Have a Cow, Man
The Olde Philadelphia Steaks a Claim to Carnivores
What is it about men and meat? For prehistoric man hunting was what the Super Bowl party is for men today, an excuse to do a little macho posturing and hang out with the guys. Off they went, swinging clubs, boasting about how many mastodons were about to bite the dust. They'd be gone for weeks on end, perfectly happy without a single mastodon sighting. With any luck they'd find a lame one, or one in the throes of agony, that required little more than perfunctory clubbing. Back home, the gatherers -- women, of course -- were using every second of daylight to stock up on nuts, seeds, and berries, in addition to performing their usual domestic and child-care chores, all the while thinking, Oh, hell. The men will be back soon, probably empty-handed, ready to lie around, fill their bellies, and belch.
So much for the romance of meat. Still, there must be a reason you never hear about a "meat-and-potatoes woman." I'm as fond as any man of a thick sirloin, a leg of lamb, or a spicy sparerib, but I do crave variety. Maybe men have a higher threshold for boredom. Or maybe they just want something that's been clubbed.
Among C.C's five brothers, the title Meat-and-Potatoes Man would be best bestowed on Richard, which is why we invited him and his wife, Phyllis, to join us one Monday for Steak Night at the Olde Philadelphia Inn. The Olde Philadelphia occupies one end of an inelegant strip mall (having moved from its old location across the street). While the saloon boasts some actual ambiance (in the form of a large bar and horseshoe-shaped tables), the dining area is as nondescript as the surroundings -- large square room, empty beige walls, red vinyl booths, a few fake plants. The locals don't seem to mind, though; at 6 P.M. the place is packed with carnivores. There's so much beef in so many places, I half expect to see James Garner sharing a table with Robert Mitchum, smiling and drawling about what's for dinner.
Before beginning our own cattle drive, we sample a couple of appetizers. Broccoli bites ($3.89), a generous portion of deep fried florets and cheese, are tasty and hot. The crab pretzel ($5.79) pairs a large soft pretzel with a meaty crab dip. It's not as bad as it sounds, but you can also get the crab dip straight up ($6.29) or as the filling for crab skins ($6.99).
Hunks of heifer come with a salad or an order of hot wings. Phyllis opts for the wings and gets a soup bowl full, literally swimming in sauce. Not an attractive presentation, but Phyllis devours them with dripping fingers.
Appetizers finished, we wait for dinner. And wait. And wait. Our well-meaning server keeps telling us it will just be a few minutes more, but we only believe her the first six times. I'm guessing Steak Night puts a strain on the kitchen. I'm also guessing our server, pleasant though she is, didn't get much in the way of training. We have to request several times that she remove dirty plates before bringing the next course.
Finally, dinner proper begins with the arrival of Richard's 22-ounce porterhouse ($13.99; $15.98 smothered in mushrooms, green peppers, and onions). Phyllis contemplates her choice, an 8-ounce filet mignon ($13.99), while C.C. gets the bodacious-looking 10-ounce steak kabobs ($10.99) -- twin skewers of beef, zucchini, green pepper, tomato, and onion, teriyaki-grilled, beautifully charred, arrayed on a plate of white and wild rice. The various genres of beef get passed around, and all agree that the kabobs win the prize for taste and tenderness. The filet and the porterhouse seem a cut below in quality, although Richard and Phyllis leave nothing on their plates. In fact, after devouring his own steak, Richard regards one of C.C.'s skewers and asks, with the prerogative of big-brotherhood, "You going to eat that?"
"She might want to take it home for Arshan," Phyllis says, referring to our omnivorous teen.
"No she doesn't," Richard says, and deftly maneuvers the skewer onto his plate. No doubt he harbors some tender feelings toward his nephew, but meat is another matter.
I opt to skip the beef parade and order stuffed shrimp ($11.99), three large ones piled high with a good crab imperial and broiled. The shrimp are cooked well and, with my baked potato, make for a satisfying meal.
The only dessert that appeals is a homemade apple crisp ($3.29), and it's very good, warm, and fresh, full of sweet apples and topped with above-average vanilla ice cream. We share it over coffee. Then C.C., logy with meat, tosses me the car keys, and it's home to our cave.