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Apr 9, 2008 11:57 AM

Do any of you eat something when you travel ONLY because you know the region is known for them?

An In-n-Out discussion on the SF board reminded me of how I used to always get a cheesesteak when I went to Philly. I don't like cheesesteaks and don't eat them in my hometown. However, I was overcome by this strange compulsion to always get them when I was visiting Philly because it was something you just had to do. And this is not just one visit, but multiple visits.

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  1. I would not eat it if I had previously tried it and didn't like it, but I do tend to sample the regional specialties when I travel.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Kelli2006

      "I would not eat it if I had previously tried it and didn't like it, but I do tend to sample the regional specialties when I travel."

      I can't say it better.

      By the way, I very seldom eat them, but I love cheesesteaks - toothy yet tender beef, melted cheese, fried onions, shrooms on a frsh baked italian roll with ketchup - sweet, savory, salty, earthy, rich with fat, the pull of the bread, the snap of the onions, what's not to like?

      As to over-rated, while you will find many people in the Philly area who very much like cheesesteaks, I don't think you will find any locals touting this sandwich as anything other than a good sandwich to be rated against other sandwiches. One might as well say falafel is over-rated - I don't think it is, it's just a sandwich.

      1. re: FrankJBN

        Interesting observation, regarding the local's touting of the dish. Recently, on the SW board, there was a thread on the "Best Cheesesteaks in Phoenix." The OP did not like any of the suggestions, as he/she liked some favorite in Philly much better. My question was, "why would anyone wonder about Philly Cheesesteaks in Phoenix?" Then I saw similar for the New Orleans board. What is it about Philly Cheesesteaks, that folk would want to find "authentic" ones in places, such as Phoenix and New Orleans. Both locales have some great food, but I would not consider ANY Philly Cheesesteak, that I have had in Philadelphia, to be worth searching the globe for. What's next, "the best Philly Cheesesteak in Hawai`i?"


    2. Hilarious. I was just making that point about cheesesteaks on the PA board. I will always try the regional specialties, and if I like them, more than once. Cheesesteak is decidedly NOT in this category. Underwhelming & overrated. But I think that's the case with a lot of beloved regional specialties, because people have emotional (= irrational) ties to them.

      5 Replies
      1. re: linguafood

        Yeah, I don't really understand the fascination with cheesesteaks. The first time I've had it in Philly, I even ordered it with Whiz even though I knew I would absolutely hate it -- cuz that's the original.

        1. re: Miss Needle

          "I even ordered it with Whiz even though I knew I would absolutely hate it"

          Yeah, that's a fair trial. When I try food for the first time, I often ask that it be prepared in a way I will absolutely hate - why bother trying it any other way?

          In passing I would note that you have been misinformed. Cheese Whiz was not produced until the 50s - cheese steaks in the 30's.

          1. re: FrankJBN

            If you ask a lot of native Philadelphians (is that a word?), you will know that Whiz is the way to go. May be debatable, but to many people, a cheesesteak isn't a cheesesteak without Whiz. And before you make statements criticizing the way I tried it, I have tried it with provolone as well. So my nasty whiz experience didn't deter me from doing the provolone. And I'm not crazy about both.

            1. re: Miss Needle

              Oh, man, ever since they started selling Steak-Ums in Canada, I've been going cheesesteak nuts. A nice crusty roll, grilled onions, a couple of Steak-Ums, and what my friends and I call "wrap" - the individually wrapped processed cheddar that almost resembles cheese. Much better than Whiz (which I tried, and didn't like). My final touch is a couple of squeezes of HP Chicken and Rib sauce (which, BTW, they used to sell as "HP Fruity Sauce" before someone clued them in to the other connotations of that adjective).

              1. re: KevinB

                I love HP sauce and cannot understand why it's so hard to find in the states. Anyone?

      2. Before we went to New Orleans a few years back, I asked someone who had lived there where to get a real muffaletta (sp?). I had never had one and wanted to know what they were really supposed to taste like. Now that I know, there is none in Houston that hits the spot like that one in NO! Also the beignets at Cafe du Monde. If I know a region is famous for their sausage, or whatever, I make a point of seeking it out.

        3 Replies
        1. re: danhole

          Ooh! That's another one. I don't really like beignets that much, but it isn't a trip to New Orleans without munching on a Cafe du Monde's beignets and sipping a chicory coffee while sitting by the river. And I also had to have a muffaletta even though I'm not the biggest olive fan.

          1. re: Miss Needle

            I made the mistake of wearing a black shirt to Cafe Du Monde. Spent the rest of the day coated in powdered sugar. So good though!

            And, yes, in NO, we had muffaletta from Central, and po-boys from Mother's.

            I can't visit Maine without having one lobster dinner, and one lunch of fried clams. And I can't visit NYC without one sandwich from a good deli, a pizza slice, and a meatball hero. If I'm in Texas, one BBQ and one Tex-Mex meal. And if I'm in the Old South, at least one trip to Waffle House!

            1. re: KevinB

              Oh Kevin you're cracking me up. Waffle House is to the Old South what Pamela Anderson is to Canada. But when in Rome...

        2. I normally don't eat meat, but when I was in Hungary, I did try goulash, which was ok. Oh, and when I was in China, they had all sorts of bin(g?) as street food. Anyway, there was one for which there was a long long line, and it looked like nan bread with meat on it. I didn't get it for 3 days, b/c it has meat in it, but then on the last day I was there, I looked at the not-so-long line, just before heading to the airport and said the hell with it and got in line. Granted, I ended up scraping off most of the meat, but it was quite yummy.

          Also, we ran out of time, but my friend also swore by some lamb or some type of meat skewers in Beijing, so had we had more time, I would've probably gave in and tried that as well.

          Oh, and someone raved about din tai fun dumpling place. I got their seafood and veggie dumplings, but these were just ok. Nothing to go gaga over (and certainly not worth the comparatively expensive prices they seemed to charge, compared to much better food I had while I was there that was 1/5th the price). But of course, they are known for their meat dumplings, so I tried that. Again, I wasn't crazy about them, but quality-wise, they tasted better than the seafood or veggie ones. So I don't know if my eating-meat-in-China thing counts, but I guess the point is that sometimes I'll eat meat to try a dish that I might otherwise miss out on.

          2 Replies
          1. re: anzu

            Can I ask, have you ever eaten an item with meat in this context that made you say "wow, I am so glad I ate that, this dish would make me eat meat daily"? I am very impressed that you even try!

            1. re: moh

              Ha ha. No. Even when I did eat meat, our family didn't eat much of it ( the example I like to give to my American friends to give them a perspective of how much meat is typically consumed in a Japanese family-- 100 grams of meat feeds a family of 4. Granted, that was ages ago that I read this). So even if I did reintroduce it back in my diet, it would be like a periodic thing. So although I'll make exceptions and try things if I feel like I'll otherwise miss out, none have wowed me enough to become a carnivore convert.

              Ok, having said that, I did try prosciutto, and I do like it enough that if I see it, I will eat it. But even that, not every day.

          2. Fresh and dried sausages in Mercatale di Cortona from Trabalza. Porchetta, also from Trabalza on a Thursday afternoons only. Prosciutto, also only at Trabalza. Lobster in Boothbay harbor, ME (soft shell). Ice cream from my mother's freezer--it doesn't matter what kind of ice cream it is or who makes it--it's a compulsion.