Our story begins with a “Do you two have any dinner plans for Saturday night?” text between Mrs. G-LO and Mrs. Alemonger. That text lead to even more texts, IMs, and phone calls as we secured babysitters, decided on a dining destination, and finalized the evening’s itinerary.
Here are five things that did NOT happen during “Date Night in Old City Philadelphia”:
- Steve Carell, Tina Fey, and Mark Wahlberg did not join us.
- We did not drive an Audi R8. It is just a two seater afterall.
- We did not steal someone else’s dinner reservation.
- We did not get mixed up with any crooked cops.
- We did not fire any guns.
Here is what we DID do:
1st Stop – Craft Beer shopping at South Philly’s Beer Heaven…
Mrs. G-LO and I picked up Mr. and Mrs. Alemonger at 5:40PM. Since Han Dynasty (our dinner destination) doesn’t have a liquor license, we stopped by a relatively new Craft Beer store in South Philly called Beer Heaven. The name says it all! This relatively small store in the middle of a strip mall is literally wall to wall beer, and unlike some Craft Beer retailers, the price of every beer is clearly marked so that there are no surprises when you head up to the register. I love buying beer at The Foodery, but I never know how much I’m spending till they ring me up. Once all of our selections were made (more about that later), we loaded up the cooler and drove to Old City.
2nd Stop – Cocktails at The Continental…
The ride from Beer Heaven to Old City was shorter than expected, so we had some time to kill before our 7PM dinner reservation. The Alemonger dropped the beer off at Han Dynasty and we then walked down to The Continental for some pre-dinner cocktails. Luckily, it wasn’t very crowded, so we quickly secured four seats at the bar and looked over the drinks menu. We immediately ordered the following cocktails:
- Mrs. G-LO: Pimms Cup – Pimm’s No. 1 cup, lime, sparkling wine & cucumber
- Mrs. Alemonger: Dean Martini – Ketel One, an olive, a Lucky Strike cigarette & a book of matches
- The Alemonger: Aviation – Bluecoat gin, Luxardo maraschino liqueur, crème de violette & fresh lemon
- G-LO: Negroni – Campari, gin, sweet vermouth
There was one puzzling element to our cocktail selections. As noted above, the Dean Martini comes with a Lucky Strike cigarette and a book of matches. Since smoking in bars and restaurants is a big NO! NO! in Philadelphia, you won’t get to “enjoy” (I’m not a smoker, hence the quotation marks) the cigarette at the bar. Mrs. Alemonger was determined to try that Lucky Strike, so she smoked it during the walk back to the restaurant. I’m not sure if it was the cocktail, the cigarette, or the combination of the two, but she was definitely feeling the effects of the Dean Martini by the time we were seated at Han Dynasty. I doubt very much that she’ll be ordering one of those martini/cigarette combinations again anytime soon.
3rd Stop – Dinner and Craft Beer at Han Dynasty…
It’s a good thing that we arrived at Han Dynasty when we did. If we would have arrived just 10 or 15 minutes later, we’d have found ourselves waiting outside for our table, because by 7:30, the dining room was packed. Since this would be Mr. and Mrs. Alemonger’s third trip to Han Dynasty, Mrs. G-LO and I decided to let them take charge of the ordering. For the record, The Alemonger is hoping and praying that they open a South Jersey branch so that he can satisfy his Han Dynasty cravings on a regular basis.
Here is what we ordered: Dumplings in Chili Oil, Wontons in Chili Oil, Spicy Cold Cucumbers, Dan Dan Noodles, Salt and Pepper Shrimp, Cumin Beef, and Dry Pepper Chicken. And here are the beers that we picked up at Beer Heaven to cool the burn, since Han Dynasty is well known for its hot and spicy dishes: Two Brothers Heavy Handed IPA, 21st Amendment Hop Crisis, Thomas Hooker Watermelon Ale, Green Flash Imperial IPA, Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale, and Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA.
Within 10 or 15 minutes of ordering, our first four dishes were delivered to our table. The ladies poured themselves some of the Rogue Soba Ale while the boys started off with the Heavy Handed IPA. We passed around the Dan Dan Noodles, dumplings, wontons, and cucumbers while we sipped our beers. Lots of “Ohhhs!” and “Ahhs!” immediately followed our first few bites. While the Dan Dan Noodles would wind up being my favorite dish of the night, I was also very impressed with the other three dishes. They were definitely spicy and flavorful, but it wasn’t the kind of spiciness that leaves you guzzling cold water to cool down. It was more like a slow burn that sneaks up on you after several bites. As we worked our way through the appetizers, the ladies kept drinking the Soba Ale while the boys moved on to the Hop Crisis. The Alemonger didn’t realize that it had an ABV of over 9% when he picked this up at Beer Heaven. We were both very impressed at how well this beer hid it’s high alcohol content. Definitely a beer that I need to try again.
