[REVIEW] John's Roast Pork Philadelphia Restaurant Review
-John’s Pork (previously known as John’s lunch, The Snyder Avenue Lunch Bar and The Shack) has been at the corner of Weccacoe and Synder since the 1930s and has been a family business for three generations.
-I first heard about John’s Roast Pork in an episode of Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods America where he said it’s his first stop whenever he’s in Philly.
-Apparently, while John’s was always a local favourite, it gained serious following in the past 10 years after Philly restaurant critic, Craig Laban, determined it was the champion of his Cheesecake Project.
-In addition to the #1 Best Philly Cheese Steak award, they have also won the Best Pork Sandwich award and the James Beard Award for Culinary Excellence.
-The cash only establishment is the epitome of a “dive”- it’s really unlike anything we have in Toronto.
-You line up outside the little shack that is sheltered by a long canopy in the middle of a barren parking lot.
-Once inside, you order your food from an overhead sandwich board menu, grab your food and take it to eat on one of the old picnic benches outside.
-Outside, you can fill a few little cups of various pickles and load up on hot sauce and condiments for your meal.
-Service is pretty fast but for a first timer, the ordering system can be a bit confusing. Depending on what kind of sandwich you want, you order at different areas of the counter- so I ordered one sandwich with one gentleman, and was shuttled over to another gentleman to order my roast pork. Once your sandwiches are ready, you pay (cash only) at the till with a lovely and cheerful lady.
-If you don’t have cash on you (we didn’t as we just got in), don’t worry! There’s an ATM crammed right into the little shack.
-No booze- just your typical soft drinks available to grab yourself and bring to the counter. We ended up going with a couple small-brand iced teas, which were way too sweet for my taste.
-The menu is broken into hot sandwiches including their Roast Pork (available in small or large), about 8 Hoagies (in small or large), and more than 12 dozen steak sandwiches packing 12 oz of meat! They’ve also got a few basic items like hot dogs and hamburgers, side items like fries and onion rings, and breakfast sandwiches with bacon, eggs, and sausage.
-I knew going in that I had to have a cheesesteak and a roast pork, but I had no clue how they “should be” consumed. So I simply told the gentlemen behind the counter that it was my first time and I wanted to experience these classics right and to do them however they wanted me to taste them. This is what they did.
Roast Pork Sandwich with Spinach and Provolone ($8.75)
A massive portion of sweet satiny smooth meat so hot it melted the generous layer of creamy salty cheese. The roll was crusty on the outside with a moist marshmallow texture within, and seeded for nice textural pop. Actually, the bread reminded me of the toast my grandma used to make for us as kids before we went to bed, and that was some special toast. This was my favourite of the two sandwiches we tried, but my only criticism would have been that I would have liked some kind of acidic condiment or topping to cut the richness and saltiness of all the ingredients. It’s definitely not a sandwich I could finish, even though I’d absolutely try.
Philly Cheese Steak with Provolone and Sauteed Onions ($8.75)
Like the aforementioned pork sammy, the cheesesteak was moist and pillowy inside and had a nice crusty bite around the edge. The meat here was definitely less tender then the pork, as it certainly had a more defined texture, but it was pleasant in its own right. I definitely liked the combination of the rich beef, the salty cheese and the sweet caramelized onions, but like the pork, I wanted something acidic to cut the fat. I think I preferred the roast pork, but my partner was all over this beef.
-For two large sandwiches and two bottles of iced tea, the bill came to about $25. We both agreed that this was a solid amount of (very tasty) food for a very fair price. I would definitely recommend John’s and return myself to try other variations on the menu so that I can better determine how I like Philly cheesesteaks and roast pork done.
-John’s is open from 6:45- 3 PM Monday to Friday, and 9 AM- 4 PM on Saturday, and don’t forget, they only take cash!