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”ūüôā.

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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.ūüôā

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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 Mommyūüė¶ )

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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 theseūüôā

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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

Brooklyn Bagels – Huntingdon Valley, PA

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So,¬†I recently received a note on one of my social media accounts from a new reader who wanted to know if I ever plan to review some of Philly’s more well-known breakfast and brunch establishments – places like Sabrina’s, Green Eggs Cafe, Honey’s, Girard, and others. The short answer is “absolutely”. As my first year as a Philadelphia newbie comes to a close, I’m certainly feeling less intimidated by the fact that I’m the new guy here, and that many other people who write way better than I do have already visited and reviewed many of the bigger breakfast and brunch spots in town. And you know what? That’s ok. I’ll get to them, and I’ll keep doing what I do. But as I eat my way there, I jump at every chance I get to check out the little local shops too, both in the city and throughout the suburbs, and I seriously enjoy telling you guys about as many local eateries as I can find. So….now that I’ve unpacked that, I’ll leave it right there. Let’s talk about Brooklyn Bagels in Huntingdon Valley.

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Brooklyn Bagels is a shop located in a strip near the corner of Huntingdon Pike and E. County Line Rd. It’s deceptively large inside. The space is quite roomy and even the 8-10 tables they have scattered in the front half of the store seem to get swallowed up by the openness. A friend and I stopped by recently to check them out for breakfast. Now, if there’s one thing I’ve learned around here, it’s that deli/sandwich/hoagie/bagel shops are a dime a dozen, and so you’ve really got to bring your A-game to stand out from the masses. Brooklyn Bagels had a decent look, but the real test lies beyond the aesthetics.

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One thing I noticed right away was that nothing was labeled. The three giant menu boards that hung over the counters did a nice job of presenting their offerings, but there were no prices…anywhere. The bagels were nicely displayed just beyond the counter over the prep area, but 3/4 of the baskets had no signage, no labels to inform the customer of what type of bagels were available. I thought it was kind of weird, but hoped we would get some help from the guy at the counter. Unfortunately, we didn’t. Now, I’ve been to places where the help was preoccupied, or were just too busy to chat or make small talk, which I’m ok with. But this guy seemed like he’d rather be anywhere but here. No smiling welcome. No customer service. Just a “Hey, what would you like?”.

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We basically just winged it based on what we saw was available and figured we’d let the check be a surprise. We placed our order and shuffled over to a small table along the far wall. I asked the counter guy if I could help myself to the coffee station, and he agreed. My friend went to the cooler to find a bottle of juice and unfortunately found that those were missing prices as well. As we waited for our food, I found a paper menu and we were finally able to see what our breakfast was costing us. Prices were decent, but I’d still much rather know up front. The menu seemed to have a major focus on lunch and deli sandwiches (including cheesesteaks, panini’s, wraps and more). It seemed a little odd. In fact, they actually only offered a really limited breakfast sandwich menu, but did offer fried eggs and omelet plates, too.

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It only took a few minutes for our sandwiches to be made, which was nice. I ordered a pretty basic Egg, cheese & pork roll on an Onion bagel ($4.25).

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The bagel itself was actually really nice. Soft, chewy and huge. I wasn’t originally going to go onion bagel, but I couldn’t tell if my first choice (Cheddar jalapeno) was available since….yep, no signage. I know, I easily could have asked counter guy, but I figured he seemed like he’d rather be at home binge-watching Voltron on Netflix right now anyway, so I wouldn’t make his life harder. Anyway, the sandwich was actually pretty tasty.

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Lots of gooey White American cheese helped to ease my disappointment of the fact that there were only 2 paper-thin slices of pork roll on my sandwich. I wasn’t too worried about that though. Too much pork roll can be pretty salty. Overall, it was decent.

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My buddy, who is a self-proclaimed chicken salad connoisseur, saw the girl (oh yeah, there was a girl behind the counter too. She was silent the whole time we were there) finishing up what would be that day’s chicken salad and delivering it into the deli case, and asked if it was too early for him to get some. He opted for the¬†Everything bagel with chicken salad ($5.25)¬†as his breakfast sandwich. It was pretty cool that they let him order it before lunch time. (BTW…see that bottle of juice in the background? We found out that it was a $3 bottle of juice when it was time to pay for it. Surprise!!)

