On the evening of October 4, 2016, we hopped in an Uber and made our way to Jersey City, NJ to stay with our friends Marc and Jayne. They invited us to stay the night at their really cool house. They were just back from a trip to Portugal, and were excited to introduce us to some of Portuguese food at a joint just a few blocks from their pad called Broa.
They informed us that it is BYOB, and Niner got super excited because she has never been to a BYOB restaurant before. Our first stop was an awesome liquor store named CoolVines that had a great selection of wine for our hosts M&J and some unique craft beer options for us. Niner chose 3 different local craft brews from their fridge with single bottles. Booze in tow, we were quickly seated at Broa and greeted warmly. Everyone was excited to see M&J and the conversation immediately became all about visiting Portugal!
The menu here is unique because it is based on whatever fresh ingredients are available to them, meaning that it rotates and they have the potential to offer completely different dishes each day. The portions are served tapas or “small plates” style. Niner was the only one at the table that had not been to Portugal, so ordering was left to DB and M&J. We ordered a variety of dishes and everything was fantastic. The dishes that stood out were the cod and shrimp fritters and the Grao with chickpeas and sardines.
The service was outstanding! Perhaps it was because of our charming hosts being regulars, but we are thinking that that is probably how they treat everyone based on the great yelp reviews. When we came in with our beer, they offered to put it in the fridge for us and as each bottle became empty, they came out with the next one! All three of these local beers were good, but since the food out shadowed these brews, we don’t have any notes or details on how these were.
We left that place full and happy! After dinner, we headed back to M&J’s place and Niner and Marc watched baseball, until Marc wasn’t watching baseball anymore.
Then he got up and did some dishes and shared one of the cookies we got from Milk Bar with Jayne. He then called it a night and the ladies stayed up and drank and talked about all kinds of awesome stuff. This was our first time meeting Jayne IRL and it was great to have the chance to get to know her!
The next morning, we washed up, packed up and Marc took us for a visit to Liberty State Park.
Marc, being the gentleman that he is, drove us to the hotel where Becky was waiting for us and we bid him a fond farewell. Thank you Marc and Jayne for showing us such a great time in Jersey!
Once reunited with Becky, we hit the road for the City of Brotherly Love – Philadelphia. But first, we wanted to see more of the Garden State, and on M&J’s recommendation we made our way to the seaside town of Asbury Park to visit the Silverball Museum. We have a thing for pinball and this place is a pinball fan’s dream come true. It was so cool to play the vintage wooden machines!
We then walked around the seaside area. We love the vintage vibe there!
There was quite a bit of traffic on the way to Philly which wasn’t such a bad thing because it was slow enough for us to pull over and take this great picture.
When we finally made it to the city the sun was already down. After the long drive, we were starving! Our first order of business was to do what you do in Philly – get some Philly cheesesteak. We made it our mission to see what all the hype is about and try all the popular joints. The first place we tried out was Jim’s Steaks on South Street. The line was pretty long, but it moved efficiently enough. We shared the peper-steak with wiz and it was good. At the time, we didn’t have much to compare it to, but the meat was nice and fatty, the bread was tasty and sturdy but still soft.
We then headed to the Passyunk Square area and did a bit of bar hopping. Even though Niner already had a PA brew in Pittsburgh, she tried Iron City Beer from the Pittsburgh Brewing Company. It was very drinkable yet had a nice flavor without being bitter. Nice quality canned beer for sure.
Since we were in the neighborhood, we decided to check out another cheesesteak place – Pat’s King of Steaks . The bread was really tasty! The meat had flavor, but not as quite as much as Jim’s. However, the quality of the meat at Pat’s is obviously better than Jim’s.
For this city, we gambled and we were hoping to score a last minute hotel deal, but it was not in the stars for us. Becky was too tall and wouldn’t fit into the parking garages, and the parking lots that could accommodate her were out of our price range. We ended up getting a cheap room at a ratty motel just on the other side of the PA state line back in NJ.
When we woke up the next day, we headed to the city and were unpleasantly surprised by the toll to get back into the city from our hotel.
First up, we needed lunch so we went to Alyans Restaurant and we took care of a craving for some Mediterranean food. We shared the mixed kabob plate and it was very tasty.
After lunch, we headed to the home of the Liberty Bell at Independence National Park. The line was super long and it moved rather slowly, but it was certainly worth it to see such an icon of American history.
Our next stop in that historic city was the Betsy Ross House. It was so cool to walk the halls of the home where our nation’s flag was created.
Benjamin Franklin’s grave was our next destination. On the walk there, we saw many different monuments in honor of the Founding Father, including a large bust sculpture made of keys collected by local school students.
