I know, this post is late. But I want to be truthful about the date and time of events. Based on this being my Mother's Day adventure, you can probably sympathize that sometimes kids take up time and focus. How dare they! With that in mind, I decided to leave my family at home so I could trek to the city with a friend to have a hoagie….for Mother's Day! It's my day, right? This is how I decided to spend it. In true Mother's Day form, the weather was iffy, so the day didn’t quite go as planned. But let me say the hoagies were the exact Mother's Day "bouquet" that I was looking for.
HoagieLOVE Pro Tip #1: Don't drive to hoagie spots while extremely hungry or hangry. You will make poor choices when it comes to the drive. Reminder to self: You grew up in the city and you do not need Waze's help you get there. It's pure laziness and you will be misled.
So the drive from King of Prussia (adult home) was lackluster. I listened to Waze and decided to take I-76 to Roosevelt Blvd and meander through Hunting Park to Nicetown and through Kensington for a long drive under the EL (Elevated Train for our non-Philly folks) to Fishtown. This used to be my sales territory when I was in my first ever sales role. I continue to feel grateful to have avoided the path of so many who linger under the El with severe addiction. No words, so let's shift gears even though it feels unnatural. My adventure took me to Liberty Kitchen.
Ordering, Location and Shop Experience:
First, it's important to look at Liberty Kitchen's hours, as they are only open from Wednesday through Sunday with relatively short operating hours which jive with when you would generally eat hoagies. Hoagie Time!
Second, their menu is simple and clean with fun names for their hoagies -- Veggie Jawn, Mortadelphia - come on! They also have cheese and meat plates (snack packs) and delicious looking tomato pies and salads. The bulk of the menu is reserved for their differentiated list of hoagies.
HoagieLOVE Pro Tip #2: If you plan to order online, click on their Menu link on their website prior to clicking "Order Online". There is more description of each hoagie on that menu page.
I prefer to order ahead either online or by phone especially since I typically drive over 40 minutes to most of my bucket list hoagies (damn this suburban life). This helps ensure they don’t run out of anything plus I don’t have to wait for my grub when I get to the shop. Most awesome hoagie joints are not big and often packed with people. The bulk of the space is taken for the "deli mongers" (I made up this term) who cut the meats and cheeses and assemble these beauties.
Ordering was easy. I called and placed my order asking for them to be ready in 45 minutes to allow for my drive. The shop is under the El, and parking spots were continually turning over which made it easy to park right out front. The storefront is all glass which brings in lots of light to this bright and modern Philly deli. The service is fast and friendly and you can grab some other necessities while you're there like chips, drinks, produce along with artisan, local and seasonal goodies.
We grabbed some beverages and chips, and made our way to somewhere cool to eat.
But before we dive into that, let me tell you what we ordered. I ordered a traditional Italian hoagie for my daughter. I wanted to take a leap of faith and went for the Mortadelphia (see what they did there?) and the Goat, Chicken and a Pig Walk into a Cutlet. Sad to say that the latter is not currently on the menu but it looks like the Goat and Fig without the cutlet is. I see a few different options on the menu now, so be sure to check the menu before ordering to see if there's anything new and exciting!
Now to talk a little about finding a place to eat. Liberty Kitchen is a deli and does not have dine-in like most Philly delis. I had this awesome idea to eat at Cherry Street Pier.
If you haven't been there, it’s a cool spot on Delaware Ave and the river with shipping containers converted into artist "studios", artist markets and an open-air garden with concessions. Seemed like the perfect place to bring lunch, have a drink and sit by the water. I highly recommend it although we didn’t end up staying based on the crazy wind. Why is Father's Day in June when the weather is more predictable? Don't let me start…
Deceiving. There was a ton of oil on the paper but then this tightly held beauty emerged from within. The Italian hoagie looked like the inside contents were rolled onto the bread. I need to see if I can master this method. The Mortadelphia looked like you would imagine -- full of mortadella with beautiful dollops of burrata making itself known. The goat, chicken and pig ended up looking the most enticing of them all….love to hear what you think.
Seeded, crusty outside. Soft, amazing inside. The rolls come from a bakery in South Philly called Carangi Baking Company. I haven't heard of this bakery and I'm embarrassed to say that I grew up literally on the same street as this bakery but 10 blocked down. They also offered a gluten free roll, but I wanted to head for the real thing as a treat! The bread is the perfect bread for a true Philly Hoagie. Loved it.
Side note for Easter Bread lovers: Carangi's pictures on Instagram of their Easter bread looks incredible. I will try them this year!
The condiments really stood out for Liberty Kitchen. It's easy to go for the traditional oil and or mayo, but I decided not to mess with their recipe for perfection, and I think it panned out.
For the Italian, there was a hoagie relish. Mortadelphia has pistachio pesto to compliment the pistachio in the mortadella plus Calabrian Chili Oli. For the cutlet hoagie, there was fig jam -- my favorite spread period and never thought it put it on a cutlet. And balsamic - wow!! Each condiment truly enhanced the flavor and provided a nice, solid twist.
FYI - chili oil is my new jam, If you haven’t tried it, grab some today. I buy the Trader Joe's kind.
Meats & Cheese:
Generally, the meats were cut (or pounded for the cutlet) very thin and were high quality with robust flavor. There was the right amount of meat which equals a lot, but not overwhelming. For the Italian, provolone cheese on the bottom, then meats, then veggies with the meats folded back on top of the veggies. For the Mortadelphia, it had burrata smeared on it. For the cutlet hoagie, there was glorious goat cheese. I have a love affair with this cheese, truly. The cutlet was perfectly browned and reminded me of my mom's. Mine always come out a lighter color, and not as crisp. These were fantastic.
Differentiation here also. The Italian had the right amount of shredded lettuce, tomato and onion. the Mortadelphia had arugula, which I love but I know it's not for everyone. It also had marinated artichokes which were mild and a nice compliment. The cutlet had red onion and arugula which amplified the taste of the cutlet, for sure.
Minimal reorganization. The Italian was nicely rolled and tucked and none was necessary. Mortadelphia needed nothing but to be eaten. The cutlet had a lot of chicken, and occasionally, I would need to tuck the chicken back in. If a piece fell out, I just grabbed and ate!
I wish I could have had that eating experience at the Cherry Street Pier -- not Liberty Kitchen's fault. One thing I noticed about Philly, there is not really anywhere to go that is inside with drinks where you can bring your own food. If you know of a place, please place a comment on this post with the location.
Once home, I ate and reluctantly shared my hoagies while watching tv. The experience was fantastic, and the bread held everything together perfectly. There was the right amount of condiments to keep things from shifting and falling out or resulting in bread breakage (when the bread breaks open in the back - huge fail). If I wanted to, I could have eaten them in the car with little mess. Somehow, I held on to eat back at home.
Next meal survival rate:
I had a little bit of the Italian and cutlet left for the next day. Once again, I had them for breakfast. I can’t wait for lunch when they're smelling up my fridge with their goodness. The bread did not get soggy and everything inside maintained its awesomeness!
Overall happiness rating:
What a great way to spend Mother's Day. I highly recommend it. I am thankful to have found a new spot like Liberty Kitchen who brings their own twist to a long time Philly favorite. If you want to go traditional, try the Italian. If you want to try a hoagie with flair, try some of their interesting options like Mortadelphia (favorite hoagie name and reminds me of It's Always Sunny when they develop "Flipadelphia"), Next time, I want to try the Veggie Jawn, grab a snack pack and head to the Pier. Love to hear your recommendations after you try Liberty Kitchen.
1244 N. FRONT STREET
PHILADELPHIA, PA 19122
Photo courtesy: jillianguyette from Instagram