On 11/10/10 at 11:05 a.m. J writes:
So I’ve been on the road again a good bit this week, but not really on the road, which means that I get my food stipend and can eat in places that I normally wouldn’t, because, well, I’m cheap. So food trucks serve a special niche for me because of their low cost goodness.
And before everyone starts to get all upity on me, you should know that some very highly placed journalists and industry PR people have enjoyed food trucks as well, so smoke on your pipe and put that in, or whatever.
This week though I was taking some out-of-town friends and colleagues out for a Philadelphia cheesesteak. They said they wanted the authentic experience, which, of course, as we all know, means Pat’s, Geno’s or Jim’s. We eliminated Pat’s and Geno’s because it was 30 degrees and while I do have fond memories of eating a cheesesteak from Pat’s at 3:00 a.m. when it was 12 degrees out, with my friends and I all saying various versions of, “YOU GOTTA WANT IT!!!” I think I might have been drunk at the time. So my memory might be cloudy.
Anyway, we went to Jim’s. Jim’s is the cheesesteak place on 4th and South. It has pictures of famous people and it sells T-shirts and hats. I’m not ready to call this an iron-clad rule yet, but if you are selling hats and reminding people that famous people once ate there, presumably before veganism and vegetarianism became morally superior, you really aren’t thinking about your food anymore.
We got to Jim’s at around 6:00 p.m. on a Sunday night and the line was out the door. There were people from Germany, Montreal and what I assume were other foreign countries because the line moved in an orderly non-disruptive fashion, so it’s unlikely they were all from Philadelphia.
My companions and I kept in good humor as we waited in line at the cheesesteak stand. By the time we got to the grill, I had in mind what I wanted to order. Whiz with extra whiz. My female companion behind me said she wanted the same thing, and the other dude ordered the same thing without onions.
We managed to find tables upstairs surprisingly easily given the crowd in the lobby, but while I enjoyed the company, the food was a total disappointment. I had paid $.70 for extra whiz, and I was left wondering what a normal whiz steak would have looked like. Part of the charm of a Philadelphia cheesesteak is when the whiz drips out onto the wrapper and you can sop it up with what’s left of your roll like a biscuit. But on this cheesesteak I couldn’t even taste the whiz.
In fact, all I could really taste were the onions, which were piled on top, rather than grilled into the meat like they are supposed to be and not quite cooked right. The bread was cold.
I paid $10.50 for the experience; money wasted.
On Tuesday night I wound up working late again and walked through the Gallery Mall. There’s a steak place there called Charley’s Fried Steaks, which gives out excellent samples on days when you are lucky. But here’s the thing- the actual cheesesteaks you pay for are not nearly as good as the sample.
I ordered the chicken club, which was supposed to come with cheese, bacon, tomatoes and lettuce. They grilled it, and didn’t put any bacon on it, which was my first disappointment.
Then they sent it down the assembly line to a surly little man who stood in front of the fixings bar. He stared at me. Not, with a “what would you like, sir?” smile but with a “what do you want?” look that didn’t have a question with it. I was going to say just put on what it’s supposed to have on it, but since they had already screwed up the bacon, I didn’t have much hope that they’d get the rest of the sandwich right so I proceeded to make my own creation.
And it didn’t work out. The combination of swiss cheese (yes, swiss cheese), ranch (I choked) and hot peppers (again, another mistake) made the whole sandwich a disappointment.
Equally disappointing were the cheese fries, which I had paid a premium for and which, well, wound up being far too soggy.
I paid $11.67 for the experience. Money wasted.
From now on, I’m just sticking with the food trucks.
Now who wants pie?