Fear Factor Food: Philadelphia

If you're one for always trying something new, we have a dare for you: try dining on dishes that make those with less pluck say yuck. While we don't support acting all grossed out by foods consumed by other ethnicities or individuals (unless we're talking about, say, cannibalism), we do acknowledge that certain foods (such as duck hearts at Zahav, left) are considered, um, a little ? icky by mainstream America. But what better way to bridge cultures and expand your mind than trying out a food that forces you out of your comfort zone. After all, taking a cab to Center City is a lot cheaper than taking a plane to a foreign land and can prove to be equally delicious. (Photo by Tara Nurin)

Updated: October 22, 2009

Freaky Foods

Fork Restaurant

306 Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19106

Depending on the day, your plate of charcuterie might contain approximately five different house-made meats, and depending on the day, those meats may or may not come from animal parts that don't normally entice the American palate. If you're lucky, you'll end up with a selection of cold cuts you can later brag about sampling: Trotters, which is a cute name for pig's feet; smoked beef tongue with gribiche sauce; guanciale, which is bacon made from cured pork cheeks; and testa con funghi, translated as head cheese with mushrooms. For those who are not entirely clear, head cheese is not cheese but it is of the head. Enough said.


237 St. James Place, Philadelphia, PA 19106

Eat your heart out, little ducklings, you're ending up as someone's dinner tonight. As explained by chef/owner Michael Solomonov, Israelis often grill animal guts that we Yanks wouldn't expect to eat and currently, the animal organ he's featuring is heart of duck. A small plate of four hearts are served over rice mixed with caramelized onions and ground duck livers (the man can't get enough!) and can be washed down with a duck saliva cocktail. Just kidding about the cocktail. The hearts are about an inch and a half long, very dense and extremely tender inside. It's tempting to end this description with a bad pun but we won't because that would be heartless.

Noble: An American Cookery

2025 Sansom St, Philadelphia, PA 19103

Your mother would be so proud to know that you're eating your liver when you order the chicken liver appetizer at this contemporary American restaurant. About eight livers are dredged in flour, seared, glazed with marsala sauce and recooked in veal stock, then served over papardelle pasta with fresh julienned horseradish, parsley, chives and other spices. Your vegetarian sister might give you less of a hard time when you tell her that your livers were cut out of free-range Lancaster County chickens. Free-range, local chicken livers--no wonder your were always your mom's favorite.

Pho Ha Restaurant

600 Washington Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19147

It's easy to savor pho--Vietnamese noodle soup--when you don't know exactly what's in it. Cooked according to your specs, these hearty soups can be spicy, tangy, sweet, mild and full of veggies, seafood, chicken or beef, and they're most often quite delicious. But novices should know that many Asian countries use every part of the animal, meaning that pieces of what Americans might consider offal could end up swimming in your bowl. At this pho house, that means tendon and tripe are on the menu, but at least it's translated into English so you can avoid what you don't want.

First Oriental Market Market

1111 S 6th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147

People who brag that they eat everything may eat their words upon perusing the cases of freshly butchered pigs? and ducks? feet, pork stomachs and intestines, not to mention rows of shriveled dried sea critters at this Vietnamese grocery store. But if that doesn't give them pause, we bet that the display case holding tight mounds of cylindrically shaped, gelatinous red goo will. What is it, you ask? Oh, just congealed pig's blood, ready for adding into soup for flavoring and texture.