Here is an excerpt from Craig LaBan's online chat of Aug. 6, 2013:
Craig LaBan: I had these spiiicy Korean chicken wings at Rice and Mix, the eastside branch of Giwa at 1207 Walnut St. It's a great casual spot to answer a few specific Korean cravings - hot stone bowl bibimbaps, pa-jun pancakes, and Korean fried chicken. A lot of places are doing the super-crispy "KFC" wings - but so many are, well, wimpy. Not so at Rice and Mix, where the fire-red glaze made my lips hum with gochujang chile heat. Tasty, messy, satisfying, and not a bad deal - $10.50 for a plate of 10.
Reader: Craig, thanks to yours and a reader recommendation a few weeks back, I checked out El Balconcito II in the Northeast. You both spoke very highly of the Peruvian Chicken, but they were sold out of rotisserie chicken at 6:30 on a Friday night. Is that normal? I was told I could call ahead and reserve a chicken if I wanted to come back. Do you think this is a viable way to conduct service, on a 'call ahead' basis? The rest of the meal was great, I am eating my last plate of the Paella and Bistec leftovers as we chat.
C.L: Sorry you missed out on Balconcito's pollo. As for the call-ahead policy - that's a pain. But this is really a casual neighborhood spot with a regular crowd, and I'm sure they plan to make only so many on a given day. Obviously, it's not in their interest to cook more than they usually sell. It can't hurt to call ahead to be sure they'll reserve you one - or save you the trip. But if you liked the rest of the food, you'll find a return trip for the chicken worth it.
Reader: Finally got to taste the excellent raw bar (clams) at Smitty's in Somers Point. Fantastic summertime stop, best to arrive at 8:30 p.m., as crowds dwindle down. Steamers were just OK, because I prefer them served with the bread-dipping sauce (though melted butter was old-school). A fun clam-shack atmosphere. Where else do you recommend for Shore stops that have a reasonable raw bar and seafood without the bad fried stuff? Thanks!
C.L.: I think the best steamed clams I've had at the Shore were at the Harvey Cedars Shellfish Co. in LBI, where they really know how to "blister" their clams - steam them just enough so they open up, but stop just soon enough that the little bubble of clam juice that forms on top of the clam doesn't quite burst until you bite it. Takes some skill. Another good raw bar I stopped at a few years ago was the Beach Creek Oyster Bar in Wildwood, 500 W. Hand Ave., lots of good oysters with a nice marina-side deck overlooking the bay. Of course, the Granddaddy of Shore oyster bars: Dock's Oyster House in AC. Classy place, remarkably up-to-date considering it was founded in 1897.
Reader: Good shawarma is seriously lacking in Philly. Any new Middle Eastern coming this way that you've heard of?
C.L.: Not that I know of, at the moment. However, Hamifgash, the little Israeli glatt kosher joint on the 800 block of Sansom Street, does a very decent shawarma platter.
Reader: Great Peruvian chicken in Ardmore. Barbacoa. Modeled after the Peruvian chicken hotspot just outside of DC in VA.
C.L.: I've been hearing great things about Barbacoa - need to check it out.
Reader: Barbacoa: great chicken, ribs, brisket, pulled pork. Way better than most places for sides. On Rittenhouse Place in Ardmore.