What is the first thing you think of when you hear Philadelphia?
Screw the Liberty Bell and the Eagles, I always think of one of my favorite foods, cheesesteaks! Meat, whiz and onions on a roll, so simple yet delicious. Here in Manhattan I have found my local haven for cheesesteaks at a tasty little shop called 99 miles to Philly. They are consistent and I usually leave very satisfied and full, but with the homeland of the cheesesteak only a 2 hour drive away I had venture out and see if the meat is tastier on the other side.
I woke up one morning, slightly hungover and hungry. The "Cheesesteak tour" was a small trip that I had been wanting to do for a while, and on this chilly yet sunny January morning I knew the time had come. I called a few friends up who were down and quickly browsed Philly eats online to have some sense of direction.
I looked up the proper ordering etiquette - I did not want to sound like an out of town New Yorker or anything like that. Come on Peter you can do it ... "1 whiz wit!" Which is Philly slang for a steak with cheese whiz and onions, piece of cake! Now it was time to choose our stops. The two places that instantly came to mind were Pat's and Geno's ... the old school rivals situated across the street from each other. I was surprised to discover that many Yelpers were unhappy with both places, with numerous complaints about dry steak and rude service - two things I was not about to follow through with after a 2 hour drive! I made the executive decision to overlook these "landmarks" and narrowed it down to 3 places.
After some strange directions from my GPS we arrived at our first stop in the northwest suburb of Roxborough. Roxborough had its own rivalry brewing between neighboring joints Dalessandro's and Chubby's. Dalessandro's was the first place to grace our presence.
Dalessandro's was a small place that fit around 10-12 people at the "bar" and had a few tight fitting tables, one of which we were lucky enough to snag. The woman at the counter was extremely friendly, and did not judge my non-Philly way of ordering.
"Um yes, two steaks with onions and cheese whiz please." The atmosphere got to me, I couldn't order like a local Philadelphian without buckling under the pressure.
She was very accommodating, offering us extra baskets since we were sharing. After a few minutes it was the moment of truth, and man they don't mess around with the size of their hoagies!
The first bite into this bad boy was complete bliss, the meat was chopped perfectly and packed a ton of juicy taste. The onions were thinly chopped and dispersed through out the sandwich with a healthy plop of delicious whiz on top. They recommended the sweet peppers on the table, so we topped it off and consumed. Our plan was to only eat halves at each place, to avoid hoagie overload. I was so tempted to order another sandwich, it was really that good! Dalessandro's set the bar really high.
We were hoping nobody saw us run literally across the street to our next stop, Chubby's. Chubby's was bigger and looked like a highway stop diner with both bar and booth seating. We hopped in a booth and quickly ordered our 2 steaks with whiz and onions and waited patiently.
After about 15 minutes the "delightful" waitress brought us our steaks. They were slightly smaller than their rivals but looked good. One clear difference about Chubby's steak was the larger onions that rested on top of the meat.
I sunk my teeth into the hoagie, and was a little disappointed. The meat lacked the flavor of Dalessandro's, and the bread was a little rougher. I was not a big fan of the larger onions either, but hey this is a freaking Cheesesteak! So of course I finished my whole portion.
Despite our stomachs putting their no vacancy lights on we were determined to make one last stop before heading home. That stop was at Tony Luke's in downtown Philly. A little stroke of unluckiness hit us, as we happened to arrive just as a home Flyers game was ending. Long story short, there were a lot of hungry hockey fans in front of us. We waited on the long winding line, placed our order and had the luxury to wait another 20 minutes before it would be ready.
This damn thing better be amazing!
"Peetahh" screamed out the tough looking girl behind the counter as I scurried up and snatched my brown paper bag. This steak definitely didn't have the overflowing meat like the previous two, and was very neatly packed.
This steak was very good, it was almost a breath of fresh air to have a smaller sandwich at this point. The whiz was evenly distributed and meat was lean and tasty. It wasn't exactly worth the 40 minute wait, but with the close proximity to the sports stadiums I could see why it's a Flyer fan favorite.
After it was all said and done it was a fun trip. There were plenty of joints we didn't visit, but the joint I will return to if I am ever in Philly is Dalessandro's.
4 hours of driving for 3 Cheesesteaks sure is a trek, even for the biggest food fanatic. How long would you travel just to eat food?