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Ok so this post confused me even more. So it's not a "meteor app" it's a node js app that happens to use Meteor?

It's a full stack framework. Node js backend, choice of db extensions (starts with redis I believe), and js front end.

Runs on handlebars.

For someone like me, who's used to the standard LAMP stack and hasn't played with Node, any of the js frameworks, redis, or handlebars, it took a few days to get acquainted, but once I did I really enjoyed using it.

Again, a little too much magic, which makes me feel like my code is weak.

I wouldn't really put it like that, but sure. You really aren't exposed to node.js at all except for when you bundle up the app to run it on your server. It's a framework that happens to use node.js, a particular mongo library, a particular templating library, a particular library for http requests, etc. (Of course, a lot of those libraries can be disabled, swapped out, etc.)

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