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Philly cheesesteak AUTHENTIC?

I'm trying to find an authentic Philly cheesesteak for a straight from Philadelphia woman. Have had some good results but usually the bread is the real downfall. Any ideas near Boston area would be great Cambridge would be better.

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    1. re: Prav

      Based on all the recomendations on this board for Carl's, I went there on Saturday for lunch with my two teenage sons. We found the steask and cheese subs to be very big, but not particuarly tasty. They were also low on cheese. They were not worth a special trip, IMHO.

      1. re: Delhiwala

        I have to agree. A lot of people rave about how big Carl's is. Most subs are adequate to fill me, so bigger is not necessarily better. After eating at Carl's I was unpleasantly stuffed, but realized that it had not tasted so good.

        FWIW, there is absolutely no authentic Philly proxy in Boston, it is a different beast than out steak and cheese. Locally I like the subs at Bob's in Medford (which are plenty big in their own right).

        1. re: Gabatta

          I agree with Bobs! The bread is fantastic and they use actual steak.

          Carl's steak looks like rabbit turds.

          1. re: Gabatta

            While I would send someone to Bob's for just about any sub under the sun, I can't wholeheartedly recommend their steak and cheese's. The last two that I've had there were a bit on the dry side and lacking in flavor and cheese.

            My vote for tastiest steak and cheese goes to Dom's in Malden.

      2. Not sure if someone from Philly will find these authentic, but two places that are commonly mentioned in the area are Al's State Street in the Financial District and Carl's in Waltham. I love the cheesesteaks from Carl's; haven't tried Al's yet.

        1. This question comes up every so often, and my personal take is no. But feel free to try any of the suggestions here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/460531

          Hey, I get tired of seeing the REAL & AUTHENTIC (all caps a must to emphasize how much I despise the localized versions) threads too, and wish more people come to grips that once you leave a region almost all dishes are local interpretations, but this is a little much, no?

          1. If they have to call it a "philly cheesesteak" then it is not authentic. Order a burger.

            1 Reply
            1. re: MattInNJ

              This Philly native says amen to that, Matt. That's my mantra. A "steak and cheese" does not a cheesesteak make.

            2. There are regional differences in Philadelphia itself, as I recall from my formative, not-very-houndish years there. Pat's and Geno's and Jim's are quite different from the ones I grew up on near West Philly (which seem bigger and have a better meatiness to them, IMHO). Maybe authenticity is in the eye of the beholder. You probably won't find Amoroso's rolls around here, in any event.

              I'd go for the local version, the steak & cheese, and Al's on State St makes a great one.

              1 Reply
              1. re: erwocky

                Boston to Philly to Boston transplant myself. The closest place for what you are looking for is about 6 hours south on the highway. Can't get water-ice here either. I would recommend changing your cravings.... lobster rolls instead of cheesesteaks and one of the many great ice cream places instead of water-ice, etc.

              2. I think the problem is that the bread is all wrong. My Dad is from Philly and he gets hoagie rolls shipped up from (amoroso, I think?) once or twice a year and makes his cheesesteaks himself.

                1 Reply
                1. re: liamsaunt

                  Funny, my dad (who's also moved away from Philadelphia) will expound at length about how it's the chewy Amoroso's roll that makes the cheesesteak. Maybe foodieG can get some shipped up here and take them to Al's or Carl's and ask for a special order.

                  1. re: Wannabfoode

                    Went to Carl's last night and had a small (really large) 'cheese steak' with mushrooms. The verdict? Just another steak & cheese. Carl's roll was a nice combo of sturdy yet soft, and the sammy was piping hot. That said, the meat was dry as the result of the chop and press cooking method employed by the grill man.

                    Having spent a number of years in Philly during the 90s, I know the secrets to a great cheesesteak. As mention by liamsaunt and erwocky, the Amoroso roll is an important ingredient. Equally so is the quality of meat, which is FRESH and never frozen at the top steak joints (back then, these included Tony Luke's, Rick's, Jim's and Leo's in DelCo. Then there is the grease which is applied to the grill before the meat is cooked. This keeps the steak juicy even as it is cooked to a well done state (you can also order your sandwich 'loose' in Philly, meaning a bit on the medium side).

                    The next difference is the Philly smell factor, as every steak joint keeps a pile of onions carmelizing on the grill, which tantalizes the customer as they wait for their order. Last is the cheese, which seems to be more generously applied than at Carl's or any other steak & cheese joint.

                    This is not to say that Carl's steak & cheese was not tasty. It was! Just not up to Philly's high standards.

                    1. re: Bob MacAdoo

                      This is a perfect description of what Boston cheesesteak purveyors need to focus on.. if they can find anyone in the area that would appreciate the difference after they do. I'm doubtful. As someone said in an early post, you don't know what you're missing unless you've had the original.

                      Fortunately, I'm in the Delaware Valley as I write so I'm getting to refresh my memory and my taste buds...

                      1. re: Bob MacAdoo

                        Hmmm, the last cheesesteak I had from Carl's was both juicy and loaded with cheese. I mean over the top cheesy, greasy goodness!

                        Maybe an off night?

                        1. re: TomH

                          I'm a firm believer that you need to eat Carls almost immediately. Transporting more than 15 minutes is very risky. The only thing worse than a dry cheesesteak is one with tons of meat. I find that raw or lightly sauteed onions holds additional moisture. I've also gone thru the ordeal of reassembling at home after adding some olive oil or hot sauce to bring it back. Waspy vegetarian wife thinks this is cause for immediate psychological attention.

                          1. re: pondrat

                            I enjoyed my Carl's steak & cheese on the spot. And it was very tasty. Just not Philly-style tasty. More like, just another steak & cheese!

                            1. re: pondrat

                              "Waspy vegeterian wife"

                              And they said it would never last.....


                              1. re: pondrat

                                I assume she doesn't know about your being on Chowhound... ;-b

                                1. re: hiddenboston

                                  She learned of my affair with CHOW earlier this year.....It wasn't pretty. I promised it was over and it would never happen again...If it weren't for the kids I could quite possibly move out of the house and into a Williams Sonoma or Sur La Table.

                              2. re: TomH

                                The standard Steak and Cheese can't be compared to the Philly Cheesesteak. For one thing, the cheesesteak is a religeon in Philly. Many people, including myself, drop into Philly when travelling down the east coast, just to go to Jim's or Pat's (haven't made it to Geno's yet). I'm sure Carl's was on their game, but it's a different animal (or a different part of the animal). Think of Carl's as the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League compared against your pick of numerous steak joints in Philly as the Patriots. On a side note, the best steak and cheese I've had are at Bill Cahill's Super Sub in Hudson, NH, and the distantly departed Subs n Such on Huntington Ave. in Boston.

                                1. re: Guinness02122

                                  agreed over here:
                                  NE steak and cheese and Philly CheeseSteaks are apples and oranges

                          2. You can get many tassty steak and cheese, sans whipped cheese at Carl's, TC Landos in Metrowest/ NW, MJ's in Roslindale. Pray tell, what is water ice?

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: trufflehound

                              according to the Wiki:
                              "A chilled snack similar to Italian Ice"

                              1. re: trufflehound

                                Water ice is probably a non-alcoholic granita (slowly frozen with frequent scraping to prevent formation of large chunks of ice) In a granita the alcohol maintains some fluidity, in water ice it is probably the high sugar content. You get a cup filled with very finely granular ice/water/flavor slurry - often served with a combination spoon/straw.

                                Italian ice, in my experience, is a solid chunk of ice/flavor with a wooden stick used as a shaver.

                                Sounds like Ritas water ice is expanding to New England. Will have to locate a branch and surprise my wife.

                                1. re: tdaaa

                                  Real Italian Water Ice is much softer and smoother than the on with the stick or the one where you pour syrup on shaved ice.

                                  When you try Rita's you'll see what I mean. They also add bits of real fruit and chocolate which adds to the natural flavors.

                                  They're now in Salem and Leominster:

                                  see; http://www.ritasice.com/find-a-ritas/...

                                  For the full effect try the following in this order: Lemon, Black Cherry, Chocolate. They also have an interesting drink that mixes Italian Water Ice and frozen custard (ice cream). Sounds strange but it works.

                              2. I have to agree with those who say there is no authentic one around here. The only place that had the right rolls was in the food hall at Quincy Market - called Philadelphia Cheesesteaks. Other cheesesteaks may be great but they're not the exact same.

                                1. I grew up and went to school in Philly and return often for my cravings. Believe me there is no equivalent to Pat's or Geno's anywhere near Boston. Carl's is like an obese Jimmy's and similar to what you'd get in the Philly suburbs. Not a bad alternative.

                                  The best Philly steak sandwich (I'm in the Pat's camp) knockoff is at my house. I get my very thin and marbled steak fillets at Waverly Market in Framingham. David knows exactly how to slice it just like Pat's does.

                                  If you really want to impress her try to replicate the OTHER famous Philly sandwich from Tony Luke's on Oregon Avenue. Crusty roll topped stuffed with very thinly sliced Italian roast pork, generous amounts of spicy garlicky broccoli rabe, topped with thin slices of sharp provolone.

                                  If done well it blows the cheesteak away.

                                  16 Replies
                                  1. re: pondrat

                                    I had that Tony Luke's sandwich while visiting Philly a year and a half ago and I still think about it. So delicious. In my top 3 sandwiches for sure.

                                    1. re: maillard

                                      I'm with you... The combination of flavors makes part of the sensory nodes in the brain explode !

                                      On the water ice question, it too is very difficult to find around here....Dell's lemon ice is similar but more slushy.... Best to go to a place called Rita's throughout the Phiily and Jersey Shore are to get the real thing...

                                      Next...where to find tastycakes and REAL soft pretzels...??

                                      1. re: pondrat

                                        I can get Tastykakes in my local Shaws and Stop n Shop (East Boston, but I've seen them in Quincy, so probably everywhere). Butterscotch Krimpets, cupcakes, peanut butter kandykakes...alas not chocolate kandykakes, my favorites, but that makes the home-coming all that much sweeter.

                                        Pretzels, on the other hand, I haven't found.

                                        1. re: erwocky

                                          I'm heading down to the Jersey shore next week, so I'll be able to restock on soft pretzels, tastycakes, scrapple and pork roll...But thanks, erwocky for the tips on where to go during the dry spells.

                                          1. re: pondrat

                                            You can get scrapple in the boston area. Seen it frozen at the somerville market basket and with the bacon at stop and shop.

                                            1. re: deglazer

                                              Thanks for the tip deglazer, but such a fine cut of meat as scrapple should never be frozen and then defrosted !!! :))

                                              1. re: pondrat

                                                Right you are. You'd never be able to apprehend the terroir. FWIW, the one I mentioned at Stop and Shop (specifially in J.P.) was not frozen. And if you happen to go there, check out the souse in the nearby deli case. It's a southern product (maybe from Georgia in this case?) - basically brawn/headcheese, but something I haven't seen around these parts much (maybe I'm wrong?) Just saying because, you know, regional mystery meats are hard to come by.

                                                1. re: pondrat

                                                  They have fresh scrapple at Cotes Market in Lowell. I've never had it, but saw it there in the home made food area. Another thread recommended the meat pies there which is why I go if I'm around there(their salmon or chichen pies in puff pastry are good too).

                                                2. re: deglazer

                                                  I don't suppose it's Habersetts, is it?

                                        2. re: pondrat

                                          Mmmmm.... the Tony Luke's sandwich sounds awesome!

                                          1. re: yumyum

                                            Note: the more juice and grease from the pork and broccoli rabe..the better...Roll should almost be soggy if you've got it right. Apologies to the Boston Board moderators...this admittedly should probably move to Home Cooking

                                            1. re: pondrat

                                              Did not get the chance to try this pork sandwich with greens and sharp provolone at Tony Luke's, but will vouch very strongly for the same sandwich at DiNic's in the Reading Terminal Market. One of the best things I ate while visiting there.

                                              Sadly there's nothing even remotely like it in Boston.

                                              1. re: bachslunch

                                                Love DiNic's and we definitely need one here. . It would be so easy to add it to the menu at places like Tutto Italiano...where I showed the guy in Wellesley how to make it because he happened to have all the ingredients in his deli case. Dominics is the other natural with the magical rolls they have. Ironically I'm told over and over again by the Boston deli guys that they don't sell enough sliced deli pork to justify ordering it and making sandwiches. If they saw the lines at Reading Terminal or Oregon Avenue they might be convinced otherwise.

                                          2. re: pondrat

                                            The Roast Pork at TL is heaven, but so too is the chicekn cutlet sammy with the same toppings.

                                            Is there any place in Boston that does sandwiches with broccoli rabe and sharp provolone?

                                            1. re: Bob MacAdoo

                                              My house every weekend ! And their starting to form a line when the smell it.

                                              In all seriousness I've seen none...and I've looked. We should post a separate thread to draw attention to the TL-knock-off plight.

                                              I've tried to convince Tutto Italiano (wellesley) and Dominics (Waltham) to add them but they claim they don't get enough business to justify adding pork to their deli meat buy.

                                              Try figure !!

                                          3. Based on what friends from Philly say no one in Philly can even agree what really makes a "Phily Cheesestake", so I doubt you can come close to what you are thinking about in your craving. I agree that once you leave a region, the regional tastes now become interpreted by whatever your new "region" is.

                                            For what it is worth, I had the Philly Cheesestake made with Cheese Wiz, either Pat's or Geno's can't remember and the thing was horrid. Obviously I'm cut from a different mold, gimme a D'Angelo #9 before that gastric nightmare.....yikes.


                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: River19

                                              Most true Philadelphians will tell you to avoid Pat's and Geno's if you want a decent cheesesteak. They are definitely the most famous but they are far from the best.

                                              1. re: bignickpsu

                                                "Most true Philadelphians" would tell you this ???? Far from the truth...! It's the equivalent of saying that a true Bostonian would avoid the original Regina's in the North End.

                                                I would agree that there are other KINDS of cheese steaks that may be better in their own category. Just like there are better pizza's. But there's nothing that compares to the kind of steak that comes off the well seasoned grills on 9th & Passyunk (regardless which side of the street you prefer to root for). And I would argue te same that the pizza overn on Thacher Street has the same magic despite better kinds of pizza at other joints.

                                                1. re: pondrat

                                                  "Most true Philadelphians"

                                                  To paraphrase the great Yogi Berra, as I did so on another thread a couple of weeks back, "Nobody goes to Pat or Geno's anymore because they're so crowded!"

                                                  An Interesting thread going on here pondrat. But not having a dog in the fight, I've just been kinda been following along trying to decipher some of the more arcane food references. I have tried both Pat and Geno's and "think" I'm in the Geno's camp but would sure like to try Tony Luke's when next in Philly.


                                                  1. re: Harp00n

                                                    You scare me Harp, I almost added that Yogi line (which is my favorite), but thought better against it for fear of going over the top...But it's exactly right and thanks for reading my mind.

                                                    Boomerboomer put it best. There are some GREAT cheesesteak SUBS around here, but that's a different category than the real thing.

                                                    1. re: pondrat

                                                      Great minds pondrat, great minds.
                                                      However, real is what you grew up with, no?


                                            2. I have not found anything close in the Boston area. Some great steak and cheese subs but not the same. All the places here almost shred the steak where in Philly it is more slices.

                                              I have found the thinly sliced sandwich steak at Stop & Shop to be great for making them at home. Rolls from Pientedosi are a great addition.

                                              As for Water Ice, try Ritas which are spreading up here in New England. It's close.

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: boomerboomer

                                                I made some very nice cheesesteak sandwiches yesterday using sliced beef from The Market Basket (with plenty of fat), provolone and rolls from China town (the ones they use for Banh Mi) Maybe not authentic rolls, but damn good. As for using provolone, you can keep your cheese whizz, authentic or not.

                                                1. re: SmokeDawg

                                                  Donnelan's and BJ's (among others) carry the DiLuigi Shaved Beef in the fresh meat department. This is about as close as I've been able to find to the real thing without going to a butcher. Trick is to flash fry it unless you're a fan of Philly beef jerky.

                                                  1. re: pondrat

                                                    Must admit I've never had an authentic Philly cheesesteak since I've never been to Philly, but I have to say that the DiLuigi shaved steak I leerily bought at Donelan's in Lincoln recently was quite good quickly fried with lots salt and pepper, covered with provolone and put on a decent roll. Authentic or not, it was fresh, darn tasty and had good texture. Tender meat, creamy and melty cheese. Carl's is a bit too chewy for my taste, although you can't argue with the portions.

                                                    Whole Foods in Fresh Pond occasionally carries decent shaved steak as well, similar to DiLuigi's.

                                                    1. re: bear

                                                      In the Pat's Steak tradition...try flash frying it in a good olive oil with some raw onions...Onions should still crunch just a bit...suffucient salt is indeed key. Ironically a cautious squirt of Huy Fong's Viatnamese Rooster brand chili sauces is a pretty decent replica of the hot sauce they have in huge jars at the South Philly joints.

                                                      1. re: pondrat

                                                        Ah, chili sauce. Never thought of that. I do have a couple of different sauces in the fridge (srichacha, chili with garlic), but no Rooster brand. And my onions were pretty well sauteed, not crunchy.

                                                        I feel a trip to Super 88 coming on! Thanks for the tips.

                                                        1. re: bear

                                                          I've seen it at some Stop & Shops and Whole Foods...but Super 88 is a sure bet. Just mixed it with tahini this weekend for topping/dipping sauce some falafels I made. Caution: addictive.

                                              2. Been to Philly and gotten cheesesteaks there (best I had was at Jim's on South Street). Will echo those who say you won't find anything like this in the Boston area.

                                                Carl's is OK except that the bread's too soft. But it's just not like a Philly c'steak.

                                                1. Hi folks, We've had to remove a few postings that spoke only of Philly cheesesteaks in Philly. Please confine the discussion here to the possibility of finding a similar product in the Boston area. Thanks!

                                                  1. I have not tried Carl's in Waltham or Al's on State St, both which seem to be worthy contenders...but I have been to Jim's in Philly and agree that you will probably not be able to replicate a true philly cheesesteak here in Boston. That being said, when I've got a craving for a steak n cheese, I head to D'Angelos. Flame me if you must, but I think it's a good solid choice in Boston, even if it is a chain (but a local chain, so it's not so bad...)

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: twentyoystahs

                                                      No flames from this CHOW....Truth be told for convenience alone I find the cheesesteak with raw onions at Papa Gino's in Sudbury to be close to the (suburban) Philly cheeseteaks. I mention Sudbury only because it's a combination of seasoned grill and fresh bread that for some reason hasn't been quite the same at their other franchises.

                                                      Carl's is great and serves what I'd say is a cheesesteak on human growth hormone. Unfortunately they don't travel well, so eat them within minutes to get the full juicy effect before it starts drying out.

                                                      1. re: pondrat

                                                        TC Lando's in Acton is owned by the same folks as Carl's and the steak and cheese subs are those same mammoths. If you are closer to Acton it is a better option than driving all the way up to Carl's in Waltham.

                                                        1. re: TomH

                                                          There's also a Lando's in Hudson.

                                                          1. re: hiddenboston

                                                            Thanks, I've driven to them all...including the one out in Leominster on my way up to VT on weekends. It's just that Papa Gino's is in the neighborhood for the more immediate cravings.

                                                            On a separate Philly food note I just saw that there are two Rita's Italian Water Ice franchises now in the Boston area...Leominster and Salem.

                                                    2. There is a new shop in Maynard at 45 Main St.. It is called Willy's Phillys. I have not tried their namesake sub but says it is ribeye and comes with cheesewhiz and fried onions. Have tried some ot their other subs and they are very good and the onion rings are great.

                                                      8 Replies
                                                      1. re: sandramrma

                                                        Just back from Philly tonight...will be heading to review Willy's Philly's tomorrow while I still have the real thing fresh in my mind..

                                                        Stay tuned..

                                                        1. re: pondrat

                                                          That will be interesting, where did you chow in Philly?


                                                          1. re: River19


                                                            Please continue any discussion of Philadelphia chowing on the Pennsylvania board, so that posters looking for Philadelphia recommendations can find them there.


                                                            1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                                              If the point is to compare a Boston joint to a Philly joint, one must know which Philly joint is his basis for comparison, correct?

                                                              As far as recomendations for Philly, yes the Philly board would be appropriate, however in this case I think an answer as to which place he visited in PA makes 100% sense.


                                                              1. re: River19

                                                                The most memorable meal is posted under pondrat on the Mid Atlantic board as I spent most of my time in Cape May, New Jersey.

                                                          2. re: pondrat

                                                            Willy's Philly's Report, where for art thou?


                                                            1. re: Harp00n

                                                              I'm wondering myself.........

                                                              Stop holding out on us......or were we stifled by "the man" for talking Philly in a Boston forum...... :-}

                                                              1. re: River19

                                                                Easy eeeeasy !!....got caught in the undertow of budgets and board meetings so haven't been able to make the trek...will be heading out to Maynard tomorrow for lunch...if I can wait that long.

                                                        2. authentic or not
                                                          Subs n Such on Huntington Ave near Longwood made the best Steak & Cheese subs
                                                          its closed now (after the father passed away)
                                                          They used fondue and had mushrooms and onions and teriyaki or BBQ sauces
                                                          that were the perfect combination.

                                                          The son Stuart should reopen the place somewhere, it was so damned good, it would be a goldmine I alone, could/would put his kids thru college with my purchases.

                                                          Who remembers it?

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: joechristo

                                                            I remember it well. Heavy staff of dedicated family members. I went to NU in the 80's.

                                                            1. re: joechristo

                                                              I do! The best " Thanksgiving" sub too. I miss them. They were really nice people too.

                                                              Recently, I had a D'Angelos steak and cheese . I use to really like them. It was horrible! Overcooked meat and not enough cheese. I've got to get to Carl's one of these days. IA few years ago, I tried it at the PG food festival and it was really good.