Chew On It
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By Andrew Kochirka GoErie.com staff blogger
Food has been an integral part of Andrew's life from a young age; from cooking with his mother and grandmother to creating recipes in his own kitchen. Now he scours the area's non-chain restaurant scene to find the best of the best of local food from chicken wings to French cuisine.   Read more about this blog.
 Phone: 814-878-2230

Sandwiches 2

Places where the Beard ate Sandwiches 2
Posted: August 22nd, 2012

If you haven’t yet, be sure to “like” Chew On It: Beard vs. Food on Facebook and follow me on Twitter!

Just a few blocks past one of my favorite pizza shops in town, Sabo’s Pizza, is Big Moe’s. Located at 7666 West Ridge Road, Big Moe’s moved from Edinboro just a few years ago. This small restaurant offers some diner staples as well as many Mediterranean favorites. Amanda and I were headed to the SeaWolves game on Monday so we decided to order our dinner to go. Amanda wanted to try the Gyro sandwich and I ordered the Beef Shawarma sandwich.

The Gyro, first and foremost, was one of the largest I’ve seen. A piece of tender flatbread is piled high with thick-sliced gyro meat topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, and homemade cucumber sauce. The meat was from a gyro loaf and was loaded with flavor and the fresh veggies gave it a needed crunch. There were a few too many onions for Amanda’s liking, but I loved the zesty bite they give the sandwich. The cucumber yogurt tzatziki was creamy and refreshing and added a layer of richness that brought the whole sandwich together wonderfully. The warm flatbread gave the gyro enough body to stay together without it making each bite too doughy.

Shawarma is the Arabic word derived from the Turkish word for turning. The Beef Shawarma at Big Moe’s was perfectly seasoned with Mediterranean spices like cardamom, all spice, and bay leaf. Instead of being folded in flat bread like the gyro, this sandwich was rolled tight in an open pita similar to a burrito. The meat was topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles. Each bite exploded with flavor. Cardamom is used with similar results as cinnamon, but is used more often in savory dishes than sweets. It has a strong flavor and a small amount goes a long way. The aromatic blend of spices on the beef combined with cool, crisp veggies made for a great sandwich.

I really wish that someone in Erie served gyro or shawarma from a vertical rotisserie, but Big Moe’s are some of the best without using one. There are many other fantastic items on the menu and I recommend making the drive to get them all. Thank you for the fantastic dinner.

Keep sending me your recommendations for sandwich stops to akochirka@goerie.com or to the Beard Vs. Food Facebook.  Remember to come back and vote as well.

Until next time,

Andrew — Beard vs. Food

Big Moe's on Urbanspoon

Read more of Andrew's thoughts about Sandwiches 2
Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: August 28th, 2012

If you haven’t yet, be sure to “like” Chew On It: Beard vs. Food on Facebook and follow me on Twitter!

There are many places downtown to grab lunch, but where can you find a fresh made sandwich on an entire loaf of Italian bread for $7.00? Tickle’s Deli has been open for 27 years and the owners and staff pride themselves on making fresh sandwiches that are consistently good and affordable. This small deli is located at 17 West 4th Street and is constantly busy. Their menu is loaded with a make-your-own sandwich section, a list of signature sandwiches, and many other choices. If you want to order for lunch, place your order early to make sure you get it before they get too busy. Yesterday afternoon, I called in an order based on a few recommendations I’d received from readers. I ordered a Veggie Delight Sub for my coworker Steve Anthony, as well as a Freddy Sub and a Chicken Salad Wrap for myself.

If you are familiar with the sitcom Seinfeld, my experience at Tickle’s reminded me slightly of the Soup Nazi episode. It’s a basic deli and they like everything to be done in a particular fashion. I am not saying this as something negative, they just know what they want. I actually got a laugh when I tried to add bacon to my Freddy Sub and have it toasted. I was kindly informed that orders should be placed by saying the choices of meat, cheese, and veggies and ending with the choice of bread. I chose the Mini Freddy so I could try all three sandwiches. Don’t be fooled by the name, however, this “mini” sandwich is served on eight inch French bread. The mini Freddy had ham, capicola, salami, provolone, lettuce, and tomato piled on the delicious bread. Everything about the sub was fresh. Capicola and salami are two of my favorite deli meats because they add great spice to a basic sandwich. When I got back to work, I put my sub into the toaster oven to crisp up the bread which gave it some additional texture and obviously heat.

I was told that I had to try the chicken salad in some form. You can get it on a roll, lettuce, bread, wrap, and many other options. I decided on a wheat wrap with American cheese (which was an extra $.50). The chicken salad is creamy without having too much mayonnaise and loaded with chunks of fresh chicken. Tickle’s chicken salad is a basic, well-seasoned chicken salad, with no extras like nuts or grapes, but it is delicious nonetheless.

Steve’s Veggie Delight sub had Colby and Muenster cheeses, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and olives on eight inch French bread. A sandwich can never have enough cheese and the Colby and Muenster combination was delicious. The veggies were fresh and I don’t typically like tomato or cucumber, but together, everything tasted great.

Their basic no frills sandwiches are fantastic, but it is the price tag that makes them even better. The Mini Freddy is a whopping $3.95. A high quality, fresh, filling, not to mention tasty lunch for under four bucks…are you kidding me?! The Veggie Delight was $4.95 and the Chicken Salad Wrap was $4.55. If you want a wonderful lunch that is fast and affordable, Tickle’s is the perfect choice. Tickle’s is open Monday – Friday from 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM and they offer free delivery from 10:30 AM to 1:30 PM on those days. The phone number for ordering is (814) 455-5718.

Keep sending me your recommendations for sandwich stops to akochirka@goerie.com or to the Beard Vs. Food Facebook.  Remember to come back and vote as well.

Until next time,

Andrew — Beard vs. Food

Tickle's Deli on Urbanspoon

Read more of Andrew's thoughts about Sandwiches 2
Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: September 4th, 2012

If you haven’t yet, be sure to “like” Chew On It: Beard vs. Food on Facebook and follow me on Twitter!

If you have never been to the Whole Foods Cooperative at 1341 West 26th Street, you really should check it out. This member-owned and controlled business is a lot more than just an all-natural grocery store, they also have a deli that is responsible for some seriously delicious homemade food. Amanda and I met for lunch today to try a few of their sandwiches. We checked out the menu before we arrived, so we had a few ideas of what we wanted. Chris, who took our order at the counter, also recommended a few of his favorites. We ended up choosing three different sandwiches to try a good variety of what the café has to offer. Amanda ordered the Mediterranean Wrap and I chose the Santa Fe Melt and the Grilled Bundled Bella Wrap. While we waited for our sandwiches to be made, we browsed the store to see if there was anything else we wanted.

Our food was ready in just a few minutes. I started with the Santa Fe Melt. The sandwich was made on sourdough bread which was smothered in an avocado spread, large slices of green chilies and tomatoes, topped with pepper jack cheese, and finished with chipotle lime mayonnaise. This was a messy sandwich to eat. The pairing of the green chilies with the cheese/mayo combination really made this sandwich. The bread got soft after it sat for a few minutes which made it even tougher to pick up. It was a little on the bland side and could have used some salt, but overall it was tasty.

The Grilled Bundled Bella Wrap was much larger than I anticipated. The entire thing easily weighed in at over a pound. I chose a whole wheat wrap to be filled with grilled portabellas and zucchini, roasted asparagus, balsamic marinated spinach and red onion, and Chèvre goat cheese. The wrap was packed full of flavor. The veggies were very well seasoned and delicious. The asparagus was still bright green and crisp and added great texture to the wrap. The goat cheese was wonderfully creamy and gave a slightly tart, tangy bite to the vegetables.

Amanda’s Mediterranean Wrap started with a whole wheat wrap that was spread with hummus and filled with quinoa tabouli, cucumbers, feta cheese, olives, and a spring mix of greens. We both agreed that this was the best sandwich of the three we sampled. The hummus and quinoa tabouli were fantastic. The cool spring mixed greens were perfectly fresh and the crisp cucumbers added great crunch. The hummus was a fantastic contrasting texture to the greens. The feta cheese was tough to find so I’m not sure if it was left off by mistake or maybe they just ran out, but the wrap was just as awesome without it.

All of the lunch choices also come with pickle slices, blue corn chips, and fresh salsa.  Thank you to Chris for the suggestions and the wonderful lunch. We will be back to try a lot more from the newly updated menu. The store is open Monday – Saturday from 9 A.M. – 9 P.M. and Sunday from 9 A.M. – 7 P.M. The phone number to place an order is 814-456-0282.

Keep sending me your recommendations for sandwich stops to akochirka@goerie.com or to the Beard Vs. Food Facebook.  Remember to come back and vote as well.

Until next time,

Andrew — Beard vs. Food

Co-Op Cafe & Bakery on Urbanspoon

Read more of Andrew's thoughts about Sandwiches 2
Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: September 12th, 2012

If you haven’t yet, be sure to “like” Chew On It: Beard vs. Food on Facebook and follow me on Twitter!

If you want to eat at a mountain lodge, but don’t want to drive into the mountains, Lorie’s Wildridge Restaurant at 5455 West Ridge Road is the place for you. This log cabin-like restaurant is full of beautiful woodwork, mounted wildlife, and friendly people. Amanda and I arrived just before six on Tuesday night and were surprised at how crowded the parking lot was. We were seated immediately and started looking through our menus. The menu is comprised of a broad spectrum of affordable, home-cooked food. Everything looked as though it came straight from your grandmother’s kitchen. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all available and there are plenty of choices for each. Our server, Dawn, gave us some great suggestions and was helpful in walking us through the menu. Amanda decided on the Chicken Parmesan sub and a side salad, and I received a recommendation to try either the pot roast sandwich or the meatloaf sandwich. The Hot Meatloaf sandwich was what I was craving, but they also had a Sloppy Joe on special so I decided to get that as well. The Sloppy Joe special was served with a choice of macaroni salad or German potato salad and the meatloaf sandwich came with mashed potatoes.

Our salads came out in no time after we placed our order. Amanda’s tossed salad was more than just boring iceberg lettuce; it was a mix of greens including spinach. It was topped with carrots, tomatoes, and served with a side of croutons and their homemade ranch dressing. The macaroni salad was light, but full of flavor. The dressing on it was mayo-based and coated the noodles in a delicate layer of richness. The small dice of onion, celery, and egg made for a good texture contrast and added taste.

The rest of our meals came to the table shortly after we finished the salads. The Chicken Parmesan sub contained large pieces of fried chicken topped with their house marinara sauce and melted mozzarella cheese all on a toasted sub roll. The sauce was very flavorful and went well with the super crispy chicken. The sandwich was served with homemade crunchy potato chips that were a perfect pairing.

 

My Hot Meatloaf sandwich looked fantastic. Two hearty slices of meatloaf were placed between slices of bread and covered in fresh beef gravy. What could be simpler than that? The meatloaf was fantastically seasoned with a great sauce crust on the outside. I like my meatloaf with ketchup, but this gravy might have converted me. The mashed potatoes were some of the best I have ever had. They were creamy, but still had some chunks of potato with the skin. Again, I’m not normally a fan of gravy on my potatoes, but I would come back just for that.

I have a hard time passing up daily specials. You can order off the regular menu any day, but you never know the next time you can get a specific special. When I saw the Sloppy Joe on the menu board, I knew I had to try it. Let me start by saying that this was no ordinary Manwich concoction on a hamburger bun. The ground beef was mixed with diced peppers and onions and tossed in a tangy tomato sauce that was to die for. The sandwich was served piping hot with the perfect level of “slopiness” and was the model of true comfort food. I don’t eat Sloppy Joes often, but it brings me right back to my childhood every time I do.

We ended our meal with some of their incredible scratch-made pies, but just in case I come back to review desserts (and I hope I do get that chance), I’ll save those for later.

Thank you to Dawn for the fantastic and hospitable service. The kitchen staff here pushes out delicious stick-to-your-ribs comfort food for any meal and any occasion. Most regulars have a favorite dish here and you’ll probably be able to find your own. The menu is great, but don’t forget to check out the specials board.

The phone number is 814-838-3402. However, they do not take reservations so there may be a wait. They are open Tuesday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Keep sending me your recommendations for sandwich stops to akochirka@goerie.com or to the Beard Vs. Food Facebook.  Remember to come back and vote as well.

Until next time,

Andrew — Beard vs. Food

Lorie's Wildridge Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Read more of Andrew's thoughts about Sandwiches 2
Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: September 18th, 2012

If you haven’t yet, be sure to “like” Chew On It: Beard vs. Food on Facebook and follow me on Twitter!

For the last few months, Picasso’s has been serving up artisan style sandwiches with a full spectrum of ingredients. Donny Wisniewski and Ray Stoltz wanted to open up a sandwich shop 0ffering gourmet sandwiches you can’t find anywhere else in town, and they have definitely achieved that. Located in the Starbucks Plaza outside of the mall, the shop serves sandwiches that are named after different works of art or artists themselves. To create an interesting atmosphere, they feature (and sell) work from local artists, who get a featured sandwich created and named after them. Amanda and I wanted to try a few different sandwiches and, luckily for us, they offer a half sandwich option for everything on the menu. We decided on five half sandwiches to get a good variety.

First, we tried the Michelangelo. Chicken and bacon alfredo was topped with provolone cheese and grilled on multi-grain bread. The cheese melted with the alfredo sauce and a wonderfully gooey mess resulted. The crispy bread added texture and crunch. The sandwich was loaded with flavors reminiscent of homemade comfort food and warmed us both to the core. Serve this sandwich with a bowl of tomato soup and you’d have a perfect meal for a chilly fall day.

The Mona Lisa has been a favorite of mine since the shop opened. Thin sliced turkey, havarti cheese, artichoke hearts, baby spinach, tomato, and delicious pesto mayo form decadent layers on multi-grain bread. The numerous ingredients might make you think there’s too much going on, but the flavors worked together seamlessly. The artichoke hearts and the pesto mayo gave the sandwich a slight tanginess that the buttery, salty havarti contrasted beautifully.

Next, we tried the Da Vinci. This masterpiece was filled with sliced Italian sausage, a large, multi-colored cheese ravioli, and alfredo sauce. The fennel and pepper from the sausage added great spice to the sandwich. The creamy, well-seasoned, cheesy interior of the ravioli combined with the alfredo really made the sandwich sing. It was salty and rich and was the closest thing to a perfect sandwich I’ve ever tasted.

The Kinnane was a playful twist on a childhood favorite. Tasty multi-grain bread was smeared with peanut butter and topped with apple slices and crispy bacon. The apples and peanut butter have a delicious, but similar texture that really depends on the crispiness of the bacon. The salty bacon and the sweet apples with peanut butter create a very cohesive, and delectable, work of art.

Finally, we tried the featured artist’s sandwich, the Joe James. Pumpernickel bread was topped with plain alfredo macaroni and cheese, thick slices of tomato, onions, and cheddar cheese. Having mac and cheese on a sandwich was different, but a good different. Like the Michelangelo, the alfredo sauce was wonderfully rich without being overly heavy. The onions and the pumpernickel bread worked in tandem to elevate the sandwich to a whole new level.  It also came with a chocolate gold coin on the side.

Thanks to everyone at Picasso’s for the fantastic lunch. Not only is the food great, but the atmosphere is fun as well. Aspiring artists can create their own masterpieces with chalk on the painter’s palette-shaped tables and while you recharge with food, your phone can do the same at their charging station. Picasso’s also offers gluten-free options for an extra $2. If you can’t find something that sounds good on the menu, you can always create your own “self portrait” sandwich from any/all of the items listed on the menu. I will be back for sure to try the rest of the sandwiches on the menu and try my hand at making my own.

The phone number to place an order is 866-1183. Their hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Sandwich prices range from $3 to $8. Combo meals that include a sandwich, chips or a whole pickle, and a drink are also available for an additional charge.

Keep sending me your recommendations for sandwich stops to akochirka@goerie.com or to the Beard Vs. Food Facebook.  Remember to come back and vote as well.

Also, local restaurants are vying to be the one who delivers the official burger of the Perry 200 celebration. Voting starts today and there are 11 tasty options. The two entries with the most votes will battle in a live taste-test in which I am part of the judges panel. Click here to see the entries. Voting ends Friday, October 19.

Until next time,

Andrew — Beard vs. Food

Picasso's on Urbanspoon

Read more of Andrew's thoughts about Sandwiches 2
Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: September 25th, 2012

If you haven’t yet, be sure to “like” Chew On It: Beard vs. Food on Facebook and follow me on Twitter!

Next to the McDonald’s at 5th and State is Viva Wraps & Pitas. This small sandwich shop has been open for about two years and offers a variety of bagel sandwiches, pitas, wraps, salads, burritos, and soups. Amanda and I headed down there for lunch on Monday and everything sounded good. We checked out the menu board and asked for some recommendations. We decided on three sandwiches; Amanda got the Philly Steak Wrap, and I ordered the Carolina Bagel Sandwich as well as the special of the day, the Gryo.

I was impressed with how quickly our food was ready with it being the middle of the lunch rush. The Philly Steak Wrap was really great. Thin steak was cooked with sautéed onions, peppers, and mushroom and topped with a creamy traditional cheddar cheese sauce. All of this was rolled tight in a thin pita wrap. The beef was fantastically seasoned and the veggies with it were just as good. The pita wrap was fresh and provided the sandwich with a great taste and texture.

The daily Gyro special was similar in make-up. A pita wrap was filled with a seasoned lamb and beef mixture, tomato, onion, romaine lettuce, and topped with tzatziki sauce. Like gyros I have had in the past, I really wish that the meat had been shaved off of a rotisserie, but it had great flavor nonetheless. The tzatziki was creamy and tangy and went perfectly with the fresh veggies and thin sliced meat.

