Food writer Hollister Moore, 69, king of street food

Hollister “Holly” Moore, 69, a pioneering Philadelphia food writer, hot dog enthusiast, and lover of the city’s diners and hidden gems, died Monday, July 31, from complications from an infection.

Mr. Moore went from a job in the world of fast food, where he was part of the launch of the Big Mac, to a career as a restaurateur and small business owner before finding local celebrity as a food writer.

Mr. Moore was an early and avid adopter of blogging as a platform for sharing his encyclopedic knowledge of Philadelphia’s unpretentious lunch counters, taquerias, and hot-dog stands. His site “Holly Eats,” founded in 2000, featured reviews with a distinctive “grease stain” rating system he used to measure his enjoyment of a meal. Mr. Moore eventually took his passion for casual dining further afield, writing about clam shacks in New England, barbecue joints in South Carolina, and fresh fish in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, where he spent time during winter months.

“I don’t know anybody who loved food as much as him, or who loved Philadelphia as much as him,” said Mike Ritz, a friend of Mr. Moore’s for 20 years. “He traveled the world, but Philadelphia was his city.”

Born in New Jersey, Mr. Moore attended Cornell University after high school, earning a degree in hotel and restaurant management. His first post-graduation job was with McDonald’s Corp., where he worked on the national rollout of the Big Mac. He worked for Burger King and Dunkin’ Donuts before decamping to Philadelphia in the 1970s, where he taught at the Restaurant School before opening his own eatery, Holly Moore’s Upstairs Cafe, near Rittenhouse Square.

Over the years, Mr. Moore would also open a self-service copy shop, as well as operate an exercise program with Ritz, offering military-style fitness training sessions to civilians.

He often traveled with friend Carman Luntzel, owner of the now-closed Carman’s Country Kitchen, who befriended Mr. Moore when he became a regular customer. Together, they dined everywhere from Paris and Budapest to remote seafood huts in Massachusetts.

“We were always driving down dirt roads to find homemade pies,” she said. “I pushed myself into his life. He was very introverted – but he got used to me.”

Camera icon ALEJANDRO ALVAREZ
Holly Moore, pictured with Johnny’s Hots owner John Danzy, on the cover of the Daily News’ food section, March 30, 2006

Mr. Moore, who wrote a food column at Philadelphia City Paper for more than 10 years, said he had no bias against fine dining. But he wrote on his blog that “I am much happier foraging about for an out-of-the-way barbecue shack, the best bowl of chowder on the Maine coast or a truck stop that still does home cooking.” He was particularly passionate about hot dogs, and a 2006 profile in the Daily News chronicled his visits to more than 150 wiener destinations.

“Of all the places I write about,” Mr. Moore said then, “hot dog joints have the most tradition.”

Food writer Drew Lazor, who met Mr. Moore in 2006 when Lazor was a new writer at City Paper, said he grew to admire Mr. Moore’s passion for supporting small businesses, many of which were immigrant-owned.

“He had a knack for sniffing out those amazing little mom-and-pop type places you can’t really find on Google, the types of spots you’d only know about if an extremely knowledgeable friend tipped you off,” Lazor said in an email. “With Holly Eats, he was that friend for thousands in Philadelphia and beyond. To me, he represented what food journalism was all about — telling stories that you’d never hear otherwise in a way everyone can understand.”

Jeff Towne, who has been publishing his “Philadining” blog for a decade, said that as a moderator for the site eGullet, Mr. Moore set an example for other bloggers to conduct themselves with civility and friendliness.

“We often heard from other moderators that they were amazed by the level of camaraderie and civility on that forum,” he said.

Mr. Moore even received the honor of a caricature displayed on the walls of the Palm restaurant – an illustration that he recently acquired when the Palm closed for renovations.

Camera icon From HollyEats.com.
Holly Moore’s caricature hung on the wall at the Palm restaurant before its recent renovation.

Mr. Moore was regularly spotted scooting around town on a Vespa, though his health had declined in recent years. He survived several bouts of cancer, Ritz said, and entered the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania on Tuesday for a procedure related to a broken arm. Instead, doctors discovered an internal blockage that led to sepsis.

“I’ll miss eating with him,” said Luntzel. “He was really crazy about so many things: pancakes, fried chicken, meatloaf, sweetbreads. We just loved to eat food together. When the flavors were there, it made him so happy.”

No funeral service is planned.

A memorial page has been created at facebook.com/groups/RememberingHollyMoore/.