Rise and Grind: The November Project

As long as I can remember, I’ve been a morning person. Sure, I rely heavily on naps, but when it comes to being up with the sun, I’m all about it. That said, when my buddies began raving about this workout “thing” they did on the steps of Philly’s Art Museum, I was initially intrigued and then immediately lost all interest upon finding out the start time was 6:25 in the morning on a Wednesday. See, it doesn’t really feel like “morning” when the sun’s not up. Don’t tell that to the Project November folks!

But if old dogs can learn new tricks, I certainly could wake up at (UGH) 5:30 to see what the fuss was about. I hopped on my bike, scooted up to the Art Museum, and was shocked to find not only a healthy mass of people BUT a feeling of excitement in my heart for this crack-of-dawn sweat sesh.

Sun's not out. Guns still are.

Sun’s not out. Guns still are.

If you’ve never heard of the November Project, that’s probably because none of your friends are doing it. Because I can pretty much guarantee that, if they are, they’re talking about it. Probably all of the time. From their website:

November Project™ is a FREE fitness movement that was born in Boston as a way to stay in shape during cold New England months… Our members vary from Olympic medalists, professional athletes, marathoners, triathletes, current and former collegiate athletes all the way to complete fitness rookies and recent couch potatoes just looking to kickstart their healthy life choices. If you think that you’re not fit enough to join the group, stop thinking and come see what the fuss is all about.

So I did. Luckily, I wasn’t alone in this insanity, and managed to rope a few buddies in for the fun.

Brother and I, moments before we hit the steps running.

Brother and I, moments before we hit the steps running.

Part of the reason I was so excited to check out this November Project is because my friends that do it…. they’re like FANATICS. Seriously, I feel like the term “cult-like” has negative connotations but… you get it. They wear branded shirts, they call the entire group “The Tribe”, and there’s this genuine pride and love for the movement. That’s the kind of thing I love, so I couldn’t stay away forever.

After a little pump-up session with the group leaders, we did some a suicide run using the landings of the steps for “stops”. And the rest of the workout, I’ll let November Project Philly speak for themselves:

we threw a few decks at the bottom of the stairs, ran the stairs and flipped cards at the bottom.  Face cards required finding a buddy, running up the steps and squat jumping to the Art Museum door, Aces required finding a buddy and sprinting the loop, all other cards were a standard push-up/squat deck workout followed by running the steps.

HIT THE DECK!!

HIT THE DECK!!

Look at us go!

Look at us go!

And the view wasn’t too bad, either.

Oh, hey, there's my pal Susan!

Oh, hey, there’s my pal Susan!

It wasn’t easy. For this non-runner, running up and down steps, laps around the steps, and generally all running is…. less than ideal. But the energy was contagious and these fitness fanatics kept a smile on my face…. most of the time.

Photo Credit to the November Project blog!

Photo Credit to the November Project blog!

But then…. I felt great. I went into work sweaty and smiling, and though I didn’t rush back on Friday to join them again…. I kinda think I’ll be making a habit of setting that alarm for Wednesday mornings….

FIRST TIMERS!! WE DID IT!!

FIRST TIMERS!! WE DID IT!!

(Author’s note: Immediately after work, I rushed home and took a nap.)

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Nacho Average Blog Post (Get it?)

I’ve been on a kick lately. Sometimes I get on kicks. Sometimes those kicks involve watching 4 episodes of Dating Naked followed by 4 episodes of Married at First Sight (Summer TV options got my like woe.)

Sometimes those kicks are actual kicks, courtesy of BodyCombat and Kickboxing.

Lately, it’s been…. a Nacho Kick.

I’ve inadvertently found myself on the hunt for Philly’s best nachos and, while that hunt hasn’t come to a close yet…. it’s had some pretty tasty (and a few meh) stops along the way.

Come along, folks. Join me on a crunchy, meaty, melty, cheesy journey.

Let’s just start with the meh and work our way up. Lucha Cartel.

Meh, I say.

Meh, I say.

The Lucha Nachos from this Old City staple are touted as “crispy corn tortilla chips, sliced jalapeños, monterey jack & chihuahua cheeses topped with pico de gallo, guacamole, and crema for $10. We tacked on refried beans for $2 and chicken for $4 for a total of $16.

Call me old fashioned, but a nacho order that doesn’t default with beans AIN’T A NACHO TO ME!!

Maybe it was a busy night, but the nachos came out room temperature, borderline cold. We complained and were given a second order, but my nacho steam was a little lost seeing lifeless lumps of frijoles and chunkless guac. Sure, we ate most of em…. but these aren’t the nachos of my dreams. I’ll leave it at that. Don’t worry, the next 3 were.

Hello there, lovahhhh

Hello there, lovahhhh

Enter Sancho Pistola’s. Because you can’t spell Nachos without Sancho. And their description is on-point:

really expensive cheese, crema, tomato, refried beans, cilantro, jalapeno, and onion.

Throw in a little chicken tinga (this is not a suggestion but an ORDER) and you’re in for the most delightful, wild, tinga-taste party. Even distribution of toppings, the onions were PICKLED Y’ALL!! This was my dream nacho. The little squirt bottle to the upper left contained, not ketchup, but a spicy creamy sauce. Oh baby. Do yourself a solid. Get here during happy hour for 1/2 priced nachos. But don’t worry, they’re full of flavor (that’s like a sentence my dad would write. I’m cool with it.)

Khyber Pass... Don't pass on the nachos! (more dad jokes)

Khyber Pass… Don’t pass on the nachos! (more dad jokes)

Pardon the semi-lousy picture. Including the aggressive hand of my buddy Stephanie. This was taken during Philly Beer Week at one of my all-time favorite spots, Khyber Pass. Their nachos, clocking in at $14 for a large with added BBQ pulled pork come complete with tortilla chips, jack cheese, green tomato salsa, and sour cream.

I realize, now, they don’t have beans on them. But I’ve had them countless times and have never missed a bean. Must say something about the heavy attention paid to the rest of the toppings. The pork is really what shines, here. That, and the fact that they have enough incredible craft beers on hand to drown a horse.

(Sidenote: I don’t condone the drowning of horses. Save a horse, order nachos.)

But sometimes, I don’t wanna trek out to Old City or Northern Liberties. Sometimes, I just wanna stick close to home for some comfort food. Mostly on Sundays. And definitely from Sidecar Bar and Grille.

Oh. Yeah.

Oh. Yeah.

These nachos, though.

The deal of the century on Pork Me Sundays, for $7 ($10 normally) you get an epic portion of chips covered in braised pork (or chorizo…. but I go braised), queso caribe, chihuahua cheese (made with REAL chihuahua? Jury’s still out), black beans (PRAISE BE), jalapeños, and served with sour cream and pineapple-tomatillo salsa.

These were some of the first nachos I tried in the city, and I just can’t quit them. I will request these nachos in my final week of life, and continue to invite anyone I know here just so we can “split” nachos (don’t mind me greedily hoarding the beany-cheesy ones).

But really…. I’m still on the lookout for the nacho order to end all nachos.

So you tell me… what’s your dream nacho plate covered in? inquiring minds and all that….