The first cheese steak I covered here at On Sandwiches was from a bay area establishment boasting an authentic Philadelphia Cheese Steak. I found this claim lacking, though it wasn’t the imported rolls that fell short:
For all of the boasting of imported rolls, the sandwich is missing something some essence of Philadelphia. It isn’t aggressive. The cheese is only overwhelming at the occasional bite. Grease may leak out, but the sandwich itself holds together nicely, the portions are sensible and easily managed. Upon finishing the sandwich I was satisfied, but I did not sit back and let loose one big sigh and two or three cusses. And that, as you might imagine, is a far cry from Philadelphia. This sandwich may be enough to impress someone who has never been to the city of brotherly love, but that isn’t me. I’ve been to Philadelphia, and “sensible” isn’t a word you would use to describe a cheese steak.
Hoagie Steak Out, thankfully, is a place that understands this. The Rising Sun is listed as a special, and it includes steak, sauteed mushrooms, bell peppers, and onions, plus a fried egg. That’s a lot for a toasted hoagie roll to handle; a sandwich like that is a fairly large gamble. I have to say I was quite pleased with what I received.
It was loaded from the side, which is never my preference, but picking it up and closing it like a proper sandwich set things right. It gave the layers a symmetry: steak, then the mushroom/onion/pepper mix, then the cheese, then the fried egg, then cheese again, veggies, steak, and back to the roll. The warm yolk lay at the center, radiating richness. I don’t know whether this is an accident of construction or a deliberate stroke, but in either case the effect is delightful. The steak is the typical dry sort of stuff you find on a cheese steak, but it’s well grilled and plentiful. There wasn’t too much cheese, which is a concern on any sandwich, namesake be damned. There wasn’t enough mushroom, but having enough mushroom is a very rare thing. As a whole, it was well balanced, greasy but not excessively so, rich but not overwhelming, substantial but not falling apart.
Anyone who’s been to Philadelphia can wear your ear off grousing about the city or its inhabitants, but for all of that, people keep going. Fact is, the city is an odd kind of charming. There’s much not to like, and much more that would be very easy not to like if it went a little bit farther than it does, but it doesn’t. And so it was that I found a distinctly Philadelphian sandwich in an establishment making no boasts of authenticity at all. Rather than presenting ingredients listed by provenance, Hoagie Steak Out simply presents something that could be a giant, disgusting mess, but isn’t. The sandwich carries an implication, and it is well understood.