Jem Restaurant – East Norriton, PA

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Last weekend, the boy and I had another boys day out. We’ve been planning to go to a big toy show out in Warminster for months, but before heading out to Bucks County, we decided some sustenance was in order. We had actually planned to just have some crappy McDonald’s breakfast since we were planning to drop some cash at the convention, but when we got to Ronald’s place the lady at the counter advised me that they “weren’t serving breakfast today” (at 8:00 in the morning?!?). No problem…we’re out! So instead, we drove down the street to a little shopping plaza diner that I pass by every day and have always wanted to stop at – Jem Restaurant.

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Jem is a 50’s-themed diner with the checkerboard floor, vinyl chairs and booths, and photos of classic cars, old movie stars, and lots of knick-knacks on the walls. They’re located in the Swede Square Shopping Center and they’re actually really easy to miss if you don’t know they’re there. Which makes this place the perfect hidden gem.

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And anyplace that hangs a sign like this in the dining room is cool with me 🙂

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Jem was pretty packed the entire time we were there. A constant, steady stream of families and obvious regulars came and went with smiles and full bellies. It was really, really nice to see. I don’t think I’ve experienced the homey diner feel quite like this since exploring PA’s eateries. The owner, Tony Bello, even came and introduced himself with a handshake as soon as we were seated (he had no idea I was there reviewing the restaurant). He was a cheerful fellow, the kind of guy you’d imagine that runs a place like this. He told us they had been around, and in fact in that very spot, for 43 years! Jem is a family-run restaurant, with Tony’s wife, kids, and other family members all working hard to make sure their customers are comfortable and happy.

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Jem serves breakfast and lunch, pretty much classic diner fare. Nothing too fancy on the menu, but they definitely offer enough variety to keep folks coming back. This was just page one of the breakfast menu. They also serve a full line-up of pancakes, French toast and waffles.

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Our server was cheerful and friendly, and very likable. And she left a whole pot of diner coffee just for me! Talk about service!!

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Mmmm…man fuel.

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The boy has been on a S.O.S. kick lately, so he ordered Debbie’s Creamed Chipped Beef ($7.50). The large order included two slices of toast (he chose wheat) covered with a pool of creamy chipped beef goodness. They do have a single slice order for like a dollar cheaper, but he’s a growing boy, ya’ll. It came with his choice of shredded hash browns or diced redskin home fries.

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I love having breakfast and spending time with my best little buddy.

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I ordered a plate from their specials board, the Bacon & cheddar omelette w/hash browns & toast ($6.50). it appeared to be a 3-egger that was nicely cooked, and the hash browns were yummy as well.

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I appreciated the fact that they used properly-cooked, semi-crispy bacon pieces to fill my egg blanket. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s rubbery, under-cooked bacon in an omelette. It definitely could have used a little more cheese (IMO), but overall it was really good.

I was really pleasantly surprised at how much I liked Jem Restaurant. Like I said earlier, this place just has a certain charm about it that I’ve been missing. I think Mrs. Grub Guy would really like the environment here, not to mention the awesome folks and the good food. Since it’s so close to home, I’m sure we’ll be back. This is the kind of place I could become a regular at.

Pro Tip: Jem Restaurant is cash only, so don’t forget to hit up the ATM before you get here (but if you do forget, there’s an ATM inside!)

Jem Restaurant is located at 2931 Swede Rd, Norristown, PA 19401 (MAP). They’re open Monday – Friday, 6:00 AM – 2:00 PM, Saturday, 7:00 AM – 2:00 PM, and Sunday, 8:00 AM – 1:00 PM. For more info about Jem Restaurant, check out their Facebook page HERE.

 

 

 

Very Strawberry Smoothie

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So, I’ve been trying to curb my unquenchable appetite for bacon, donuts, fried chicken & waffles and all other bad-for-me breakfast things lately. I’ve been reading all kinds of smoothie and juice recipes on the interwebs and have actually found some really tasty and really filling options. I thought I’d share what has become my early go-to…it’s super simple and can be made in just a few minutes, and perfect for when you’re heading out the door in the mornings. It’s what I call the “Very Strawberry Smoothie”.

This flavor-bursting, sugar-free, creamy smoothie only requires 3 ingredients to make. I know strawberries are not in season right now, but I usually try to shop my neighborhood produce market as opposed to a big chain grocery store, because it just seems like they have the more ripe, more flavorful berries. At least during this time of year.

I like things sweet, so I was a little concerned when the wife broke out the unsweetened almond milk. But it was actually really good. If you like it really sweet, you can always use sweetened almond milk, or add some honey, agave syrup, or a banana.

Anyway, if you want to give this a try, let me know what you think. And look for more posts and recipes like this in the future!

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Ingredients: 

3/4 cup ice cubes

1.5 – 2 cups fresh strawberries, washed and hulled

1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (or any other milk)

Instructions:

  1. Put ice cubes into blender or food processor and blend until crushed
  2. Add strawberries and almond milk and blend until smooth
  3. Enjoy!

Luna Cafe – Philadelphia, PA

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How long have I been saying, “I need to get into the city more often”? Well maybe I haven’t said it to you guys all that much, but my wife is sick of hearing it. As most of you already know, Philly is absolutely littered with great breakfast and brunch places – hip little cafes, charming BYOB brunch spots and cozy corner eateries – and I am still in the process of discovering a lot of them! So I was very happy to recently accept the invitation of Sarah Levine, owner of Luna Cafe in the Old City neighborhood,  to come and sample some of their amazing breakfast and brunch dishes. We set up our visit for New Year’s Day brunch because a) Sarah suggested it would be a great time to experience the whole atmosphere since there would be live music and the brunch service would be in full swing, and b) It was my birthday, so I already knew I’d be going out with my family for my birthday brunch anyway!

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Luna Cafe is a really cool, quaint little BYO bistro on Market St in the heart of Old City. The front of the house is your typical cafe set-up, with 6-8 small tables lining the walls of a narrow dining space and a pay counter/take-out counter at the far end. It’s really set up nicely so that all of the free space is utilized, but it doesn’t feel like you’re sitting on top of each other. They were really busy just about the entire time we were visiting, with tables filling just as fast as they were vacated, which was a great thing to see.

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The walls are adorned with lots of great local artwork for sale and a couple of large chalkboards where their menu specials are listed.

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Beyond the main dining area is the kitchen, and just beyond that is a peculiar little area set up with an ATM (they’re a cash only cafe), a comfy sofa, a trendy, exposed-brick wall with more art, and a really nice finished-walnut bar outfitted with several USB jacks. I really liked this backroom space.

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As I passed back through on my way back to our table, I spied some really delicious-looking plates coming out of the kitchen. I hurried back to my seat to take a look at the menu.

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Luna Cafe offers some nice drink options including this delicious Berry Smoothie and organic hot and iced coffee from Philly Fair Trade Roasters. Other highlights on their drink menu are more smoothies and juices, cappuccino, espresso, latte and kombucha.

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As we sipped our coffee, we perused the breakfast menu and discussed our options. Of course the boy was eyeing his old standby favorites, but Mrs. Grub Guy and I discussed several of the scrumptious-sounding entrees. They have a pretty well-rounded menu at LC: Brunch classics like Huevos Rancheros and Build-Your-Own Omelettes and more, some delightful breakfast sandwich options, a few heavy hitters like their Breakfast Bowl (quinoa, black beans, cheddar cheese, avocado and cilantro aioli on a bed of arugula and topped with a sunny egg), Luna Loaded Potatoes (A mountain of breakfast potatoes, melted cheddar cheese, pico, sour cream, green onions and topped with an optional egg  or bacon), their version of Fried Chicken and Waffles, and others. They also have a nice sides/a-la-cart option, too.

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As we placed our orders, the guys from The Carryons set up their equipment and began their set. The guitar and trumpet duo play some really amazing original jazz tunes at several local cafes around Philly, and are anticipating the release of their first LP this Spring. I highly recommend checking them out if you get the chance.

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Steven ordered one of his favorites, Pancakes ($10.00). His plate came out with a big stack of three, good-sized flapjacks dusted with powdered sugar. These looked and smelled very, very good. We always try to encourage him to try something new in or on top of his pancakes…strawberries, bananas, blueberries, chocolate chips, SOMETHING….but alas, he is a creature of habit.

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So a drizzle of maple syrup was applied, and away he went. Thankfully, I did end up getting to try several bites of these (and my previous notion was correct…they WERE really, really good!) because the boy had inevitably filled his belly with berry smoothie before his food came out, and was stuffed by about 5 bites in.

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The wife ordered The Early Bird ($10.00), a large breakfast sandwich made of egg whites, sliced turkey breast, avocado and cilantro aioli on whole wheat toast. She added fontina cheese for a small upcharge.

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This sandwich was amazing. She loved all of the avocado stacked inside, as well as the freshness of the turkey. The combination of flavors really made for a truly standout sandwich. The only thing that would have made this dish better (in my opinion) may have been maybe a few strips of salty bacon tucked inside, and possibly a couple of bites of fresh fruit or something on the side. This was very well done and easy to like.

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I knew what I was ordering about 5 seconds after I saw it on the menu – the Fried Chicken and Waffles ($15.00). Chicken & waffles has become sort of a brunch standard these days for many restaurants, but it’s still hard to pass this dish up any time I see it offered, and LC’s version sounded heavenly. The base was a big, house-made Belgian waffle stacked with buttermilk fried chicken and covered in a white maple gravy. Umm, yeah…it was just as boss as it sounds.

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The waffle was light and airy yet substantial and was cooked perfectly. The buttermilk fried chicken was incredible – a huge, tender breast cut into pieces and topped with a maple gravy that absolutely put this dish over the top and catapulted to the top of my list as probably one of the most flavorful chicken & waffles I’ve ever had. Seriously guys, you need to go here and try this plate of deliciousness. It’s a huge portion that I struggled to finish (even with the wife sneaking a few bites), and I’m a big eater. If I could find synonyms for the words “So Good” about 15 more times, it still wouldn’t adequately describe how much I loved this.

Brunch is a must in the City of Brotherly Love, and there are plenty of places to choose from. But, might I recommend scrolling though this review one more time to see how awesome of a spot that Luna Cafe really is. The food is amazing and the portions are huge. The atmosphere is charming, especially on live music brunch Sundays. And the service was fast and friendly. And don’t forget to BYOB!

If I were you, I’d pencil in a visit soon!!!

I’d like to thank Sarah and Luna Cafe for generously providing our meal as part of this review. All opinions are my own.

Luna Cafe is located at 317 Market St., Philadelphia, PA 19106 (MAP). They’re open Weekdays, 7:00 AM – 3:00 PM, and Weekends, 8:00 AM – 3:00 PM. For more info check out their website, and find them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Luna Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Jeffersonville Diner – Norristown, PA

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The Jeffersonville Diner on Egypt Rd. in the Jeffersonville/Audubon/Norristown area has long been a local breakfast and lunch establishment in that neighborhood. It was closed down for quite a while, and just within the last few weeks has opened under new ownership. I remember this place from when we lived in this area years ago, although I never ate there, and I was sort of surprised when we moved back here last year to learn that it had closed. The wife and I had spotted a full parking lot and a “Grand Opening” sign out front while we were Christmas shopping nearby a couple of weeks ago, and decided we  should check them out some time. Well, the day after Christmas, when the rest of the family took a trip to the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, we headed here for a quick breakfast before going to see Rogue One.

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The dining room was sort of quiet, despite the day being a day off for a lot of people. Although to be fair, we stopped in here right between breakfast and lunch. The restaurant was pretty clean and the tables were roomy. Lots of neutral tones going on here decorating-wise, with a couple of big windows to let in some natural light.

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Jeffersonville Diner’s breakfast menu takes up two full pages of their rather large menu (both in physical size and variety). Page one features over 30 different omelettes as well as egg platters, specialty dishes and a la cart items. Page two is a full smorgasbord of waffles, pancakes and french toast.

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The service we received at Jeffersonville Diner was great. Our waitress was very friendly and when we asked a couple of questions about some of the dishes, she was happy to go check with the kitchen to get answers for us. Our cups were kept full of diner brown coffee, the creamer packets were plentiful and our food arrived fairly quickly to our table.

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Mrs. Grub Guy debated between several options, but decided upon the Quiche of the Day special ($6.95), which included her choice of bread and fresh fruit.

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She was told they had two quiches to choose from – a bacon quiche, and a sausage AND bacon quiche. The wife, being the meat-lover she is, opted for the latter. However, when the plate came to the table, it appeared that they had given her a totally different quiche altogether. It definitely had some veggies in there, and she said it may or may not have had some bacon pieces on top. Whatever it was, she actually really enjoyed it. She chose an English muffin as her bread and said it was fresh and chewy. Both good things.

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I really didn’t have a clue what I was in the mood for…which is rare. I scoured the menu for several minutes before finding a dish that I had never seen before, the Eggs “Pancake Style” with pastrami brisket ($8.75). It was buried deep in the middle of the Omelette section of the menu.

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Going off of the name of the dish only, I surmised that it could possibly be some sort of open-faced omelette, which was confirmed by our server. When my plate came out to the table, I was really intrigued with my meal. It was actually a stack of three medium-sized “pancakes” – simply just layers of scrambled egg with diced pastrami added. It came with my choice of toast and some really delicious home fries.

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The pastrami was really tasty and pretty plentiful. It was an interesting twist on breakfast, as opposed to just offering a pastrami omelette. I would have liked to see maybe a sprinkle of shredded cheddar on top or something, but overall it was filling and we were very satisfied.

Jeffersonville Diner was a great start to our day without the kiddo. Breakfast was hot and filling, and we both enjoyed our food. With many, many places around to satisfy a diner-food craving, at least this spot seems to be trying to stand out a little with some simple twists on typical breakfast meals.

Jeffersonville Diner is located at 236 Egypt Rd, Norristown, PA 19403 (MAP). They’re open Monday – Sunday, 6:00 AM – 9:00 PM. For more info, check out their Facebook page HERE.

Jeffersonville Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chalfont Family Restaurant – Chalfont, PA

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‘Tis the season to spend your weekends doing all kinds of festive Christmas-y stuff with your family. Recently, Mrs. Grub Guy, the boy, the wife’s parents and I all piled into the car and took a quick trip out to Chalfont, PA in Bucks County to visit the Byers’ Choice factory. The factory is a spectacular place that offers free access to the public and group tours through their showroom/museum/factory/gift shop year round, but it’s especially fun this time of year, and the wife absolutely loves their Carolers figures. Anyway, we decided to make a day of it and we started with a hearty breakfast at nearby Chalfont Family Restaurant.

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I knew nothing about Chalfont Family Restaurant until I found it on Yelp. There I found lots of praise for their breakfasts, so I figured this would be a good place to fuel up before our holiday fun. When we arrived at around 9:30 AM on Saturday morning, the dining room was lively and the sounds of large families and groups of friends enjoying each others company, and their breakfasts, echoed throughout the building (it had cleared out a lot while we were eating, and before I took this picture as we were leaving). The place was clean, well lit, and comfortable.

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They serve total diner breakfast food and family restaurant favorites. Nothing in their 6 page breakfast menu blew me away as I browsed and considered, but it all sounded pretty darn good and filling. I’m not sure if this makes sense, but they did have a small “Mexican specialties” section on the menu which seemed a little out of place even if the food didn’t – dishes like a breakfast quesadilla, breakfast burritos and a couple of other things. It’s kinda cool that the guy in the back making the Huevos a la Mexicana was the same guy cooking your pancakes and scrapple. I love diversity, even in places where it’s unexpected.

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We all ordered some pretty typical diner breakfasts, like the Chalfont Special #1 ($7.25), which consisted of two eggs, breakfast meat (sausage links, bacon, pork roll or scrapple), home fries and toast.

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Mrs. Grub Guy ordered the Eggs Benedict ($7.95). It was a tasty version of this classic dish. The Canadian bacon was more of a slab of meat rather than the thin stuff you get at most places. We weren’t complaining.

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The boy and my FIL both had a huge portion of Creamed Chipped Beef w/ home fries ($5.45). There were actually two slices of wheat toast under all of that gravy.

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And a side of thick-cut Pork Roll ($2.50).

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I ordered the Chalfont Special #3 ($9.95), which was a big breakfast meal consisting of two eggs, home fries, some really tasty sausage links and two pieces of sourdough French Toast. Our waitress told me that their French Toast is her favorite breakfast, so I went with this meal as opposed to Special #2 (which included pancakes instead).

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I wish I would have gotten the pancakes. The French Toast was sliced very thin, almost like the way a New York deli slices rye bread for a sandwich, and was overcooked on one side. In fact, I think they may have actually forgotten to soak the top side in the egg before they grilled it, because one side felt soft and custardy, the way French Toast should be, and the top side was dry…like toast. Needless to say, I didn’t finish this plate.

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On the way out, I spied this case of delicious-looking cakes and pies that I had wished I would have saved room for!!

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Chalfont Family Restaurant did what it was supposed to do – it filled our bellies for the morning. Was it the best breakfast ever? No. But it was decent, despite a couple of missteps. As I said, they were really busy when we got there that morning, so that might have had something to do with it. Their home fries, sausage links and decent Eggs Benedict were maybe enough to warrant a possible return trip in the future if we’re in the area and hungry.

Chalfont Family Restaurant is located at 36 W. Butler Ave, Chalfont, PA 18914 (MAP). They’re open Sunday – Wednesday, 6:00 Am – 3:00 PM and Thursday – Saturday, 6:00 Am – 9:00 PM. For more info you can check them out on Facebook or at their website.

Chalfont Family Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Delaware Valley Donut Trail: Donuts Plus – Philadelphia, PA

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As you know, I am ALWAYS on the lookout for fresh, old-school donuts. Always. “Destination” donut places are fine – you know, the fancier, more hipster-esque shops whose marvelous cakes flood your Instagram feed. I’m all for those places…sometimes. But my heart truly belongs to the hidden gem, hole-in-the-wall shops who specialize in the classic, no-frills donuts that have stood the test of time. Simple cake and yeast friers that are sweet and decadent, but not cloying. So on a recent father/son excursion for breakfast, the boy and I stopped to check out Donuts Plus in the University City area of W. Philly. I had been tipped off by a friend who visits the shop on a very regular basis that this place could supply all of the classic donut shop love that I could handle. So I had to check it out.

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So, first off, this was my very first trip EVER to West Philly. From what I observed, the area seems a little rough around the edges, but hides some true gems like this place. Donuts Plus is sandwiched in a small strip mall at the corner of Chestnut & S. 44th St. We arrived around 8:30 AM on a Saturday morning and knowing that this is the kind of shop that you have to get there early for the best selection, I was hoping we’d still have a decent variety to choose from. I was pleasantly surprised to find the cases still plentifully filled with tray after tray of golden donut bounty. The shop is very small inside, with no seating area…just a row of counters displaying the goods, with several very friendly ladies behind it, waiting to box up your treats.

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My eyes (and my belly) automatically found the biggest donuts in the case first thing. The apple fritters are absolutely HUGE – twice as big as most of the other donuts they sell, with the cinnamon rolls coming in a close second.

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Again, going in with a bit of foreknowledge, I was told that the French crullers here were TO DIE FOR. They looked incredible. As did the filled yeast donuts and the long johns.

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Steven loves jelly-filled donuts. He was drooling over these.

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The Olde Fashioned is definitely a favorite. Classics like these, as well as the cake donuts on the tray below, will always bring me what I like to call, “fat kid happiness” :).

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Here’s a look at more of their inventory. This is about as fancy as they get here, and that’s just fine with me.

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So after some major consideration, the boy and I came up with a perfect Mixed dozen ($7.25). Yes, you read that right…12 fresh, amazing donuts for $7 bucks and some change. Seriously…I was stunned. We each gobbled one down in the car before heading to breakfast, and took the rest home to Mrs. Grub Guy afterwards. I have to tell you guys, the French cruller was definitely my favorite. It was amazingly light, fresh, sweet, eggy, airy, and absolutely delicious. I actually ate 2 of the 3 that we bought. Every donut was quality. The cakies were moist, dense and yummy, and the yeasties were light and fresh.

Pro Tip: The “Plus” in the name could possibly refer to the fact that besides donuts, the shop also serves many convenient store items like chips, candy and they even have a roller grill where they’re cooking up hot dogs and sausages (even at 8:30 in the morning!). They also offer plastic take-out containers (they’re not really bottles or jugs…hard to describe) of homemade lemonade, pink lemonade and iced tea.

Pro Tip #2: Donuts Plus is a cash only business. Don’t bring your fancy credits cards. There is an ATM on premises if you forget.

Fortunately for my wallet, and my waist line, I don’t live very close to Donuts Plus. But I know that whenever I’m in this area, I will not hesitate to stop in for a box of donuts. The value is seriously tremendous. They also serve some extremely yummy iced coffee from what I’m told, though I didn’t get a chance to sample it on this visit.

Why in the world anyone would go to chain shops like Dunkin’ Donuts when we’ve got these gems around the city is absolutely beyond me. If you love good donuts, be sure to check this place out.

Donuts Plus is located at 4325 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104 (MAP). They’re open Monday – Saturday from 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM, and Sunday 7:00 AM – 4:00 PM.

 

Honest Tom’s Taco Shop – Philadelphia, PA

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I can’t tell you how long I’ve been searching for a really good breakfast burrito. Way before I started this blog in 2012. Breakfast burritos are not something I usually order on a breakfast or brunch menu any more because unfortunately I’ve just been disappointed by them too many times. Most of them haven’t been bad, per se, just not…satisfying. I always leave thinking, “Man, I really wanted to like that, but it just seemed like it was missing something.” They always somehow miss the mark. Until now. And it’s not because all Honest Tom’s Taco Shop serves are burritos and tacos, although it certainly doesn’t hurt, but because they’re just really…really good at it.

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Honest Tom’s is located in the University City section of West Philly, near Penn’s campus. Their charming little shop is tucked away near the corner of 44th and Spruce, and is a favorite of locals. The shop was opened back in 2012 by owner Tom McCusker, when he decided to expand his business from his breakfast taco food truck into a full-fledged brick and mortar. Tom used to primarily serve his breakfast tacos around the Drexel University area and at local farmer’s markets, and eventually gained a huge following. While he’s added a lunch and dinner menu since opening the shop, Tom has never abandoned what brought him to the dance: breakfast.

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The cozy little space is just big enough for a few tables and some bar stools at the counter, but during the warmer months and into the Fall they do have some outdoor seating available too, which is always a nice way to enjoy a meal. It can feel a little cramped inside, especially on weekends, so my recommendation is to visit during the week or right when they open. That’s what we did on our most recent visit, arriving at around 9:15 on a Saturday morning. There were only two other customers eating inside when we got there, but within minutes of ordering and after we picked a table, the floodgates opened and soon there was a line out the door.

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One of my favorite things about Honest Tom’s (besides the food, of course) is their open kitchen area right behind the counter. I’m always a big fan of the open kitchen set-up because it not only demonstrates to customers that a shop is confident about the cleanliness of their kitchen area, but it’s also just cool to sit and watch your mega-huge burrito or taco fillings being slung around on the flat top and stuffed into fresh tortillas.

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The menu is very simple. For breakfast, there are 2 choices: Breakfast tacos or a Breakfast Burrito, and the option of adding either bacon or sausage to both. Both are excellent. The lunch and dinner menu offers a few more options with chicken, beef, pork, or sweet potatoes and veggies for you veggie nuts. Sometimes they will throw in a special like a beef barbacoa taco or a mushroom quesadilla. They have a few sides like fresh tortilla chips with pico or their unbelievably delicious guac, and rice & beans. I honestly can’t think of anything else this place needs to sell to make it more awesome than it already is. Except maybe margaritas. 🙂

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Oh, and they make their own sauces, too! We are all familiar with mild and medium, the “Halloween” sauce is a blend of garlic and jalapenos, and hot is a fiery habanero sauce. You know what they say…once you go green, it’s always Halloween! (actually, no one has ever really said that…I just made it up. But be sure to try the Halloween sauce. You’ll be hooked.)

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Once you place your order at the counter and find yourself a seat, someone brings your food out to your table. Grub Boy and I didn’t have to wait long before our breakfast arrived. The sight of that giant burrito wrapped in white paper and a hot cup of coffee was enough to bring a tear to my eyes. Almost. Grub Boy was pretty excited about his tacos, too.

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We do breakfast tacos a lot at home. But Honest Tom’s Breakfast Tacos (2/$6.50 + .50 for bacon or sausage) are just better. They’re served in fresh corn tortillas and filled with scrambled egg, home fries, pico, guacamole and cheese. Again, the freshness of these tacos cannot be overstated. GB wasn’t into the breakfast meat that day. He finished one taco and was full. Oh gee…I wonder who’s going to get that other one?? (Yeah, he wanted to take it home to Mommy 😦 )

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Remember a few minutes ago when I said that pretty much all breakfast burritos I’ve tried have been epic failures? I can never make that statement again. Without a doubt, Honest Tom’s Breakfast Burrito ($8.00 + 1.00 for bacon or sausage) is the best breakfast burrito I have ever had. Period. This thing is absolutely huge, and the levels of flavor and freshness leave me speechless. It’s a large flour tortilla jam packed with scrambled eggs, home fries, black beans, pico, guacamole, cheese, and a chipotle sour cream. Oh, did I mention that this place doesn’t charge extra for guac?? Yep, it’s included in the price! And as if I weren’t fat enough already, I added sausage to my burrito. You guys, this thing was EPIC. I doused it with Halloween sauce and finished the whole thing off. No shame.

