In the handful of times I’ve been to Philadelphia, I always made sure to woof down either a Pat’s or Geno’s cheesesteak, that wonderful Philly concoction using meat that you can only assume to be steak fried up nice & well, along with some grilled onions, perhaps some mushrooms, packed onto an Amoroso’s sandwich roll and then slathered in (I’m not kidding) Cheez Wiz, and OH DEAR GOD IS IT GOOD.
Pat’s versus Geno’s (they are located across the street from one another) remains Philly’s version of Coke versus Pepsi, and I lean towards Geno’s, and NOT only because when I asked for some steak sauce at Pat’s the guy behind the counter yelled at me. Evidently this is sacrilege, and I suppose if someone asked for ketchup for a brisket I’d carefully braised all day in a tomato & wine gravy, I’d be in the mood to yell as well. But I still liked Geno’s sandwich better for some reason, though in all honesty the difference between ’em is less than that of Coke & Pepsi.
Perhaps my adopted town of Burbank will have a similar rivalry, with two Philly cheesesteak places opened up basically around the corner from one another. The first is South Street, with other branches near UCLA and in Dodger Stadium, and the other is a franchise of Philly’s Best, which are all over the so-Cal area.
Bottom line – both of these places make a good sandwich and use the Amoroso bread flown in from Philly. They both shred their steak (Pat’s style – remember, Geno’s gives you bigger pieces of steak), but only Philly’s Best offers you the surprisingly yummers Cheez Wiz as an option. South Street melts real cheese over their sandwich, which as you probably know is also pretty damn good. South Street also had steak sauce available for philistines like me, whereas Philly’s Best only had ketchup and hot sauce to go with the pickle assortment. These are all minor differences, though… so it might take me a few more tries at each place to see which one I might wind up preferring, if any.
That is, if my arteries can take it.
Now if only someone can come up with a way to imitate the unique steak sandwich recipe of the now-gone and very much missed Phil’s Diner of North Hollywood. The Korean family who had run Phil’s for years decided to retire early when the street where they sat was closed up for what seemed forever as the North Hollywood Red Line Subway Station was being built, and new owners never made a go of the place. The diner was hauled away to make room for later construction, as detailed in this other blog. It’s too bad they didn’t stick it out, really, since once those subway stations were up and running, the businesses surrounding them often had a sudden influx of customers, most notably the wonderful Langer’s Deli, located a block from the Westlake station in a very bad neighborhood. The subway probably saved Langer’s, at least at its longtime location, and this means that the BEST PASTRAMI SANDWICH ON PLANET EARTH still has a home. If only Phil’s steak sandwich did!
I’ve tried duplicating the recipe… remember, the owners were Korean, and they fusion-ed up the sandwich roughly as follows: he marinated the thinly cut steak in some sort of teriyaki concoction for what must have been DAYS, and would fish strips out of this elixir upon your ordering and throw ’em on the hot griddle. Alongside, he’d griddle up a mix of Asian veggies, what looked like bok choy greens and bean sprouts. He threw some mild white American cheese onto the steak towards the end, flipped it onto the veggies and then spatula-ed the entire pile onto a 6 inch crunchy crust subway roll, GODHEAD I TELLS YA! and now I’m flashing back to how I went there EVERY DAY FOR A WEEK for lunch right before he closed because I knew I’d probably never get another one of those sandwiches. I’ve come close in my attempts, but without getting the marinade recipe exactly, there’s no way to duplicate the subtleties in the meat. Perhaps with the passing years it won’t be noticeable anymore, especially since my own tries have produced some pretty decent sandwiches. Maybe I need the beat-to-hell 1920s diner car around me, with the always-broken Spanish Eyes pinball machine in the corner.