Growing up in SoCal, all I wanted to do when I "grew up" was go to school in a big city on the East Coast. My mom helped me schlep three Asian-style immigration bags to Philadelphia when college time came, where we spent the first night in a hotel smack dab in the middle of Chinatown. I'd never been so close to so much bustle, foods, and SMELLS. (Quite ripe.) I remember us sitting in a Chinese restaurant for dinner that night, me staring out the rain-streaked window and looking out at all the neon and all the possibilities.
Once she flew home and New Student Orientation kicked off, my freshman hall took a walk downtown to "explore" on our second night. Passing so many restaurants I thought, "Man, I could eat at once of these every night and never finish in four years time." I certainly tried.
Ultimately, being a college student focusses your food goals in a very specific way: what's cheap, what's easy, and what's greasy and good? I spent quite a few late nights behind the storefront of Pat's King of Steaks, watching terrified lines of pledges forced to eat hot peppers for hazing. We'd laugh at their misery while inhaling cheesesteaks (always WIT WHIZ), the neon and grease melting down our fingers and arms.
Mornings after, if I could muster up the energy to walk the few blocks, only meant one thing: Bui's Lunch Truck. This place not only introduced me to the sweet world of breakfast sandwiches, it revolutionized it. Just-cooked eggs with gooey cheese and salty sausage on top of a long hoagie roll. The Asian lady running the truck would always ask "salt-peppah-ketchup?" The whole thing melded together into this soft, chewy, perfectly balanced piece of hangover heaven. As a stickler for the bread-to-filling balance, I've never been able to recreate the experience in New York – no bagel or portugese roll can do it quite as well.
Korean Spicy Marinated Pork Bulgogi Cheese "Steaks"
wit grilled onions, butter fried kimchi, ssamjang cheese Whiz
inspired by Pat's King of Steaks and Jim's Steaks
Scrapple & Cheese Gyeran Bbang (Egg bread)
fried scrapple, baked egg, cheddar cheese, scallions with sriracha ketchup
inspired by Bui's Lunch Truck hangover special, Philly's weird meat favorite scrapple, and Korean egg bread street snacks
super spicy mix of cherry peppers, korean peppers, shisito pepper
Pickled Broccoli Rabe
in soy sauce and rice vinegar