Ok, so…if you’re really into breakfast burritos or breakfast tacos…or fast-casual Mexican food…or heck, just food in general…you need to eat here. I know it kind of sounds like I’m really hyping this place up, but honestly it’s not just hype. They deliver. Our food was outstanding. Their staff was very friendly. The atmosphere is hip and cozy. The parking sucks, but hey…you can’t have everything.

Honest Tom’s Taco Shop is located at 261 S. 44th St, Philadelphia, PA 19104 (MAP). They’re open Monday – Friday, 8:00 AM – 9:00 PM, Saturday, 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM and Sunday, 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM. For more info, follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Cowabunga Coffee Roasters – Warrington, PA

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When New Jersey’s number one breakfast and brunch restaurant, Turning Point, opened its very first Pennsylvania location just north of Philly this past Summer, I must have had at least a half dozen folks send me links to articles touting the spectacular eats that were soon coming our way. I was certainly intrigued, since I hadn’t eaten at Turning Point before, but possibly what interested me more was the fact that they were also opening their first ever roasting spot, independent from the restaurant, right next door. Cowabunga Coffee Roasters has been going strong since June, and I have been intending to get over that way for months. I finally had the opportunity to do so recently to check them out and grab a pour over.

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The roaster/shop is snugly tucked into the beautiful Shops at Valley Square shopping center off of Main Street/Rt 611 in Warrington, just north of Street Rd. It’s the perfect location with regard to foot traffic (that whole mall is a shopper’s paradise with upscale stores and restaurants) but is also pretty easily accessible from the main road. I had never been to that shopping center before and it only took me a couple of minutes driving around to locate the shop. It’s just around the corner from the restaurant with its own entrance and parking spaces, although there is a walkway inside between the two for easy access. Inside is bright, clean and new.

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The space isn’t huge, but there are several  2-top tables and a small space to relax in one of several comfy arm chairs. They also sell a wide variety of merchandise, coffee beans, and brewing equipment. They share a nice patio space just outside with the restaurant, which would be perfect during the warmer months.

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The shop is a full-service coffee roasting operation dedicated to sourcing the highest grade of coffee beans using only 100% Arabica beans. The team has over 40 years of roasting experience. They use a Diedrich roaster, which is recognized as one of the best small batch roasters available. They also use triple-filtered water for brewing and a micro-mesh pour-over process that ensures all of the flavor and oils travel directly into each cup.

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Their drink menu features around a dozen different pour-overs including four signature blends – Bucks County Light Blend, Turning Point House Blend and the Cowabunga Blend (both medium), and the Jersey Devil Blend (dark). They also serve Espresso, hot chocolate, and loose leaf teas as well as cold brew coffee, Nitro-brewed coffee, and more. As for food, they offer breakfast sandwiches, oatmeal, bagels, fresh-baked pastries and other snacks.

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I took the recommendation of the barista and ordered the Columbia Cauca pour-over ($2.75/20-oz), a traditional cup with a smooth caramel pecan finish.

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It was most excellent, although I did find that without the paper filter, many more grounds ended up in the bottom of my drink. After adding a little sweetener and a dribble of locally-sourced half & half ( I know it’s frowned upon by most “true” coffee aficionados but whatever), I was good as gold.

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I really enjoyed Cowabunga Coffee Roasters. The store itself is very welcoming, clean and comfortable, and it’s not hard to get to even being inside of a large shopping area. The barista was extremely friendly and was knowledgeable about their coffees, which is always a good thing. And I definitely can’t wait to try their Nitro brew or some of their cold brew coffees (especially since they make them with coffee ice cubes!!). Next time, I’ll have to be sure that I have time to hop over next door to grab some breakfast or brunch at Turning Point, too!

Cowabunga Coffee Roasters is located at 1584 Main St, Warrington, PA 18976 (MAP). They’re open from 6:30 AM – 4:30 PM, 7 days a week. For more info, check out their website or their Facebook and Instagram pages.

Brunchfest at Bainbridge Green

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This past Sunday was the inaugural Brunchfest in the Queen Village neighborhood of Philly, organized by The Friends of Bainbridge Green, Queen Village Neighbors Association and South Street Headhouse District. These organizations hosted some of the neighborhood’s best chefs and restaurants in a gathering to raise money and awareness of the ongoing project to build a multi-purpose, open park area on Bainbridge St., between 3rd and 5th streets, called Bainbridge Green.

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The public space would bring a wonderful and vibrant green park area to Center City which would benefit local businesses, visitors and residents alike.

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The fundraiser drew a huge crowd of hungry brunch fans who were all ready to sample the goods of some of the popular eateries in the area, but it wasn’t all about the grub. The festival had some fun, family-friendly activities too…

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Like a silent auction for some really awesome photos, prints, and original artwork.

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But of course the main attraction of Brunchfest had to be the brunch, right? The Friends of Bainbridge Green invited me to come and sample…an offer which I was more than happy to agree to. I mean, I had to, right? It’s research!

