thoughts on eating in and dining out in the Delaware Valley
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Famous 4th Street Deli (19th Street)
There are times in one's life where massive quantities of comfort food are in order. The day after my cat died, suffering from a sinus infection, I knew there was one place that could give me what I needed: Famous 4th Street. I wanted matzoh ball soup and several different forms of carbohydrates; I wasn't too picky about which ones. I knew Famous would have things in fantastical, Disney-like proportions, as though eating in the eighth Epcot country of overgrown Jewish delicatessens. Proportion-wise, I was spot on. Taste wise, well, stick with the soups and bagels.
The matzoh ball soup, pictured above, was amazing -- with white meat chicken and the matzoh ball being substantive without crossing the line in density. The grilled cheese tasted purely of butter and of this, I can never complain. The stuffed cabbage, serve with potato pancakes and kishka. Kishka, I asked? Our server was dubious, noting it was an acquired taste. It turns out to be sausage or stuffed intestine with a filling made of meat or meal (so says wikipedia) and a taste that I did not, in fact, acquire that evening.
The stuffed cabbage was apparently done in traditional Jewish deli style, not in my traditional Pennsylvania Dutch grandmother's style, meaning it was bizarrely, sugary sweet. Not my favorite.
We got some sides with our grilled cheese (did I mention the need for massive amounts of carbs?). The challah stuffing was also strangely sweet and the onion mashed potatoes, pictured left, while enough to feed a small army, were strangely less than great. Both simultaneously buttery and dry, the potatoes had too many onions for a skewed flavor balance that didn't work for me.
For dessert, however, after much debate and eschewing of the ever-popular black and white cookie, we opted for the checkerboard cake, with mocha-like buttercream frosting. It was the size of my arm and I ate leftovers from it for three days - after I split it with MDC. Really amazing, moist, tasty cake.
Around since 1923 and best known for being the central gathering on many an election day, Fourth Street reinvented itself in 2005, changing hands, and ultimately expanding to its Rittenhouse location. I like the atmosphere, white subway tiles, and older crowd. Where its food sometimes fails, its scale still wows. Someday I will learn the scientific nomenclature around the high one gets from massive amounts of carbohydrates. In the mean time, I will call it comforted.