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Jan 18, 2008 12:29 PM

the philly cheesesteak (not in philly)

since this seems to have picked up some steam in another thread, i figured to start a new one.

let's hear about the places and their respective products. who is renowned in the baltimore area for cheesesteaks? what do they do that distinguishes them from the rest? who is most authentic to philly?

i'm not an authority on the subject, but i have eaten my share of philly chessesteaks in my 20 years of living there. i know what it takes to make a good one. i don't think anyone here has nailed it, or is within arms-length of getting there.

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  1. MaGerks in Federal Hill has the best cheesesteak in baltimore.

    MD, I hear South Street Steaks

    DC? Nothing I've had has been any good... they all tend to come with LTM, which is not a cheesesteak... that's a steak and cheese.

    8 Replies
      1. re: MarcDC

        South Street Steaks is awesome! Fantastic bread and yummy steak.

        1. re: MarcDC

          Sorry, MarcDC, the Philadephia Water Ice Factory at 1204 H Street, NE, is the REAL DEAL. Unfortunately, it's closed for the winter because they work out of a window on the street but WOW! Bread down from the City of Brotherly Love - Amorosa itself! The sandwich is terrific. No LTM unless you really begged I suppose, but why would you?
          They've got the Water Ice that they're named after. Worth the trip and standing in the lines that they draw.
          People carry them into some of the nearby indie music venues that don't have food service in the popular Atlas District
          They're opening a branch near Howard University. Can't wait for warm weather when they open again. We have missed them.

          1. re: MakingSense

            cool, ive never heard of that place.... ill have to check it out.

            1. re: MarcDC

              Wait until Spring for Philly cheesesteaks, but if you're looking for some great music or good food, there's lots of options on H Street, NE, in DC. It's really hopping. They're packing them in at Granville Moore's, Napa 1015, the new coffee house SOVA, and the music venues -several of which have food.

            2. re: MakingSense

              Is that was the H Street area is being called now---Atlas District? Where does that come from?

                1. re: Mister Big

                  I remember the area around the Atlas theatre from the 1960's. I would NOT be proud of associating anything from that era or the theatre. This was one of the first places in D. C. to burn to the ground after Martin Luther King was assassinated.

          2. Interesting thread. I am going to make the argument that both Baltimore and D. C. are known for the steak and cheese sub-NOT the cheesesteak. (I'd also say the best cheesesteak is not in Philly but in Atlantic City at the White House but that's another thread.) Going back to the '60's both Baltimore and Washington had places that had excellent steak subs: the Cadillac on Rhode Island Avenue, N. E. and, in Baltimore, there was a place at Bel Air and Moravia (whose name I can't remember) that was legendary. There was NO thought given then to cheesesteaks: they were strictly a Philadelphia type of thing.

            The steak and cheese usually had Ottenberg's rolls, not Amoroso (although a number of places have brought them down here for years). There was nothing that spoke of grilled onions that aged on a flat top for the better part of an afternoon or evening; nor cheese Whiz, nor even countless photos of celebrities and wannabees on the underside of a ceiling or a wall-outdoors or indoors. Rather, there was good, cheap mayo, iceberg lettuce, hot house tomato, cheap hot pepper relish, pickles from a large tin can, sliced onion AND grilled onion all with chipped steak and a thin slice of American cheese on the sub roll.

            The first time I had a "real" Philly cheesesteak I was disappointed. It didn't compare to Hungry Herman's in College Park or the Cadillac. Neither did Jim's, Tony Luke's, Pat's, Geno's or any other.

            Of course, today, I know that if I go to Philly or Atlantic City and absolutely prostitute a cheesesteak with lettuce, tomato, mayo, pickles, grilled onion and good "hots" on an Amoroso or an Atlantic City bakery roll the result will be far superior to anything I could ever find here.

            Philly just never got into steak and cheese which was a Mid Atlantic tradition. If they had, with everything that went with it, yes-they would have made a better sub.
            Still, today, even though I have driven from D. C. to both Philly and Atlantic City for a sub, I still believe that a steak and cheese with everything from the Cadillac on Rhode Island Avenue was as good of a beef sub/sandwich that I've ever had. I should also note that I grew up with this...

