Sketch Burgers


By: Billy BeerSlugger

Sketch gets a lot of hipster clientele and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Hipsters have to eat too and some of them are so emaciated that I think they should probably get two Sketch burgers when they go in there. There’s hand drawn “Sketch”es by customers postered all over the wall and is where it gets it’s name (I’m taking a shot in the dark on this one).

Sketch is a Burger joint at it’s heart but does some things that a traditional burger place might not get into: Kobe beef, eggs, horseradish cheddar cheese, salsa verde. It’s right on East Girard st between Earl and Columbia though the sign doesn’t really jump out at you while driving down Girard. The fries are good, the milshakes are good and certainly the burgers are good. My roll might have been a little greasy but I did get it to go so a lot of the grease may have seeped in while contained in the wrapper. That’s about the only complaint I have about the place, maybe it’s a tad expensive though. But if you want an inexpensive burger there’s a McDonalds down the street.

Overall it’s some of the best food I’ve had in the Fishtown section of the city. Next up to try when I go there, Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork!

Vitamin Water = Sugar Water?

By: Billy BeerSlugger

While I’m on the subject of beverages, I just wanted to point some things out about Vitamin Water. For a beverage that is supposed to be really healthy it sure has a lot of calories. About 125 per 20 oz bottle. You would think from the name that it would basically be just Water and Vitamins, maybe with a little fruit flavor mixed in. Not really the case here.

vitamin water

Now would you be surprised if I told you that Vitamin Water is owned by the Coca-Cola Company? Nope not some health centered company or a bunch of doctors that got together to make healthy drinks but the same company that puts out Coke. A little weird huh?

Now it’s great that they pack about 3 cents worth of Vitamins into their drink, mix in a little Crystalline Fructose and sell it for $1.50 or more but a vast majority of the country thinks this beverage is really good for them. There’s as more calories in this 20 oz bottle of Vitamin Water as there is in a 12oz bottle of Coke or Pepsi. Seems a little illogical. For people that are trying to lose weight and grab a Vitamin Water with their lunch it really isn’t doing them any favors. Even though the Mad Men at Coke would lead you to believe so.

I’m almost certain that you could drop a Flintstones vitamin in a glass of water, let it dissolve and it would be more healthy for you than Vitamin Water.

Crystalline Fructose

Crystalline_FructoseBy: Billy BeerSlugger

I’m a person who usually looks at the health information on the back of a package or drink to see what I’m putting into my body. Increasingly and especially in so called “health drinks” I have seen “Crystaline Fructose” as a sweetener. Inquisitive as I am I had to look this healthy stuff up that has been replacing sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup in some of the drinks I see.

Well essentially Crystalline Fructose is just crystallized Corn Syrup which is pretty much the same stuff that’s in High Fructose Corn Syrup and that is the same stuff that’s in soda like Coke and Pepsi.  So Crystalline Fructose is about 5% sweeter than High Fructose Corn Syrup and 20% sweeter than Sugar which allows beverage companies to add less of it to their drinks and thus cut about 20-30 calories per 12 oz. beverage. The marketing behind the beverages can employ a “healthier” or “reduced calorie” tag-line because ultimately the calories have been reduced and there is no High Fructose Corn Syrup in the beverage even though Crystalline Fructose is made from Corn Syrup.

I’m inclined to drink a beverage with Crystalline Fructose in it over artificial sweeteners like Aspartame and the like found in Diet Sodas. However, I really don’t think there’s a good substitute for regular sugar for sweetened beverages and drinking them in moderation. I don’t trust these companies/corporations who’s main goal is to increase their profits. That’s why I was glad to see Snapple go to real sugar in it’s beverages, at least you know what you are getting into.

One “health” drink I rather like is Arizona Rescue Water and it uses Crystalline Fructose to make a 20 oz beverage about 75 calories and packs in a bunch of stuff like Alpha Lipoic Acid, green tea extract, milk thistle extract, and L-Glutathione and various vitamins. It generally makes me feel slightly better after I drink it and doesn’t have a sugary taste.  Of course water is your best option in terms of watching calories but there are at least some better options than soda and processed fruit juice which generally still employ High Fructose Corn Syrup as the main sweetener.

Overall I wouldn’t be surprised down the line to hear that Crystalline Fructose is bad for you. There are even concern right now as to the effects of Crystalline Fructose and hepatoxicity and it’s effects on the liver even though the FDA considers it safe. Seeing how Crystalline Fructose still comes from Corn Syrup I am on the fence as to embracing it because I am an opponent of High Fructose Corn Syrup. Making Corn Syrup sweeter to reduce calories isn’t really a solution to a problem but I’ll try and consume it in moderation until more data comes out on it. Maybe you should too.

