THE GOOD WORD Vol. 6: Holly Moore of HollyEats.com
In this installment of The Good Word, weï¿½re chatting with longtime Philly food personality Holly Moore. Moore, who wrote a food/restaurant column for City Paper for 14 years, is best-known for his food site (not a blog!) HollyEats.com, which sees the prolific eater rating inexpensive food all over the country on his grease-stain scale. CBS3 recently did a segment on Moore, which features a clip of him riding on his signature scooter.
You ran your own restaurant, Holly Moore's Upstairs Cafe, here in Philly from 1978 to 1982. Let's say you caught the bug again and decided to open a place today. What would it be called, where would it be and what would it serve?
I am tempted to jump back inï¿½far too often.ï¿½About three years ago, I made offers on a fewï¿½locations, but none panned out. The name: Holly Dawgs. Holly Dawgs sells top qualityï¿½HollyEatsï¿½grease stain-worthyï¿½food, includingï¿½hot dogs (Usinger's imported from Wisconsin, hopefully served on a toasted and buttered New England-style hotdog bun), hamburgers and cheesburgersï¿½(four- to five-ounce, ground fresh daily), fresh-cut French fries (not shoestring), batter-dipped onion rings, draught root beer and shakes made with light cream.ï¿½ There would be no turkey dogs, kobeï¿½burger/dogs,ï¿½orï¿½veggie burgers, and no toppings other than cheddar cheese, fried or raw onion, ketchup, mustard and red and green relish. No cheesesteaks, either.ï¿½Philadelphia needs another cheesesteak place like it needs another Southern Italian restaurant.
What now-closed Philadelphia restaurant do you miss the most? (Other than your own!)
That's easy.ï¿½ Steven Poses' Commissary, the early years. The Commissary even helpedï¿½lure me to Philadelphia back in the late '70s.ï¿½ Before then, all I knew about Philadelphia was Old Original Bookbinder's and the oil refineriesï¿½seen on the wayï¿½in from the airport. After being offered a job with an ad agency, I stayed at the Latham for a few days to get the feel of Center City. The Commissary, as much as anything, convinced me that W.C. Fields had it wrong. I still crave the Commissary's fresh-baked brioche and croissants, their omelet bar and, of course, theï¿½carrot cake.ï¿½Among the other placesï¿½I really miss: Levis',ï¿½the Astral Planeï¿½and Siegfried's, a German deli in the Reading Terminal Market that made several kinds of liverwurst.
You cover a wide array of food from all over the country on Holly Eats. What cuisines have you uncovered in your travels that are underrepresented here in Philly?
Non-franchise hamburger and hot dog stands. Cheesesteaks are so dominant in Philadelphia that, unlike most every other major city, there areï¿½few walk-up stands where one can grab a quick burger orï¿½dog.ï¿½As far as an actual regional cuisine, Southern cooking options have been pretty slim until recently. Bebe's sides, and especially their banana pudding, are as good as any meat and three in the South. Philadelphiaï¿½still needs more pan-fried chicken and more chicken-fried anything.
Early in your career, you worked for McDonald's as part of the team that developed the Big Mac. When's the last time you had one?
I used to make a point of downing a Big Mac once or twice a year. That ended when McDonald's started storing cooked burgers in warming drawers rather than serving them hot off the grill. McDonald's founder Ray Kroc and I didn't get along all that well,ï¿½but I have tremendous respect for his emphasis on freshness and quality. Ifï¿½Ray Krocï¿½were around today, he would fire all the McExecutives and bring backï¿½the McDonald's of yesteryear. There are few restaurant skills as impressive as a McDonald's grill guy, spatulas in both hands, flippingï¿½sixï¿½burgers at a time, row after row after row. On road trips I will still grab an occasional Egg McMuffin.ï¿½That is about the only thing McDonald's has not screwed up.