Heading south in Center City, once you pass beyond Spruce, you better know where you're going. Once you hit Bainbridge, you'll either find yourself at the cusp of a bevy of South Street activity, or you'll be staring at an abundance of devolpments.
Food and shopping outlets are mostly found between streets 2nd through 10th - numbered streets run east to west - and west of that, you're on your own. But if you're willing to look, there are some cultural enclaves, almost like buroughs, below Spruce and west of 10th. One of these is the 22nd block of South St. It's a confluence of multiple ethnicities, ones usually separated into distinct 'hoods. Look at the cuisine and you get a sense of the diversity. There's the Balkan Express (Hungarian), Mai Lai (Thia), Ants Pants Cafe ("International"), and Phoebe's Bar-B-Que (from the good ole south).
Always looking for good Latte, I planned to stop at Ants Pants, and then eat lunch at Phoebe's. Well, Ants Pants happens to be closed on Tuesdays, so I replaced my Iced Latte with a nice cool bottled water (only $.50 round these parts). Adjacent to Ants Pants is Phoebe's, a glorified hole-in-the-wall -- glorified because it isn't dirty, hole-in-the-wall because you'll be searching for elbow room. Tight quarter means Pheobe's is takeout only.
The menu has a lot of options, but not of the food variety, of the portion variety. Table-less, I knew I'd have to order with carry-out sanitation in mind, so I went with the portable Pulled Pork Sandwich (small side of worthy slaw included). To start, Spiro, the joint's owner for six years and counting, works his hands into a bucket of pork meat. His veteran mitts separate the nubs from the choice meat, pulling and tenderizing the meat in the process. The next step would usually be to weigh the meat - 1/3lb per sandwich - but he seems like he knows the proper amount, so he bypasses the measure and drops the pulled pork into Phoebe's homemade sauce.
I asked for the "hot" barbecue sauce after Spiro assured me it was more tangy than fiery. I'd have to agree. Unlike many barbecue sauces, the first sensation I encountered was tang. It isn't off-putting, or tart, but it does separate the flavor from a more traditional and more bold molasses, spice, and tomato puree-based barbecue bastings.
The pork on the sandwich was very toothsome. The pieces were more than just shards of meat, they were tenderized and thinly torn, making the meat very easy to chew. I was suprised to find not one tough nub in my whole sandwich. The moisture of the sandwich comes mostly from the sauce, the pork is tender but not seeped in a marinade and therefore less juicy (and less messy, keep in mind).
Whereas the wrap at the Smoked Joint made for an awkward pork encasing, the kaiser roll at Phoebe's is just right -- which means it was sturdy enough to hold the meat, but not too thick as to subtract from the overall taste. Kudos for not simply using two wimpy pieces of "white" bread.
Phoebe's solid sandwich has got me lookin' to consume more 'cue. Maybe next time I'll get down and dirty with their ribs, an integral item on any good Barbecue restraunt.
Duck Deli BBQ Restaurant (524 E. Butler Ave., New Britain)
Nina's Bar-B-Que (351 Evesham Ave., Lawnside, N.J.