            15 Replies
            1. re: Joe H

              Joe H rules...very interesting post with a new paradigm and twist....BTW had a great meal at Bebo tonight..and good servoce at the bar as usual

              1. re: prowarbler

                The check is in the mail! Seriously, many thanks for the nice words but growing up here there was a special love for a steak and cheese. Somewhere along the line, perhaps in the '90's, cheesesteaks began to move in and places like Hungry Herman's didn't have the same appeal as, say, the Philadelphia Cheesesteak Factory. In a sense College Park became a kind of microcosm of this...

                1. re: Joe H

                  I totally get what you're saying, they're different animals but the Balto/DC version only flourishes in the summer with good local tomatoes, and Tony Luke's and John's Roast Pork really set a standard with their cheesesteaks and pork sandwiches.

                  1. re: ko1

                    this thread has me really excited for this monday... im going to philly with the gf and taking her to John's Roast Pork (it's better than Tony Luke's imo) to get both a cheesesteak (sharp wit) and an italian pork sub. she's never been there so it should be a nice treat.

                    on the topic of MD steak and cheese, since a very close friend of mine is from philly, ive never really gotten into the steak and cheese with LTM version so popular in our beloved state. I suppose going to philly so often made me more of a purist; that is to say, focus on the meat, rolls, and cheese. I akin it to going to a great steakhouse and asking for A1 sauce; a good steak doesnt need any condiments, nor does a good cheesesteak.

                    1. re: MarcDC

                      It took me many years to realize that the VA steak and cheese is not an attempt at a cheesesteak (although too many times it's referred to as a "Philly" steak and cheese). It is what it is...a really good sub and now I embrace it fully.
                      Joe-Philly does the steak and cheese; always has. It's called a cheesesteak hoagie. LTM and whatever else you want to embellish it with. It's not considered blasphemous to order ala the Kerry swiss cheesesteak. Its often viewed as a change-up from you usual whiz wit or whatnot.

              2. re: Joe H

                I very much agree with most of Joe H.'s post, although I find the fixation between the words "cheesesteak" and "steak and cheese" a little weird. When I was growing up in greater Baltimore (north suburbs), "steak and cheese" and "cheesesteak" were pretty much interchangeable terms for the same thing.

                I also think (as I said earlier in another discussion) that the biggest problem with the rolls on many modern Baltimore steak and cheese (and other) subs is that the rolls aren't fresh.

                Also, in my neighborhood the better sub shops had provolone for the steak and cheese subs rather than American cheese. And even American cheese isn't nearly as horrible as Cheese Wiz.

                I had my first "real" Philly cheesesteak last year (at Pat's), and like Joe H., I was not impressed. The roll was fine, but the overall taste sensation didn't strike me as particularly notable.

                1. re: Joe H

                  Joe--Thank you for your defense of the Washington steak'n'cheese. I ate most of mine at Louie's NY Pizza (and bookie joint) in the Blair Plaza at East West and Colesville Rds. They used provolone, but was otherwise what you described. Daisy and Mary ran the show while Louie and Jocko booked the bets. I'm also surprised no one ever mentions Eddie Leonard's, a large local chain that expired in the '70's.

                  BTW, my one experience at South Street Steaks was less than impressive. The meat was substandard.

                  1. re: Mister Big

                    There's still 2 Eddie Leonards left over in SE. Alabama Ave and Good Hope Road. I think the Eddie's Carryout on Bladensburg used to be Eddie Leonard's but no more. A lot of construction crews that worked for me used to get food there and I ate more of it than I should have.

                    1. re: Mister Big

                      I was a regular customer of Eddie Leonard's on Cameron street for years. And, Louie's!!!! I loved the place. Wasn't there a steak and cheese that was a "Louie special" or something like that? With tomato sauce, grilled onions and peppers? It's been 30+ years so forgive me if my memory isn't accurate but Louie's was special. As was Sammy's in White Oak.

                      1. re: Mister Big

                        In terms of meat quality, Jim's in Philly is one of the better "big" places IMHO, although it usually at least needs some salt. The best places in Philly, though, are really the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall joints.

                        Oddly, growing up in Kentucky, the distinction was made between Philly cheesesteaks and "Pittsburgh"-style "steak and cheese" sandwiches, the latter of which were the LTM hoagies that are so common in DC and MD. Meanwhile, when in the Pittsburgh area, a request for a Pittsburgh-style steak and cheese would get me sent to Primanti's for a cheesesteak dressed w/ fries and coleslaw, which was not at all what I was looking for.

                        Locally, my favorite LTM steak & cheese is probably still the one at George's Townhouse in Georgetown (which, ironically, bills itself as the "King of Philly-Style Cheesesteaks"), although that fondness may be from consuming scores of them during college.

                      2. re: Joe H

                        I come from the south 'burbs of Chicago, so my native variant is the Chicago-style "Italian beef" (where cheese is unusual , but not quite blasphemy). That said, as much as I like a cheesesteak or a good steak and cheese sub, I'd *really* love to find a Philly-style Italian Pork with sharp and rabe! I sometimes think that the Philly natives play up the cheesesteak to outsiders so that the Italian pork stays under the radar, and they can keep it for themselves! :-)

                        1. re: Warthog

                          I was in Philly a few weeks ago and was introduced to the pork & broccoli rabe at Tony Luke's, and I'd have to agree.

                          Rumor has it that Earl's in Clarendon has a pretty good pork & rabe; I haven't had a chance to check it out yet, though.

                        2. re: Joe H

                          Actually, many Philadelphia cheesteak shops have a Cheesesteak Hoagie option, which is essentially a steak & cheese. And yes, they're mostly light years ahead of the Maryland versions.

                          1. re: Joe H

                            amen on the whitehouse in AC. I love that place for their steaks & hoagies

                            1. re: Joe H

                              Now I'm Jonesing for White House.

                            2. As a Philadelphia resident for 41 years-and a Baltimore resident for the past 7( and a cheesesteak lover the entire 48) I think that no discussion can be complete without stating the obvious- the 2 cities have a different definition of what is a cheesesteak.

                              Don't talk to me about mayonaisse, various condiments, different types of rolls,exotic meats etc.

                              That being said-and understanding that even in Philly 5 people usually have 5 different choices- to me there are only 2 places in Baltimore that really serve a Philly cheesesteak:

                              1A) Sghetti Eddies on West Cold Spring Lane

                              1B) MaGerks-either location.

                              But I would love to hear of other places to change my mind....

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: willie 2

                                Like I said in the other thread, it's all in what you grow up with, for me it was steak and provolone with lettuce, tomato, fried onions, mayo and hots.
                                This is all making me very hungry...

                              2. Must agree that these are two different animals and when I get a jones I get a Geno's jones and have to drive to that city of brotherly love or I get a Captain Harveys(Logan Village) jones and make that trek. However, last few trips to Captain Harveys have been quite a disappointment. I grew up in the Dundalk area and there was something about a Captain Harveys "cheesesteak" after a nite of either adult beverages or some herbal refreshment. Cured the munchies like nobodies business.
                                The C Harveys was naked no lettuce no tomatoes no mayo, just the fresh cut(which is now a frozen Steakum style) rib eye with fried onions. Ahhhh the memories of youth, the last one I ate didn't agree with my 60 yr old digestive system and I think I have had my last Capt. Harveys, but maybe one last one in the future as a ceremonial end to my long lost innocence

                                1. Just to add to the discussion for western NOVA folks, Jimmy's in Herndon uses Amoroso rolls, and offers three types of cheeses (including whiz). You can get shrooms and peppers added for a small charge. They're my new fave sandwich in the area (finally besting the Hot Sicilian at The Deli).

                                  I took a Philly born and raised coworker there and he couldn't give them much of a negative mark at all (where he really slammed Philly Mike's).