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They put a pretty decent amount of chicken salad on his sammich, along with some lettuce and thinly-sliced tomato. He described it as “just ok – not great but not terrible”. It looked really good to me. I’d probably try this if I go back again.

Sometimes when checking out new places, you find a real gem. Sometimes you find a place that was “just ok”, but they put out decent enough food that you might stop in again if you were in the area. That’s kind of what Brooklyn Bagels feels like to me. At least food-wise. Customer service-wise, they’ve got some work to do.

Brooklyn Bagels is located at 1051 County Line Rd, Huntingdon Valley, PA 19006 (MAP). They’re open Tuesday – Friday, 7:00 AM – 3:00 PM, Saturday 7:00 AM – 5:00 PM, and Sunday 7:00 AM – 4:00 PM. For more info, check out their Facebook page HERE.

Brooklyn Bagels Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

One Cup Joe: A single-serve coffee drinker’s Wonderland

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Ok, true confession time: I don’t always drink coffee made by a local roaster or served in a local coffee shop (gasp!). While I absolutely love a good pour over, espresso drinks, cold brew and more, most weekdays I’m chugging down a quick, single-serve cup of coffee before jetting out the door on my way to work. Sure, I could get up 20 minutes earlier and grind some beans for a fresh pot, but I’m too lazy for that a lot of the time. Like millions of coffee-loving Americans, the Keurig machine has become one of my most dependable friends, one who never lets me down when I’m in need of a quick dose of caffeine. I’m a slave to those little plastic cups full of ground coffee goodness that are just waiting to burst forth with the nectar of the gods to satisfy my morning thirst. And you know what really sucks? When you go to grab a pod and you realize that the tray is almost empty and it’s time to buy more again. That was where I found myself recently when I ventured into One Cup Joe on York Rd. in Warminster.

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I had discovered One Cup Joe when searching the area for breakfast spots on Yelp a few months ago when I started a new job in that area, and it’s actually taken me all this time to find some free time to visit. One Cup Joe is a small retail space dedicated to single-serve coffee cups. A lot of their business focuses around supplying coffee to other local business…the kind of places that have a need for lots and lots of single-serve coffee cups in break rooms, conference rooms, etc. But it’s also very welcoming to normal folks like us who need their K-cup trays and carousels refilled.

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There are two sides to One Cup Joe. The first is the boxed single cup. OCJ offers dozens of varieties of boxed K-cups, some of which you may be able to find at other local retailers, but many of which you can’t. I got a chance to talk with Ken Zajac, owner of the Warminster store, and he explained that they offer many brands in a 24-count box, so that you’re not locked into a 48 or more cup commitment like you are at the big-box retailers, but that they also have 12 and 18-count as well.

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The other aspect of the shop – and the thing that draws in most non-commercial business – is the mix & match wall of individual cups. Seriously, they’ve got to have at least a couple hundred different coffees, teas, and specialty drinks to pick from. For just $15.99, you get a tray and are set loose to pick whatever you want to fill up 24 spots. Ken has the wall sorted by roast and flavor, but it was still a bit overwhelming. I mean…come on…I was like a fat kid in a candy store. Ok, in reality I’m a fat guy in a coffee store. Same thing.

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I did my best to consider coffees that the wife would like too, and I think I got a pretty good variety: some medium roasts, some dark, and a few “foo foo” flavors. I was a little disappointed that the selection was 100% national brands though. I think it would be absolutely awesome if there was a small section dedicated to local coffee, since many local roasters sell their own K-cups now. Ken and I actually talked about that quite a bit while I was there. Maybe that will change in the future. Another cool little feature is that they have a couple of machines set up in the shop so if you want to try out a coffee before taking some home, you can brew a whole-cup sample for just $0.99! Ken said that some of the other shop owners and workers in the plaza stop in to try a different cup of coffee every morning.

But yeah, no matter how much you love supporting the local coffee scene (like I do), you can’t always avoid popping a K-cup into the machine for that quick cuppa joe. So I totally recommend checking our One Cup Joe for just such a necessity. The variety is unbeatable. You could probably even try 24 of something different for quite a while before repeating a cup, if you wanted to go that route.

So, go here. It’s a cool place. End of story.

(siiiiiippppp…..”Ahhhh!!”)

One Cup Joe is located at¬†352 York Rd, Warminster, PA 18974 (MAP). They’re open Monday – Friday, 9:00 am – 8:00 pm, Saturday, 9:00 am – 6:00 pm, and Sunday, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.

Corner Bakery Cafe – Bala Cynwyd, PA

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Mrs. Grub Guy and I usually prefer to do our fancier brunching on Saturday because of the smaller crowds, which leaves Sunday as our day for more of a relaxing, leisurely breakfast together. So when the kind folks at Corner Bakery Cafe recently invited us to stop in to one of their several area locations to sample their breakfast, we were happy to make that our Sunday morning time together. Corner Bakery Cafe is what I consider to be a “micro chain” – it’s a brand that’s familiar and easily recognized by fans of the restaurant, which has stores located in several states across the country, but it’s also a place that’s not difficult for people who live and work in the neighborhoods that feature a CBC shop to consider them “their spot”. CBC has about nine locations throughout the Southeastern PA and South Jersey area, but honestly I had never visited any of them before this trip. I’m a huge supporter of the “shop local” mindset, which I whole-heartedly translate into eating locally as well. So when I discovered that each shop is franchised – owned and operated by local restaurateurs – it made me even more eager to check them out!

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We visited their Bala Cynwyd shop at around 10:30 am on a recent Sunday morning, and found the dining area to be about half filled, with nearly all of their outside patio tables occupied as well. The store was bright and clean, and felt very comfortable. The structure of the restaurant is set up so that you enter and head directly up to the counter, where you order, pay, and take a number. Your food is brought to your table based on the number card you are given. Coffee and drinks are self serve.

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Just inside the door was a small display detailing their catering services. It seems they offer fresh, made-to-order catering options with everything from complete meals and build-you-own platters to box lunches. Sounds perfect to me. I can easily see someone setting up a huge sandwich variety basket for baby showers, birthday parties, company functions, lunch meetings, etc.

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The wife and I were greeted by a very friendly, smiling lady behind the counter who was ready to take our order. The breakfast menu at CBC isn’t huge, but covers many of the basics. It consists of a handful of all-inclusive platters, a nice variety of sandwiches and pita flatbreads, healthy things like oatmeal, muesli and yogurt, and of course, delicious baked goods. We each went with one of their larger platter meals (hey, we love breakfast), along with coffee and some bottled oj.

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Based on the recommendation of Sam (the super friendly corporate guy who was there taking customer surveys on the day we visited), I ordered the¬†Buttermilk Pancakes & Eggs with Bacon ($7.99). Sam promised me that their pancakes were better than any National breakfast chain could ever hope to make. I love a good stack of flapjacks so I took him up on the challenge. Let’s start with the other components of the meal: the scrambled eggs tasted like they may have been the pre-mixed kind from a carton, but I actually don’t mind that all that much as long as they come out cooked well and taste decent. These did, so I was pretty happy with them. The bacon was almost perfect for me. Definitely no complaints there. And the pancakes……

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I could have eaten two or twenty more of those dudes. Sam didn’t steer me wrong. They were a little small in diameter, but huge in flavor. They were light, fluffy, and had the perfect level of chew to them, even after being saturated in maple syrup. Actually, the little stack of 4 pretty much completed the meal, and definitely satisfied me without making me too full to move (which is a good thing).

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The wife opted for the Anaheim Scrambler ($7.99), a mixture of scrambled eggs, applewood smoked bacon, tomatoes, green onions and cheddar cheese topped with avocado. It came with her choice of either breakfast potatoes or fresh fruit, and some nice multigrain toast. She enjoyed the scrambler quite a bit and her only critique was that she wished it included more avocado on top. The fruit was a nice, vibrant mixture of all kinds of berries and Summer favorites, as opposed to the sad cup of grapes and melon you get at most places.

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After breakfast, we decided to end our visit with something sweet from the pastry case up front. True to their namesake, Corner Bakery Cafe offers a nice variety of baked goods and treats such as cookies, brownies, cakes, hand pies, dessert bars, rugalach (a rolled and filled Jewish pastry), and more!