The Rise of the Tater Tot

Tot's are so hot right now.
Tot's are so hot right now.

By: Billy BeerSlugger

Tater Tot’s are so in vogue right now it makes me want to boycott them, however, they’re just too fucking delicious. This simple food is served to you in a restaurant/bar essentially the same way they come out of your oven. There’s really no difference except the price and maybe some chives or scallions you’ll get when eating out somewhere that serves them.

So where did the popularity of the Tater Tot come from and why in recent years have I seen a steady increase in places offering them, especially the hipster places.

Notably, I worked at the Barclay Prime circa 2006 and noticed they were serving them there.  One of the more fancy and best steakhouses in the city and they’re serving the same thing that run down diners serve to their patrons (granted at a bigger markup).  Other places I’ve seen them on the menu is the Urban Saloon and North Bowl, so much so that when my friends and I go either place it’s always brought up how multiple orders of “tot’s” were going to be consumed that night.  My comrade has told me that they are available at Sonic Fast Food Restaurants but I’ve never actually seen one of those. My guess is that Sonic is a fictional corporation akin to one of those companies in the movie Boiler Room.

Where did this phenomenon come from?  Was it the cult classic Napoleon Dynamite that brought the tot back into mainstream America?  Has the tot in some ways always been part of large part of American Culinary Culture?  Americans consume approximately 70 Millions pounds of tot’s per year to the French Fries 2 million tons so the tot does have some ground to make up.  If the tot continues to be adopted as the potato product of choice for the hipster set and the trendy establishments they frequent, you may well see the tot challenge the fry for it’s dominance. Will we see McDonalds, Burger King and other fast food places start to carry the tot? Only time will tell, in the mean time grab yourself a big bag of tot’s at the supermarket, a pack of your favorite shredded cheese and get totted up!

Magic Mushrooms – Public Service Announcement

They Grown on Cow Shit? Really?

By: Billy BeerSlugger

I am by no means a druggie.  I have been to known to smoke weed from time to time but most of my inebriation occurs from drinking.  That doesn’t mean that I didn’t dabble in the occasional recreational chemical back in the day.  I just got a call from my buddy Teddy Toronto and he mentioned doing some mushies sometime this summer, possibly in a beach scenario.  “Just when I thought I was out… They pull me back in.”.

While I’ll never seriously consider putting a powdery substance up my nose, mushrooms hold a special place in my dead brain cells heart.  As a freshman in (community) college I had a friend who worked as a freelance street pharmacist.  While his main product was colored green, once in a while he would come across a large bag of mushrooms to distribute.  Being such a close friend with the lad I was given a steep discount off of street value, $15-$20 an 1/8.

Having just gone through a breakup with my high school girlfriend I was looking to express myself and my newly found college independence (even though I still lived at home).  What a better way to test my mettle then by taking mushrooms once or twice a week for a little more than a month.  Does a month qualify as a binge?

Anyway, I can remember going to the movies and eating mushrooms in the parking lot.  My friends and I went in and saw The Sixth Sense, a movie at the time, while on mushrooms, I thought was utterly terrible.  I was too messed up to follow it and amused myself by throwing popcorn at people and laughing at parts of the movie that weren’t supposed to be funny.  After the movie will mark the only time I have ever driven a motor vehicle on mushrooms.  Going 60mph in a 25 like I was in some sort of video game and all I had to do was push the reset button if I crashed.  Turfing up a local sports field until my friend had convinced me to drive back to his house and put the car in park.  Laughing the whole time, shit eating grin from ear to ear.

There was a night when a group of my friends took them and hung out in one of our bedrooms with a blacklight and strobe light on at the same time.  What an amazing and moving trip that was, especially when the strobe light was shut off and the black light was still on.  “Whoaaaaa!!!” was articulated by everyone in the room in unison.  It was on this trip that I just couldn’t fathom why the Notorious BIG had to die.

Another time I took what amounted to one and a half eighth’s (sorry I didn’t feel like converting the metrics on that).  The most I have ever taken and this was the only time I really felt like I was seeing things.  We walked to a local pizza shop and a graveyard on the way seemed cartoonish, but only out of the corner of my eye.  If I looked at it straight on it was a regular graveyard. It was as if this whole other world was hiding from me yet inviting me to join it at the same time.  Coming down from this trip, sitting alone in a chair on an enclosed porch, I still to this day am convinced I had figured out at least 84.37541% of the worlds problems.  I only wish I had a tape recorder to capture the ideas racing through my head for those two or so hours.  The world may be a better place.

