cheesesteaks.
  • What I’m reading: Articles about infamous Philly Daily News columnist Pete Dexter, who now is better known for writing the novel Paris Trout and the screenplay for Mulholland Drive. This profile of him in Philly Mag in 1979 is terrific, though his life would get even more interesting two years later, when he and Tex Cobb got beat up together in Gray’s Ferry. He would quit writing for the News after that and started writing novels.
  • What I’m watching: my son is really into Halloween. Definitely his favorite holiday, and has been ever since he was two. Dunno what it is, but he loves mystery and horror. It started with Little Red Car (don’t watch this link unless you want a terrible song stuck in your head for, uh, roughly forever). He soon moved onto Scooby Doo, which is pretty fun to watch. But I wanted to see if he was ready to step up his horror game, so I recently showed him this cartoon of the Fall of the House of Usher. It’s read by Christopher Lee and it’s a really fun Halloween watch, whether you’re 5 or 50. He digs it, and the other night we watched a short bio of Poe. I’m really excited for him to become a Poe fan.
  • What I’m listening to: Sometimes I check in to see who is coming out of Camden musically. If ever there’s any hope that something good can come out of the most brutal of circumstances, it comes from forgotten towns like Camden. One of the guys I like the most right now is a young dude named Mir Fontane. As I’ve expressed on the past two editions of the Friday Five, I’m a huge fan of people who can paint a picture, and this young guy does it incredibly well. Especially powerful is a song of his that simply titled “Camden.” The cast of characters he describes in the first verse is nothing short of Dickensian:
RaVicky gettin money 
Cause he got a little set now
Shae lost her baby

So she back smokin that wet now
Pooh got booked

I heard he workin with the feds now
Til Tony caught him slippin’

Shoulda never turned his head round (BANG!)
Keisha still fuck around with Crackhead James
Heard he sold a flatscreen

So he could buy more caine.
And Jermaine sit on the block

Snd it’s a shame cause he smart
His momma crying every day

And say he breaking her heart
The whole hood shed tears

When they heard Diggs got killed
It’s been two whole years

And no bids got dealt
A n***a that I called my homie
Fucked around and changed on me
Pulled the heat from off his hip
And tried to make it rain on me
This what y’all call hell
But this what I call home
And I’m gonna grind until I get it

And once I get it I’m gone
The white folks want the drugs,

So they come and spend their bucks here
Til they ain’t got no bus fare,
Now them n***as stuck here
  • New Philly Blunt podcast dropped this week: An interview with Ange Branca of Sate Kampar. She grew up in Malaysia, but moved to Philly in her early 20s. After working in the financial sector, she got bored and decided to open her own restaurant, cooking Malaysian food unlike anywhere else in the city. A great listen if you want to hear how Philly looks to someone who not only didn’t grow up here, but grew up half a world away. You can check out Sate Kampar here on IG (and go by there and try the Rendang Daging.)
Punkin pickin.
  • Place I’m checking out: The last one is kind of expensive but yet at the same point totally worth it. We love the fall around here: as I stated earlier my son loves the Halloween season especially, but my wife has always loved pumpkins, fall leaves, the whole thing. So on Sunday we headed to Shady Brook Farm in Yardley. It was $18 each just to enter (!) but once inside it was a great place to take a 5 year old. There was a hayride to pick apples and pumpkins, a big playground, speed pitch (I got up to 60 mph, which I was fairly happy with), inflatable castles. And for adults, they also have an outdoor bar serving pumpkin beer and so forth. We went during the Eagles game (they were playing the pathetic Jets, so I thought it would be a good one to miss) which was a strong move. I’m sure it’s much busier when the Birds aren’t on. There is also a corn maze but I have a terrible sense of direction and I hated it. At the end of the day it’s too expensive but I’m sure insurance there is a bear and when you and your family have a great day it’s hard to put a pricetag on it.

Until next week, be sure to follow me (and argue with me!) on twitter. And if you’re a sports fan, be sure to follow Shibe Sports on IG. Just did a photo shoot last weekend and gonna be posting some great photos over the next few weeks. Finally, if you enjoyed the Friday 5, be sure to click like below. Have a great weekend!