Cheesesteak Love

Thanks to Jesse from Beer & Nosh for tweeting me about this. It seems fellow Pennsylvanian Dave McLean, who owns both Alembic and the Magnolia Gastropub, loves cheesesteaks. What do you know, so do I. Perhaps most people from Pennsylvania do. If you grew up on them, you know how hard it is to find a decent one outside of the Keystone State.

Jesse probably didn’t know that I, too, am obsessed with cheesesteaks. He sent me the link because of Dave’s keen fashion sense. So I was pretty excited when I saw he was wearing my logo shirt. Way to go Dave!

Photo by Stefanie Michejda

In a profile about food obsessions, Dave McLean reveals his own cheesesteak love. But he’s from Pittsburgh (BTW 7×7, Pittsburg is in California, Dave’s from Pittsburgh) whereas IMHO real cheesesteaks come from the Eastern part of the state, near Philadelphia. Both Pat’s and Geno’s are in Philly, where the cheesesteak, if not originated, is thought to have been perfected. Those two are the most famous, but I realize which is best and which other places are better is a volatile subject and everyone has an opinion on the subject.

I actually grew up west of Philadelphia, near Reading, and prefer the V&S Cheesesteak which used real cheese, not cheese whiz. I think whatever taste profile was your usual when you were a kid is the one that stays with you, like Mom’s home cooking. But Dave is also right that the Cheesesteak Shop, with 26 locations around the Bay Area, does probably the best job of approximating a Pennsylvania cheesesteak. As Dave points out, they do use Amoroso’s rolls from Philadelphia — a key ingredient — and they have Tastykakes, too. But I have to gently take exception to the assertion that a Tastykake is “like a Hostess cupcake.” That’s like saying Filet Mignon is like a hamburger.

Of course, I’m also obsessed with Tastykakes. I grew up on them and they’re definitely light years ahead of any other pre-packaged desserts I’ve ever tried. Although I love the Butterscotch Krimpets, the cream-filled cupcakes and even the now-defunct coffee cake, my all-time favorite is the peanut butter Kandy Kake. But I swear that they used to be called “Tandy Takes” when I was a kid (can anybody corroborate that?). Safeway carried them briefly in the Bay Area a decade ago, but then abruptly dropped them. You can also buy them online, which I confess I’ve done. They’re that good. Their tagline used to be “all the good things wrapped up in one.” Too true. Damn, now I’m hungry.



  1. says

    I’m pretty sure you’re correct on the Tandy Take thing. But Pat’s and Geno’s, aside from the unmatched ambiance and experiences, are more for those factors than the sangmiches these days. There lots of other places like John’s Roast Pork, Dallesandro’s & Tony Luke’s which are way better.

    Ah, but those experiences…

    I remember taking my 12 year old son, along with a neighbor and his son, after a Phillies double-header which ran long, down to Ninth street at around 2am. The kids couldn’t believe the lines at the windows, with people in evening dress, police uniforms, obviously living on the street grab and others jumping out waiting taxis. They learned how to order “wit'” and how to try and eat the thing without…well, the couldn’t, but that first drip of hot sauce and grease down the front of the t-shirt is a passing adulthood.

    Damn, now I’m hungry.

  2. fraggle says

    the trusty internet agrees with you, they were originally called Tandy Takes.
    me, as i used to live in new england, i was a sucker for Table Talk pies.

  3. says

    Never having been to Philly, my experiences with the cheesesteak started with my Philly-native aunt and the stated Cheesesteak Shop, specifically, the Berkeley location. Recently they opened another franchise here in Santa Rosa, literally down the street. I got so excited I called all my college friends who were instantly jealous.

    The cheesesteak is a wonderful thing. Tasty Kakes I’m not quite sold on, but I’ve never been a fan of prepackaged food.

    By the way, what’s the Brookston Bulletin approved way of ordering your steak?

  4. says

    Jay- I love a cheesesteak just as much as the next Pennsylvanian. If we’re going to talk ‘Burgh sammies though, let’s not forget Primanti Bros. I mean come on, french fries and coleslaw on the sandwich. I’ve been hard pressed to find a better beer food. Yum!

  5. Mark, Seattle WA says

    I’m a little late here, but my dad grew up near Philly (in Willingboro) and instilled in me a love of Tandy Takes. I always wondered why he called them that, when on the box it clearly said “Kandy Kakes.” But they are teh awsum, that’s for sure.

    *is currently considering ordering a case of Tandy Takes now, to be delivered to Seattle*

    As for the cheesesteaks, I don’t think I’ve ever had a proper one. The panini shop downstairs makes a good “Philli Panini”, but I’m sure it’s not even close to authentic. Still good, though.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>