I guess the last time I took any sort of mushroom product was while living at my fraternity house.  A gentleman was passing out mushrooms during hell weekend and soon after a talking dolphin disguised as mailbox began shouting at the pledges… RABBLE, RABBLE, RABBLE RABBLE.  I never laughed so hard in my life.

Those were the days.

Some things I’ve noticed while on them is yawning on the onset of tripping (these things aren’t working).  A heightened sense of awareness and want to go out and “do stuff” while on them.  Mushrooms are definitely an outdoor activity.  If I couldn’t speed walk somewhere while on mushrooms I’d probably eat my own head off.  You can drink a ton on Mushrooms.  I guess since you are tripping you really don’t notice you’re drunk or something.  There is a sense of kinship with the other people you took them with while tripping.  They may be the only people on the planet who get what you are going through at that point and there’s an unspoken understanding of that.

I am in no way condoning the use of Magic Mushrooms, just telling you some of the hijinks and experiences I got into while I was on them.

Stay off drugs kids…


W.J. BeerSlugger

The Kentucky Grilled Chicken Conundrum

You Go Girlfriend! Get your Chicken On!

By: Billy BeerSlugger

I’ve been hearing a lot of chatter lately about this Kentucky Grilled Chicken promo they’ve been running and subsequently reneged on.  I remember a couple of weeks ago KFC rolled out a commercial stating that it would give away 2 pieces of the new Grilled Chicken if you went to their website and downloaded a coupon.

At this point I’m thinking, “Sounds good, two free pieces of chicken.  Can’t beat that”.  Ultimately I never went to KFC because I don’t really eat KFC.  To me eating KFC is like banging a chick on her period, I’ll do it once in a blue moon but man does it make a mess.

I digress.  Shit really started to hit the fan when the announced this promo on Oprah.  The response was so overwhelming that a store manager in New York refused to honor the coupons.  This sparked a 60’s style civil rights sit in protest at the restaurant.  People refused to leave the KFC until they got their free chicken.  As if free chicken was a right protected by the constitution.

I can only imagine how many freeloaders used these coupons multiple times.  I know times are tight right now but if you are a mom or dad that was trying to feed your family with free chicken from KFC you have got to seriously rethink what you are doing in life.

Unbeknownst to him, F.X. Galvin was quite curious about the long lines at the KFC in the Gallery over the last week or two.  As we just watched the Phils lose to Atlanta, the CEO of KFC made his second commercial appearance, this time suspending the free chicken offer.

You may, however, go into a KFC and fill out a Rain Check form and they will send you coupon for the chicken pieces and a free pepsi as well.  As always it’s a few (thousand) bad apples screwing a good thing up for everyone else.

What I find hilarious is the sense of entitlement of some people in this country.  Guess what, KFC doesn’t owe you anything.  If a KFC location doesn’t want to honor the coupon I’m pretty sure they can do that.  It’s not infringing on your rights.  Pay for your greasy chicken just like everyone else or go home and cry about it.  Don’t throw a temper tantrum like a 2 year old in the middle of KFC, your kids are watching you and you’re setting a bad example.

Throwback Pepsi, Mountain Dew?

pepsi-throwbackBy: Billy BeerSlugger

Ok so apparently Pepsi is rolling out a version called Throwback, which will replace High Fructose Corn Syrup with actual real sugar.  Both Pepsi and Pepsi owned Mountain Dew have introduced a throwback version.

While I have not yet tried either of these throwback versions I can already surmise that I will like it 10 to 15 times better than than their counterparts.

Going back to one of my earlier posts when i ripped into artificial sweeteners I guess I failed to realize that Coke, Pepsi and probably 99 percent of other main stream soda pop’s are made with High Fructose Corn Syrup.  While High Fructose Corn Syrup is obviously not sugar as I had seemed to convey in the article, I going to stick with my guns and tell you that High Fructose Corn Syrup is still better for you than these other artificial sweeteners in diet soda.  Yes I am a doctor and a scientist so I know about these things.

I have heard it’s kind of hard to find these Throwback sodas, i don’t think they are available in your works soda machine.  A friend tells me that Philadelphia Based Mitchell & Ness (of throwback sports jersey fame) does carry the designer soda in the store to go along with the Throwback motif.