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So, as I arrived, I determined that the best method of conquering the multitude of brunch booths would be to simply start at one end and work my way down. Yeah…that method went out the window as soon as I saw the The Good King Tavern‘s offering. Now, I have a confession to make: I am not a salmon person. I just don’t care for it any way that I’ve eaten it. In fact, I have never been brave enough to order smoked salmon for brunch (GASP…a breakfast/brunch blogger who’s never had smoked salmon before!!), but I’ve always been curious. I knew I was going to try this so I headed straight here first! GKTavern served their Mint Cured Salmon with preserved lemon, black pepper creme fraiche and crispy shallots. I did have a bite but I guess it’s just a matter of personal taste, and unfortunately salmon still just isn’t my thing. It was really fresh though and from what I observed and gathered from talking with other folks, the texture was just right and flavors were vibrant and mixed well. It definitely seemed to be one of the most popular dishes of the afternoon!

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As I gathered my first round o’ samples, I noticed that there was no lack of seating at the festival, which was much appreciated by this out of shape dude (I mean me…not the guy in the picture). However, this standing table caught my eye as part of the offered amenities. I’d LOVE to have this in my kitchen!!

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Chef Scott Schroeder of The Hungry Pigeon blew me away with this unique sample of what their server called a “deconstructed ham, egg and cheese biscuit”. Actually, I’d consider this a totally reinvented breakfast sandwich. It was a very, very light and airy biscuit which was baked with egg and gruyere cheese. The ham component was a really  fascinating and tasty rendering of the protein blended with dill and other seasonings. The guy who was eating next to me probably described it best…like a savory cream puff.

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Ox Coffee was brewing their Ox Signature Line with bottomless refills of their Ethiopia Yabitu Koba coffee. It’s vibrant and dynamic profile enhanced the brunch samples perfectly. They were quite busy.

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Equally as popular was 13th Street Cocktails with their Bloody Mary and Mimosa station.

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Round two of brunch bites delivered a dish I had never heard of, much less eaten before. Kanella served their fresh-made Flaouna – a traditional cheese, mint, raisin Cypriot Pie served with Labneh. Ok, with all due respect, I’m going to say that this was basically a really good cheesy bread and a side of whipped yogurt w/ cinnamon, honey, and nuts. And it was sooo good! The Flaouna was really flavorful, and I’m not sure if the labneh was meant to be eaten with the bread (it was originally served in a separate cup), but I put it on top of each bite and they were delicious together. Good job, Kanella!

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One of the consistently longest lines of the entire festival belonged to one of Philly’s favorite brunch spots, Sabrina’s Cafe. They were here serving a couple different versions of their famous brioche Stuffed French Toast!

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Before I grabbed my spot in line, I snuck around to the back of the tent to capture the magic in action. They were offering two versions,  banana and pumpkin.

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I opted for the pumpkin stuffed French toast, and if you’ve been to Sabrina’s and had this, I don’t even need to explain. If you haven’t…go there. Now. I didn’t even realize until I was writing this that I didn’t even have syrup on this. I didn’t need it. It was so good.

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One of the other features of Brunchfest was this awesome pumpkin painting station for the kiddies. I mean, how awesome is this?

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And local favorite band, Sweetbriar Rose, entertained the masses as we ate and mingled. Good stuff!

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Ok, for the final round it was go big or go home. I headed over to Ela‘s booth to see what Chef Jason Chiconski had in store for me. What I found was one of the tastiest samples of the afternoon. His Country Chicken Gravy and Buttermilk Biscuits was a home run for this biscuits and gravy fan. The gravy was creamy, chunky and seasoned perfectly, and the biscuit was moist and fresh. I heard many folks praising this dish and rightfully so.

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Chef Jeremy Nolan from Whetstone Tavern was offering some delicious Buckwheat silver dollar pancakes with cinnamon-maple syrup and cardamom sugar. Yeah, these were as delicious as they look. I’ll be looking for a full-sized order of these soon when I visit Whetstone for brunch!

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One of my favorites of the fest in terms of both presentation and flavor was the New Orleans Crostini Sandwich from Plenty Cafe. It was simple yet delicious. House cured and smoked tasso ham, fresh apple, gruyere, and fig jam topped a crusty, grilled bread as a mini open-faced, bite-sized sample. The combination of flavors were expertly assembled. I actually had two of these 🙂

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My final savory sample of the afternoon just so happened to be my absolute favorite bite of the day. The Potato and Egg Torta with a spicy aioli from Chef Chris D’Ambro at Southwark was tremendous. It was a perfectly cooked slice of tender egg and potato layers, and the spicy aioli enhanced every bite. It came with a little croissant which really was unnecessary, but generous nonetheless. All I can say is that I’m glad I tried this last, because if I had gone here first, I would have used up all of my food tickets on plate after plate of this torta and would not have gotten to try anything else!

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For as full as I was, when I saw what The Little Bird Bakery & Cafe was serving for dessert, I knew I couldn’t leave without it. Their Pumpkin Pie spiced cinnamon roll with cream cheese icing was seriously To. Die. For. It wasn’t just a pumpkin dough, they actually had pumpkin pie filling swirled into the cinnamon roll, and then covered it in a deliciously sweet icing with chopped nuts. I cannot even explain to you how good this was. Just go to The Little Bird and ask them to make you one. They’re contemplating putting it on their fall menu. You can be the reason they do! My wife was mad at me that I didn’t bring two or ten of these home for her.

