I had an inkling to venture into South Philly last Monday, I needed to satisfy an urge for some good ol' home cooking (cooked by someone else of course). The first place that came to mind was the fabled Carman's Country Kitchen, a quirky little place on the corner of 11th and Wharton. My mother decided to join me on my hunt, also craving a "comfort" brunch.
We parked about five blocks away, but I think we walked about twelve before we actually found Carman's (I sorta just guessed where it was in relation to our car so we ended up wandering a bit). We stepped inside and queitly remarked to each other about the paucity of seating and at the propinquity of the kitchen area to the tables. The six dinners, 30-somethings pleasantly chatting and knawing away, all paused to stare at the newbies.
I asked the sole cook what was on the menu, and he pointed to what looked like a board of specials.
"Okay," I said, "can we get a few menus."
"You're looking at it," the Red Sox capped fry cook replied.
"Oh," I replied dumbly, a little suprised at the selection.
We hesitated in making a selection when we saw the $12.00 price tag for dishes such as french toast and pancakes - I thought this was supposed to be some inexpensive Sout Philly joint. Just as we were turning toward the door, Carman herself swooped in behind us and grinned, showing a picket fence gap between several of her teeth.
"What are you in for?" she questioned.
"We were just looking for some lunch, so..." I was interupted midstream.
"Well there's..." and she proceded to rattle of a few local spots. Of course she left out some proximate rivals. We thanked her and walked out briskly, feeling the cool stares and smirks of Carman and her gang of diners. We were not welcome, at least that's what I felt.
Where to go now? Well, I knew Morning Glory Diner was close, but how close? I remember I had my trusty notebook in my napsack so I whipped it out, flipped a few pages to the "To Eat" section, and off we went - about two blocks. Morning Glory was just as I thought, homey, but not too intimate or cliquish. We were seated immediately, to the satisfaction of our squirming midsections. As soon as we were comfortable, a waiter was at my side, asking for my drink order and setting our places. That's service. I related our experience with Carman to him and he nodded in agreement, "Yea, she's pretty crazy."
We both ordered off the specials menu: I chose the crab and asparagus quiche,
she picked the Andouille Sandwich on a baguette with grilled onions and apple slices - a mother after my own heart. I will spare you further details and and just direct you to the pix of our meal. It was tasty and satisfying, but I still had some room left for dessert, and it just so happens that Isgro's Bakery is a few blocks away on Christrian Street. I took a few pictures of my treats (mostly to serve as gustatory memorandums), which can be found in the "Bake Shop" photo album. All in all, it was a good trip. We explored some new territory and had a very satisfying lunch.
End Disclaimer: Before I end this post, I want to make it clear that my judgments on Carman were based soley on the 1 minute of contact I had with her. In no way am I knocking her cooking abilities, but at the time I perceived the food to be really good diner food, so $12 was too much. I posted my opinion about Carman's Country Kitchen on EGullet.com. Soon after my post was published, legendary Philly foodie Holly Moore posted a caveat to my judgment. I am now willing to give Carman's another go after learning more about her kitchen prowess. The price is only a reflection of how fresh the ingredients used really are (I know it is only $12, but hey, I am still mostly dependent).
See Holly's and my postings here. Thanks for reading!