One cool thing I have seen is that Snapple Iced Teas and Juices are moving to all sugar.  They are ditching the high Fructose Corn Syrup entirely.  That’s very different from what Pepsi Co. is offering as a limited release and sticking with the HFCS. I think you really have to commend Snapple on what they’re doing.

I have read that switching to real sugar as opposed to using High Fructose can be slightly more costly to produce and therefore a higher cost to the consumer.  While most things are going up these days i think that raising the price of soda and making it healthier (i.e. real sugar) is a win-win for the consumer.  People drink less soda and the soda they do drink is better for them.  Though in contrast, less soda sold is bad for Coke and Pepsi Co and jobs may be lost.  As always action and reaction.

Grog Ale – Nodding Head Brewery

Gotta give it up to the Nodding Head Brewery (1516 Sansom St, 2nd Floor).  Was there late Friday for a Nightcap and had a Grog Ale.

From the Menu, “English-Style Brown ale… malty with a medium body and hints of chocolate… makes for a great dark session beer“.  It’s 5% alcohol by volume.

There’s about 7 beers on tap there at any moment which they brew there.  You can see the brewing equipment behind glass (and thank god it’s that glass with the wire mesh in there because it looks like things got a little rowdy there recently).

The waitstaff is great and they have some nice bar food as well.

Even better is that it is located essentially next to one of my more favorite bars in the city… Oscar’s Tavern.

I will be profiling Oscar’s later in the week but both of these bars are a stone’s throw from Rittenhouse Square and Cougar Country.

F.X. Galvin will have a three part series detailing Cougars, Tigers and Cubs this week also so stay tuned.

History of the Hoagie

A Wawa Hoagie
A Wawa Hoagie

The Hoagie is a Philadelphia tradition since the late 19th century.  During a drunken trip to Wawa last weekend a friend and I pondered the origin of the word “Hoagie”.  Not a Sub or Hero or Grinder or Torpedo. The Hoagie.

There is some debate about the origin of the word and we will layout, after extensive research, what these arguments are.

From Wikipedia:

“The term hoagie originated in the Philadelphia area. Domenic Vitiello, professor of Urban Studies at the University of Pennsylvania asserts that Italians working at the World War I shipyard in Philadelphia, known as Hog Island where emergency shipping was produced for the war effort, introduced the sandwich, by putting various meats, cheeses, and lettuce between two slices of bread. This became known as the “Hog Island” sandwich; hence, the “hoagie”.[7]

The Philadelphia Almanac and Citizen’s Manual offers a different explanation, that the sandwich was created by early twentieth century street vendors called “hokey-pokey men”, who sold antipasto salad, along with meats and cookies. When Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta H.M.S. Pinafore opened in Philadelphia in 1879, bakeries produced a long loaf called the pinafore. Entrepreneurial “hokey-pokey men” sliced the loaf in half, stuffed it with antipasto salad, and sold the world’s first “hoagie”.[8]

Another explanation is that the word “hoagie” arose in the late 19th-early 20th century, among the Italian community in South Philadelphia, when “on the hoke” was a slang used to describe a destitute person. Deli owners would give away scraps of cheeses and meats in an Italian bread-roll known as a “hokie”, but the Italian immigrants pronounced it “hoagie.”[9] By 1955, restaurants throughout the area were using the term “hoagie”, with many selling hoagies and subs or hoagies and pizza. Listings in Pittsburgh show hoagies arriving in 1961 and becoming widespread in that city by 1966.

Other less likely explanations involve “Hogan” (a nickname for Irish workers at the Hogg Island shipyard), a reference to the pork or “hog” meat used in hoagies, “honky sandwich” (using a racial slur for white people seen eating them) or “hooky sandwich” (derived from “hookie” for truant kids seen eating them).[3] Shortly after WWI, there were numerous varieties of the term in use throughout Philadelphia. By the 1940s, the spellings “hoagie” and, to a lesser extent, “hoagy” had come to dominate lesser user variations like “hoogie” and “hoggie”.[10] By 1955, restaurants throughout the area were using the term “hoagie”, with many selling hoagies and subs or hoagies and pizza. Listing in Pittsburgh show hoagies arriving in 1961 and becoming widespread in that city by 1966.[10]

Former Philadelphia mayor (now Pennsylvania governor) Ed Rendell declared the hoagie the “Official Sandwich of Philadelphia”[11]. However, there are claims that the hoagie was actually a product of nearby Chester, Pennsylvania.”

So there it is in case you were wondering.