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Cheesesteaks - No need to travel

  • k

Hang your heads no more, DC Chowhounds! We need no longer feel inferior to Philly!!!! This past weekend, we made the pilgrimage to Pat's in Philly for a cheesesteak. I am having the gastric bypass surgery 8/25 and who knows if I'll ever eat another cheesesteak, so I wanted my (maybe) last to be the "King". It was my first trip to Philly for cheesesteaks. We decided to leave Saturday night at 9pm from Richmond, VA. I ordered a Cheez Whiz Steak with (onions). My husband ordered a Pepper Provelone steak with. They were very, very good. They were almost the best I'd ever had (and we heard some say that Geno's was a bit better). In fact they WOULD have been the best I'd ever had if I hadn't ever been to a certain little dive on Wilson Blvd. in Arlington.
If you haven't been to Mario's and you are hankering for a cheesesteak, you must go - tonight!!!! THEY - not Philly ANYTHING - have the best cheesesteak! My own favorite is a HAM, steak and cheese, but I have had the cheesesteak on it's own and it it tastier and juicier and more flavorful than Pat's ever thought about being. Pat's IS in a MUCH cooler neighborhood, though. There is just something about that South Philly urban, ethnic mix that is so cool.

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  1. Re: Mario's

    Is the guy who remembers everyone's order still there? I've been in there when the line was 15 people deep and the guy memorized what everyone ordered...

    Neat stuff...

    1. Agreed that the Philly atmosphere really makes it. Pat's and Geno's are next to one another (for those that don't know) and everyone eats outside, so the two establishments kinda blend together in sweet urban chaos.
      And nothing beats the background noise and sights of fat Italian Americans giving each other grief. You can't get that in DC.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Jamie D
        Gene De Lisa

        >And nothing beats the background noise and sights of fat Italian Americans giving each other grief.

        Pardon me? That's a truly offensive and stupid comment.

      2. Pat's is a great place to people watch, and truthfully there is nothing as good as walking next door to get a water ice after a sub, something you can't do at Mario's. But I agree. Having had both, Mario is the unheralded KING of the (ham) cheesesteak sandwich.

        But don't tell Philly. Let them continue to be blissfully ignorant of the truth. :-)

        1. As someone to lived in the Philly area for 4 years, I learned that the good, chewy, soaks up the grease bread that is probably one of the most important things in a cheesesteak. Does Marios have the good Philly-area Amoroso rolls (or other similar roll)?

          2 Replies
          1. re: JoyS
            Harry Romano

            There is no comparable bread below Wilmington. Period. There might be really good sandwiches elsewhere, but nothing like Philly hoagies and cheesesteaks unless someone is going up there for bread every morning. Even then, it's not the same, which probably has as much to do with the South Philly atmosphere.

            1. re: Harry Romano

              It definitely is the bread.

              McGerks Pub in Federal Hill (Baltimore) gets its bread daily from Philadelphia to make their cheesesteaks. Haven't been for awhile, but they are as close to an authentic Philly cheesesteak as I've ever had outside of Philly.

          2. Pats? You must be kidding. Probably one of the worst cheesesteaks in Philly. I can imagine that someplace in DC could do as well -- it wouldn't take much. Next time, go right off I-95 at the Packer Ave. exit to Front and Oregon, and try Tony Lukes (also try the roast pork there), or Jim's on South Street (not nearly as good as TL, but better than Pat's).

            1. Mario's cheesesteak is decent, but I still think the cheesesteak's at Trio's in Dupont top 'em. Marinated ribeye, provolone, and good quality bread. Just be aware that one "with everything" includes (ugh) mustard.

              And Dalessandro's is where to go for Cheesesteaks in Philly.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Malcolm J.

                Amen to Delassandros.

              2. One warning: Mario's serves provolone as its default cheese. If you want good-for-nothing-but-a-cheesesteak American cheese, my preference, you have to specify. My favorite is still the cheeseburger with everything on it AND I MEAN EVERYTHING but mayo.

                1. Is this the one? If its the right one...its only .6 of a mile from me, easily walkable. I'm around that area a lot..since I like Common Ground and El Pollo Rico.

                  How is their pizza?

                  Marios Pizza & Subs
                  3322 Wilson Blvd
                  Arlington, VA 22201-2229 Phone: (703) 525-0200

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: jayask

                    that's the one! Wish it was only that far from me!!

                    1. re: Kim Shook

                      What else is good there besides the cheesesteaks? Is their pizza good?

                      1. re: Jayask

                        ...and that's even after having been out at the bars for a while. IIRC, they do have good seasoned fries.

                        1. re: Malcolm J.

                          There are Mario's pizza zealots who absolutely love it. There are also some like myself who remember it from 40 years ago when it was a very real Arlington institution. It was also different from today. I've only had Marios pizza once in the last 15 or so years and reacted the same way that I did 25 years ago: it has nothing in common with the Mario's of the '60's. Frankly, I thought the dried out sausage patty on top was terrible and the pizza a real disappointment from what I remember in high school.
                          Of course this is from someone who still drives from Reston to the original Ledo's on University Boulevard in Hyattsville because he (I) think that is really good pizza! I have to admit that I grew up with Ledo's pizza. But let me underline this: ONLY THE LEDO'S ON WEST UNIVERSITY BOULEVARD IN HYATTSVILLE, which is the original. The several hundred outposts have NOTHING in common with the original.
                          Anyway, I've admitted my bias and value system as well as noting that this is a "taste" that I grew up with that hasn't changed since it opened in 1957 while I am convinced that Mario's has.
                          I should also note that my wife loves Ledo's lasanga in Hyattsville.

                          1. re: Joe H.

                            My wife, who grew up eating Pepi's pizza in New Haven, likes Mario's pizza. Go figure.

                        2. re: Jayask

                          Mario's doesn't serve a cheesesteak. What Mario's serves is a steak and cheese, a sandwich indigenous to metropolitan Washington and the vicinities of Arlington, Falls Church and Alexandria in particular. Philadelphia has it's cheesesteak (which is where it ought to stay, in my opinion) and we have the steak 'n cheese. The names themselves emphasize the fundamental difference between the two. In a cheesesteak the steak is listed second, almost as an afterthought behind cheese, which in the authentic version is not even really cheese, but Cheez Whiz! There is also a roughly equal proportion of fried onions to "steak", usually a flaked meat product which I consider a serious stretch of the definition. The DC sandwich is sliced sirloin or ribeye and provolone, the steak grilled with just enough onion to flavor the sandwich. A number of places have always featured the steak and cheese (Anthony's on Broad St. in F.C., The Broiler and Bob And Edith's on Columbia Pike, Johnny's and Marino's on Rt.1 in Alex. just to name a few) but Mario's is the bastion, the definitive steak 'n cheese. All their other subs are great, but the steak and cheese is king. A large with double steak must weigh a good four pounds. Un-believable! Anyway, the pizza, dubiously enough and despite Joe Heflin's (I'm not worthy!) assertion, hasn't changed a lick in the four decades I've been eating there. It has it's devotees, but I must confess I never ate it unless I didn't have enough money for a sandwich. And even at that, only a plain slice straight out of the oven. I never understood the pre-cooked puck of sausage or handful of canned mushrooms plopped on top of an already-baked slice, but that's the way they've always done it. It is worth noting that there are usually a dozen or so people standing in the sandwich line and maybe one or two waiting for pizza at any given time. You'll find me in the sandwich line and probably more often than is good for me.

                      2. re: jayask

                        Yes, that's it. I am a longtime Mario's devotee. But be warned, it is a category onto itself that I think of as 'guilty pleasure eating.'
                        The bread doesn't compare to Philly. The steak n' cheese is not a cheesesteak, if you know what I mean. Still, it is a thing of beauty - the ham puts it over the top. Like I said before, my favorite is still the cheeseburger with everything.
                        Also, you should try the pizza. Again, it can't be categorized or compared to other pizza. Anymore, I only get a slice with either the BBQ or the sausage (one enormous patty), not just the plain cheese.
                        Lefty, who makes, the subs, and Joe, who serves the pizza, have been there as long as I can remember.
                        BTW, across the street, virtually, is Costa Verde, a peruvian place which is one of the area's great Chowhound spots. Try the fish with white onion sauce.

                        1. re: Steve

                          Costa Verde is good? I'll check it out.

                        2. out of penn before i had to hit the john. everybody talks about philly cheesesteaks, but for real, i think the version available here, through chinese carroyouts throught town, is superior. the meat isnt as chunky, but it is still chipped beef, and the toppings are much better. plus, real provolone, beats cheez whizz, any day of the week.

                          1. I had a ham, steak, and cheese at Mario's tonight, and I did enjoy it, though the sweet pickles were a little strange. (I ordered it with "everything", without asking what that included.) I was a little turned off by the misogynistic t-shirts, though.

                            1. i have eaten steaks in philly (sonny's) and i live near mario's, and i have to agree with the OP, as i have been saying the same thing for years.

                              the steak is fresh rib meat. they have a decent roll. what they are missing is whiz.

                              i order mine with nothing but american cheese and fried onions. its not authentic but it is close and really good.