Our three entrees arrived right around the time we were opening the Watermelon Ale. Since we were still working our way through the appetizers, the table was getting pretty crowded with plates. Although we asked that they turn down the heat factor on the Cumin Beef and Dry Pepper Chicken, you can tell by the powerful aromas that these would prove to be the most intensely flavored dishes of the night, while the Salt and Pepper Shrimp would help to cool our palate. After the first few bites of the beef and chicken dishes, I could feel myself starting to sweat (I eventually sweated through a napkin or two. TMI perhaps???). Thankfully, the Watermelon Ale was helping to cool me down ever so slightly, but the watermelon taste was a bit too sweet and overbearing for my taste. The Hell or High Watermelon Wheat by 21st Amendment takes a much more subtle approach with their watermelon flavoring.
The Green Flash Imperial IPA was my last beer of the night since I was getting really full, really fast. I love their West Coast IPA, and this was equally delicious. Since it was a bit of a high-test beer, it wasn’t helping to cool me down, but I enjoyed it nonethless. The ladies helped us out a bit with this one as we worked through what was left of our food. The Alemonger started showing off a bit by eating numerous pieces of chopped up chile peppers and chicken. We were very impressed by his high tolerance for spicy food and beer. My only concern is the next day. I shall say no more about this.
Whenever I’ve gone out for Chinese food, one of my biggest complaints is that the menu items that are labeled “hot and spicy” are never quite “hot and spicy” enough. That’s not the case at Han Dynasty. All of their menu items have a spice rating between 1 (very mild) to 10 (RIDICULOUSLY SPICY). Most of what we ordered hovered between 3 and 6.
Overall, I was very pleased with our meal at Han Dynasty. My least favorite dishes were the Cumin Beef and the Dry Pepper Chicken. They tasted good, but I just couldn’t get used to how dry they were, i.e. there were no juices or sauces to help them bind with rice. The other five dishes were superb, and I will definitely go back for my very own bowl of the Dan Dan Noodles because they were absolutely delicious.
4th Stop – Ice Cream and Phosphates at The Franklin Fountain…
I know I said that I was pretty full from dinner, but let’s face it, there’s always room for dessert! Since it was an absolutely beautiful night, we started walking to 13th and Sansom for some gelato at Capogiro. It would be a pretty long walk (about 24 blocks roundtrip), but we knew that it’d be worth it because they make some truly amazing gelato.
When we got to 4th and Chestnut, we were stopped by a woman that was giving out free ice cream samples. Although we declined the samples (the flavors weren’t very interesting), they did jar our memory and remind us that The Franklin Fountain (an Old City ice cream parlor that was featured on Man vs. Food) was just a couple blocks away at Front and Market Streets. We immediately turned around and started walking there.
The Franklin Fountain is situated on the corner of Market and Letitia Streets (a very small street between Front and 2nd Street) in what was once the home of a very naughty pastry shop called Eroticakes. Stepping into The Franklin Fountain is like stepping back in time. The employees wear white dress shirts, bow ties, aprons, and a white cap, while the decor is right out of the late 1800s/early 1900s. There isn’t much in the way of seating inside, but there are quite a few tables outside so that you can have a seat and enjoy one of their ice cream or fountain soda concoctions.
While standing in line, The Alemonger and I had a little dispute over the episode of Man vs. Food that was filmed in Philly. At the end of each episode, host Adam Richman attempts to take on a food challenge (i.e. eat a ridiculous amount of food in a very short period of time) in whatever city is featured in that particular episode. The Alemonger insisted that the Philadelphia episode featured a Pat’s vs. Geno’s cheesesteak challenge, while I insisted that the episode ended at Tony Luke’s for a mammoth cheesesteak eating showdown between Adam Richman and Tony Luke, Jr.. Since I am the self proclaimed “King of Useless and Worthless Knowledge”, of course I was right. The Alemonger has a bit of a competetive streak, so he was quite annoyed by my victory. Thankfully, he was over it by the time we reached the counter to order our desserts. Let’s see if I can’t fire him up once again. Here’s the infamous video…
The Franklin Fountain menu is broken down into the following categories: Sundaes, Banana Splits, Scooped Ice Cream in a cup or cone, Fountain Sodas, Phosphates (i.e. non-alcoholic cocktails), Ice Cream Sodas, Milkshakes, and New York Egg Creams. Here’s what we ordered:
- Mrs. G-LO: Hot Fudge Sundae – Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, Franklin Fountain Hot Fudge, Fresh Whipped Cream, Cherry
- Mrs. Alemonger: Teaberry Ice Cream Cone
- The Alemonger: The Mt. Vesuvius – Chocolate Ice Cream, Chocolate Brownie Pieces, Hot Fudge, Malt Powder, Whipped Cream (The Alemonger declined this part)
- G-LO: Rum Raisin Ice Cream Cone, Jamestown Julep Phosphate – Southern Julep withMint & Lemon (they used lime for mine since they were out of lemon), Dash of Madeira Wine, Candied Lemon Peel Garnish
In case you couldn’t tell, I had a wonderful time in Old City. Great food and drink, coupled with great friends and spectacular weather, adds up to an evening that I will remember for a very long time!