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They also offer whole Cinnamon Creme Cakes, which is their signature dessert, to take with you. It’s a rich, golden cake swirled with ribbons of cinnamon, topped with crumbly cinnamon streusel and powdered sugar.

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We went with a classic favorite, the Cinnamon Roll ($3.09). It was big enough for the two of us to share and was warm, gooey and delicious!

We were both pretty pleased with breakfast at CBC. The Bala Cynwyd shop offers a spacious, relaxing atmosphere with a hint of a chain cafe feel but not enough to scare you away, and really friendly people. I think if this experience is any indication of the way the other local shops operate, I wouldn’t hesitate to stop in at any one of them for a good breakfast or to try a soup, salad or sandwich for lunch.

Our friends at Corner Bakery Cafe would like to give you the opportunity to enjoy a meal on them! They’ve provided $20 in gift cards to one lucky reader of TBGG, and winning is easy – simply leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite bakery treat is. That’s it! I’ll choose a winner this Thursday evening (9/1) at 11:00 pm, and will post their name here Friday morning!!

A big thanks to Corner Bakery Cafe for providing our meal. All opinions are my own.

We visited the Corner Bakery Cafe at 153 East City Ave, Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004 (MAP). They’re open Monday – Sunday, 6:30 am – 9:00 pm. For more info, check them on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, or have a look at their website HERE.

Corner Bakery Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

 

So….What’s The Difference?? Americano vs. Cortado

I love coffee. You love coffee. We ALL love coffee.

But for some folks, walking into a coffee shop can be a little intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be. While learning about coffee from the people who source it, roast it and brew it is extremely fascinating to me, and I have no problems asking all kinds of questions while I’m at the counter, I can see where it could be confusing, and even downright scary, for someone just branching out from their Keurig machine.

If you’re one of those people, this week’s “So….What’s the Difference??” post is totally intended to give you the information you need, and the confidence to order your next caffeinated drink like a boss!

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Photo by Square One Coffee

This week: Square One Coffee (2 locations in PHL) Р249 S. 13th St  & 1811 JFK Blvd.

“Square One Coffee is an award-winning micro-roaster based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with retail locations in Lancaster and Philadelphia. As a small, family-owned business, we take pride in our small batch, handcrafted approach to roasting and serving the highest quality specialty coffee.

We believe that people matter, so we do our best to respect every person involved in the process of getting coffee from the seed to your cup‚ÄĒfrom the farmers, to our roasters, to our baristas, to our customers. At the farm level, this means that we partner¬†with coffee producers and farming communities, paying premium prices¬†for their hard work and reinvesting into those communities whenever possible. It also means paying all of our¬†employees a living wage with opportunities to learn and grow in their craft (which includes traveling to coffee-producing countries to meet the farmers we partner with and see the entire process for themselves).

Put simply: We are passionate about coffee, and we believe that people matter.”

Q:¬†What’s the difference between an Americano and a Cortado?

“What’s the difference between the Americano and Cortado? Everything!

Both beverages are espresso-based drinks, but that is where the similarities end.

The Cortado (or Gibraltar as we call it) is typically 1 part espresso to 2 parts milk. This beverage is for those who are looking for a bit more coffee presence and less milk. This beverage is also typically served at a slightly cooler temperature than a latte would be, therefore the creaminess of the beverage tends to be easily perceivable.

The Americano is at it’s most basic interpretation simply an espresso that has been watered down. It’s believed by many, but not exactly evidenced, that this beverage was created during World War 2. The story is that American soldiers weren’t down for the strong and viscous espresso so they would request for the espresso to be topped off with water so that it would more closely resemble the brewed coffee they were familiar with. Hence the name “Americano”.

While the Cortado exemplifies a creamy yet very espresso-forward beverage, the Americano offers a version of espresso that is very open, much like adding ice to your scotch. Despite their differences, these beverages offer extreme drinkability.

Cheers to that!”

Daddypops – Hatboro, PA

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If I visited a different diner for breakfast every weekend for the next 147 years, I might come close to sitting at¬†most of the diner counters in the Delaware Valley. Seriously. We all know that diners are a dime a dozen in our area, and diner food is unfortunately¬†just¬†diner food at a lot of them. But sometimes you discover a place that is extra special, and I’m not just talking about the food, but also in the charm and appeal factor. I’ve eaten quite a few¬†diner breakfasts in the last 10 months since moving here, and it’s always a treat to find a place that’s just a little bit unique. That’s what I found when I recently had breakfast on a Tuesday morning at Daddypops in Hatboro.

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When you think about old school diners, Daddypops is probably just the kind of place that immediately comes to mind. It’s truly the most “diner-ish” diner I’ve encountered so far. But it’s also very different. Sure, the shiny chrome exterior screams classic diner, but the funky wishing well out front and the surroundings of main-drag Hatboro are a little out of the ordinary. Inside is the long, narrow dining area with the tight booths on one side and a long counter & stools on the other.

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But then they mix in the crazy barbershop chairs at the corners of the counter, and beyond that is a collection of coffee mugs brought in by the regulars, so that they can sip coffee from their own mug every time they visit.

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There’s also all kinds of nostalgia going on, a lot of which you might expect from a place like this…antique cash registers, a working jukebox, and lots more! Oh, and you can’t miss the auto’d Guy Fieri poster from when he filmed a segment for Diner’s, Drive-In’s and Dives here back in 2008 (watch the whole segment HERE)!!

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I have to be fair and honest, and tell you that Daddypops breakfast menu is certainly not the largest or most creative I’ve ever seen, by far. But for what they lack in originality in their menu, I feel that they certainly make up for in execution of their food. That being said, there was one item on the menu that I can honestly say I have NEVER seen on a breakfast menu: the option of a side of baked beans. Seriously, you can substitute your fried potatoes or grits for a bowl of baked beans. I wasn’t brave enough to do it, but was certainly intrigued.

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First up was the¬†Brioche French Toast w/ eggs & sausage ($8.45). There were several different options for this platter (different meats, eggs/no eggs, etc.) so it was sort of like a build-your-own. It started as 3 big slices of cinnamon-vanilla french toast, which were grilled nicely on the flat top and sprinkled with powdered sugar. We added scrambled eggs and sausage for an extra cost. I hate it when a restaurant serves butter and syrup in those little disposable packets, so I’ll have to ding them a little for that, but honestly everything was solid and well-cooked.

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The sausage links were really, really delicious. When they came out, you could tell immediately that they were not your run-of-the-mill links. I’m not sure where they get them, but they were really plump and meaty, with very little filler. The casings were tight and popped when you cut or bit into them, and the inside was really flavorful.

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The Sausage Gravy & Biscuit ($7.10) breakfast was a big plate of classic breakfast goodness. The split biscuit was topped with a huge portion of creamy gravy, and it came with my choice of either some really yummy fried potatoes or beans.

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The menu doesn’t specify how many biscuits come with an order, so I was a little sad when it arrived ¬†with one biscuit on the plate. However, looking back, I don’t know if I could have finished a second biscuit after all. The gravy was pretty thick and hardy, and the potatoes made up for whatever might have been missing. The gravy was perfectly peppery and really flavorful, and consistency was good, although I prefer it a little chunkier.

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The biscuit itself was fresh and moist, and held up really well under all of that gravy. It was breakfast comfort food in all its glory. Overall, certainly a solid dish that I wouldn’t hesitate to order again.

Pro Tip:¬†Daddypops is a cash only diner, but don’t worry…if you walk in without some greens, they have an ATM on site.

One more thing about Daddypops that I cannot overlook mentioning: The staff here was probably some of the nicest folks I’ve encountered at an eatery in a while. Our waitress (I can’t remember her name for the life of me) was¬†extremely¬†friendly and courteous, and provided some of the most efficient service I’ve had in ages. One of the cooks, who left the kitchen to use the restroom, stopped on his way back to ask if everything was just how we liked it (and I don’t think this guy had a clue I was there taking pictures and reviewing the food). Even the other patrons – the regulars who sat at the counter and joked with the servers – were friendly and welcoming, including us in a few laughs. I’m tempted to say that even if the food was just “meh” (which it certainly wasn’t), I would come back again just for the atmosphere and the service. That’s how good it was.

Daddypops is located at 232 N. York Rd, Hatboro, PA 19040 (MAP). They’re open Monday – Sunday from 6:00am – 2:00pm. For more info, check them on Facebook or TripAdvisor.

Daddypops Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato