Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Philly Cheesesteaks: one of my favorite foods

When I was in high school, I worked at restaurant in the Cottonwood Mall food court named the Philly Station —justly named after the 'style' of sandwiches that we sold there. We had it all, we had your steak and onion (minus the cheese), your cheesesteak supreme (cheese, onions, mushrooms and bellpeppers), your chicken Philly sandwiches (sub out the steak for chicken) and, for all you vegetariansout there, we had your veggie supreme (made with all the veggies and cheese). 

I worked there for about three years before I left for college and since then, I have always compared everyone that I consume to those that  I used to cook and sell at the mall. Honestly, we put up quite some competition when it came to other sandwiches. For one, we had three kinds of cheese to choose from: the subtle taste of provolone, the buttery flavor of the swiss cheese and the messy, but finger-licking good melted cheddar cheese. Secondly, we always made sure that our grill was clean, to ensure you were actually tasting the meat and not the charred leftovers from the sandwich ordered before yours. Lastly, our bread was the perfect accompaniment to our meat and cheese. It was always toasted when it was ordered and never left out. It was crispy enough on the outside to contrast the gooey cheese, but not crispy enough to rip your mouth apart when you ate it —perfect. 

Today in Edgartown, I had finally pulled myself out of bed early enough to make it to the Edgartown Deli— one of the few places on the island that offers meals within my budget. They are only open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and I haven't been able to make it out of the house before one (and when you consider the bus schedules, I have to wait until 1:38 to catch the route 6 bus, and I wont get into town until fifteen past the hour, then I feel guilty for coming in at like 2:30 just when they're getting ready to close up shop). The store is a quaint place that is laid out like many delis that I have been to. There are colorful signs and chalkboards that briefly describe the sandwich, its condiments and its clever names after whoever was the first to make it or whoever ordered it posted around the counter and a small selection of tables and chairs. Nothing fancy but just comfortable enough to chill out and read a book or a newspaper while you eat.
I was feeling a sandwich at the time so I was feeling good about the deli. Since I had a history with Philly cheesesteaks, I had to order one. I'm not a big fan of bell peppers and the menu made it nice and easy for me. They started with the rudimentary sub with steak and cheese and added a veggie with every step up. The steak and onion, steak and mushroom, steak and bell pepper and what they named the 'bomb', with all of the above. Price-wise, it was the best bang for the buck. The sandwiches were $8.50 individually and with all the fixings, it was just an extra $0.45 extra. Not bad for an extra serving of vegetables. Mom would be proud— if I ordered it. Like I said I don't like bell peppers so I opted for the steak and onion. 

I settled into a booth just before a group of eight entered the small deli and started discussing the menu. Good thing I had a book to keep me entertained while I waited for my Philly. I ordered it for here but it came out wrapped up to go. I couldn't help but feel like that was a message from the kitchen staff to amscray.  Too bad. Its not that I wanted to be a pain in the arse, but it was just after two and I would be done eating it in no time. Not to mention, after the party of eight ordered their meal, a party of four entered after them. I wasn't eating alone and they weren't going to kick out 13 paying customers. That's just bad business practice. 

Wrapped in a piece of thick wax paper, I could feel the heat coming from my sub. I opened it and peeled the wax paper away from the melted Swiss cheese. The onions were cooked too long and almost non-existent, in texture but still had flavor— it was good. I like onions when they still have a bite to them. They had gotten shredded up with the cooked steak and mixed in so that it was all one mass of melted cheese, steak and onions. I didn't need to put any mayo on it but I emptied a packet onto the wax paper for some dipping action if i was in the mood. It ended up that I was. The mayo was really runny though. I think that had I been sitting at an unleveled table, then the mayo would run right into my lap and onto my black pants. Good thing it was. 

Considering the three elements that I think make a good Philly cheesesteak— the cheese, cleanliness of the grill (subsequently the taste of the steak) and the bread— it was a pretty decent cheesesteak. I would definitely have to comeback for a chicken Philly next time (I had to alter my challenge and make it to where I could never eat the same thing twice anywhere). The bread was a little too soft for my liking but it was still slightly toasty. The meat was good, there were no ridiculously charred pieces of steak and you could tell it was a pretty clean grill— that and the time when I ordered it. They used Swiss which is always a good choice. 

If I could give them some pointers, I would tell them to wait until the meat is halfway done to add the onions to the grill so that they don't cook for too long and to toast their bread a little longer. It could be toastier. Don't get me wrong though, I ate the entire thing and I was thoroughly satisfied. I just like to think that I've cooked a good share of Philies in my high school days to know how to make a close to perfect one. 

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