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South Street Steaks is a Comin' to Downtown Bethesda

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Cruising down Cordell Avenue while on our regular nightly stroll through downtown Bethesda, the wife and I came upon a vacant storefront close to California Tortilla (on the same side of the street). The big sign in the window indicates the joint will house a branch of South Street Steaks (the excellent Philly Cheese Steak place in College Park).

Yesssssssss.

--Baka

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  1. Let me know when Pat's or Geno's comes to town.

    23 Replies
    1. re: MFoxM

      Oh, Geno's "English Only" sign would definitely not fly down here ;-)
      SSS sounds very good, actually. Maybe they'll open a branch in Alexandria...
      I have a Philadelphia Cheesesteak Factory nearby, but overall, being outside of Philly, I prefer to just make my own.

      www.piealamona.blogspot.com

      1. re: MFoxM

        Forget Pat's or Geno's! Let me know when D'Allessandro's comes to town!!

        1. re: FoodieGrrl

          Or Tony Luke's!

          But SSS is definitely one of the best I've had outside the Philly area.

          1. re: DanielK

            Not bad; rolls obviously could be better. I only question whether, like almost everything else, it will be worth going to in Beth. I live in Rockville, and probably will go to CP for SSS because it will be too clean in Beth. Need the college student edge for a good steak and cheese.

            1. re: nickdanger

              Plus, if you go to College Park, you get a great gyro at Marathon Deli after the cheesesteak : )

              Kevin

            2. re: DanielK

              omigod, now you've totally got this Philly transplant craving Tony Luke's! a pox on your house, a pox I say. (grin)

              1. re: Feastradio

                philadelphia mag ran a article about cheesesteaks a couple of years ago where the author sampled over 50 cheesesteaks in a 30 day period and ranked each place by clogged coronary arteries. The winner was not the usual suspects (Jims,Pats,Geno's, Tony Lukes , capriotti's orDellesandro's but a small grocery store on South 8th street in south philly about 8 blocks north of the Stadium complex call Crimini's Deli. When in Philly for a concert stopped there and then tailgated in the stadium lot and the cheesesteaks were as good as advertised. Plus a block away is Terminni Brothers Italian Bakery and a packaged good store so all 3 major food groups can be covered in one swoop

              2. re: DanielK

                Forget cheesesteaks. Who do I have to kill to find a good roast pork and broccoli rabe sammitch in this burg?

                1. re: monkeyrotica

                  No such animal here, sadly. Luckily for me, I'll be in Philly next weekend, so I can swing by Tony Luke's to get my fix.

                  1. re: monkeyrotica

                    TONY LUKES!

                    1. re: hotel

                      My god, I just looked at their menu - http://www.tonylukes.com/menu.htm

                      I would die for a place like that to be here in DC! Just ONE place like that - PLEASE!

                      1. re: KevinS

                        Taylor Gourmet does a broccoli rabe with sharp provolone on Sarcone rolls. No roast pork though, but their rissotto balls are tasty.

                    2. re: monkeyrotica

                      go to bebo for lunch.

                      at least once upon a time they served this. i havent tried in forever.

                      1. re: kneelconqueso

                        The version at Galileo Grill was awesome, but it's not a daily thing.

                        http://www.robertodonna.com/restauran...

                  2. re: FoodieGrrl

                    I second the call for D'Allessandro's!

                    1. re: dcish

                      SSS just opened 2 months ago in Gaithersburg right up the street from my house (I live in Kentlands). I walked in today and they have great huge pics of Pat's, Geno's and Jim's up on the wall. I wasn't hungry but will be sure to try it soon.

                      1. re: stever500

                        Did this ever open in bethesda?

                        1. re: beauxgoris

                          Drove by yesterday. The sign is still up, but absolutely no progress. I have my doubts that this will ever happen.

                          1. re: Mister Big

                            i dont think it will happen rumor has it The college park store is not doing well and closing down or sold soon..... but what do i know?

                            1. re: philjr73

                              I've heard the same.

                        2. re: stever500

                          Where, exactly? Will probably go, but last time I was at SSS in CP, the menu had been revised to add some new stuff, which I didn't pay attention to. Still feel that the steak and cheese (as opposed to cheesesteak) is the thing to order in area carryouts (see numerous posts re: steak, lettuce and tomato, mayo, grilled onions and hot peppers on soft sub roll, and variations thereon). Let's leave cheesesteak and roast pork to the City of Brotherly (sic) Love

                          1. re: nickdanger

                            Well, with that mindset, pizza would never have left Naples, Italy, and we wouldn't have NY slices, Chicago deep dish, or that c**p they eat in California. Cuilinary migration and crosspolination can be a wonderful thing. Look at the local bahn mi shops. Then again, it can be a pretty lousy thing (i.e., that slop they peddle at Subway.)

                            1. re: monkeyrotica

                              I live in SF and accidentally found this post whie looking on this board to help my brother, who lives in DC find the best bahn mi in the DC area. "That c**p they eat in California"? Really? Hopefully just an offhand joke! If not, I hope you aren't judging Caliornia-style pizza by California Pizza Kitchen, because I don't see how anyone could call the kind of pizza we get at Pauline's in SF, or the slices at Cheeseboard in Berkeley c**ap. The "California" style is different from NY and Chicago styles for sure, but the distinctive crusts and seasonal and locally-grown and produced toppings generally form pretty damn tasty pies.

                  3. Let me know when Ishkabibble's comes to town.

                    1. The SSS Cordell Ave. location is now open.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: bakagaijin

                        Has anyone been yet? Reviews?

                        1. re: beauxgoris

                          Don't know about the SSS in Bethesda, but the one in Gaithersburg is just okay. Nothing like what you can get in Philly, but if you're desperate, it's probably good enough.

                          1. re: Transplanted Texan

                            SSS in Gaithersburg is the same as what you will get in many places in Philly. Thin sliced rib eye, chopped while cooked over a flat griddle with diced onions, packed into an Amoroso roll with Cheez Whiz (or provolone or American if you prefer).

                            I guess that the fact that it is south of the Mason-Dixon automatically disqualifies it from being "like what you can get in Philly" but since it comes minus the requisite "attitude" I would say it is better.

                            1. re: CDouglas

                              How does this place compare to Philly Mikes?

                              1. re: beauxgoris

                                I remember getting dry cheesesteaks from Philly Mikes as often as I remember getting juicy ones. Have not had that happen at SSS and the Whiz and Amoroso rolls make it much better in my opinion.

                      2. A real Philly cheesesteak in this area??? I'll believe it when I taste it.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Sean D

                          SSS IMO sucks. If you like fake steak then go eat there.

                          1. re: philjr73

                            What do you mean by "fake"?

                            1. re: beauxgoris

                              This guy philjr73 is a troll with an agenda which is easy to see by reading some of his other posts. The simple solution is - do not play along, simply ignore.

                          2. re: Sean D

                            Sean, you should give SSS a try. It's the real deal, says this Philly native.

                            1. re: DanielK

                              I'll definitely do that, Daniel. I live very close-by. If it turns out to be the genuine article, I'll be the first one to scream it from the rooftops. (Though, I admit that I'm tempering my expectations. Been disappointed too many times.)

                              1. re: DanielK

                                Using Philly's Delesandro's and Chubbie's across the street as my standard barer, I think it's safe to say that the Bethesda location is as good as it can get around here. The Aromoso rolls are key, and a good meat to melted cheese (Provolone) to onion ratio make each bite worth every clogged artery.

                            2. According to today's Diamondback, the SSS in College Park is closing and the owner asked all the employees he donked off to keep it a secret. That's a good plan - tell your employees out of the blue that they're losing their jobs, then ask them to keep it a secret, out of loyalty, I guess.

                              http://media.www.diamondbackonline.co...

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: treetop tom

                                As a business owner, I can personally attest that this isn't a business owner's first choice. My guess is that he was facing a perfect storm of three elements - the College Park lease was up for renewal, the Bethesda lease was in risk of being picked off by someone else, and the current College Park business wasn't enough to keep the doors open. At the same time, you don't want to leave the impression that the business is failing (which it actual may not be).

                                As much as I love food, I would never open a food business. It is literally the single riskiest category of small business in the U.S.. Even when times are good, you can be only weeks or months from losing your shirt. To do it, you really have to be following your dream. Cut the owner some slack.

                              2. OK...I went to South Street in Bethesda tonight. Bottomline: This is an OK steak and cheese sub....but, it is definitely NOT a Philly-grade cheesesteak.

                                I watched them prepare this sandwich. They did not use fresh-cut steak. They were using frozen, Steak-Um type meat. Nor, did they fry fresh onions to order. They were pulling pre-cooked onions from a stainless steel container that was warming on the griddle. Most disappointing of all, the bread (which they called "imported Amoroso rolls")was nothing more than so-so, commercial restaurant supply submarine roll. The roll had no crunch on the crust, no fresh yeast smell or flavor, and did not resemble a Philly steak roll in any way.

                                All in all, it was an OK sandwich and I'd rather buy one of their cheesesteaks, hoagies, or hot dogs than something you'd find at Quiznos, or Subway. Just don't expect the same thing you would find in Philadelphia.

                                18 Replies
                                1. re: Sean D

                                  Just a few observations - your opinion is your opinion, of course.

                                  I've never been to the Bethesda location, but I've been to the College Park (RIP) and Gaithersburg occasions a number of times. I've never seen them use frozen steak. Not saying they didn't for you, just not something I've experienced.

                                  Do they fry the onions to order? No. But, they don't fry the onions to order in Philly either - they have a big pile on the griddle and they chop some in when someone orders. The volume is also substantially different - the more popular cheesesteak places in Philly are cranking out probably 4-5 times the pace of SSS.

                                  And I've seen the Amoroso boxes come off the truck. But I am confused on one thing - steak rolls in Philly are NOT crusty - they're soft, so not sure what you're expecting there.

                                  1. re: DanielK

                                    I agree with you both of you. Better than chains, not as good as the average philly version. Did not think rolls in Philly were crusty, and in fact are soggy under the weight of the ingredients, in a good way.
                                    The "DC version" of cheesesteak, known here as steak and cheese from various carryouts and sub shops, (and the subject of numerous cheesesteak v. steak and cheese posts) needs a roll warmed or crusted on the grill, if only to contain the lettuce tomatoes hot peppers and whatever else that version contains.

                                    1. re: DanielK

                                      I'll elaborate, Daniel....with opinions aside.

                                      The guy at the griddle brought a stainless steel tray (like the kind used on a hot table) full of frozen Steak-Um-like beef sheets (same size and color as the grocery store type). I clearly saw that they were frozen from the dull clatter that they made when he dropped them on the griddle. They were also recognizable as being processed by the visual lack of marbling. When I ate the sandwich, I could tell two things right away. There was no apparent gristle or fat tissue. The beef just tore apart, like a Steak-Um. This clearly indicates a processed meat patty. Also, there was an unusual (and dissapointing) lack of beef fat smell and taste.

                                      Secondly, while you are correct that in Philly they often fry batches of onion, I've never seen any top Philly steak place that fried them and let them sit around for a long time. In fact, I rarely go into a Philly cheesesteak place and don't see fresh batches of onions cooking. It is rare when I don't get a onions from a fresh pile that is frying on the griddle. The onions I had yesterday were greasy, mushy, and lacked any sign of freshness. No effort to conceal this. (The stainless steel drum of onions was in plain sight on the griddle.) There is just no excuse for this. Again, not my opinion...just the observable fact.

                                      Thirdly, I catch your subtle effort to suggest I don't know what I'm talking about with the bread. Well, allow me to elaborate. For four years, I worked for a technology company in the center of Philadelphia. During my time there, I ate an average of 3 cheesesteaks a week. I've eaten them from places all over North Philly, South Philly, and even one or two good ones Delaware. I know the difference between a real cheesesteak and a pretender cheesesteak.

                                      The places I used to eat at got their bread delivered every morning, usually in big open bread rack trays. (All under a big piece of plastic wrap - never individually packaged in bags.) I always noticed slight bit of condensation on the plastic canopy, indicating that they rolls were still warm when package - probably baked that morning. Some rolls were cleanly formed (as shown in one of the attached pictures), while others had imperfections (such as the broken end where the rolls baked together in the attached picture). Though, in both cases the smell of yeast was always evident. The outside of the roll was always slightly crunchy (where the gluten would crack when bent), or very crunchy if the roll was extremely fresh. The exterior was always firm and had some degree of crustiness. The interior of the roll was spongy, flavorful, moderately soft (not Wonderbread/not French bread) with a moist medium crumb.

                                      By contrast, the roll at South Street Steaks was obviously from a bag and was clearly formulated for long shelf life. The exterior crust was soft, crinkled, and had no sign of crunchiness. The interior was more aerated and rubbery. There was no smell of yeast, whatsoever.

