Holly Moore, Champion of Unpretentious Food, Dies at 69

The Philadelphia-based writer, who helped launch the Big Mac, wrote about 'Great Food. Cheap.'

Moore patronized places without pretensions.

"First of all, I'm a guy," wrote Holly Moore on his blog hollyeats.com. "Holly is short for Hollister."

Moore, who died of an infection on July 31 at the age of 69, had a varied professional background and was a prolific food writer — but was a culinary celebrity (or, as he preferred to say, semi-celebrity) mostly only in his home territory of Philadelphia.

A native of New Jersey, Moore went to hotel school at Cornell University. His first job out of college was in new product development for McDonald's. "I'm the one who controlled the Big Mac's introduction," he wrote. "I also helped prove that McDonald's should not be in the Roast Beef or Fried Chicken business."

He later worked for Dunkin' Donuts and Burger King — in the latter context organizing a Whopper-eating contest to mark the opening of the chain's first Manhattan location, with Andy Kaufman as referee.

In the late 1970s and early '80s, Moore ran (as he called it) "sort of a neighborhood café for Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia's high rent district." He later taught business management courses for the city's Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College. Along the way, he found time to write a food and restaurant column for the now-shuttered Philadelphia City Paper (he claimed it was the publication's second most popular feature after the sex column), made many radio and television appearances, and wrote freelance articles for a number of publications on food and travel. (He also lent his voice to our surveys of America's best sandwich shops and hot dogs — the latter foodstuff being something of a passion for him.)

Though he claimed that the most memorable meal of his life was a recreation of "Babette's feast" (from the movie of the same name) at the now-defunct Philadelphia restaurant La Truffe, he was known primarily for his no-frills appreciation of good street food and other casual fare — "an out-of-the-way barbecue shack, the best bowl of chowder on the Maine coast or a truck stop that still does home cooking."

Moore covered such food all over the country — Charleston and the Carolinas, New York City, and elsewhere — and the world, from Petit St. Vincent to his beloved Isla Mujeres to Brussels and Budapest. While he sometimes ended up at more formal tables (he went to London's historic Simpson's-in-the-Strand for its famous fat-and-carb-laden "10 Deadly Sins" breakfast), he mostly patronized places without pretensions. When he traveled to Las Vegas, for instance, he eschewed Guy Savoy, Restaurant Joël Robuchon, and other hoity-toity joints and reviewed instead Chicago Hot Dog, Der Weinerschnitzel, and Luv-It Frozen Custard. He didn't go in for fancy lingo, either. "I saw the dinner menu," he wrote of Stan's Restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. "Meat Loaf. Turkey. Ham. All the good stuff."

Though he rated establishments with grease stains instead of stars, Moore stressed that these didn't necessarily mean greasy food, he said (though he liked that kind of fodder just fine); they were a reflection of "the splatter fallout on my shirt" — an indication of how much he had relished his meal.

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The motto of Moore's blog was "Great Food. Cheap." He called Calvin Trillin his patron saint.