When I read Kaitlin Steinberg's recent experience trying a philly cheesesteak for the first time, my first thought was, "Hot damn! It's been years since I've had a good cheesesteak."
Well, in all honesty, my first admittedly snarky thought actually related to her dining companion's ridiculous proscription, 'you can't get a Philly with white cheese' (um, have you been to Philadelphia and observed the many accepted renditions of its namesake meat sandwich?). But commenters have lambasted this poor fellow enough already.
Readers of this blog are probably aware that I grew up in Pennsylvania, hence why its foodstuffs and culinary traditions are so often the subjects of my posts. As a child, I had cheesesteaks of various types during my family's regular weekend "educational" trips to Philly, which were ostensibly designed to make me and my siblings more learned about the American Revolution but in fact ended up being more about eating junk food and binge-shopping at gift shops.
Although the general consensus among Houston foodies seems to be that Papa Geno's serves up the best cheesesteaks in town, for the sake of variety, I decided to try the version on offer at Jersey Mike's Subs because some had given it good reviews. (And, yes, I aware of the irony of seeking out a Pennsylvania sub from a New Jersey establishment.)
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I've been to the Kirby location of Jersey Mike's a number of times for cold sandwiches and I freakin' love that each and every visit the two employees behind the counter actually wave "hello" to me when I walk in the door. It's just very cute.
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Jersey Mike's offers a few styles of cheesesteaks, including some made with chicken (sacrilege!), and I chose a regular size of the "Big Kahuna," because it involved mushrooms and jalapenos in addition to the standard grilled onions and peppers. And, supposedly, "extra cheese," the most vague, imprecise food descriptor in the English language (second is "not as hot.").
After a few minutes of audible scraping and sizzling sounds from the grill, my cheesesteak emerged warm to the touch in a to-go wrapper. It was still warm when I ate it about 15 minutes later at home, and the cheese (as you can see from the pictures) remained very gooey. The sandwich overall offered a good balance of red meat and grilled vegetables and the addition of jalapenos provided a bit of a kick that complemented the creamy American cheese. By the way, I don't know exactly how much constitutes "extra" in the world of Jersey Mike's, but I will say that there was plenty of cheese with steak, so no complaints here.
My criticisms of the cheesesteak are that the bun tasted a bit stale and the steak shreds could have been seasoned much better. Also--and I acknowledge this is an unusual quibble--I would have liked my sandwich to be greasier. I remember the best cheesesteaks I ate in Philly involved much more juice and napkins.
Of course, I will have to try the crowd favorite, Papa Geno's, and maybe also the variation vended at the Eatsie Boys Cafe, where rumor has it a circular roll is used. Don't know how I feel about that. Will report back.