It was then time for lunch. We went to the famous Reading Terminal Market which is full of unique, high quality dining options. Our goal was to try what is said to be one of the most high-end cheesesteaks in town at Tommy DiNic’s. However, when we got there they had run out of beef. Wow, that told us right there that we had to make sure we got a sandwich there.
We then opted for a salmon curry bowl at Little Thai Market. It was a reasonable price for a good portion. It was freshly prepared and full of flavor and had a perfect kick.
On a recommendation from DB’s cousin Sonia who used to live in Philly, we visited Federal Donuts for a sweet treat. What really stood out about this place was how they are made fresh to order! We got 2 fresh donuts and they were pretty great.
After our donuts, DB snagged this great picture of the downtown architecture just as the sun was starting to set.
Then we hopped in Becky and drove to the outskirts of town to Tony Luke’s for another cheesesteak. Niner was almost on beef overload – she hardly eats beef, yet, she was determined to find out which cheesesteak is the best. Out of the sandwiches we had so far, Tony Luke’s was the most satisfying. The balance of bread, meat, peppers, and cheese was very nice. It was early on a Thursday night so we didn’t have to wait in a long line or wait too long for our sandwich. All in all a great experience.
After we were finished with our dinner, we decided to head back to our room to do some laundry and get some rest.
The next morning we checked out of our hotel fairly early to get to the National Park Office to get timed tour tickets to Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed. We snagged some tickets for an early afternoon tour so we were able to do a bit more exploring until then.
We headed to the South Street neighborhood and visited Magic Gardens.
Next it was time to visit one of the most iconic spots in all of Philly – the “Rocky steps” at the Museum of Art. Niner has never seen the movie so DB found the scene that made the steps famous.
Niner found the scene really creepy – boneheaded sweaty dude is running around town and all these kids follow him? Not inspirational, just odd and creep-tastic.
Once again, Philly proved to be the worst for finding parking. We were not able to find a parking spot anywhere near the museum without our wallets getting sad. So, Niner staying in Becky in the loading zone while DB literally ran up the steps to get the real Rocky experience and snap a pic of the famous love sculpture.
Next, we made our way to Independence Hall for our tour. It was such an incredible experience to be within that building full of history. If you are in Philly, we highly recommend you see where the foundations of our country were made!
After our tour, we made our way back to the Reading Terminal Market to try to get our hands on one of those fancy cheesesteaks from Tommy DiNic’s which the Travel Chanel calls the “best sandwich in America.” With a short wait, we snagged two seats at the small bar. Even though they are known for their roast pork, we ordered the beef brisket sandwich with extra sharp provolone and peppers. It truly isn’t fair for us to compare these to the other sandwiches because the quality at DiNic’s is just out of this world. And that extra sharp provolone was insanely flavorful!
So… what is the final result of our cheesesteak challenge? Our conclusion is that you should not eat 4 cheesesteak sandwiches in the course of 3 days.
For dessert, we took another one of cousin Sonia’s recommendations and got cookies at The Famous 4th Street Cookie Company. Niner is a big fan of snickerdoodle cookies, and if you asked her were to get the best one she would have said Diddy Riese in Westwood by the UCLA campus. Keywords – she would have. From now on, snickerdoodle cookies will have to live up to the impossible standard of texture and flavor of 4th Street’s.
We had overstayed our own welcome in Philly which left us very little time for our 35th state: Delaware.
The sun was barely out anymore by the time we arrived in the small historic city of New Castle, Delaware and nearly everything was closed. But, that did not stop us from enjoying the colonial buildings and the history everywhere around us.
For dinner, there were only two restaurants open and we chose the one with the shortest wait. We sat at the bar for a Cajun dinner at Nora Lee’s. This place was absolutely packed. The wait for a party of four was an hour and soon they had to start turning people away. Even though the service was insanely slow, we didn’t care because we got an excuse to linger at the bar and watch the Dodger game.
Niner ordered a couple pints of the local Delaware brew, but unfortunately we did not take note of the name. Apparently, it was unremarkable, but good enough to order two. For dinner we ordered the blackened Salmon dinner and it was okay – it was a bit too salty and the portion was small for the price. Even though our meal and service was subpar, we left happy because our boys in blue won the first game of the NLDS against the Washington Nationals.
We called it a night and headed to our hotel to get some rest. The next morning we woke up and got some free breakfast at the lobby and then we headed for our next destination, Washington DC to stay with DB’s Uncle Bobby.
Stay tuned for our next post about the great time we had in our nation’s capital.