The first annual Brunchfest, by all observations, was a big success..at least for brunch fans. I hope funding continues and that the park is built soon so that more events like this, and many others, are available to the folks and the businesses in Queen Village to enjoy. Open space is always a good thing – a positive. I know it’s one that many people who live and work in this area are looking forward to. I’d like to extend a HUGE “thank you” to the Friends of Bainbridge Green for their generosity and I’ll be looking forward to checking out Brunchfest next year at the newly expanded site of Bainbridge Green!

This post was sponsored by the folks who made Brunchfest possible. All opinions are my own.

 

Not So Brekkie: Monty’s Sandwich Shop – Southampton, PA

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Yeah, so I’ve definitely been on a sandwich kick lately while scouting the Philly ‘burbs. Lots of little deli’s and take-out places have been my lunch spots of choice as I continue to familiarize myself with Philadelphia’s hoagies (which, from growing up in Ohio, I will forever refer to as subs….”hoagies” just seems so foreign), steaks, roast pork and more. I recently checked out Monty’s Sandwich Shop in Southampton with a couple of co-workers after seeing a take-out menu on someone’s desk. As I flipped through it, it just kept getting better with a HUGE variety of their specialty sandwiches, hoagies, steaks, paninis, salads, etc.

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Monty’s Sandwich Shop is located in a strip mall on 2nd St. Pike right in Southampton. The parking is plentiful although it seems like it could get pretty crowded during prime meal times.  We were there at around 1:15 pm, and thankfully it seemed like the big lunch crowd had already passed through. The shop is a good sized space, with several small, 2-seater tables up front and booths lining one of the walls. They have a big, open prep area/kitchen just behind the counter which I always appreciate. After checking out the menu boards, you simply order at the counter, take a cup for a fountain drink or grab something from the cooler, and find a seat. They call your name when your grub is ready.

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Monty’s menu is absolutely huge, but strangely, doesn’t feel overwhelming. The main section is known a their “Signature Sandwiches”, many of which are their own creations. That section alone consists of around 20 different handheld behemoths that made my taste buds tingle just reading the breakdown for each.

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I placed my order and decided to go with something they call the Jersey Turnpike ($7.65). It’s listed as one of their most popular picks, and it was easy to see why. It was a really nice blend of fresh-cut, imported rib-eye meat which they hand-trim in house, chicken steak, bacon and my choice of cheese. It’s all cradled inside of a fresh, sturdy roll, and includes a dill pickle spear.

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First, this sandwich was really, really tasty. The steak meat, both beef and chicken, were well seasoned, and of course the bacon just added some delicious bacony flavor. Surprisingly, the sandwich wasn’t huge, but wasn’t disappointing either. The meats came out plenty hot. I’ve learned that one of the keys to a good cheesesteak is making sure your meat is hot enough to keep your cheese semi-liquified into a smooth, flowing river of gooeyness so that it kind of melds together with the meat. I chose White American – the perfect cheesesteak cheese in my opinion, which it could have used a little more of to coat more of the meat. I’ll leave the whiz to the cheese fries.

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Another one of Monty’s most often ordered items is their version of a Cuban ($7.50). It’s quite the large sandwich as far as overall size goes, although unfortunately not so much in substance as a whole when it comes to the breakdown of it’s parts.

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Monty’s wraps their Cuban in warm, grilled panini bread which looked nice. Inside they stack sliced ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and a yummy honey mustard spread. My co-worker only ate half of this and offered me a part of the other. Flavor-wise, it was ok. I’m not a fan of using panini bread for a Cuban, although the bread was probably the tastiest part of the sandwich. Really, all I could taste was the ham and the mustard. Needed more pork. And cheese. But overall, not bad. I’d give it another try.

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And Monty’s does more than just sandwiches. Here’a a shot of their Hot Wings ($10 for 12). Their wings come in orders all the way up to 48 wings (THAT’S what I’m talking about!). I didn’t get a chance to sample these, but they looked pretty good, if you like really saucy wings. Looked like they were cooked well.

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Monty’s is my kind of shop. Locally owned and operated by a couple of local guys just trying to put out some tasty food, they’ve got quite the fan base in this part of town. I’m definitely going to keep them in rotation as a solid lunch place as I work my way through their menu.

Also, just as a side note…I love their logo. It reminds me of Sean Connery’s character in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which is pretty much my second favorite film ever (right behind Raiders of the Lost Ark)!!

Pro Tip: Monty’s Sandwich Shop offers “VIP Club” specials which you can receive by texting “Montys” to 91944. They will text you their specials frequently (often daily) which you can show to the cashier at the register to take advantage of the discounts. Also keep an eye on their Facebook and Twitter pages for specials, too!

Monty’s Sandwich Shop is located at 354 Second St. Pike, Southampton, PA 18966 (MAP). They’re open Sunday – Thursday, 11:00 am – 8:00 pm, and Friday – Saturday, 11:00 am – 9:00 pm. For more info, check out their website and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Monty's Sandwich Shop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato