Since we travel a few times a year, we do spend quite a bit of time in airports......though not as much as in my consulting days. During most trips we plan rather well with regards to bring something to eat (i.e. Jamon Bellota Sandwiches in Spain, nuts are always good) to the airport. But there are those times we do grab something. And then we get to relax and people, or even puppy watch.
So here are a couple of places we've tried at Airports.
Eat at Joe's (Philadelphia International Airport):
I'm not sure why we ate at Joe's. I do remember that for some reason I was starving....and hey, in spite of this being the airport; it's still Philly, right?
So why not get a Cheesesteak?
I've had some nice Cheesesteak's in Philly....the last time back in 90's, having tried both Pat's and Geno's, though my favorite was Rick's in Reading Terminal Market. This one, won't make me forget any of those.
A bit on the dry side. For some reason the texture reminded me of shipped beef. The flavor was nice; the Amoroso roll was ice cold. The fries, hot, but routine.
The dining area was a mess. First off, shame on the customers for not cleaning up after themselves. But there were also four airport employees who were just standing around goofing off, until their supervisor came along. They'd start cleaning. When the boss left; it was back to monkey business.
Eat At Joe's Terminal B, Philadelphia International Airport
Shake Shack (JFK International Airport ):
During a long layover at JFK, I just couldn't help myself.
Other than the bun, which seemed a bit past its due date; this was quite a nice burger; great char, good seasoning...very moist, and a nice beefiness.
The Missus also enjoyed the burger and said basically what I was afraid to say out loud; "if they come to San Diego; In N Out might be in trouble". Of course, I'm not sure what the price point on that would be, but still, blasphemy! And then of course, I read about the possibility of Shake Shack opening in San Diego on Eater. Check out the comment; it says that they've signed with UTC Redevelopment; which I believe is in charge of Westfield UTC......now those will be some major lines!
The Missus loves waffle cut fries; I'm not such a big fan....so here She can get the "Stoner Fries with waffle cut fries"....basically waffle cut fries topped with cheesesteak fillings; beef, in this case provolone, peppers, onions, and mushrooms.
There's a reason they call it Stoner Fries...sheesh. She can never finish this, so we always tell them to drop off a box when they bring the food. The Missus will use the leftovers to make a hash the next day with eggs and some kale from the yard.
Of course I got the Blairsteak.....and got it with waffle cut fries for the Missus.
For years the Missus has told me how gross cheesesteaks were....but this one has made Her change Her tune. I think it's the combination of the soft Amoroso that has a bit of a gritty finish, combined with the milky provolone, the earthy mushrooms and the sautéed onions. I think She wouldn't even need any beef in this....but of course, I'd miss it. She now shares half the sandwich with me. This ain't cheap at about $16 with the upcharge for the waffle cut fries....but it's a nice treat every so often.
Nutty Chocolate flavors, mild sweetness, and a good smokiness that gets you at the end.
The Missus's favorite here is the Monkey Gose Bananas with Tart and Black Cherry.
We've come to enjoy Monkey Paw as a guilty pleasure. Love the divey feel, friendly staff, and the temperature of the beer is always good. The neighborhood might be kind of terminally "in transition", but it kind of helps with the vibe, which we prefer to Hamilton's which was just way too "hipster" and quite unfriendly the three times we've tried the place.
A couple of revisits for a nice leisurely long weekend.
I took the Missus and did a "drive-by" of Pacific Time when we were on our way to TJ's in MV. And was pleased to see that they had expanded their hours. So we decided to drop in.
It looks like the shelves are starting to be filled, there's a menu of cheese and charcuterie plates to go along with selections from the beer and wine bar.
They also now have a fairly decent selection of beer as well.
I enjoy chatting with the Cheese Guy here...he's so friendly, approachable, and quick with the samples. On this day we bought a couple, with Andante Dairy's Tomme Dolce being the crown jewel. It is a heck of a nice aged goat cheese.
As for the breads....well, it's that "Bread and Cie" thing....much too chewy and hard, but I do love the breads toasted.
I've also been dropping by for a sandwich now and then. My favorite previous visits is still the Spicy Italian ($9). Like I said, the bread that PT produces does real well toasted, when it gets crunchy and crusty.
Again, I loved the proportion, and that spicy capicola really drives the sandwich.
A few days later I ordered the Veggie Delight ($7). And while I ordered it on a baguette, I had vapor lock and forgot to tell them to add garlic aioli and press the sandwich.
While I like the combination; I still think it lacks zip and having the baguette untoasted made it a bit too chewy for me. It was basically a tug of war with each bite. I'll remember how I want this next time.
Really nice folks; it's good to see their business improving.
Pacific Time 5277 Linda Vista Rd San Diego, CA 92110
To regurgitate a passage from a post back in 2005:
" Almost a decade (now two decades) ago I had a conference in Philly, so of course I had to try a cheesesteak. A friend of mine took me to two famous stands, Pat's and Geno's both with a huge line and you had to kinda know "the rules", that is, how to order your steak, or you really got a hard time. Well I had this Cheese Whiz thing twice, nice, hot, and gooey, with the faintest hint of beef. And I thought, "what's the big deal"? But a funny thing happened; about two days later, I'm still in Philly, and for some strange reason I'm craving a cheesesteak. Now I've only had this once in my entire life, why the heck am I craving it? I ended up getting a cheesesteak in downtown Philly; wasn't much good, and it pretty much killed that craving. Until a day later, when I had a cheesesteak in Reading Terminal Market, this time with provolone, and I found my "cheesesteak". I'm convinced that there's somethin' in the cheesesteak; some insidious ingredient that after a short gestation causes an extreme craving for another cheese steak sandwich."
So...it was time for another cheesesteak and since it was a nice and rather balmy afternoon, a good craft brew sounded good as well. So I headed back to Monkey Paw. And got the Blairsteak, I'm just not a whiz kind of guy, plus you gotta remember, Pat's who claims to have invented the cheesesteaks did so in 1933.....taking the Whiz wasn't done after 1953, when it was invented.
First thing I noticed was...well, the price...was it always $13.75? Oh well, I wanted, nay needed, my fix.
Second thing, those really lousy waffle-cut fries were gone. Replaced by crisp, thin cut fries, perhaps bit too salty, but really nice with a dash of malt vinegar....and the good thing? They kept crisp the whole time.
As for the sandwich...well, the roll was perfect, I love that little gritty finish of the Amoroso. The flavors were all in line, from the mildly milky cheese to the beef, to the pyrazinic flavor of the green bell peppers. The cheese was gooey, though the beef was a bit drier than I usually like.
Still, it was just what I needed and now I can go another 8-9 months without one. Hmmm, this should have been one of those "What's My Craving" posts.....
So....I have a category for Banh Mi and one for Cheesesteaks, so why not both in a post, especially since they're revisits, right?
So here goes.......
One of the good things about having to work on weekends....well, if there actually is a good reason for working on weekends is that I don't have to get in as early as on weekdays. I'm usually in by about 6am during the week, but heck, I'm working for love during the weekend so I'm going to sleep in a bit. And my choices are a bit better at 830 am than they are at 540am.
I love a good Banh Mi Trung for breakfast, so I stopped by for a nice egg banh mi.
The egg was nicely fried, the baquette, light, crisp, and warm, a touch of Maggi brought it all together with the pickled vegetables. I should have felt great, right? Well, not really, since when picking up my banh mi, I noticed the sign posted to the right.......
Spam Banh Mi??? Spam? Banh Mi? And an egg? Why didn't I see the sign before I ordered? I wasn't going to miss another chance at a Spam Banh Mi.......
Another week went by and another weekend of work. I went and got my Spam and Egg Banh Mi and brought it back to the office to eat.
In all honesty, the previous banh mi trung was better. The Spam wasn't browned enough, leaving it without a nice crisp texture. This was Spam Lite, heresy I say..... I mean, really, if you're going to blow your day's worth of nitrites and sodium on a canned meat product, you might as well go all the way. Also, something was not right with the bread on this day......you can just tell by the color, it was cold and doughy...definitely not the banh mi that I've come to expect from Cali Express.
Oh well.... While it looks like having to put in those weekend hours may be coming to an end, there's still a few more ahead for me. So maybe I'll give this another shot. Though Spam Lite......maybe not.
Cali Baguette Express 4425 Convoy Street San Diego, CA 92111
I'd been hankering for a cheesesteak for several weeks. So on the weekend after Christmas, I talked the Missus into grabbing a bite and a beer at Monkey Paw. I'd really enjoyed the cheesesteaks on my previous visits. It's also a favorite of my buddy Candice, who spent part of her childhood in Philly...
So, what I get here is the Blairsteak. For some reason, the combination of sauteed onions and bell peppers, with the milky, melted cheese on a nice Amoroso makes this a favorite of mine.
I'm not the biggest fan of waffle cut fries and these weren't prepped well. Limp and dry, lacking any sort of crispness.
One of the reasons that I'd never brought the Missus here is because bread is on the Missus's do not eat list. And other than the cheesesteaks, I haven't found anything else particularly good. On my previous visit, I tried the chicken wings, which I didn't care for.....so this time, I went with the frenched pork shank item they call "Monkey Bones",
I'd had this before and thought it was decent......I went with the sauces on the side, which was a nice move as none of them were really interesting. The pork lollipops were dry and the interior cold. So now I've got to think of something else on the menu to get the Missus down here for my next cheesesteak fix. Though the Missus did say She enjoyed the "vibe", so maybe.....
Since I've been waving the Cheesesteak flag again, here's the next logical post of a series that I began in 2010. I had first gone to Gaglione Brothers in 2005 and had revisited several times over the years. I've always found their sandwiches to be decent, if not the best, though it could be the garlic fries were the main reason for my visits. Since then, Gaglione Brothers has expanded, opening another location in Mission Gorge.
One evening, I was in the area....and thought, "why not".....
Gaglione Brothers - Mission Gorge:
My how time flies, the last time I was here it was still Pisa's Chicago Deli, which didn't last very long. Now it's Gaglione Brothers second location....business must be good.
They were pretty busy when I arrived, though thing cleared out quickly. I went with my usual, the 8" Mushroom Steak.
This was kind of interesting. I've always thought the cheesesteaks at Gaglione's were moist with the provolone giving the whole mess a light milky, creaminess. It seemed to lack a sufficient amount of cheese. This was on the dry side and pretty salty. The roll was nice and warm, but I found some of the meat tough.
It's not quite what I expected from a Gaglione Brother's Cheesesteak.
Gaglione Brothers 10450 Friars Rd San Diego, CA 92120
I was wondering if this was something to do with perhaps timing, or the location....or has GB changed the way they make their sandwiches? Which means that a couple of days later, after a couple of years, I finally revisited the Point Loma location.
Gaglione Brother's - Point Loma/Midway:
I've done a couple of posts on Gaglione Brother's over the years, though I've visited way more times. Still, it's been at least 2 years since I've ben here.
Not much has changed except the price.........
I ordered my mushroom steak and had a seat. While waiting for my sandwich I stared off into the parking lot; and quickly noticed that one could easily tell which folks were coming to have something from GB, versus who was heading to the fitness center next door.....just by physique! It was quite entertaining as I was 10 for 10 in guesses. Of course, if one were playing the same game and saw me exiting my vehicle, I'm thinking they'd be able to tell where I was headed to......
And this turned out to be the typical, lovely, "hot mess" that is a GB cheesesteak. Gooey, gloppy, with hot cheese napalm burning your lips...... The beef didn't seem as well incorporated into the cheese as on previous visits, but it was decent. Because of the milky mildness, onions are a must on this sandwich.... It is still a bit lacking in terms of beef flavor, but it does fine by me.
Gaglione Brothers 3944 West Point Loma Blvd San Diego, CA 92110
I did find it kind of strange that the two shops served up cheesesteaks that had very little in common....except for the name on the sign.....
A couple of things, I like mine "wit", onions that is, and wit-out "wiz", which was introduced to the sandwich sometime in the 1950's. And unlike that "owner" who didn't care for my opinion of his mediocre sandwich, claiming he knew what a cheesesteak was all about because he read about Pat And Geno's on the internet; I have actually been to Pat's and Geno's, which wasn't nearly as good as the cheesesteak I had from a shop in the Reading Terminal Market called Rick's Original Philly Steaks, which has been closed for a number of years. I did read that he's opened shop in Kennett Square.
Of course all that time means some changes; Olde City Grille has closed, Gaglione Brothers opened their second location, and for some reason the Philadelphia Cheesesteak Company keeps rolling along. One place did drop off the map and had me wondering "whatever happened to......"
Alex's Brown Bag at Latitiude 32:
When I worked in the Hillcrest area, we used to order from Alex's all the time...until it seemed that there was some degradation in their sandwiches which were coming up dry and tough. During that last visit in 2010, it just didn't seem like the same cheesesteak I had been eating over the years.
A couple of years ago, Alex's pulled up stakes and moved to PB. After my cheesesteak trigger had been pulled, Alex's came to mind so I decided to find out exactly where they were located.....which turned out to be inside the pub called Latitude 32. Cheesesteak in a Pub? Shades of Monkey Paw.
The drill here is, you can peruse the menu at the bar, but have to go to the back of the pub to place and pay for your order near the kitchen.
The guys here were very friendly; I recalled the folks when I visited 5th avenue were on the surly side. I got a 12" with provolone, which was probably more sandwich than I should have ordered.
This was a nice sandwich ($8.96), much better than the last one I had from Alex's. The Amoroso roll was nice and warm, with that mild, almost imperceptible crustiness to it, along with the gritty cornmeal. The beef was a bit more chewy than I recalled, but the sandwich was nice and moist with a milky edge brought on by the cheese. This was nicely seasoned, edging on almost garlic-salty, but was nice as most 'steaks are on the milder side.
This was better than I remembered, I'm sure to be back soon.
Alex's Brown Bag (Inside Latitude 32 Pub) 5019 Cass St San Diego, CA
So I see a sign announcing "Best Cheesesteak in San Diego" in the same stripmall as Pho Little Saigon. A couple of days later I return to find the shop behind the sign, which turns out to be a little shop called Jin's Grill.
The place only has various renditions of "Philly's" i.e. sandwiches on the menu.
I was told that the beef for the cheesesteak was angus, which I thought was nice since the sandwich was south of $7, though I did add mushroom for about a buck more.
The sandwich did look nice....especially the strings of cheese stretching across the wrapper.
The was a plus/minus sandwich. The roll was cold and really detracted from the sandwich. This wasn't highly seasoned, which meant I could really make out the beefy flavor. It wasn't as oily as other versions, but then again, this meant that it was also a bit too dry and lacking in that oozy-richness that makes cheesesteaks so good.
Sort of a tweener, but well priced.
Jin’s Grill 3445 Midway Dr San Diego, CA 92110 Hours: Mon - Sat 1030am - 9pm Sunday 11am - 8pm
I guess part 3 was inevitable. Every so often, I do want a nice gooey cheesesteak. I really don't know what it is. Funny thing is, when I've visited Philly, it's always been the Roast Pork Sandwiches that I go for...... After having already done two posts on cheesesteaks in San Diego, I figured that would be about it. As I mentioned before, I prefer my steaks with provolone, which probably was the original cheese on cheesesteak sandwiches since "whiz" wasn't even invented until 1953 and Pat's claimed tohave invented the sandwich in 1933. As far as Pat and Geno's is concerned, having eaten there twice....well, I wasn't super impressed with either sandwich and the locals that I knew always thought of them as more icons than purveyors of great cheesesteaks. And for that guy who claimed to serve an "authentic" cheesesteak because he read all about it on the internet...hey, I watched a bunch of Bruce Lee movies growing up and I couldn't do what he did no matter how hard I tried.....they'd probably call my version Jeet Kune Do-Do......
Emails and comments from FOYs Candice and Liverbomb had me craving a cheesesteak again, so I checked out the places they recommended and even saw another while driving in National City. So here's a trio for you.
Philly Frank's Steaks:
This one was a recommendation from Liverbomb. I was in the San Marcos area and decided to check the place out. Located in a fairly non-descript strip mall, Philly Frank's looked decidedly low keyed.
But the interior was full of Philly....well, "stuffs" is what we'd call it back home in Hawaii. The place was also doing a pretty good business.
The prices here aren't cheap, with a full sandwich running close to ten bucks. The two women running the counter really knew their stuff. When they saw a line forming one of them stepped into the dining area and started working the line taking orders.
I got a mushroom steak with provolone.
I wasn't too thrilled when I picked up my sandwich, which looked dry. Frankly, I'm just not impressed by the mere sight of an Amoroso roll anymore since both US Foods and SYSCO carry them....though they are par baked and loses something. It just didn't look very impressive. However, one bite fixed that........the meat was very tender, not mushy, but tender. This was probably the most aggressively seasoned cheesesteak I've had in San Diego, a good thing in this case, since most cheesesteaks tend to be fairly mild in flavor. In spite of the seasoning, you could still make out the beef flavor. The cheese was molten and gooey, not totally incorporated into the meat, though the weather caused it to firm up rather quickly. The roll wasn't ice cold....all of which made this a very nice sandwich.
As always, Liver picks winners.....
Philly Frank's Steaks 151 S Rancho Santa Fe Rd San Marcos, CA 92078
Hours: Mon-Thurs 10 am - 8 pm Fri 10 am - 9 pm Sat 11 am - 9 pm Sun 11 am - 8 pm
This is Candice's pick for cheesesteaks and beers. The creation of Scot Blair owner of the very popular Hamilton's, this place has a almost dive bar look and feel, yet has a great selection of local and inhouse brews. Located in the East Village, you usually won't find me at these places because, well, I'm just not hip enough.......
One the days I visited you basically just ordered at the bar and the woman working there made sure you got what was ordered.
I actually went twice; the first time I met friends and Candice was nice enough to stop by. We had a great time, but I really ended up not paying much attention to what I ate. I had to return on another late afternoon when the Missus met Her friends for a girls night out. On my previous visit, Candice recommended the "Blair Steak" which came with White American Cheese, sauteed onions, mushrooms, and bell peppers. It also came with one of the two items (the other is tater tots) that San Diego just can't seem to get enough of....waffle cut fries.
This was a nice cheesesteak, gooey, slightly messy, the meat perhaps a bit more thickly cut than Philly Frank's. The green bell peppers added the flavor of "pyrazine", that very mildly bitter, "green" taste that goes so well with beef. The onions added a touch of sweetness, all very nice. In some ways the flavor was prototypical cheesesteak, quite mild in flavor. For nine bucks (with waffle cut fries) plus a couple more for a Sweet Georgia Brown, this made for a nice meal.
One that I'd gladly experience again............
Monkey Paw 805 16th St San Diego, CA 92101
I was driving down (up?) Highland Avenue in National City when I passed McGonagle's and had to laugh at the sign over the front door.
I went and parked in the back of the restaurant and entered.....what would be a strange neon sorta cheesesteak world.
The interior was the same orange color as the exterior, seating on the dining area was a bunch of picnic type tables.
And man, this place loved signs....there was one that had "rules", a la Pat's King of Steaks in Philly. Not sure if they really mean this, or if it's some kind of kitsch.
The place had a strange kind of vibe for me, I guess because the A/C was blasting and the place was totally deserted. Not feeling sure what I would get, I ordered a 6" "Authentic Philly Cheesesteak" ($5.75, a 12" is $8.75).
After a couple of minutes my cheesesteak number was called.....
I really didn't enjoy this too much; the bread was ice cold, the meat bland, dry, and tough......'nuff said. I'm glad I didn't get this with whiz....well maybe not, it would have covered some of this up. While I ate the sandwich I read the "eat three sandwiches and win" sign........seems like everyone is trying to cash in on the Man versus whatever thing. I just can't imagine trying to eat three double meat cheesesteaks from here. But perhaps I just visited on a bad day.......perhaps.
McGonagle's 1231 Highland Ave National City, CA 91950
I hope you don't mind another cheesesteak post to go with my original. These are more like sloppy seconds, with nothing that really compares to my favorites. I will say that I got some interesting emails from that post, so here's one that was a recommendation (thanks Derek!), one that I had forgotten about, and one out of nowhere.
I'd been to Voltero's a couple of times before, but had forgotten that they sold cheesesteaks. For me Voltero's is typical of the neighborhood pizza joint; good prices, friendly staff, and pretty hefty portions.
The cheesesteak at Voltero's comes with either fries or a green salad.... guess which I selected? It's also priced right at $6.95.
I noticed that the roll was not an Amoroso right off. It was a nice, crusty Italian that did not bad, but was a bit too much bread. At least it was slightly toasted and warm.
The cheese was nicely melted and decently gooey, which I believe was provolone. The meat was on the dry side, but the flavors along with the bell peppers and what I call "pizza mushrooms", (thinly sliced mushrooms usually used to top pizzas) was pretty good. This was pretty close, but not quite.
The funny thing was, I enjoyed the fries.....
And then I realized that I hadn't had fries since the beginning of April. So these hit the spot.
Overall a good value...... and much better then the Philadelphia Sandwich Company, which is kinda depressing if you think about it.
Voltero's Pizza 5650 Balboa Ave San Diego, CA 92111
Sodhi's (Letty's) Bean Shack:
Well, the sign says "Sodhi's", and the menu says "Letty's" so I'm trying to cover all bases on this one. Located on a side street across from UCSD Medical Center; I'm guessing this place makes a living on giving folks an alternative to Hospital food.
The Cheesesteak here also comes with fries, and is even cheaper than Voltero's at $6.75:
The biggest surprise for me was that this sandwich came on an Amoroso roll! The portion of meat was bit on the small side, and the meat had been placed on the flat-top with onions, topped with cheese which melted nicely, the roll was then placed on top of everything and it was scooped up and put into the styrofoam box. Of course, this meant the roll was still cold, and had not benefited from any toasting.
The sandwich was also a bit dry for my tastes. Cold Roll + small portion + dryness = mediocre cheesesteak.
A generous portion of "steak fries" were served with the sandwich.
These were fried golden brown.... or should I say double, or even triple fried??? The fries were already cooked and still in the basket. When the order was placed, the fries were dumped back into the oil for reheating. They didn't seem to suffer any ill effects.....
Letty's Bean Shack 4229 Front St San Diego, CA 92103
Jersey Mike's Subs - Rosecrans:
FOY "Derek" asked me to try out the cheesesteaks at Jersey Mike's. So, of course I did so at my earliest opportunity. I do have to apologize about the poor quality of my photos.... I don't know what the heck happened that day. I've already done a post on Jersey Mike's Rosecrans location, so I decided to return to that shop for my cheesesteak.
Even a regular sized sandwich looks pretty huge.......
The bread, with an almost cracker like flavor, does well with Italian Subs, but for me, it tends to interfere with the flavor of a cheesesteak.
It was also cold and the ratio of bread to filling was off.... too much bread in this case. In fact, there was too much of mostly everything, peppers, bread, onions, to meat for my taste. I pulled out some of the meat and had a taste, and the right flavor was indeed there; but it was just overpowered in this case.
On one interesting note; the #13 "Original Italian" has kinda grown on the Missus and I. It's still pretty much a "salad in a bun", but we sure do prefer it over Subway, and other of shops of that ilk.
Jersey Mike's Subs 3670 Rosecrans Street San Diego, CA 92110
Whew.... talk about some major calories..... so maybe we should start at the beginning. At the end of last year, I was having my usual, at my... usual. That would be an 8" Mushroom Cheesesteak at Gaglione Bros in Point Loma.
I was sitting, enjoying a typical San Diego winter day...... 70 and sunny, eating on the patio, and feeling empathy with this guy.
Whom I believe belongs to one of the managers or owners of the place. Can you imagine, being a carnivore, and having to endure the glorious smell of animal flesh charring??? It must be pure torture, so I hope he/she gets some nice "samples" once in a while. The lab looked down at me, and with a tilt of the head seemed to tell me "you think you like this so much, why don't you do a post comparing cheesesteaks?" Now before you think that I'm headed toward wrapping "mi cabeza" in aluminum foil to prevent Aliens from outer space.... or other food bloggers from reading my thoughts, and am headed with a "ho ho hee hee ha ha to the funny farm." (Though I heard life there is beautiful all the time) Perhaps the lab didn't speak to me, maybe the idea just popped into my head.... but I thought it was a pretty good idea.
Thinking this over a bit, I decided to try to order my usual, and let's be clear, this ain't a "Philly Cheesesteak" comparison... it's basically a Mushroom Steak comparison. It's not that I haven't had the "real thing" though. Over a decade ago, the major vendor of the company I was with was headquartered in Philly. I managed to attend conferences there twice. I had made a few friends, and one of them took me down to the intersection of 9th Street and Passyunk, home of the cheesesteak icons, Pat's who claims to have invented the Philly Cheesesteak in 1933, and Geno's. My favorite cheesesteak of the trip was not from either iconic shop, but from a shop in the Reading Terminal Market called Rick's Original Philly Steaks. Unfortunately, Rick's Steaks' lease was not renewed, which caused quite a flap, and Rick left the market, but has opened elsewhere. By the way, "Rick" is the Grandson of "Pat" Pasquale Olivieri. It is the grandson of Harry Pasquale, Pat's brother who owns Pat's. And then there was the lawsuit... man, the stories themselves are more juicy than the steaks at either Pat's or Geno's. Let's not go into the Cheesesteak I had in another place in Downtown Philly, yuck. Oh, and I actually enjoyed the Roast Pork sandwich from DiNic's more than any of the cheesesteaks.... go figure.
Next question would probably be, "where's the Whiz?" Strangely enough, the faux cheese "whiz" was not invented until 1953. Before that, it was probably American cheeseor provolone. And personally, I'm not a big fan of Whiz.... and prefer the mild milkiness and texture of melted provolone. So onward to the cheesesteaks.....
The first thing that struck me about Olde City was how the place looked really sports bar-ish, or just plain Pacific Beach bar-ish.
For some reason I didn't find this very promising with regards to a cheesesteak. But, knowing Captain Jack, whose large heart is only exceeded by his appetite, this place had to be good. You can build your own steak, but I chose the 6" "Aristocrat ($6.99). It's a mushroom steak with sharp provolone and onions.... and oh, the beef is supposed to be "American" Kobe, which is, I suppose Wagyu? Anyway on to the steak:
The roll was a true Amoroso, which has truly become a "marketing" thing. You see, Amoroso now sells their bread through such "boutique" purveyors as SYSCO and US Foods.... so much like how a somewhat unscrupulous Itamae can charge a Gaijin a super high price for sushi telling them the fish "came from Japan" (I've seen this done....in fact twice from a specific Itamae) when indeed that most "farm raised" Hamachi and other fish comes from Japan, it's exactly what all the other upper-mid, and high end sushi bars are selling. Back to the cheesesteak... at first I was a bit hesitant about all the "brown bits" on the sandwich, but I gotta say, it was delicious. The beef actually melted in, or was it just plain melted my mouth. I also didn't notice any cheese at first, until I bit into the sandwich and almost melted my tongue off. I do think that a bit more cheese wouldn't hurt this sandwich, and the roll could be a tad better toasted/heated, but you can't beat the earthy flavors of mushrooms, the beef, and onions that have been grilled to the "sweet zone". Captain Jack mentioned that perhaps the sandwich was not quite as messy as a true Philly, but this oozed onto my hands, causing the loss of several layers of derma..... This 6" was enough for me......
Olde City Grill 967 Garnet Ave San Diego, CA 92109
The King is Dead: Alex's Brown Bag
We've been ordering from what many of the "old guard" believe is the best Cheesesteak in San Diego, Alex's Brown Bag for years. We've cut down on our orders over the years, because even though they deliver, we've noticed some deterioration in portion size, and I've gotten more than a few dry steaks over the last two years. In fact, I've started ordering the Pizzaiola - a cheesesteak sandwich with pepperoni, but more importantly, marinara sauce (which we get on the side) which helps moisten everything. Heresy perhaps, but a guy's gotta do, what a guy's gotta do to avoid a dry cheesesteak. I did tell myself that the cheesesteak lost something (that would be moisture) in transport, and I had to eat at the shop to actually see, which is what I did.
Finding the brick and mortar Alex's can be a bit confusing......it is located in the well known Mr. A building on Banker's Hill.
Here I went with the "Philadelphia Cheesesteak"($7.75), which automatically comes with mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, and mozzarella. I'm sure you can get it with Whiz if you really wanted it.
The best part of the sandwich was that the Amoroso Roll was perfectly toasted, not too hard, not too soft. It could also be that the juices didn't saturate the bread because, well, frankly, it was pretty darn dry. The cheese was too mild for the sandwich, though it added a nice gooey stringy texture to everything.
It's sad to see King's lose their luster, though the sandwich still had a well flavored beefy "soul", for me this was like seeing a mid-seventies Elvis, fat, drug addicted, over-gorged on Peanut Butter-Banana-Bacon sandwiches trying to strut his stuff. It's hard to settle for less from the "King".
Alex's Brown Bag 2550 5TH Ave, Suite 171 San Diego, CA 92103
Long live the King: Pop's Jersey Style Steaks
I've often spoken to folks about the difference between the "best", and our "favorite". We have our favorites because of a combination of factors, and on the visits I did over the course of eight months, my visit to Pop's was my favorite.
And it's all because of family.... you see, on the day I visited "Junior" was running the counter, and seemed to know every customer. His brother(Tony) and "Pop" were manning the flat-top, "Mom" was in the back. I ordered my steak with mushrooms, and had a seat. Junior brought the food out to me, and asked me how I heard about Pop's... and of course, it was through another of Captain Jack's posts. Let me tell you CJ, if you still read this blog.... you're a celebrity here. Once I told him I knew you, Junior insisted on bring out Pop to talk to me. Which is how I found out that this family, the Guadagni's used to own Alex's Brown Bag!
As for the cheesesteak itself.....
There are fliers tacked up around the restaurant telling us they now use Amoroso's. I like the crust, but the bread portion was toasted a bit too hard for me. Pop had told me that he doesn't do gooey and messy steaks anymore because this is "California, and we should be healthy, and why not have the steak evolve.... like the burrito!" He produced old photos from his time at Alex's.... can you tell that I just loved this guy?
The beef here is the most highly seasoned, great pepper flavor. Pop's was worried because some folks think the steak is a bit too highly seasoned, and Pop's gets his beef shipped in from New Jersey.
Which leads me to a photo on CJ's post. I was wondering about the beef that Pop brings in, and CJ happens to have a photo of the box...... I had to laugh. Among the ingredients is Autolyzed Yeast and Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein..... great umami, which of course, we call something else. I'll still keep coming back because the beef does taste really good.... and of course there's the family!
Pop's Jersey Style Cheese Steaks 1730 Garnet Ave. San Diego, CA 92109
There's a hot and sweet pepper bar which allows you to pep up your sandwich if you so desire.
I still usually get the 8" mushroom cheesesteak($6.95) with provolone. It's not out of this world, but satisfies my cravings. Prices have gone up a bit, but my capability to eat has gone down with regards to quantity.
It seems to me that the bread is not an Amoroso, but a reasonable facsimile. I could be wrong, but it doesn't have as much "bread" as a typical Amoroso. It is essentially moist, gooey, and beefy for me. The provolone cheese is always totally melted, and gives a faint milkiness to the entire sandwich.
And yet, feet to the fire.... it could be that the real reason I eat at Gaglione Brothers are the garlic fries..... I've never eaten here without ordering garlic fries.
The Missus actually asked to have garlic and parsley added to a sandwich here.... and they did it! Which made Her very happy......
Plus, you never know I'll run into that dog who telepathically "talks" to me!
Gaglione Brothers 3944 West Point Loma Blvd San Diego, CA 92110
A worthy contender: Giorgino's
I had been waiting to check out Giorgino's for a while. After all they claim to make the "Best Cheesesteak in Town".
On my visit, I ordered the Mush Steak ($6.90), which came with White American Cheese, mushrooms, and onions.
To me, perhaps the best bang-for-the-buck. They use Amoroso rolls. But what really made this sandwich stand out was the pronounced garlic flavor, which I enjoyed. when the young man asked me how I liked my sandwich, I mentioned the wonderful flavor of garlic, and asked him if they use "garlic powder" which seemed to irritate him, and he replied snippily, "no... we use only fresh ingredients, it's fresh garlic." Ooops.... though it did make me wonder, if they use only fresh ingredients, it sure seemed like canned mushrooms.... but perhaps they were "fresh" canned mushrooms?
For me, the one "best" that Giorgino's has is the relaxing seating outdoors during a nice day in South Park.
It makes everything taste better.....
Giorgino's 1237 28th St San Diego, CA 92102
It's not the Cheesesteaks that bring me back: The Philly Grill
It's Suzanne, the Owner, who has loads of character, and can always bring a smile to my face.
Like I mentioned in this post, the reason I would return to The Philly Grill are not the Cheesesteaks, but Suzanne, and the Italian Sandwiches, which she douses with a mildly bracing balsamic dressing.
The Cheesesteaks here just don't do it for me.
The beef is decent quality, and pretty freshly cut, but there's not enough of it. The bread on my visits was from Gibaldi's and there was too much of it, too doughy, and the crust was not up to the task. The one saving grace was the addition of pickled peppers, much like Giardiniera with added some flavor to the proceedings.
The Philly Grill 2041 University Ave San Diego, CA 92104
It could have been better: Eddie's Philadelphia Steaks, Hoagies, and Burgers
I like the location on 30th street of this place. My good FOY (Friend of Yoso) Howie told me that even though he prefers Giogino's, Eddie's has slowly gotten better over time.