                                      This emphasis on "Amoroso" rolls that you and the restaurant have persuaded me to do a bit of investigation. In all these years, I've never attached a brand name to the bread that Philly cheesesteak places use. (Like most people up there, I go by the quality of the product.)

                                      I went to the website:

                                      http://www.amorosobaking.com/product_...

                                      Here's what I found. Apparently, they have three separate product lines. These include "food service", "deli/bakery", and "thaw and serve". These are three separate product lines. The "deli/bakery" is only delivered to the immediate local service area around Philly. (i.e., these are very fresh, daily delivered, highly perishable products delivered in bulk.) The "food service" and the "thaw and serve" are product lines that are formulated, prepared, and packaged for transport to further destinations and longer shelf life. (i.e., these are bagged products with more preservatives and less freshness.

                                      )

                                      Now here is the final word on this bread that you and South Steet Steaks seem to be so impressed by: I called them and found out the following:

                                      - They have only one bakery - in South Philly - and they produce no product outside that location.
                                      - When asked how I could access their product in the D.C. area, I was transferred to the "frozen division".

                                      Daniel, I can tell the difference between good product and bad. Besides being a foodie, I was a restaurant manager for many years. The rolls that South Street uses are identical to the bagged rolls that we received from Murry's and our other suppliers. I'm sure that these rolls are from Amoroso, but there is no way that they are the same quality as those used in the Philly area. Same for the non-authentic beef product. I invite anyone to repeat this research.

                                      Again, South Street Steaks isn't bad...it's just not authentic Philly.

                                       
                                       
                                      1. re: Sean D

                                        I wonder how far south Amoroso's delivers fresh-baked rolls? I know I've seen them fresh at the Jersey shore as far south as Cape May. Delaware? Maryland? Hmm.
                                        Sean-I agree that cheesesteak rolls have a bit of crust that cracks-not a limp, wrinkly exterior (that you really can't call a crust).
                                        Great research. It is very interesting to see the diversity of bread suppliers used for cheesesteaks and hoagies in Philly. I've taken to asking when I visit, and have had some intersting answers.

                                        1. re: Sean D

                                          Again, I never questioned the experience you had, just that I had a different experience at a different location. I didn't appreciate your tone suggesting otherwise.

                                          I did not get what you describe as frozen processed meat in the CP or GB stores over many visits. If they've recently switched, or that's what they do in the Bethesda location, then so be it. I also didn't deny that this is what you were served, as you imply.

                                          Of course bread baked in Philly, and moved to DC, is not going to be as good as baked in Philly and served in Philly. I only said that, growing up in Philly, I never had cheesesteaks on crusty bread. I stand by that assertion. The bread I was served at SSS did not approach supermarket-quality packaged bread in any way, though I readily admit it's not as good as bread that was in the factory an hour earlier.

                                          I don't know if you had a bad day at the Bethesda SSS, whether that store is substantially different than the GB or CP locations, or whether changes in the past 2-3 weeks have changed the sandwich. But what you describe is, objectively speaking, not what I have experienced.

                                          1. re: DanielK

                                            I'll accept your elaboration, Daniel. However, I will remind you that your post began with a statement suggesting that my comments were largely opinion-driven. Your post also ended with a comment that suggested that I did not understand the product that I was commenting on.

                                            My post was based on observable fact that I personally gathered during my visit...and I made this clear in my comments.

                                            One of the reasons that I attached the two pictures of the Philly cheesesteaks is that they prettymuch show the range of exterior gluten and crust that is common to a good Philly cheesesteak. (One of these pictures is from Pat's in South Philly.) I know this gluten very well. Take a close look at the pictures. Notice the hardened dough peaks and the cracked dough surface...along with the crumbs. Not crazy crunchy...but not the soggy, limp stuff I got from South Street. (Definitely not the type of bread that you would get frozen and thaw out.)

                                          2. re: Sean D

                                            A rather disturbing post. Steak-Umms? And they just opened? I can attest that the rolls were out of a bag, I saw a few bags filled with rolls when I was there. Did not think they were even as good as Philadelphia Mike's.

                                            1. re: KevinS

                                              Jeeze. Not even the Chinese carryouts use Steak-Umms on their steak and cheeses. It's always a thin sliced ribeye or bulgogi-style shredded beef.

