I spent three days of last week in a hospital bed in Austin, pained and dying slowly from the intestinal blockage poisoning my body. You can imagine the agony I went through, as Friday turned into Tuesday with only a cup of vegetable broth and potassium pills in my stomach. Because of this, I apologize for my absence in last week’s On Sandwiches postings. That being said, a Wednesday spent at home began to reignite my hunger for quality sandwiches, and a long-planned trip to Philadelphia on Thursday brought to light a reality I had to face with any amount of empty stomach — the reality that no man should visit Philadelphia without ingesting a cheesesteak. Even a vegan.
Enter: Mi Lah Vegetarian, the South 16th St. eatery known for its local, seasonal vegetarian cuisine. Mi Lah’s dishes are of an international array fit to impress the most sophisticated vegetarian palate, and I suppose that in a city where pizza parlors and street vendors all offer cheesesteaks, finding a steak on Mi Lah’s diverse menu was not a surprise. What was a surprise is an issue that has been fervently discussed On Sandwiches in the past, with a twist — a vegan cheesesteak with not a simulated provolone, but a simulated cheese whiz. I am open minded to the idea of whiz on a steak, but not a supporter of it.
The sandwich itself was delicious, possibly saved by simulated whiz and provolone not being as violently distinct as their omnivorous counterparts. I found the steak a bit dry, with cheese portioned along the curve of the bread rather than melted throughout, allowing for overwhelming bites on its inside and sparsely touched crisps on the out. I compared it directly to my normal Philadelphia stop, Gourmet-to-Go and their Pepper Steak sandwich, and while I could note the improved ingredients at Mi Lah, I may prefer the down-home, diner-like presentation of the latter. Regardless, I felt comforted participating in the ritual of the local favorite, and would recommend the sandwich (and especially Mi Lah) to any travelers. When you haven’t eaten well in a week, nearly anything tastes like Heaven … even cheese whiz.