This converted house has a porch, and different rooms where you can have your meal. The menu itself is pretty large with everything from (of course) Cheesesteaks to Prime Choice (what is prime choice???.... is it the prime cut of choice grade meat, or a choice cut of prime grade meat) Rib Eye.... you can see it on the menu yourself here. Of course, it says "Angus Beef" which is a branded beef, but not "Certified Angus Beef" which is a special industry designation. Enough of that, I was here for a Mushroom Steak & Onions with Cheese ($7.75). I of course, ordered mine with provolone.
There were a couple of things that held this cheesesteak back in my opinion. First, the roll was ice cold and flaccid, it could have used a bit of heat or mild toasting. Second, there wasn't enough cheese to create a nice gooey texture, and not much of the milky flavor I want from provolone. The portion size was good, the beefy flavor rather mild. mushrooms sparce, but at least they weren't canned.
Eddie's Philadelphia Steaks, Hoagies, and Burgers 3501 30th Street San Diego, CA 92104
And there was one: The Philadelphia Sandwich Company
What can I say other than I dreaded coming here. I've never gotten anything better than Tasty Kakes from here. And yet, this place has been around since 1979.
I ordered a 6" Mushroom Steak with Provolone ($5.84). And to be honest it was the most inexpensive of the cheesesteaks I ordered. That's all I'm going to say. The photos speak for themselves.
You can come to your own conclusions.
Philadelphia Sandwich Company 3904 Convoy St. Ste 112 San Diego, CA 92111
I hope you enjoyed this post on various cheesesteaks joints in San Diego. And perhaps you have a few that I missed. It did take me eight months to make these visits.....
Beyond the narrative, which are, as always based on personal preferences, perhaps you'll get out there and try a few of these places!
*** A revisit to Gaglione Bros, can be found here.
Mahalo to Jack and Howie, who both mentioned Gaglione Brothers. Almost a decade ago I had a conference in Philly, so of course I had to try a cheesesteak. A friend of mine took me to two famous stands, Pat's and Geno's both with a huge line and you had to kinda know "the rules", that is, how to order your steak, or you really got a hard time. Well I had this Cheese Whiz thing twice, nice, hot, and gooey, with the faintest hint of beef. And I thought, "what's the big deal"? But a funny thing happened; about two days later, I'm still in Philly, and for some strange reason I'm craving a cheesesteak. Now I've only had this once in my entire life, why the heck am I craving it? I ended up getting a cheesesteak in downtown Philly; wasn't much good, and it pretty much killed that craving. Until a day later, when I had a cheesesteak in Reading Terminal Market, this time with provolone, and I found my "cheesesteak. I'm convinced that there's somethin' in the cheesesteak; some insidious ingredient that after a short gestation causes an extreme craving for another cheese steak sandwich. Fast forward almost a decade later, and a visit to Gaglione Brothers:
This little shop with 5 indoor tables and sports memorabilia, local celebrity pic's, and family photo's decorating the walls, and an ever playing television, is located in a pretty secluded section of the Midway Towne Plaza in Point Loma. I had a bit of a problem finding this little storefront initially, but finally made my way there.
There's a scattering of humor in the menu - for instance the "Sophia Loren" sandwich, is known as a "Hot Italian". So I ordered a 12 inch Mushroom Cheese Steak ($8.65), which was made to order and ready in about 10 minutes:
This was a gloppy, messy, gooey sandwich, with a hint of "beefiness". Nice and moist, and the mushrooms added a nice texture. It was filling as heck and left me ready for a nap. As I left the restaurant I thought "this is okay, but not something that I'd really want on a regular basis". HOWEVER, about a week later, I'm driving along; and a thought enters my head. "Wouldn't a cheese steak sandwich be really nice right about now"? And there it was again, that nagging craving for a cheese steak! Now I'm really sure there's something to my belief in "cheese steak addiction". So I drove down to Point Loma and placed my take-out order.
There were three problems with this sandwich; one was totally my fault, another was in the preparation, and the last was scenario based. The first problem; I ordered only a Mushroom Steak ($7.95), so there was no cheese, man I screwed up! Geeez, how can a cheese steak be a cheese steak, without the cheese. So no gooey, gloppy, goodness. And some of the taste was compromised. The second problem; the steak was too finely chopped. It resembled hamburger, not a cheese steak, and was dry and grainy to which I added spicy brown mustard to resolve. Which leads to number three; I ordered take-out. You see, I didn't just order the sandwich, I ordered Garlic Fries ($1.95) as well.
There was a good amount of garlic and herbs on the fries, but not enough salt. But because I'd done this take out (15 minutes to home), the fries had gotten a bit limp. I'm sure they would be fine if I ate them in the restaurant.
So the three rules? It's a cheese steak, so don't forget the cheese! Hope that they don't mince the meat too finely. And eat them at the restaurant. Can someone tell me what makes these so addicting?