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appetizers

Alla Spina

Alla Spina is a casual beer and food spot brought to you by Mark Vetri on N. Broad st. They really like their pigs here, judging by all the pig art in the place! Oh, and there’s also lots of pig parts on the menu. It’s also right around the corner from Route 6, Stephen Starr’s seafood joint. They’re trying to create a bit of a restaurant scene up on that section of Broad, so here’s wishing them some luck. There’s outdoor dining, weather permitting, and it’s nice and open and not at all stuffy. It really is a nice and casual place. 
Can you get more casual than pretzels? These are housemade pretzel bites with spicy beer cheese. See the cute little pig they get served in? I liked these quite a bit… warm and doughy!

You’re not in canada, but they serve their own version of poutine here. It’s served with a guinea hen leg bolognese and mozzarella curd. I wasn’t too crazy about the bolognese part. But the fries were good. 
Maple glazed fried chicken and fries! There was so much, E took plenty of it home as leftovers. There are those tasty fries again.
I had the fancy grilled cheese, with taleggio and roasted red peppers, served with green tomato conserva and homemade potato chips. Yum! That green tomato conserva stuff is amazing! I want to put it on everything now. And the roasted red peppers inside the grilled cheese was a nice touch.
While we were eating, we saw all the tables getting soft serve vanilla ice cream. It confused us a little bit. Then we found out that it was actually fiordelatte soft serve, not just plain vanilla ice cream, not like the thing you would get at McDonald’s. The flavor itself is more of a sweet cream. We got a bowl of it along with the famed donut bread pudding. The bread pudding was delicious, but I could have certainly gone without the raisins in it. The fiordelatte was also creamy and dreamy. This was a fun spot. Service was good and the food came out quickly. Although it’s a bit further away from the action of the city, but it’s kind of like a retreat from all the hustle and bustle.
Alla Spina on Urbanspoon

Manakeesh

Manakeesh Cafe is a University City joint that bills itself as lebanese fusion. I don’t care what it is, I just know that it’s awesome and cheap. On 45th and Walnut, it occupies a beautiful building with ridiculously high ceilings, and a little bit of outdoor dining space. There’s flatbreads, appetizers, coffees, and lots of desserts. And it’s now one of my favorite places in Philly. The hummus is served with piping warm pita. There’s a whole lot of it!
This is one of the manakeesh, where their name comes from. It’s a lebanese flatbread, baked in an open flame oven, and topped with whatever suits your fancy. This particular one was the lahm bajeen, a mix of ground lamb, tomato, and spices. While the coloring was a little disturbing and raw looking, it was indeed cooked, and indeed super tasty. It doesn’t even taste super lamb-y, as I don’t typically care for lamb. But I thought this was excellent. Lamb on pizza – do try it!
We also got the honey manakeesh. I suppose this is more of a dessert one, as it had sweet cream and was drizzled with raw honey. This was rolled up and warm, and damn, it really hit the sweet spot. It would be a perfect replacement for a bagel and cream cheese in the mornings.
At Manakeesh Cafe, they have an impressive display of middle eastern sweets. Not sure what to get, I asked the guy at the register to pick out a couple of baklava for us. I told him that I trusted him. So we ended up with two pieces of this flaky, super sweet, honey-laden treat. His picks were perfect. 
We also got an adorable Turkish Coffee and one of their many fancy coffee drinks. This was the Caffe Beirut, a latte with caramel and hazelnut. It was as good as I thought it would be. It’s a nice casual spot where you put in your order and you get a number. Then they bring your food out to you. If this was in center city, I’d be there all the time! 
Manakeesh Cafe Bakery on Urbanspoon

Nom Nom Ramen

Finally, a ramen place in Philadelphia that we mostly seem to agree on. Nom Nom Ramen popped up quietly in center city. It was soft open for awhile, and now is open for lunch and dinner. And diners, rejoice in their ramen goodness. The menu is starkly simple – RAMEN. Plus pork buns. And that’s it. The pork buns are delicious. They surely give momofuku a run for their money, plus you don’t have to take a trip to NYC. 
Moving onto the ramen!  Here’s the original Shio, which is the salt broth. It’s seasoned with salt and white soy sauce, but is all based on the tonkotsu broth. What’s tonkotsu broth? Pork, baby, pork. Pork bones, to be exact. And that’s just what this broth is – porky. There’s really no other way to describe it. It tastes, looks, and feels porky. It leaves that slickery pork residue in your mouth. It’s thick, fatty, and porky. This comes with chashu, kikurage mushrooms, naruto, bamboo, scallions, and pickled ginger. I’d never had a salt broth ramen before, so I was a bit wary. But it’s delicious. 
I always love me the spice, so I got the Spicy. It’s the same tonkotsu based broth, but spicy, with chashu, bamboo, kikurage mushroom, naruto, scallions, and Nom Nom Black Garlic Sauce drizzled on top. This is a delicious bowl of food. Spicy, but not too spicy, and of course, porky as heck. There’s a nice helping of firm noodles. There’s much more noodles than the other ramen joint, which I felt was serving out a paltry serving of actual noodles. It made me happy that Nom Nom doles out a fair portion. I am a fan of this place and their food. It’s very casual, where you order at the counter and then you pick it up. It’s no muss, no fuss, with delicious porky treats. 
Nom Nom Ramen on Urbanspoon

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