Food: It’s All Good in the ‘Hood

When Helen and I left our Mum­mer’s Row apart­ment for our house here on Let­ter­ly St. in Decem­ber 2006, it was a sad affair. We left behind a deli­cious world of Ital­ian bak­eries and restau­rants, as well as some great sand­wich­es, too, for a new neigh­bor­hood where the most obvi­ous food options were Jovan’s Place, a quaint Yugoslav restau­rant around the cor­ner, and Key Foods Piz­za across the street. It pains me to tell you that one evening we were so des­per­ate for din­ner we got take­out from — gasp — Apple­bee’s. It was prob­a­bly our culi­nary rock bottom.

But there was light at the end of the tun­nel. In the two years we’ve lived up here we’ve found some great food, whether it’s Mem­phis Tap­room around the cor­ner when we’re just look­ing for a quick bite and some­thing to drink, or Bistro Juliana for the delight­ful Ital­ian food we loved so much in our old neigh­bor­hood. But that’s not all! I recent­ly made an ear­ly morn­ing run to Czer­w’s on Tilton St. for sev­er­al pounds of smoked kiel­basa and fresh-made piero­gies. If there is a heav­en, I hope it smells like Czer­w’s. There’s great Mex­i­can at Las Cazue­las, or quick Mex­i­can at Taco Rien­do. We’ve even found some decent piz­za, hav­ing recent­ly tried San­tuc­ci’s upside-down square pie. Now we feel like we have more options than we ever did back in old Pennsport.

We’re not alone. Our neigh­bor­hood has recent­ly been a new focal point in local cui­sine, fea­tur­ing both new­com­ers and old. The amaz­ing Rick Nichols recent­ly ven­tured up Rich­mond St. in Port Rich­mond, high­light­ing all the won­de­ful Pol­ish food the neigh­bor­hood offers. Think that sounds deli­cious? Then you should spend a Sat­ur­day after­noon with him on his Edi­ble World Food Tour that’s being orga­nized by First Per­son Arts! (I’ll add that you should check out the oth­er New Wave Cafe up on Alleghe­ny Avenue for a few rounds of strong Pol­ish beer and more than your fair share of kiel­basa and pierogies.)

Metro con­trib­u­tor and Foo­booz writer Arthur Etchells also reps for our ‘hood in his recent arti­cle, “Riv­er Ward Steps Up.” He talks about some of the restau­rants I men­tioned above, as well as The Pick­led Heron, a restau­rant that will bring fin­er din­ing to Frank­ford Avenue lat­er this spring. They also hope to take part in Riv­er Ward Restau­rant Week! That’s real­ly excit­ing, espe­cial­ly since there was some spec­u­la­tion about whether or not they would still be open­ing as the econ­o­my took the plunge. I can’t wait to try their menu!

When our friends Rick and Grace recent­ly moved up to Let­ter­ly St. just two doors up the block, we assured them it was a great neigh­bor­hood that we’d been beta-test­ing for over two years. It’s a great area that blends old favorites like Jovan’s Place and Mem­phis Tap­room. We have Greens­grow Farms and Philadel­phia Brew­ing Com­pa­ny around the cor­ner, too! Now when you think of Port Fish­ing­ton, think food!

The Running Man

If you fol­low me on Twit­ter or Dai­ly Mile, or by some strange twist of fate bump into me in real life, you know I start­ed train­ing for and suc­cess­ful­ly com­plet­ed the Philadel­phia Marathon last Novem­ber. I’ve tried to keep it up over the course of the win­ter, but it has­n’t been easy. Cold weath­er and icy side­walks aren’t the most invit­ing aspects of the mid-Atlantic region, and I can’t stand to run on a tread­mill. I often opt­ed out of a morn­ing run rather than risk break­ing my neck on some black ice I did­n’t see (or to just stay in my nice warm bed a lit­tle longer.)

I’ve lost a step, thanks to that, but I’m con­fi­dent know­ing that the time I lazed will like­ly keep me from over­train­ing at an unsus­tain­ably high lev­el. I’m a lit­tle frus­trat­ed by the set­back, but I’m still aver­ag­ing a sub‑8 minute mile, so it won’t be long before I’m run­ning com­fort­ably at clos­er to 7 minute miles all the time.

Now that the weath­er’s start­ing to get warmer and the sun is up before I’m at the office, I’m back out on the streets of Port Fish­ing­ton again. (I know, I’ve said I hate that term, and I do, but I use it here because I’m run­ning from my house into Port Rich­mond, and occa­sion­al­ly Brides­burg. There are now no few­er than four names for my neighborhood.They include Olde Rich­mond, which is total­ly bogus, brought to you by ORCA; there’s Flat Iron, the name most of our neigh­bors call the area; and last­ly, Cione, which derives from the play­ground at the neigh­bor­hood’s north­east­ern bound­ary at Aramin­go and Lehigh.) My route right now takes me up Rich­mond St., which is usu­al­ly pret­ty emp­ty (and always flat) when I get out there in the hazy pre-dawn hours. It can be a bit bor­ing, and it’s not exact­ly pic­turesque, but it’s con­ve­nience that dic­tates the terms here.

I’m look­ing for­ward to April, when it’ll be even warmer and I’ll feel more com­fort­able rid­ing my bike down to the Com­cast Cen­ter. Then I’ll be joined by my friend Bri­an from the Food Trust on morn­ing runs dur­ing the week. We’re already run­ning togeth­er on week­ends and it’s been great. I can think of few things more reward­ing than get­ting out ear­ly on a Sat­ur­day or Sun­day morn­ing for a good long run. It’s actu­al­ly pret­ty beau­ti­ful if you can get out there before every rollerblad­er and week­end cyclist descends on Kel­ly Drive.

I’m already look­ing for­ward to those 14+ mile runs that take us into Wis­sahick­on Creek Park. It’ll be amaz­ing to get back out there in the late sum­mer and ear­ly fall.