I have to admit Sam's Morning Glory Diner was not on my "must visit" list when I originally planned my trip to Philadelphia, mostly because I'd heard seating was incredibly limited and waits could top 2 hours. Waking up the day after Amada's pig roast and heading north while chatting with my Aunt I passed the "Singing Fountain" and decided to alter my path from the previous day.....as it turns out the path would lead me right past the door of Sam's and upon looking at the menu and seeing no wait I decided to stop in.
Stating that they "pride themselves on creating innovative menu items from the best of our local bounty" and listing the local markets they support (The Italian Market and Reading Terminal Market specifically) I have to say I liked the feel of Sam's - it reminded me of a cleaner and less hipster Dottie's True Blue. Greeted by a friendly young woman at the door and told to sit wherever I like I additionally received a smile and greetings from the pierced and inked young lady at the griddle who would prove quite handy at cooking, conversing, and singing along with the excellent overhead soundtrack featuring U2, Interpol, Radiohead, and more.
Seated at a cozy table I was presented with the standard menu and the list of daily specials and my coffee was quickly filled. A hefty and dark brew served with cream and all sorts of sweeteners I fixed the coffee to my liking and was thrilled by the fact that Sam's allows you to fill your own (and to take a cup for the road.) Browsing the menu I identified three items I wanted to try but was unfortunately told that half orders could not be accomidated. Settling on the choice that sounded most unique I waited while watching others receive their Monkey French Toast, enormous fresh biscuits, and omelettes.
Approximately 20 minutes passed before my order would arrive, and arrive it did in grand fashion. Titled Homemade Cornbread French Toast the dish featured "Fresh Orange Zest in our Rich French Toast Batter, topped with Sliced Strawberries and served with Whipped Cream and Maple Syrup" and it was every bit as good as it sounded. Three thick slices, crispy on the outside and custardesque within the toast had the expected cornmeal texture but lacked the grainy texture of sub-par cornbread and the orange essence was a welcomed touch. Adding butter and syrup (alas, not pure maple) created a delectable pairing with the fresh berries and whipped cream and the entirety of the dish was surprisingly light, refreshing, and tasty at a mere $9.
Finishing up my breakfast and getting another cup of coffee to go I settled the modest tab and was bid farewell by both cook and server. A friendly place with affordable (and excellent) food I must say I liked Sam's a lot and I understand the long weekend waits. That said, a better quality syrup and a bit more leniency on half orders is something all breakfast spots need to consider - some people don't just want a big homogenous plate....I really wanted to try that Monkey French Toast.
Not full but with lunch and two dinners already planned on each side the Phillies/Astros businessman’s special at Citizens Bank Park I figured the next stop on my sightseeing and eating agenda would be the Philadelphia Free Library and some of the downtown outdoor sculptures (Love and the Claus Oldenburg Clothespin) before swinging by the Reading Terminal Market for some game time snacks. Walking quickly (the blisters had not yet formed on my feet at this point) and realizing the library would not open until 9:30 I instead opted to head to Reading first and found myself standing before the impressive selection of Beiler’s Bakery shortly after the market opened its doors.
With at least 100 options available I asked the small man dressed in traditional Amish attire what he’d recommend for a true Beiler’s experience and he directed me to no less than four items that he said were “best you’ll ever taste.” Not wanting something as simple as a donut and knowing that I’d be eating quite heartily throughout the day I opted to select two of the four, paid the modest fee of $4 cash and made my on to other stands after stopping to take some pictures of my purchases.
Although some time (plus a lunch and a pretzel) passed between my purchase and the consumption of Beiler’s products in the left field bleachers during the 5th inning I will note that both items were excellent. Beginning first with the Pumpkin Whoopie Pie I loved the way the soft cake blended with the extra creamy filling – like a portable pumpkin pie with whipped cream, heavily accented with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. The second item, the very definition of Pennsylvania Amish Cooking would be Shoofly pie – essentially a gooey molasses and brown sugar pie with a texture somewhere between pecan pie without the nuts and coffeecake with more moisture. Profoundly sweet and topped with a crumbly butter topping there was nothing elegant or reserved about this pie – it was down home, simple, and delicious.
My second stop in the market on this Thursday would be another Amish spot – this time Miller’s Twist. Having already stowed my Beiler’s items for game time and assuming a pretzel would be best eaten hot I asked the young clerk what she recommended, the Pretzel sticks or the big twist and she suggested the twist. Paying the modest fee and watching the other employees assemble pretzels rapidly as more people arrived to place orders (and here I was thinking I was the only one who’d be eating a pretzel at 8:30a,) I snapped a picture and made my way to the street to continue my walk.
Warm, buttery, somewhat sweet and not overly salty the Twist was everything I’d read and more – pretzel perfection. Sure there are any number of places in Philly offering 20 pretzels for $5 and I admittedly did not try any of those – but at only $1.85 for something as good as Miller’s Twist I really don’t feel the need to skimp…especially when compared to the $5 over salted Stadium Pretzels offered in most US cities.