The City of Brotherly Love, the birthplace of Independence,Philadelphia, has a wide variety of restaurants from world class cuisine to casual dining, cheesesteaks to Filet Mignon. But on our recent trip to Philly for the Ring of Honor TV tapings, Stacey and I were in a quandary about where to eat.
The Philly Diner has several locations, but the one we visited is located at 51 Industrial Highway in Essington, Pa., just a 5 minute drive from the Airport hotels. It's actually next door to the Red Roof Inn and Denny's that the Midnight Express and I used to frequent in the 80's. Since we were there for three nights, and there weren't a lot of late-night restaurant choices, we made a 3 night stand at the Diner so we could sample a variety of menu items. We were assisted in this effort by our server for all 3 meals, Teresa, who we nicknamed Flo for her classic diner persona. If we mentioned an item from the dozens and dozens to choose from, she would either smile and say, "Oh, that's GOOD tonight", or she would suddenly frown at the mention of an item, lower her head with a sideways glance to the kitchen, and shake her head muttering a barely perceptible "uh-uh" if she felt we were heading into the danger zone. That late at night, even though the Philly is open 24 hours, the broiler was off, which eliminated all steaks and most seafood, but in all honesty that is probably not the way to go here anyway.
The Philly's sandwiches, cheesesteaks, numerous breakfast choices, munchies and appetizers are the standouts here, and over three nights, we sampled several (in my case, sometimes two at a time). From the world-famous "Melt" selection, the standouts were the Philly Diner Supermelt, thin sliced grilled beef and American Cheese on parmesan crusted grilled Sourdough bread, and the King of Melts, featuring grilled chicken, mushrooms and cheese on the same big bread. Stacey loved the Reuben Supermelt, with corned beef, swiss, saurkraut and 1000 Island on grilled rye. The premier cheesesteak is the Philly Diner steak, with beef, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and American Cheese, although Stacey and I both elected to substitute provalone for it's better meltability. The appetizer sampler platter was a mixed bag, as the fried chicken strips were a little bland and chewy, and the onion rings were average, but the cajun seasoned fries were crispy and spicy and the mozzarella sticks were crunchy outside, gooey inside.
One night, I just couldn't decide between a melt and breakfast, so I had both, and the two fried eggs over easy were just right, the hash browns were extra crispy as I asked for, the toast was good, but to be honest I've had better bacon. Teresa had started to stop me when I asked for bacon, then said "No, the bacon's good tonight", so maybe I got the previous day's bacon. The omelettes are huge and they have a bunch of them, or you can build your own from a list of ingredients.
They also, as befitting a Northeastern diner, have a huge dessert/bakery counter. We got a piece of carrot cake and a strawberry shortcake the first night. Both were good--I can't say the best carrot cake I've ever had--but the size was incredible. For $3.49 each, that was our dessert that night, the next night, and I still ended up tossing a small piece I just couldn't eat. HUGE dessert portions.
The place is clean, brightly lit, and even on Friday and Saturday nights at Midnight-2AM, surprisingly uncrowded. It's pretty much the classic diner experience. Besides the late hours, the best part is the prices. If you're looking forgourmet food, go somewhere else earlier in the evening. If you're looking to pig out cheap at Midnight after a great ROH wrestling show, then go to the Philly Diner. On the first night, the tab for a Philly Diner steak with extra cheese with fries, the sampler platter, the King of Melts with fries, the aforementioned giant sized desserts and all the Sprite and hot tea we could drink totalled less than $40, and believe me, 4 normal folks (or two if I am one of the two) will be stuffed after eating that lineup. Be sure to ask for Teresa, and get her opinions before you order!
The Philly Diner
51 Industrial Highway
Essington, Pa. 19029