The bagel sandwich was my favorite out of all three. Smoked turkey breast was layered with provolone cheese, chopped bacon, tomato slices, red onions, and romaine lettuce. The best part was the spicy honey mustard sauce covering everything. I got the sandwich on a fresh toasted everything bagel and the seasoning from it really added a lot of flavor.

This is another great example of a quick and filling meal that will not break the bank. The cheapest option is a plain bagel for $.85 and there’s nothing on the menu over $6.50. If you want to eat in, take out, or have your food delivered, they offer it all, even catering. Thank you for the fantastic lunch, you will see me back again for sure.

The number for Viva Pita is 814.455.5437. Their hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Keep sending me your recommendations for sandwich stops to akochirka@goerie.com or to the Beard Vs. Food Facebook.  Remember to come back and vote as well.

Also, 11 burgers from local restaurants are currently in competition to be chosen as the official burger of the Perry 200 celebration. Click here to see the entries. Cast your votes for your favorite entries and the two with the most votes will then be judged by a panel of experts who will determine the winner. Voting ends Friday, October 19.

Until next time,

Andrew — Beard vs. Food

Viva Wraps & Pitas on Urbanspoon

Read more of Andrew's thoughts about Sandwiches 2
Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: October 2nd, 2012

If you haven’t yet, be sure to “like” Chew On It: Beard vs. Food on Facebook and follow me on Twitter!

Since the late 1940s, Teresa’s Italian Deli began serving fresh baked bread, cookies, groceries, cold cuts, and cheeses to the Erie community. Two generations later, Teresa’s has two locations, both pumping out great subs, salads, soups, and baked goods. Amanda and I made our way to 810 East 38th Street last night for dinner. Making a choice on what to order can be difficult with sixteen different subs to choose from. The sandwiches come in three sizes: small (10″), medium (14″), or large (18″). We decided to try three small subs to get a variety from the menu. Amanda got a Buffalo Chicken Tender Sub and I got a simple Meatball Sub as well as a Steak Tip Sub.

Our food arrived from the kitchen fairly quickly, but keep in mind that everything is made fresh and in-house so it could take some time if they’re busy. First, all of the sandwiches were served on fresh baked rolls. Outside they were toasted and crunchy, but were still light and fluffy inside. The Meatball Sub was stuffed with large homemade meatballs that had a delicious straight-out-of-grandma’s-kitchen taste, Teresa’s own sauce, and melted mozzarella. The meatballs had a great consistency and held together perfectly with each bite. The cheese added another layer of flavor and texture to the rich sauce. It was a simple sub, but was perfectly done as it has been for years.

The sub I’ve ordered most from Teresa’s is the Chicken Tender Sub, which is a sub made of chicken tenders tossed in your choice of wing sauce and topped with lettuce and tomato. Amanda chose buffalo sauce, which was awesome. I’ve always ordered mine with a side of their home made bleu cheese dressing so I took the opportunity to introduce Amanda to it as well. The dressing was so good that I could eat it on just about anything, or with just a fork if necessary. The chicken was crispy and piping hot. The cool and crisp veggies added just the right amount of contrast to the chicken. The buffalo sauce was tangy and spicy and paired perfectly with the bleu cheese. This flavor combination is easily my all-time favorite, it’s a classic and unbelievably delicious.

Finally was the Steak Tip Sub. The fresh bread was loaded with large chunks of grilled sirloin, a pile of sautéed onions, peppers, mushrooms and topped with provolone cheese. The steak was tender and fantastically seasoned. The onions and peppers were caramelized and brought a level of sweetness to the rest of the sandwich. I even put some of the bleu cheese dressing on it and it was just as awesome as the chicken tenders. The mushrooms were canned which was a little disappointing, especially because they were paired with the fresh cut beef and crisp onions, and peppers, but it was great all the same.

Everything on Teresa’s menu is wonderful. From the subs to the soups to the salads to the cookies and brownies, you can’t go wrong. A big thanks to everyone at Teresa’s who helped give us a great meal.

Keep sending me your recommendations for sandwich stops to akochirka@goerie.com or to the Beard Vs. Food Facebook.  Remember to come back and vote as well.

Also, 11 burgers from local restaurants are currently in competition to be chosen as the official burger of the Perry 200 celebration. Click here to see the entries. Cast your votes for your favorite entries and the two with the most votes will then be judged by a panel of experts who will determine the winner. Voting ends Friday, October 19.

Until next time,

Andrew — Beard vs. Food

Teresa's Italian Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

Read more of Andrew's thoughts about Sandwiches 2
Posted in: Uncategorized

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