Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Lunch is a time for rejuvenation. But in the hustle-bustle of a 10-hour workday, it’s a meal that’s regularly lost in a sea of e-mails, paperwork and business meetings – or given a cursed cubicle incarnation that doesn’t so much replenish as it does depress.
Danny Iliscupidez, longtime Old Fisherman’s Grotto and Sardine Factory general manager, is resurrecting the increasingly forgotten meal at Danny I’s – formerly Steakhouse Sixty 8 on Olmsted Road – a spot surrounded by people in offices on Garden Road and the nearby Ryan Ranch.
The lunchtime menu – offered 11am-3pm Monday through Friday – includes a “Grab It & Go” section starring simple hot and cold favorites, served affordably and swiftly. The more traditional menu mirrors the dinner offerings of chicken, beef and pasta entrees but costs $1 less when purchased during the lunch hours.
I place an order to go around 12:30pm on a Wednesday to split with a friend: Philly steak sandwich ($9.95) and the chicken Caesar salad ($8), which, I’m informed, is plenty of food for two people. The food is packed up with utensils, napkins and a chocolate chip cookie, on the house, in less than 10 minutes.
As a Philadelphia native, I know my Philly steak sandwiches and this does not qualify. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not delicious. The thick, tender slices of teriyaki steak, peppers and onions are more like a stir-fry – a damn good stir-fry where no additional add-ons like ketchup and mustard are necessary on the already seasoned meat. The toasted sesame roll is a nice detail. It comes with a side of lightly seasoned French fries.
Other lunchtime items include a shrimp salad ($9) and a meat-heavy Cobb ($8.50) salad as well as a choice of six premade deli sandwiches including roast beef, vegetable and tuna salad ($6).
The value extends into the dinner hours, though traffic drops dramatically. The restaurant has an extensive beer and wine selection with plans to get a full liquor license in February or March. Danny’s offers 64 wines by the bottle (20 percent off when ordered by the bottle and starting at $22 for Round Hill Cabernet), 21 wines by the glass from $5 (for Fetzer), 11 bottled beers and seven beers on tap, including English Ales’ Fat Lip ($5).
My friend and I go with a bottle of Hahn Cabernet ($24) and, at our waiter’s recommendation, start with the pork egg rolls ($7.95). Deep-fried, pea-heavy, halved and served with housemade spicy-sweet-and-sour, the rolls are delicate and flaky and light on pork, but still good. Shrimp and crab cakes ($9.95) and the grilled marinated artichoke ($6.95) also look like attractive ways to begin our meal.
For the featured event my friend orders calamari steak picatta ($13.95) and I go with the marinated tri-tip ($14.95). The calamari steak is lightly breaded and sautéed in lemon, white wine, garlic and capers, and served with rice pilaf and sautéed vegetables. Though the squid steak is a relatively thin cut, it’s incredibly moist, and the lemon and white wine balance the garlic and caper eruption of flavor.
The grilled tri-tip is served in three medium-sized cuts of sirloin marinated in a house teriyaki sauce with a strong tanginess that stops short of overpowering the organic beef. The steak is topped with crispy onions and served with homemade au gratin potatoes and seasonal sautéed vegetables.
Danny’s doesn’t make their desserts in house, but they do source them from one of the best local bakers, Layers. Instead of the common dessert options of cheesecake ($4.95) and apple pie ($4.95), the waiter talks me into ordering Layers’ Death by Chocolate ($5.50). With devil’s food cake, chocolate butter cream and ganache, one bite of this generously sized slice of goodness fills monthly chocolate quotas.
On a second visit, I order the house special: Danny I’s stir-fry ($11.95/chicken; $12.95/beef or shrimp). The chicken is cut into finger-sized, grilled strips and seasoned with the housemade teriyaki and mixed with bean sprouts, red and green peppers, broccoli and other seasonal vegetables over jasmine steamed rice. Nice elements all, but it’s the candied walnuts sprinkled on top that separate Danny I’s stir-fry from the run-of-the-mill.
For happy hour – 4-6pm Monday through Friday – it’s $2 off appetizers like chicken fingers ($5.95), steamed clams ($10.95) or buffalo chicken wings ($8.95) and $1 off beer and wine. If you’re really bold, and have a designated driver, order a tower of beer ($27; $2 off during happy hour). The 2.5-liter ocean of ale comes in a 3-foot beaker with a spigot at the base.
With the NFL regular season ending, time’s running out to make a play on the joint’s nice Monday Night Football hotdog special, offered till the end of the game, starring baby arm-sized Nathan’s hotdogs ($1.50) with a buffet of homemade chili, cheese and onions to add on. It represents a value as refreshing and rejuvenating as a quality lunch.