HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >


Best Steak and Cheese?

I have a friend visiting from Philly next weekend and I know she will want to try the *best* steak and cheese Boston has to offer. We'll be spending most of our time in Boston (mostly North End, BackBay and Downtown areas) and Cambridge without a car. Any recommendations in those areas are appreciated!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. i never understand this. why do people come from from places where their local food is great, (in this case, steak and cheese capitol of the earth) only to express disappointment with the versions available to them in other places? come to boston? go to speeds, or look for lobster rolls, or anything! trust me, if hes from philly he will be unhappy with ANY steak and cheese made in the boston area. eat barbeque in the south, mexican in l.a., pizza in new haven. forget local intepretations of your food back home, that just maintenance for ex-pats.

    6 Replies
    1. re: hyde

      I agree, take him for a Cubano in JP, Philly doesn't even know what that is. Also, pizza at Santarpio's, steak tips at the New Bridge, anything at Galleria Umberto, anything but cheesesteak.

      1. re: hyde

        I don't get you. It's steak...it's cheese...it's seasoning...and bread...I am fairly certain someone can merge those in Boston to make something similar to what is in Philly. Why do you have to physically be in Philly to have someone put those items together in a good way?

        1. re: observor

          I think it's trickier than it looks. Bread is one thing especially that varies widely between cities. You'd think a great kummelweck roll would be easy to recreate, but they just don't make them here like they do in Buffalo, when they do at all. It's the water, it's the flour, and mostly it's the technique. Stuff that looks on paper like it ought to transfer easily from one locality to another is often surprisingly hard.


          1. re: MC Slim JB

            true. Since you mention Buffalo.. Buffalo wings are a great example. Just about any mediocre corner pizzeria in the rochester/buffalo area has better wings then the best that can be found around here.

            1. re: MC Slim JB

              In Philly the aging of the griddle has major effect on the final product....Pat's Steaks griddle is the equivalent of Pizzaria Regina's pizza oven in the North End. You can take the EXACT same "raw" pizza and put it into another Regina's oven and get a completely different product. Same with cheesesteaks...it's how the griddle interacts with the shaved rib-eye...and it's gotta be ribeye.

              1. re: pondrat

                I think this is BS, unless someone provides more substantial indications of this. It's this kind of pretentiousness that plagues the cheesesteak genre.

        2. Unfortunately I'm assuming that somene from Philly is going to be totally let down by the best steak and cheese Boston has to offer.

          One of my favorites is Bob's in Medford, however that is not in the area you will be in and probably not worth making the effort to get to. As far as somewhere in town, I am at a loss.

          1. Please PLEASE take your guest to a clam shack instead. Or for some super Cambodian, or dim sum or even sushi or BBQ. Trying to replicate the Philly for a Philly is a losing game.

            2 Replies
            1. re: yumyum

              or a North Shore style roast beef sandwich.

              1. re: Aromatherapy

                I was in the general area yesterday and stopped by Mike's in Everett. Absolute heaven!

            2. I'd say the best steak and cheese in the area is south of Boston. It's in a place called Philadelphia. :-b

              I don't think we have anything that compares to what they have in Philly, but the steak and cheese at Carl's/TC Landos in Waltham and Hudson is really good. But since you're mostly going to be around Boston and Cambridge, I'd say that Al's on State Street in the Financial District might be a good bet.

              1. That reminds me: I'm off to Omaha, Nebraska. Anyone know where I can get a good lobster roll there?


                6 Replies
                    1. re: hiddenboston

                      I tried tracking down a place in omaha that had lobster rolls, just to be snarky, but that got to be too much of a challenge :)

                        1. re: hiddenboston

                          They just put it in last year, once they got the indoor bathrooms.

                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    Make sure you order a dozen Island Creeks as well...

                  2. Moogies in Brighton is accessible by T and is very close to the BC campus. They have some great steak and cheese sandwiches... I've been going here for quite some time.

                    1. In addition to the apt commentary about how inapt it is to expect decent S&C in Boston, I should also note that the touristy areas of Downtown, the Back Bay and much of the North End are geared exactly towards either pricy expense accounts or lowest-common denominator tourist expectations. It's not that there are not some good places in those areas, but mediocrity at the affordable price point dominates. Just keep that in mind.

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: Karl S

                        I'm cracking up just reading all of these responses. I agree with everyone - what was I thinking? Thank you Snoop37and Dea for the suggestions, but I think I'm going to have to just suck it up and listen to the complaints about the lack of S&C options outside of Philly. Thanks to all!

                        1. re: missfoodie

                          Just respond that, when you visit Philadelphia, you get to complain about the lack of decent fried clams, lobster rolls (two styles - cold with mayo and hot with drawn butter), Indian pudding, jonnycakes, kale soup, et cet. It is so utterly stupid for people to go somewhere else to eat the specialties of where they live.

                        2. re: Karl S

                          Marliave is a good place to take him when you're downtown - excellent food, a menu with several reasonably-priced options, and an historic building that's been a restaurant for well over 100 years to boot. No cheese steak, but they do a mean burger.

                          1. re: BobB

                            You consider Marliave reasonably -priced?

                            1. re: Andymayo99

                              Absolutely! I know when they first reopened, the upstairs menu was pretty pricey, but even then you could sit downstairs and get an outstanding burger with rosemary-dusted fries for $10, or a house-cured pastrami sandwich for the same price.

                              With the latest menu revision they've done away with the separate upstairs menu altogether. The most expensive item they offer now is fettucine with lobster at $20. Even the steak frites is only $18.50. Check it out at http://www.marliave.com/menus/index.php

                              1. re: Andymayo99

                                They have three menus: a short raw bar menu (oysters, clams, caviar) from the tiny basement raw bar; a modest cafe menu (no entree over $20) of casual comfort food; and a much fancier and pricier dining-room "After 5" menu of elaborate, updated Continental cuisine (most entrees over $30). Used to be restrictions on what you could order where, but not anymore.


                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                  Actually, I don't think they have that fancier dining room menu anymore --unless something has changed very recently--we were there a couple of weeks ago and they just had that casual, comfort food menu. I asked the waitress if the upstairs dining room had their own menu and she said no....the tiny basement raw bar menu may exist, I don't know.

                                  Also, I was really looking forward to a new favorite burger spot, but I have to say I was disappointed with the burger here. It just wasn't that memorable, pretty flavorless and the heavy brioche roll didn't help matters.
                                  I thought the entire experience was just "ok" --maybe I'd head there for lunch if I was in the area but I don't think it'll be a destination dinner spot for me in the future.

                                  1. re: twentyoystahs

                                    The three styles are all presented on one big happy menu now: the section of the menu called "After Five" is what's left of the larger dining room menu. The raw bar section of the menu is prepared in the bottom-floor raw bar, which has five or six seats, always empty whenever I've walked through (I always enter through that door to check it out.)


                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                      Sitting at that raw bar and slurping down some oysters and a glass or three of cold white wine is a really nice way to while away an afternoon. When I've been, we've had the bar to ourselves. It might not be as comfortable if it was packed. It feels very "hidden gem" to me.

                          2. I agree with all the others that this is a fool's errand, but if your friend is insistent, the steak and cheese at Pinocchio's Pizza just off JFK ST in Harvard Sqare is pretty good. I've never had a "true" Philly Cheesesteak in Philly so have no idea how it measures against that metric, but I will tell you it's one of my favorite indulgences at lunch.

                            1. Fecalface knows this is a bit off-topic, but does anyone understand why it's so hard to find a decent S&C sub in Boston? You'd think it would be easy...some decent quality shaved beef, saute some veggies, cheese whiz and some fresh bread....none of which is 'native' to Philly. Ideas?

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: fecalface

                                The desire to replicate the original is native to Philly. The bread, of course, is very local to Philly, and very much part of what makes it so local.

                                Same reason why the best jonnycakes are hard to make outside of southeastern New England, because the Rhode Island white flintcap corn meal (a centuries-old variety that is so hard that it wears down millstones and produces a very distinctive texture, color and flavor) is not widely available. Finding Kenyon's even in Boston markets can be hard (it used to be easier).

                                And I think this is a *wonderful* state of affairs. Local foods typically loose in translation when their enthusiasts try to export them. Enjoy the local specialities in situ.

                                1. re: Karl S

                                  Based on fecalface's limited experience, you're right - people in Philly are obsessed with the idea of replication. Fecal likes the idea that a non-food ingredient (using the term loosely) is what makes this sandwich so special.

                                  Btw, fecal's favorite S&C sub in Boston is the steak bomb at Victor's deli (the one near Sound Bytes)

                              2. You can try the Steak and Cheese at T. Anthony's. Right across from upper Boston University, right off the green line.

                                T's is a popular college spot, large menu, and they have a steak and cheese which will tell your friend "I told you so."

