The Philly Cheese Steak
Which local purveyors sell the real thing?
NAILING DOWN exactly what constitutes a real Philly cheese steak sandwich is a little like arguing over how many angels can do the Macarena on the head of a pin. But it’s important because as the number of Philly steak slingers here steadily increases, claims of authenticity and charges of Fraud have these sandwich purveyors behaving like Congressmen.
So we set out to uncover Philly fundamentalism at its source. According to Frank E. Olivieri of Pat’s Steaks in South Philadelphia, who claims his great-uncle invented the sandwich in 1930, a Philly has four core components: freshly baked French-style Italian bread, thin-sliced ribeye steak, sautéed onions, and American, pro-volone or-I kid you not- Cheez Whiz cheeses. Those that deviate from these parameters are simply wannabes.
Rules in hand, we visited three Dallas cheese steak houses to see who serves the closest you can get to a real Philly in the Land of Chicken-Fried Steak.
New England Cheesesteak Co. ($3.90): This basic take-out sandwich shop uses white American cheese, sliced rib-eye and an Italian roll -all the right stuff. The onions, meat juice and cheese mingle on the grill to form a creamy sauce that soaks the bun heavily. It’s a good sandwich, but the meat serving could be a bit more generous. New England also has a vegetarian cheese steak ($3.60)- hard-core sacrilege. 3921 W. Park Blvd., Suite 150; 972-758-9517. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.. Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-8 p.m.. Sunday.
Mien Street Bar & Grill ($7.95, with fries): Since 1991, it’s offered a big, rich sandwich jammed with slices of ribeye and gobs of white American cheese on an Italian sub roll (perhaps a minor infraction). While the sandwich is tasty, the meat was a bit overcooked and gristly. 2900 McKinney Ave.; 214-871-0256. II a.m.-11 p.m., Sunday-Thursday: 11 a.m.-2 a.m.. Friday & Saturday.
Texadelphia ($4.25 with tortilla chips and salsa): This fran-chised offshoot of an Austin eatery founded in 1985 (there’s also one in Houston) deviates the most from Philly orthodoxy, using sirloin instead of ribeye and mozzarella instead of American or provolone. But it also has the smoothest, heartiest flavors, although the meat can be overcooked at times and seems more shredded than thinly sliced. Texadelphia’s huge, shaded three-tiered deck is sure to be a popular summertime after-work beer dispensary. 2312 Leonard St.: 214-969-0905. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Monday-Saturday: noon-3 p.m.. Sunday.
Mongol’s BBQ: Meaty Lunch Awaits
DRESS CASUALLY, DEVELOP A BIG APPETITE AND GET $4.75 FROM your piggy bank. That’s all you need for a lunch at Mongol’s BBQ that includes soup, rice and egg rolls. Do it thusly: Grab a big bowl and heap it high with wafer-thin slices of flash-frozen meats; fresh, nicely trimmed vegetables; and slithery noodles. Move on to barbecue, ginger and wine sauces bland enough to need a scoop of the garlic sauce, then hand your bowl to the chef manning the enormous grill. In minutes, your lunch is ready. The . menu also offers Chinese and Vietnamese choices, but the only one we’d order again is the Vietnamese spring roll. 3797 Forest Lane. Suite 107, 972-241-2939. -Suzanne Hough
GALLO BREAKS OUT OF THE BOX
The E&J Gallo winery, best known for nondescript jugged and boxed wines, has quietly shifted its strategy. In 1993, it began to release limited quantities of its Northern Estate bottled Chardonnay ($30) and Cabernet ($45} to largely enthusiastic reviews. A year later, Gallo introduced the Sonoma Series ($10 to $12): clean, generous wines featuring bottlings of Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot and Zinfandei.
Gallo now is introducing single vineyard-designated wines, including the 1995 Stefani Vineyard Chardonnay ($15), 1994 Frei Ranch Vineyard Zinfandel ($15) and 1994 Barrelli Creek Valdiguie (about $14).
Marty’s, Sigels and some Red Colemans have them. -M.S.
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