Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cafe Apamate, Philadelphia PA

Some Sundays there is almost an hour wait for brunch at Cafe Apamate. Other Sundays, you can just walk right in. On my most recent visit the place is almost empty, but even if you have to wait it's totally worth it.

If clouds tasted like pancakes they would taste like the ones at Cafe Apamate. I have never had one fluffier. The Panquecas con Fruta ($7.95) is served with berries and whipped cream so fresh that it melts before I finish eating it!

Panquecas con Fruta
The only slight change I would make to this dish: it comes with maple syrup already poured. While the syrup is very good, I end up having too much soaked in at the beginning and not enough by the end. Next time I will know to ask for it on the side.

My brunchmate orders the amazing Tostas con Pisto ($6.95): A mixture of veggies served over toasted bread and topped with a poached egg. The veggies and egg soak into the crispy bread to create a texture explosion. The meal is balanced by a delicious salad of mixed greens. The salad has strawberry slices in it that compliment the acidic vinaigrette-dressing beautifully.

Tostas con Pisto

Having tried them here before, I am looking forward to our order of Churros Clásicos ($6), served with a decadent dark chocolate dipping sauce these churrous are crispy and sweet. Unfortunately, the churros machine breaks down so we left without dessert. Other than that, this is a perfect brunch: great food, excellent service, reasonable prices, in a cozy atmosphere.

If you go:

  • 1620 South St
    Philadelphia, PA 19146
  • Phone: (215) 790-1620

  • Cash only.
  • Brunch Served Sundays, 11AM-2:30PM
  • Cafe Apamate

Friday, February 27, 2009

Sam's Morning Glory Diner, Philadelphia PA

Hot CocoaI've eaten at Morning Glory quiet a few times and both the food and service always seems to be a bit hit or miss. Unfortunately on my most recent visit the service was a definite miss.

Arriving before my brunchmate, the server delivered menus and curtly asked "do you know how long it will be before the other person arrives?" While I could understand this question if the place was full, on a weekday morning there were plenty of open tables. Almost as popular as Sabrina's, the only time you will find empty tables like this is midweek.

Unsure about ordering the hot chocolate ($2), I asked if it was made with real chocolate or was from a mix. I was assured that it was made in-house with actual chocolate. Unfortunately the taste did not match the description; it seemed more like warmed-up Nestle Quick and the texture was not at all like real hot chocolate. I did not finish it.

Deciding to stick with the specials menu, I ordered the Oatmeal with fresh fruit ($7) and my brunchmate ordered the Pancakes with chocolate chips with an orange mascarpone topping ($8).

The oatmeal had just a hint of cinnamon, which I found slightly odd with the fruit but the taste grew on me. While the dish was served with a container of brown sugar, the bananas and mango were perfectly ripe and all the sweetness I needed.

My brunchmate found the three huge pancakes to be "tasty but way too much food!" The orange mascarpone was very subtle and paired nicely with the chocolate chip batter.


At the end of our meal I realized, perhaps, why our server had wondered when my friend would arrive. I think his shift must have ended. Or perhaps he had a lunch break? Whatever the case, it would have been fine if he had let us know he wasn't coming back but he quickly dropped off the bill without asking if we needed anything else. After chatting for awhile, we realized he was totally MIA and that no one planned to return to us, so we asked at the counter for "to go" containers. Unfortunately the only size they had were extra-small, so my brunchmate was forced to hack up the leftovers in order to make them fit.

While not a complete disaster, Morning Glory is beginning to lose its charm.

If you go:
  • 735 S 10th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
  • Phone: (215) 413-3999
  • Cash only.
  • Website link does not work.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Hot Chocolate

Good with brunch, or at anytime of day, this time of year always calls for a delicious cup of hot chocolate. Below is a list my most memorable hot chocolates. Please note that I prefer a rich, dark, full-bodied hot chocolate so if you're into the instant packets these might be a bit too intense for you.

Casa Madonna Divino Amore‎, just outside of Chioggia, Italy
Full-screenA rich dark-milk chocolate, made in an espresso machine and served by the nuns. I will never forget the taste of this hot chocolate. It is that good.

Caffè Venezia, Chiusi, Italy
Caffe Venezia has an overwhelming number of hot chocolate options. Including a very bitter one that I swear is simply 100% cacao melted down. If you chose carefully though, you are in for a fantastic treat. They also serve very decent gelato.

Supper, Philadelphia, PA
Probably the closest thing to the nun's hot chocolate this side of the Atlantic.

Cafe Golosa, Philadelphia PA
Traditional Italian hot chocolate; shaken not stirred. Extremely rich, full-bodied, and fantastic.

Cafe Apamate, Philadelphia PA
Tied with Golosa for its a dark, rich, flavor.

Sazon Restaurant & Cafe, Philadelphia PA
Traditional Venezuelan hot chocolates "homemade" from single origin cacao beans. Intense flavors.

Rim Cafe, Philadelphia PA
While more milky than I usually like, Rim Cafe's hot chocolate is about the experience. You just have to go to fully understand.

Serendipity 3, New York, NY
Overrated but totally fun, the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate is served with a straw and big enough for two.

Best "On The Go" Hot Chocolate:
Starbucks Signature Hot Chocolate
I am truly surprised at the flavor of this hot chocolate. While the quality sometimes depends on which store you visit, most of the time it [along with all the others on this list] ranks above hot chocolates that I've ordered from places such as Naked Chocolate and Parc. Just remember to specify "Signature" or they will give you something else.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

LaVa Cafe, Philadelphia PA

On a recent Sunday morning I join two brunchmates at LaVa Cafe. More coffee shop than typical brunch spot, LaVa offers a nice variety of options at prices that work in today's economy. A relaxed environment with the slogan “Get to know your neighbors,” LaVa offers both table and sofa seating.

Hot Apple Cider I order the vegetarian soup of the day ($3.50) and hot apple cider. The cider is nicely spiced and slightly foamy. The perfect drink on a very cold day.

The soup is advertised as lentil but they ran out and I receive a bowl of vegetable soup. This is fine by me because it looks so good that a brunchmate decides to order one as well!

Vegetable Soup

Filled with chunks of carrots, celery, and other veggies, the soup tastes like a very good traditional chicken-noodle soup (minus the chicken and the noodles). It is served with fresh bread.

One brunchmate orders the Caramel French Toast ($4.85). Made with Brioche bread and served with fresh berries, this is a delicious, "buttery, pillowy goodness" of a bargain despite the containers of fake maple syrup that it is served with.

French Toast

Egg&Cheese Sandwich
Another brunchmate orders the Egg & Cheese Sandwich ($3.65), which is served on some fantastic looking bread. The cheese is "creamy in a very good way."

As we're about to leave, we see that LaVa makes Jachnoon –“Rolled dough baked overnight. Served with fresh grated tomato & hard boiled egg” ($6.50). Alas, this pretzel-like treat is only served on Saturdays.

If you go:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sabrina's Cafe

Sabrina's is a Philadelphia brunch standby. I have never eaten there on a weekend because the line outside is always way too long. They do not take reservations, but from what I hear, you can call when you're on your way and they will add your name to the waiting list. Or, if you're like me, you can eat there at dinnertime or have a weekday brunch. Even then, the place is never empty.

One of my favorite things about Sabrina's is that they have a wide selection of seasonal specials and they even update their specials list on their website!

On a recent visit, I tried the Pumpkin “Spice Up your Life" Pancakes ($11.95). These come with a with a Butternut Squash-spice cake topping, rum soaked raisins, berry maple syrup and fresh blueberries. Extremely filling, I could not finish the plate.

Pumpkin 'Spice Up Your Life' Pancakes

The pancakes were wonderful, but the topping was much too sweet for me and the squash seemed out of place. I also had a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice ($3.99). Sabrina's o.j. is among the best available at restaurants in this city, but you can buy fresher tasting organic orange juice from Whole Foods for less.

My brunchmate ordered the Cali Turkey Sandwich ($9.29), which comes with a side of fries but they substituted a house salad for no extra charge.

Cali Turkey Sandwich

The sandwich was: “tasty!” But we knew we were on the east coast, because they had run out of avocado.

While I enjoy Sabrina's, I feel that they are the “summer blockbuster” of Philadelphia brunches. Yes it's good, and yes you will leave happy, but if you're willing to explore a bit, there is a lot more out there that is even better.

While people tell me that the “sequel” (located in Fairmount) is equally great, I have yet to check it out.

If you go:

  • 910 Christian Street Philadelphia, PA 19147
  • Phone: (215) 574-1599
  • They accept credit cards.
  • Sabrina's Website

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Mi Lah Vegetarian, Philadelphia PA

My first visit to Mi Lah was unsuccessful—we arrive an hour before closing to find out that the kitchen has run out of food! Thankfully my next visit was well worth the wait. Mi Lah's brunch is prix fixe ($20) and includes coffee or tea, a bloody mary mix drink or a mimosa mix drink, a plate of fresh fruit with vegan muffins and scones and a sweet or savory main course.
Considering both quality and quantity this is quite a bargain.

Both my brunchmate and I order the mimosas: a very nice blend of orange and grapefruit juices with a gentle kick of ginger that mimics the real thing (minus bubbles).

Fruit & Vegan Muffins

The fruit plate includes grapes, apples, and melon. The poppy seed scones are surprisingly soft, at least compared to store bought ones. The blueberry muffin is a little dry but chock-full of juicy berries. The ginger muffin is especially delicious with a touch of crumbled sugar on top.

For my main course I order the Vegan Lumberjack plate with pumpkin pancakes, tofu scramble, red bliss and sweet potato homefries and tempeh bacon. Offering a blend of sweet and savory with enough food for leftovers, this dish has it all.

The Vegan Lumberjack
The pumpkin pancakes, served with organic maple syrup and candied gingered butter and filled with tiny chunks of walnuts, are totally mouth-watering. The tempeh bacon is very nicely seasoned but aside from how it is sliced it is (unsurprisingly) nothing like actual bacon.

Lumberjack LeftoversThe scrambled tofu is slightly on the bland side flavor-wise, but personally I prefer this to the over-seasoned version that most places serve up. The onions and red peppers do give a bit of a bite to the scramble and it pairs nicely with the buttered wheat toast. The mix of red bliss and sweet potatoes in the homefries is great, uniquely seasoned with parsley and black pepper.

My bruchmate selects the veggie sausage and white gravy over oven-fresh biscuits, with red bliss and sweet potato homefries. The sausage is well-seasoned, the biscuits taste like traditional buttermilk ones, and the vegan gravy is out of this world. This dish takes comfort food to a whole new level.

Veggie Sausage with Biscuits and Gravy

As far as I am aware, Mi Lah is the only totally vegan menu brunch in town. Even if you are a meat-lover, you have got to check this place out....on second thought, go somewhere else-- I don't want to have to wait in line when I go back!

If you go:
  • 218 South 16th Street (between Locust and Walnut)
    Philadelphia, PA 19102
  • Phone: (215) 732-8888
  • They accept credit cards.
  • Mi Lah Website