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The Cheese Steak Shop: Report

Yesterday I accompanied a friend to an appointment at Mt Zion medical center, and after some bad news we needed comfort food. He had heard from a colleague that The Cheese Steak Shop, right across the street, was good, so we gave it a try.

The simple, shabby decor, with pasted-up maps and posters related to Philadelphia lore, reminded me a lot of sub-type shops in the blue collar New England town where I grew up. When we arrived, around 12:30, the place was bustling.

The menu includes some hoagies, but clearly the emphasis is on cheese steaks. You can get about ten different varieties, from the classic Philly to barbecue and even a cheeseless version. Subs come in 7, 10, and 15 inch lengths.

We both went for the classic Philly: I ordered a 7 inch, he got a ten inch. We added sweet and hot peppers as well as onions. We split a side of steak fries, and also ordered chocolate Tastykakes and two fountain root beers.

The cheese steak was great, set on a roll with just the right amount of give and absorption. The onions had been cooked and chopped into the meat and melted American cheese, with peppers piled on top. If anything, I would have liked a touch more cheese, but this is definitely the best cheese steak either of us had tried on the West Coast.

Tastykakes are a Mid-Atlantic snack cakes, much like Hostess or Entemanns, but with more of a cult following. The restaurant keeps chocolate, butterscotch and (I think) crumb cake Tastykakes in the fridge. It was strange to eat a cold cupcake, but we liked them.

This seems like a tough place to get into and out of during a lunch break--they guy who was taking orders from the line was also handling phone orders and pick-ups, so it took about half an hour for me to order, though I was only fifth or sixth in line. We weren't in a rush, so it was no problem, but if you were on a lunch break you would probably want to call your order in.

We both liked the slice of SF society the restaurant offered. In line with us were MUNI drivers, doctors, nurses and blue collar workers from the hood.

Also, the price was ridiculous. On Wednesdays, all sides are half off, so our fries were $.80 and Tastykakes were also discounted. Our total bill was $14, a great deal.

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  1. At the Berkeley shop and possibly others, you can get it wit wiz for a small additional fee.

    1. Sorry that your friend received bad news. Is this the place on Divisadero and Bush?

      8 Replies
      1. re: Lori SF

        Thank you, I appreciate that.

        Yes, I tried to link, but it is on Divis between Bush and Sutter, one block up from the main Mt Zion hospital building, and across the street from the building of physicians offices.

        1. re: pane

          ok that is the place I was thinking, from time to time I have parked right in front and noticed the place was very busy at odd times of the day and thought something good must be going on. Thanks for your report, I will give it a try. Hope all is well.

          1. re: Lori SF

            I had the same experience there two weeks ago after an appt at Mt. Zion. I was thrilled...I haven't had a steak and cheese sub like that since I left the East Coast 13 years ago. Score!

            1. re: zunzie

              For those of you that have tried both, how does the Cheese Steak Shop compare to Jake's Steaks on Buchanan?

              1. re: mrs bacon

                I've only been to Jake's twice, but I've enjoyed the cheesesteak at the Cheese Steak Shop near Mt. Zion many times. The two are comparable though the Cheese Steak Shop uses a bit more cheese and it also makes italian hogies and grinders. If you like fries, it sells the thick cut steak fries rather than the waffle type at Jake's. The only thing I haven't liked is the "pickle in a bag"

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                Cheese Steak Shop
                1716 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94115

                1. re: wanderlust21

                  Have you been to Jake's since it changed hands in the last year or so?

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                  Jake's Steaks
                  3301 Buchanan St, San Francisco, CA 94123

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    I had one delivered a couple of weeks ago. It was on a busy football filled Sunday, so I wouldn't consider it a perfect specimen of their work -- still good though. I didn't know they had new owners, I'll have to stop in and give it a try. Thanks for the tip.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      Went to Jake's last week and I have to update my opinion. Had a very good cheesesteak with american cheese and hot peppers -- packed with meat and cheese. As far as sandwiches, the two shops are equally good to me. I also had the chili cheese fries. The chili was just o.k., but the fries were good so I'd definitely get the cheese fries next time.

        2. I'm no expert on Philly Cheese Steaks but I've never had a better one than at the Cheese Steak Shop. My daughter and I liked the peppers that come with the cheese steak so well that we prevailed upon them to sell us a jar. They are the real deal, from a supplier in Philadelphia. I go there whenever I am in the area at lunch time, which is a couple of times a year.

          1. There are a number of Cheese Steak Shops around, sometimes popping up in
            unexpected locations (Truckee?!?). In my experience, uniformly good. If upper
            Divis is out of your way, here are some other options: http://www.cheesesteakshop.com/locati...

            1. The Cheese Steak Shop is my favorite cheesesteak anywhere in the US of A - nothing I've had on the East Coast does it for me quite as much, nor do Gumbah's in Vallejo or Amato's in San Jose.

              I also like the fact that they're obviously trying to be loyal to the Philly original, instead of being "The California Cheese Steak Shop".

              To the OP, hopefully you'll be able to enjoy one under better circumstances soon.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Agent 510

                Thank you! We went back and ordered the exact same thing. It was too good to branch off just yet.

              2. Has anyone tried the one in Berkeley on University? Is it as good as you all say this one is?

                1 Reply