East Falls local and Philadelphia judicial candidate Chris McCabe on the case of Tilden -vs- Majors: Best Budget Hoagie in the ‘hood
So this all started with a blog post — a tweet, really, by the food blog 22nd & Philly: “the account of two young professionals living in Center City Philadelphia who like to eat out and find new, fun places to explore.”
When we read the tweet, we had to laugh. Majors? OUR Majors..? Really? That little corner market that looks so… uninviting, let’s say. With no need for cigarettes or lottery tickets, neither one of us had ever set foot in the place the entire ten cumulative years in East Falls we have between us.
Oh, we’d seen the Parking Wars episode where the enforcement officers ticket the steady stream of customers parking illegally for their lunch here: “They must put gold flakes in those hoagies, that lady just paid forty bucks for hers!” But it wasn’t until the glowing blog review from Philly foodies that we took a second look.
Facebooking 22nd & Philly’s post created a mini-firestorm of comments debating who has the best budget hoagie in town. Of course we had to investigate — not just investigate, but try to settle with a live taste test: a hoagie throw-down between two local landmarks!
In addition to Majors at Ridge & Midvale, East Falls has another “corner deli” just like it right up on Conrad. Tilden Market’s sign out front advertises a $3.25 hoagie special that includes chips and a soda (ed note: it lies! turns out, it’s $3.50 and no chips anymore evidently). Neither Steve nor I had ever set foot in either one so we had a nice, fresh slate to compare them.
All we needed was a judge — we failed miserably at decision-making over wings last November, we were going to need some back-up. Fortunately, we met a TON of judges last week at the 38th Ward’s Spring Fling — and wouldn’t ya know, a judicial candidate lives right on Penn Street!
We must walk by Chris McCabe’s place every other day with our dog… when we told him how our Hoagie Throwdown could use a fair & impartial ruling, he agreed to put his campaign photobombing on hold and lend his wise counsel to our luncheon challenge.
So last Friday, we scored two Italian hoagies with everything and did a blind taste test with Chris in his own kitchen to determine with all fairness the best budget hoagie in East Falls.
First, even though these are take-out sandwiches I think a word on “ambiance” is in order. Take Majors, for instance. This place gets pretty busy, and there’s a system behind the counter that customers really oughta know: it’s a two-person sandwich-making assembly line.
You tell the first person what kinda hoagie, what size and if you want mayo or oil or mayo *and* oil or whatever on your sandwich. Then you tell the second person your add-ons like peppers, onions, lettuce, tomato, etc. A swift, simple system but a little confusing because no one actually directly speaks to you when it’s your time to order, you just kinda have to know to step forward when the old woman screams “NEXHHHXT!” without turning her back.
This took us two subsequent visits to figure out, because we are kinda slow learners and also these people behind the counter have no time for blank looks or stupid questions (didn’t help that we thought she was shouting for “Ned”). The folks at Tilden, by contrast, seemed a bit more chatty. Also, for what it’s worth once very early in the morning years ago I saw the owner of Tilden Market walking an elderly lady kindly and tenderly across the street by the hand. So there’s that.
Both stores carry an amazing variety of items: hair stuff, bug spray, bandages, cleaning supplies, greeting cards, pet food, produce… Majors has an ATM, and also a refrigerated case with fresh fruit salad, pastas and desserts all ready to go. Tilden Market has a pretty big frozen food section, and their dairy case carries creamers, butter milk and even almond milk.
Chris asked us to find out where each place got its bread — he waxed poetic over the importance of the right “squish and crunch” for a truly sublime hoagie. Both places go with the classic stand-by, Amoroso’s. Both also displayed Dietz & Watson signs at their deli counters, so when we showed up at at Chris’s on Decision Day, we expected a pretty close call.
Not so much. Both were “better than Wawa” but one was the winner, hands-down:
Afterwards, his daughter Clare joined us for hoagies in his kitchen, where we had to ask why a high-profile Philadelphia lawyer would find time to goof over hoagies with two neighborhood bloggers like us?
Apparently, this is a pretty significant election for judges — lots of ’em are being elected, and there are tons of names on the ballot. Voters tend to get overwhelmed, and rarely tick past the twelth name. Where a candidate falls on the list is randomly chosen by lottery — Chris has made a joke out of his position, and turned it into a slogan: “Bottom of the ballot, cream of the crop!”
Seriously, though: there are a lot of great candidates this year. And Chris is rooting for them, too: “I have a lot of respect for other high-qualified candidates doing great work, there are a lot of slots open — I don’t feel I’m in competition as much as I am just gunning for the job as best I can.”
We bristled, though, when he expressed concerns about younger, inexperienced candidates on the ballot this May 19th. Say what? We expected such a fun, down-to-earth guy to be a little more progressive-minded.
But Chris pointed out: youth works great as a catalyst for political change but being a judge isn’t a political position — it’s about making decisions, and to do that effectively you need experience, period.
Chris was as firm about experience matters as he was about Tilden vs. Majors hoagies — as he was about mayo *and* oil on hoagies, always, and NO pickles or peppers, ever. Definitely onions, and certainly the sliced ones are best for hoagies.
The man’s full of strong, well-reasoned opinions of all kinds, looks like he’s a natural for presiding over a courtroom. Best wishes to this driven local with big dreams to apply his decades of experience in Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas.