Monthly Archive for December, 2006

2nd tier Philly Cheesesteak


First let’s be clear about the tiers of Philly Cheesesteak. According to the materials I’ve read, there are really only two in the elite class, Pat’s (the originator) and Geno’s. There is endless rivalry and debate about who is better, but I can’t comment, since in my quick trip to Philly recently, I didn’t make it to South Philly.

However, many real Philadelphians usually prefer their own places and finds, mostly non-touristy locations. Of these, the most intriguing to me was Steve Prince of Steak. I really wanted to try it, but it is a million miles away from where I had access. Instead I had my cheesesteak experience at a place called Abner’s, which is fairly well-thought-of among locals (see here and here and here). I don’t know if I’m getting the best, but I am getting authentic and representative of the indigenous version.

Here’s what goes on. First, fresh and very thinly sliced roast beef is thrown on a greased grill. As it’s cooking, it is chopped into small very very juicy pieces. Along on the grill, in my case, were peppers and onion. Finally, the cheese. While most tourist believe it has to be Cheese Whiz to be authentic, my research indicated that provolone or american are favoured by locals. I asked Abner (or whoever was grilling my cheesesteak) for his suggestion and he said definitely go provolone. So I did. I wasn’t disappointed. No matter how good Cheese Whiz might be on a cheesesteak, I don’t think it would have been optimal for me. A hoagie bun is then placed on the grill and the contents expertly transferred inside the bun.

So how was the sandwich? All in all, a bit of a letdown, given my astronomical expectation. The grilled beef is delicious and goes wonderfully with the toppings. The sauce is usually pretty minimal or in this case absent, so you are really getting the flavour from the grilling and the ingredients. No horseradish, hot sauce, BBQ sauce, or MSG juice to add flavouring. I think I need some with my beef. I’m used to say a Kelly’s Roast Beef sandwich. Beef is great, but beef is better when sauced. The sandwich is very very hot and greasy. The grease needs to spend a little time saturating the bun, meaning that the sandwich kept getting progressively better with time. I think to truly evaluate this cheesesteak, I need to try at least two others, just in case one is the most amazing thing ever and all the others are just pretty good. But I suspect that I will be disappointed.

Absolute verdict: Delicious

Relative verdict: Push