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Aug 13, 2000 03:40 PM


  • l

Hi...We're moving to the Lowell/Burlington area from Phila,PA. Any place to satisfy a craving for cheesesteaks?

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  1. Linda: I would forget about trying to satisfy that craving until you take a trip back home to Philly. New Englanders don't eat what you would consider a cheesesteak. If you go into your local House of Pizza/sub shop, you will probably not see "cheesesteak" listed under subs. You will probably see "steak," "steak and cheese, "steak, cheese, mushrooms," steak, cheese, mushrooms, peppers, onions, etc."

    What you will get is better bread, better meat, provolone instead of yellow goop, and if you're wise sauteed peppers, mushrooms, and onions. If you see something called a "steak bomb" or something like that, order it.

    Philly cheesesteaks might be at the very top of my "Whole being greater than the sum of the parts" list.

    A good steak sub from your local sub shop should make you feel welcome in New England!

    18 Replies
    1. re: Bob W.

      > you will probably not see "cheesesteak" listed under subs

      I beg to differ! "Cheesesteak sub", as such, is VERY common in Boston!! I do not know how this may or may not relate to "real" Philly style/taste, though. In our local sub shop, it just was melted cheese in the steak. The fact that Linda pluralizes it (not to mention hyphenates) implies to me that there is some "unit", i.e., a lump of STEAK. Certainly I've never heard anyone back home put an -s on the word in a sentence like hers, although a usage like "3 cheesesteaks" would still be legit.

      A (cheese)steak bomb is NOT the same thing. In fact, (cheese)steak bomb, (cheese)steak sub, and (cheese)steak grinder were three very different things in the shops I knew...but I hesitate to recall the distinction(s) here, as I will surely get it wrong, and hear LOUDLY about it afterwards....

      1. re: Jim Wong

        Jim: The roll is different. The meat is different. The cheese is different. The additional stuff is different.

        So I think I was correct in warning the person from Philly not to expect what she knows as a cheesesteak.

        1. re: Bob W.

          > So I think I was correct in warning the person from Philly not to expect what she knows as a cheesesteak.

          Yeah, and I AGREED with that (tentatively)!! I was questioning your statement that the *TERM* was not in use (for either version).

          I would like to hear what the specific diffs in the sandwiches are, though. Also steak bomb and steak grinder, while you're at it.


          1. re: Jim Wong

            I hope others will jump in, but let me give this a try:

            1. Bread: Philly rolls are spongier
            2. Meat: Philly steak is chewier; they must be members of the Utility Grade Meat Council (that was for Simpsons fans)
            3. Cheese: Philly places use some kind of yellow goop; the cheese of preference in New England is provolone
            4. Other stuff: In Philly they traditionally stop with onions; in New England you can and should get mushrooms and peppers too.

            Remember, in Philadelphia they eat scrapple by choice!

            As for steak bomb, this just seems to be what some places call their loaded steak subs. A long gone sub shop called Anne's on Needham Street in Newton (sadly, now a Dunkin' Donuts, as if we would not be a better world with one less D-squared and one more quality sub shop) was known far and wide for its steak bombs.

            As for steak grinder, being from Rhode Island I just consider grinder a synonym for sub, so I don't see any difference between steak grinder and steak sub.

            This is getting more complicated than the great milkshake debates!

            1. re: Bob W.

              Thanks for the mention of Anne's. I had forgotten the name but not the place. Do you remember the Tuna Salad/Egg Salad combo? I have had several other places make it for me over the years but never saw it on the menu. I like it about 60% Tuna and 40% Egg. It's a great mix------ "THANKS ANNE!".


              1. re: Bob W.

                I most often see them sold as a "steak & cheese sub". Eastern Mass. calls it a sub, Western Mass. calls it a grinder...

                1. re: C. Fox

                  > Eastern Mass. calls it a sub, Western Mass. calls it a grinder...

                  My point was simply that Eastern Mass has *BOTH* on its menus.

                2. re: Bob W.

                  > I just consider grinder a synonym for sub

                  That definitely wasn't true in Eastern Mass. As a first approximation, I was told that a grinder was loaded up cold and toasted altogether, whereas a hot sub was just hot INSIDES stuffed into a (generally cold, possibly warm but not toasted) bun. In fact, I believe some shops used the term for something akin to a CALZONE (I recall "pizza grinder" being a set phrase).

                  I am not entirely certain of the details, but I know that at least PART of the distinction between grinder and sub was the toasting. But I too have seen grinder used elsewhere (Chicago was it?) to mean plain old SUB, no distinction.

                  Now, does someone want to add HERO to the list? We grew up hearing that that might be NYese for sub, but if I heard the term in Boston, I'd be more inclined to think of some sort of club sandwich on normal bread.

                  By the way, does the NY term hero actually come from GYRO? In Boston and NY, non-Greeks usually pronounce it as written (like GYROscope), but I hear people elsewhere in the country pronounce it like "hero". And here in Seattle, it's "yeero". I dunno which of these last 2 is closer to the Greek, but either one could have given rise to a "hero" sandwich, no?

                  1. re: Jim Wong
                    Meredith Merridew

                    Oh man, here we go again. Pointless etymology time, round two. Thanks, "Jim."

                    1. re: Jim Wong

                      While in Greece, all the Greek people pronounced gyro's as "yeee-ros". Heard a few folks say "gyro" as in -scope and they winced!

                      1. re: Tammy

                        The way some people pronounce gyros reminds me of a funny story.

                        About 15 years ago I went for lunch at an alleged Italian restaurant on Washington St. in Boston near Downtown Crossing. It may still be there but I can't remember the name. Anyway, I orded gnocchi, pronoucing it, of course, nyawky. My blonde waitress said "THE WHAT?" Not missing a beat, I replied, "the Gnotchy" (pronouncing ever single letter). Blondie's eyes lit up (swear to god) and she said, "Oh, the Gnotchy."

                        The Gnotchy weren't bad. Are there bad gnocchi? There are light gnocchi and heavy as lead gnocchi, but they all taste good to me.

              2. re: Jim Wong

                I'd say Boston is underrated as a cheesesteak town. A Philly native might have stylistic quibbles, but when I lived there (and was young enough that "cholesterol" wasn't part of my vocabulary) I used to eat them all the time, and when I visit I'll go out of my way for one. (Though you don't generally have to go too far out of your way -- most decent pizza shops will turn out a good one, and spike it with hot pepper relish.) Come to think of it, I'd like to have one right now.

                1. re: Jim Wong

                  For the record: You can get your choice of cheeses in Philly. Either the cheese whiz style or regular cheese such as provolone. There are dissenting opinions on which is better just as the opinions on whether Pat's or Geno's is the best (South Philly). For my money, Pat's Cheesesteak with cheese whiz and onions is heavenly! I wish I could find something like that in Boston too!

                  1. re: Jim Wong

                    I just realized I forgot to note, you're from the Boston area, are you, "Jim"?


                      1. re: Jim Leff

                        > so, you're from the Boston area, are you, "Jim"

                        Not exactly. But my WIFE is....

                      2. re: Jim Wong

                        Bob"s fine foods in Medford MA used to have te best cheese steak sub anywhere untill three or four years ago. It (used to be real rib eye (chuck) cut on a slicer(partially frozen on a clicer about 1/16 of an inch thick, fried on the grill with lots of whatever veggies you wanted (MMMMMM onions). Tender, flavorfull meat with Land O Lakes white cheese on a fantastic braided and seeded ten inch by five inch seeded scali roll loaded with tender ,big, folds of cheesy beef. Then Bob or his son went the way of all the sub shops in this part of New England and started purchasing that thin, tasteless, greasy, shaved mystery meat and once again a classic was ruined. People still buy them I guess. I used to drive many miles to Bob's when I had the urge and told many, many people to go there. NO MORE BOB.When you have a winner that people drive twenty miles to buy why change it? Charge more if you have to, but keep it the same. It was the best anywhere. Oh well.

                    1. About 30 minutes from Burlington. Take Route 2 West to the Acton/Maynard exit. Take a left off the Exit onto Route 27 (going towards Maynard). A few hundred feet to your left is a strip mall (WOodworkers' Warehouse, liquor store, Dunkin Donuts, TC Landos and a few other stores). People around here SWEAR by their cheesesteak subs. I don't know if they fit the "proper" Philly definition, but they are damn good! B)(BTW, it's take-out only)

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Chris

                        Yup, I second Lando's. There's one in downtown Hudson, MA too. Definitely the best cheesesteaks available in MA.

                        1. re: htown

                          i'll third it, myelf.

                          i just went there the other day at the behest of my mom, and it's the best thing this side of Northeast Philadelphia.

                          The pizza ain't bad, either. the ads are darn funny, too; the dot-com mob makes it hard to go there during lunch, but it's still darn good. :)

                          1. re: chowzilla
                            Andrew Barber

                            I wouldn't call TC Lando's the best. I would call them the largest. I feel that the bread they use isn't very good. It's kind of mushy and fluffy. I prefer something a little more crusty and less poofy.

                            But, I would still recommend them! Despite the bread, they make a mean cheese steak .

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