                                              1. re: KevinS

                                                Just go take a visit, order something..and quietly watch. I went there around dinner time (between 18:30 and 19:00).

                                                Again, its not a terrible sandwich. It's just not a real Philly cheesesteak. (It's about equal to the average D.C. area attempt at cheesesteak.)

                                                Frankly, I think they make a much better cheesesteak at Continental Pizza on Connecticut Avenue in Kensington. Philadelphia Mike's is OK, but nothing special.

                                                One thing I did not mention was that I actually bought another sandwich - a traditional Cuban pressed sub. It was pretty good and really cheap (about $5.50). The cheesesteak is about $7.50 for the 12". In fact, the prices on everything there are pretty good.

                                                1. re: Sean D

                                                  "I think they make a much better cheesesteak at Continental Pizza on Connecticut Avenue in Kensington."
                                                  I haven't been to Continental for a while, but they used to have the best steak'n'cheese in the area.

                                                  1. re: Sean D

                                                    Sean, I'd be interested in your take on the Gaithersburg operation. Need to get out there myself to see if they've changed their offering since my last visit a few weeks ago.

                                                    1. re: DanielK

                                                      I'll give em a try, Daniel. Like I said, it wasn't a terrible sandwich. Even the non-authentic one I had in Bethesda was worth $7.50. Perhaps, the other locations are a bit closer to the mark.

                                              2. re: DanielK

                                                I agree with Daniel about the crusty rolls. My recollection over 30 years of eating cheesesteaks and the rolls are always soft.

                                                1. re: DCNatFan

                                                  I don't think you gathered my meaning, DCNatFan. This roll at the Bethesda location was downright flabby...similar to bagged sub rolls that you buy at the grocery store. The Philly sub rolls I'm used to range from moderately crusty to smooth/glutinous/flexible. (This is most likely due to the softening of the outer gluten layer, as a result of condensation from the cooling process.)

                                                  The context of all of this is that the rolls are made fresh and delivered daily/frequently for rapid usage.

                                                  Bread that can't be used quickly (such as food service product) requires preservatives to extend the shelf life. This is usually geared toward preserving a soft interior and exterior. (Hint: Compare a fresh-made loaf of grocery store Italian bread from the store bakery, with a bagged Italian sub roll from the same store. The grocery store loaf will be rock-hard in a few hours. The bagged rolls will be soft for many days.)

                                                  I'm not sure what your experience is with Philly cheesesteak. As I've mentioned, I've had lots of the real thing...from Philly. Perhaps, you should give the South Street location in Bethesda a try, yourself.

                                                  1. re: Sean D

                                                    I will try to check them out this week. I have been to both the original in College Park and Gaithersburg and did not experience what you got in Bethesda. I will report back once I give it a shot. It is disappointing to hear as I was looking forward to having them close by.

                                                    1. re: Sean D

                                                      So, whole lotta posts in the last few days. Anyone interested in a quick group visit to SSS (either location) this weekend? For research purposes, of course.

                                                      1. re: Sean D

                                                        I went to both South Street (Bethesda) and Philadelphia Mike's last night. Did my best to analyze the meat. The cheesesteak I got at South Street was definitely not Steak-Umm. I saw some pieces that had a bit of gristle, and some showed resistance when tearing it. Also, had to chew some bits for a while to break down the fibers. I won't say it was rib-eye, but it was not a processed slab. But who knows if that's always the case, maybe they have a back-up of Steak-Umms in case they run out.

                                                        Philly Mike's is off my list now. That was definitely Steak-Umm. Steak-Umm hash, to more precise. They chop it up to the size of your pinky fingernail. All the pieces were the exact same consistency, and had a yellowish-gray color to them. That place has gone way downhill. It was not good at all. The rolls at both places seemed fine to me. There was a light but noticable crust on both, and both were very fresh. South Street's was much fresher than the first time I went.

                                                        South Street keeps containers of the meat and onions between the grills. The onions were pre-fried, and the meat, if previously frozen, was defrosted, but gray. I'll tell you, I think the humble cheesteak I get a Biblios in Cleveland Park is better than both these places. At least he uses rib-eye, and it's red, although frozen. I know it's rib-eye because I asked him. Only problem is they are just too small.

                                                        1. re: KevinS

                                                          Too Small? Burp!