                                1. The reason i think is very clear. Its so the friend can say "ohhh myyy gooddd this is the BEST you guys have! You HAVE to come to PHILLY and try one of ours! I cant believe it ooohhh my godddd"

                                  1. I'm from Philly and after 20 years in Boston I'm still searching for something like the real thing. For sheer bulk you would need to take him to Carl's in Waltham where a large could feed 3 people. For something similar to the real thing you'd need to go to Willy's Philly's in Maynard. Obviously far from the vicinity you were looking for.

                                    Regardless of where you take him...ALWAYS eat the cheesesteak on the premesis. The only thing that makes a Boston cheesesteak worse than it already is, is letting it sit a half hour before eating it.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: pondrat

                                      Why can't we answer the poster's question? I've had some excellent steak sandwiches in Boston. My vote would probably be for Pinocchio's in Harvard Square.

                                      On a more philosophical note, I think it's terrific to try one's local favorites elsewhere, especially if they are your favorites. There's no law that prevents good shaved steak in Massachusetts. Taken to an extreme, does this really mean that one can't have Chinese food outside of China, Mexican food outside of Mexico, etc.?

                                      While I often enjoy authenticity, and certainly enjoy being able to spot it, I also delight in trying local interpretations --- that's why I insisted on finding a Chinese restaurant when I traveled in Sicily, for example. It wasn't very good, but it was interesting to see what a Chinese restaurant in Sicily was like. One of the best Chicago-style hot dog's I've ever had was in Las Vegas. I could go on.

                                      1. re: lipoff

                                        Well, yes, fun, but the best use of your Chowing time in a strange city? I just shy away from Accidental Tourist behavior, anything that smacks of seeking comfort in the familiar away from home. I'm much more interested in exploring their hometown specialties, not their attempts at mine, which inevitably seem debased somehow. (I remember shaking my head at a colleague who ordered "Italian spaghetti" in the PRC once, and laughing when he got ketchup on noodles.)

                                        Chinese food is a different story: that's not my hometown food, and it is fascinating to see the different interpretations of it, the adaptations by Chinese ex-pat chefs to local tastes and locally available ingredients, around the world. For instance, Desi Chinese food, the style that Chinese cooks prepare in India (and is now available on some Boston Indian menus for homesick Indian ex-pats), is amazing stuff, its own creature. I wonder if the Boston-area version is different enough to have its own designation: Yankee Desi Chinese?


                                      2. re: pondrat

                                        I am ready to be slammed for what I am about to post, so let me first preface by saying I have been to Philly, and I've enjoyed some of the classic steak and cheese subs there. Really really good, and definitely in a league of their own. I think my favorite was Jim's --near (or on?) South Street....

                                        And now..for the part that will inevitably tarnish my 'hound reputation --I think the No 9 steak and cheese subs at D'Angelo's are pretty good. There, I said it. I wouldn't take your friend there necessarily, but on the rare occasion when I'm craving steak and cheese and I'm looking for a quick fix, that's where I head.

                                        1. re: twentyoystahs

                                          That's not crazy. I know several Philly ex-pats who say that the D'Angelo's #9 is the closest thing in Boston to their hometown ideal. I myself have enjoyed dozens of those over the years, though not lately.


                                          1. re: twentyoystahs

                                            I like D'Angelo steak and cheese as well, but, man, have they started skimping on the meat (they are skimping on all their items). It used to be way better.

                                        2. Your friend coming to Boston, is she expecting to try a "steak and cheese" or a "cheesesteak"? Many people use the terms interchangeably, but they are two different things. I always thought of steak and cheese subs as having lettuce, tomato, onion and maybe mayo in Boston, whereas the cheesesteak is meat, cheese (whiz, america or provolone) and sauteed onions on a hoagie/sub roll.

                                          1. Italian Cafe on Broad Street (near Milk) in the Financial District does wonderful cheesesteaks (their bread in particular is sublime; much better than usual sub fare).

                                            1. Half the problem I see is that most of the general population thinks the oversized portions of Carl's/TCLando's etc. = quality steak & cheese. Its just a pile of overchopped slop with little flavor thrown in a sub roll.

                                              I think its BS to say you can't make a good cheesesteak outside of Philly. Poster may have a small point about the bread, but its not like you couldn't sub a similar textured bread and still be outstanding. But when people settle for mediocrity, that is what they get.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: LStaff

                                                Here in Charleston, SC, they use the same bread as at the celebrated places in Philly