Philly Slim's Gloppy Mess
Just tried Philly Slim's on University-classic double wiz wit. Gloppy mess. Doesn't compare to Carl's or 99 Miles. Never tried Tony Luke's (which I suspect is the best in the city) since I can't get past the roast pork italian.
tony luke's (both the roast pork italian and the cheesesteaks) is a far cry from the original in south philly. it's one of the better nyc cheesesteaks by default, but no great shakes compared to philly.
i think carl's, wogie's, and tony luke's are the 3 best i've tried in nyc, but again, it's all relative. none of them could hold a candle to even the most mediocre tourist trap places in philly like pat's and geno's.
for what it's worth, i've heard that the cheesesteak factory (a thinly veiled ripoff of the cheesecake factory's moniker) is good by nyc standards.
yeah, i wasn't too impressed with wogie's, actually, but the fact that it's one of the better ones i've had in nyc (by default) illustrates the sad state of affairs here w/regard to the cheesesteak. the only reason i even bothered to mention it is b/c unlike tony luke's or carl's, at least the place is a pub where you can have a few beers and chill out with friends. but yeah, the sandwich itself is unremarkable.
as for cheesesteak factory, i've never been, but have heard from several friends who report that it's ok for ny, but nothing compared to philly. and sietsema of the voice also gave it a (relative) thumbs-up, but mentioned that they use sirloin rather than ribeye! weird...regardless of whether it's chopped or sliced.
agreed with johnleah. you'd think that making a great cheesesteak would be no big deal, but apparently it's still a complete mystery to all the pretenders here in nyc.
better ingredients would definitely go a looong way toward making a superior cheesesteak sandwich. i've noticed that almost every cheesesteak joint in ny (with the possible exception of tony luke's) uses bland, generic rolls that are too thick on the inside and not crusty enough on the outside. this overwhelms the meat, cheese, and onions, which themselves are bad enough to begin with.
meanwhile, the top philly places (dalessandro's, chink's, steve's, john's) all use really good, crusty rolls baked at local italian bakeries. the exterior of these rolls are nice and crispy when you bite into them, but aren't overly thick or doughy on the inside, while being strong enough to hold all the fillings. it's a delicate balance, but the top places in philly get it right.
i'm baffled as to why ny cheesesteak purveyors don't understand this.
then there's the matter of the meat. i can't exactly explain what it is about the best philly places, but the meat tastes juicy, flavorful, and fresh, as opposed to the limp, lackluster, pallid gray meat i always see in ny cheesesteaks. i guess the key factors are the freshness, quality, and appropriate level of fattiness in the ribeye.
another issue that factors into all of this is the turnover rate of the food. i once went into carl's here in nyc and was shocked to see a huge, lumpy, gray mass of meat on the griddle, even though there was no line at all. i mean, come on - would it kill them to make their food to order?
pat's, geno's, and jim's (the 3 biggest tourist trap cheesesteak joints in philly) are able to get away with this b/c of their high turnover rate/constantly long lines, but the places here can't.
even little things like the size and preparation of the onions make all the difference in the world. i often get big, raw chunks of onion in my nyc cheesesteaks as opposed to nicely grilled, thinly sliced, and finely chopped onions in philly.
Tony Luke's is godawful. I had high expectations after trying the original a time or two. The pork w/ the broccoli rabe is wet!, like it had been boiled and insufficiently drained. The same fate befell the broccoli rabe -- insuffiencient drainage. You jam that on some bread and add some provolone and you got nothing good.
The cheesesteak was a more recent try. Horrific. Meat was overcooked to the point of unchewability, couldn't eat more than a bit of it, and I can usually eat anything bad. Fries were ok. Service was strange, well-meaning but inexperienced and unorganized.
I like Wogie's. Haven't tried any other contenders.
re: Peter Cuce
totally agree that tony luke's can't even remotely compare to the original in philly. a big reason for this is that it's not owned or operated by the philly owner; some local nyc dude just paid for the franchise rights so that he could use the tony luke name and ride on the place's reputation. while he does claim to try and emulate everything from the philly original, suffice to say that he falls way short.
philly's not too far from us. the best course of action for any of us would be to take a quick road trip down the nj turnpike whenever we get a craving.