What do tacos, pizza, barbecue and cheesesteak sandwiches have in common? The answer is endless disagreement over what constitutes the “real” or “best” version of each. I particularly enjoy debates about the beefy cheesy sandwiches, which hail from the “City of Brotherly Love,” where residents often have fierce disagreements over authenticity and, of course, their favorites. While I love a pile of meat and provolone chopped and melted together on the grill, I’ll also admit a fondness for the cheddar-flavored cheese sauce variety. Recently, my crew and I headed to Little Philadelphia, where cheese goo rules supreme.
Although the cheesesteaks are available with provolone or Swiss cheese upon request, the default option is served with a liberal slathering of yellow cheese product. It’s like nacho cheese without the spice. Grilled onion is optional, or you can go all-in with “The Works” ($9.19, large) and top the beef and cheese with grilled mushroom, bell pepper and onion on a grilled Italian roll—which is how I ordered mine. The meat well-seasoned, the veggies a perfect accompaniment, and the toasty roll held up well.
Our small hoagie cheesesteak ($6.49) with chopped lettuce and tomato tasted something like a loose meat cheeseburger. While it wouldn’t be my first choice, it wasn’t half bad. Less effective was a small pizza steak ($6.49) with marinara sauce and melted provolone. The sauce was quite sweet, and the cheese quickly rubberized. A little kid might enjoy this sweet, chewy thing, but I did not.
Hot and cold deli sandwiches are served on a medium roll with a side of fries. The chicken cordon bleu ($6.79) combined deli ham with melted Swiss cheese, set atop three uniform, deep-fried chicken fingers. It wasn’t bad, just something I’d expect from a chain burger shop. A hot ham and cheese ($6.49) coupled a pile of deli ham with a pool of cheddar sauce, reminding me of a school cafeteria favorite. I loved them as a kid and still enjoyed this nostalgia-laced treat.
For the fries, we tried one order plain, then added cheese sauce to the rest for an additional 75 cents each. The fries were thin and crispy, but with the addition of cheese transformed them into something beautiful to my inner child. They seriously pour on the cheese, which locks the fries into a mass that can only be politely eaten with a fork. It’s really more of a potato cheese pie at that point, worthy of the tag “guilty pleasure.” A large order of battered onion rings ($3.69) wouldn’t beat the best in town, but they were way beyond what I’d expected. My wife loved them.
Lastly, I had to try a gyro ($6.99). I knew the meat would probably be from a package, but low expectations were met with surprise. It was good—really good. The meat was tender with tons of flavor. The tzatziki had just enough tang, and the pita was lightly toasted and served warm with plenty of chopped purple onion, lettuce and tomato. It won’t supplant my favorite spit-roasted sandwich, but I might have to flip a coin to choose between cheesesteak and gyro the next time I visit Little Philadelphia.