I have looked at the Bay Area cheese steak before, and I found it lacking. Philly Style Food is a more recent addition to downtown San Jose, and it sits almost directly across the street from the Cheese Steak Shop. It’s hard to imagine it is anything other than a direct challenge, a move befitting an establishment bearing the colloquial “Philly” in its name. Aside from the name, though, Philly Style Food makes no additional boasts of authenticity. There is no note on the origin of the bread, for example. It seems they are content to let the food stand on its own; it will either pass as Philly Style or it will not. I wish I could offer you a verdict there, but I fear they walk a line so narrow it would take a local to make a fair ruling. I have walked Philadelphia, friends, but I have not lived it. The sandwich featured what I know of a cheese steak sandwich; beef was thrown a flat top with onion, minced fine, provolone laid on top to melt. After placing that in a roll, pickles and ketchup were added, and that’s where my knowledge fails. (I had, as is policy at On Sandwiches, replied to the standard “Everything on it?” with a simple “Yes, please.”) Pickled and ketchup aren’t completely out of place on a cheese steak, but they’re not part of the traditional, classical concept, and more than that I could have sworn that that sort of sandwich hailed from some other part of Pennsylvania. In short, it seemed to me that a sandwich distinctly billed to be Philly Style was exactly the opposite. But I cannot say for certain, and so I will reserve judgement on the philosophical component of the sandwich.
What I do feel qualified to rule on, though, was the quality. It was a fine sandwich. The cheese melted all the way down, mixing in with savory beef and well cooked onions. The roll had a nice chewy crust and the ketchup wasn’t so sweet it took over the sandwich. So while I may not be able to say with any certainty whether or not this was strictly Philly Style, I can assure you that it was a tasty sandwich.