Wednesday, April 17, 2024

REVIEW: Poe's Sandwich Joint (1710 N. 5th Street, Philadelphia, PA)

Our daughter is getting ready to finish her junior year in high school, which means it’s time to start taking trips to colleges and scope out the campuses where she might be spending a chunk of the near future. It also means we can research and try new places to eat and drink! 

During our recent spring break we decided to take a ride to Philly and look at a few schools, one of which happened to be my alma mater, Drexel University in West Philly. It has been longer than I care to acknowledge since my graduation, and the campus has changed dramatically. The food trucks I subsisted on as a commuter student have been pushed away from the street in front of the main building, replaced with pizza joints, coffee shops, chicken sandwich establishments, and even a Shake Shack. 

Further up the campus towards the University of Pennsylvania, students, faculty and staff can choose from Wawa, Chipotle, more pizza, and a Pret A Manger, which is where we decided to grab a bite and some coffee while we chatted with an old buddy from my days on college radio. We discovered Pret while we were traveling through Europe back in 2017 and I hate to admit I’d rather have one of their baguettes or chicken salad and avocado sandwiches than the hit-or-miss offerings from our nearby Wawas. 

Our travels the next day took us to North Philly and a tour of rival Temple University. The night before our visit I sat down and did some research on eateries around campus. I’m more familiar with spots in the Northern Liberties section, but we wanted to see what Temple’s environs offered, just in case we’d need a good spot when we came up for a visit. 

I whittled our choices down to Oh Brother (burgers and sandwiches with a variety of gourmet cheesesteaks), Luna Café (featuring breakfast and lunch), and Poe’s Sandwich Joint (a, well, sandwich joint located inside Human Robot Brewery at 1710 N. 5th Street). After much deliberation and reading the menu offerings from each, we decided we would be gently rapping on Poe’s door. 

After a soggy college tour in the spring break rain, we hopped in the car and headed back towards Center City. The dreary day certainly didn’t do much to improve the area’s ambiance, and Human Robot is just the sort of dark bar where you could have found me during my college years; though back then I preferred 25 cent Meister Brau drafts and bottles of Yuengling lager/porter/black & tan to a $7 hazy IPA that reminded me a great deal of the Ship Bottom Brewing Hop & Hazy IPA I’m sipping as I type this. 

The small kitchen is tucked down the brewery’s hallway, with only a small sign to let hungry patrons know it’s there. Manned by a few cooks, the brightly lit kitchen cranked out a healthy number of eat-in and take-out orders while we were there. The cooks suggested ordering from the online app since there were “eight or nine” new sandwiches not on the printed menus. 

Our previous night’s research paid off and we ended up ordering exactly what we’d zeroed in on: Gabbygool (chicken cutlet, hand pulled fresh mozzarella, hot “gabagool” capicola, roasted red bell peppers and arugula with house lemon pepper mayo, balsamic glaze and red pepper flakes); Seoulgirl (Korean fried chicken topped with homemade kimchi slaw, drizzled honey, spicy gochujang aioli and cilantro); Hamilton (chicken cutlet, bacon, hand-cut fries, Cooper sharp, house ranch dressing, scallions); and, Skinny Joey Fries (hand cut French Fries, extra sharp provolone, Italian style roast pork, sautéed broccoli rabe and roasted long hots topped with house horseradish mayo, parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes). 

Each sandwich featured a great bread-to-filling ratio with the nice chew that Philly/NJ-baked rolls are so renowned for, and I now demand that ALL fries be topped with roast pork, provolone, and horseradish mayo. Best Fries Ever. Nobody finished more than half of their hefty lunch selection, which meant we also had dinner for the dreary evening ahead. We packed up our sandwiches (and fries) and dashed to the car for another white-knuckle drive through torrential rains back to the shore, the smell of our leftovers filling the cab for the next 90 minutes. 

A few hours later we popped everything into the oven at a low temperature and gathered around the counter for round two. Not only did the sandwiches hold up as leftovers, but I was kinda jealous of the Seoulgirl (Chris’ selection); the kick of the gochujang and the crunch of the kimchi really added texture and heat to the fried chicken. 

We might have to schedule a return trip just so I can get my hands on another one. 

And the Best Fries Ever. — Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor/publisher of The Hungover Gourmet, which is back in print after (checks notes) 15 years! Visit our website to order our current issue and see how you can contribute to our next issue.

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