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Oct 21, 2009 12:42 PM

Dodger Rally Cry, Philly Cheesesteak Battle, Philly West vs. The Shack

My hope had been for the Dodgers to crush the Phillies, then to write a piece about a cheesesteak battle, offering locals the opportunity to consume the symbolic heart of Philadelphia, metaphorically finishing them off with a few voracious bites. But then the Dodgers got destroyed without putting up a fight, then blew the next game in extra innings. So now? Look at the cheesesteak as a Phillies voodoo doll, and your opportunity to inflict pain by chewing them up, swallowing them, then digesting and flushing them down the toilet. Hey, maybe it'll even help the Dodgers get something going. Like in four and half hours.

But despite that vindictive intent, there's no reason the cheesesteaks shouldn't also be tasty, right? At two westside restaurant bars, Philly West and The Shack, the owners are true Philly guys who take their sandwiches seriously. Both restaurants have multiple cheesesteak options, but for this battle, the sandwiches being judged are the ones listed simply as "cheesesteak". Both come on nice crusty rolls, both with American cheese (for those cheeze whiz "traditionalists", remember that the cheesesteak was invented before whiz was), lightly grilled onions and thinly sliced ribeye.

But there are differences. At Philly West, the sandwich includes a light dusting of marinara sauce, pushing it slightly more in the direction of a pizza steak, but ultimately creating a pleasant accent rather than Italian domination. At The Shack, they use no sauce, but a small collection of diced cherry peppers, which are mixed together cohesively with the onions, beef and cheese.

​When it comes down to it, both are quite good. Both are about soft, luscious creaminess, wrapped in bread, eaten in a pleasant, casual space, ideally, with a cold glass of beer while watching a sporting event. But there are no tie games during the playoffs, and at The Shack, the flavor ever-so-slightly wins out, nudging them ahead in extra innings. Plus, from The Shack, you can always walk across the street to Sonny McLean's and make fun of Red Sox fans for losing in the first round.

(Note: The 1st photo is The Shack and the 2nd photo is Philly West


Philly West Bar & Grill
1870 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

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  1. This is obviously a double post. Anyone up for deleting this one?

    1. Thanks for the review. I'm a big proponent of the Philly West cheesesteak, and I think their cheeseburger might even be better. Never tried the version at The Shack, but I enjoy their burgers usually. I'll give theirs a try soon.

      Gotta say, though, the cheesesteak at Big Mike's on Main Street in El Segundo is by far my current favorite.

      1 Reply
      1. re: nosh

        We started going to Philly West when we first moved in the area, due to your rec and really enjoy it. Hit Big Mike's recently and I do like their take better. But I consider it two different experiences. Big Mike's is strictly a sandwich place for me. First time we went was after a drinking binge the night before and needing some "medication" Philly West is a cool divey sports bar to watch a game and have a drink while still having some very good food.

        So I guess what I'm saying is, you go to Philly West to drink and eat. The next day, go to Big Mike's to finish the job. And if my doctor could see this...

      2. Philly West is good, but the best one I've had recently has been from the south phili experience truck... and yes, I love the Wiz...


        14 Replies
        1. re: Dommy

          What is this South Philly Experience truck, Dommy, and how good are the other menu items? Never heard of a cheesesteak place offering broccoli rabe or spinach, wid' or widout Wiz. ;-) The Web site ( ) is a bit thin, so any additional information would help. Say, does Dan from old Fredo's have any involvement? (I know I'm grasping at straws in the wind, but I've tried most of the non-Fredo's steaks recommended on the LA board with little satisfaction.)

          1. re: Harry Nile

            Sadly I hit the truck on First Friday's on Abbot Kinney, so they were swamped and I was more focused on moving on to try the other trucks to exchange a few words with them... But basically it seemed to be run by two youngish guys who were REALLY taking it seriously.. We'll be back for the next FF in a few weeks and will for SURE try at least the Broccoli (and yes, with the wiz... ;))

            1. re: Harry Nile

              "Never heard of a cheesesteak place offering broccoli rabe"

              Seriously? Roast pork Italian at Tony Luke's.

              1. re: a_and_w

                My God, you're right! I think I'll submit this thread to James Taranto's "Best of the Web Today" column in the Wall St. Journal for the section, "Everything Seemingly Is Spinning Out of Control."

                I just did a quick check of other Philly steak places that I used to frequent a few years ago -- Jim's, Geno's, Dalessandro's, and Pat's -- and the closest thing they had to broccoli rabe was the lettuce served at a Burger King or McDonald's in the same neighborhood. But you've thrown a real scare at me, and I'll need to sit quietly for the rest of the afternoon.

                When I try the truck Dommy recommends, I'll keep an eye on anyone who orders broccoli rabe and see if they appear to like it. Ten bucks says it won't be Sy Stallone or (new Eagles quarterback) Michael Vick. ;-)

            2. re: Dommy

              Hi Dommy,

              This looks delicious. :) How was the beef itself? How much gristle was there (or none at all)? Thanks.

              1. re: exilekiss

                Well I should not that the sandwich it's self was $8! I was a little taken aback... but upon first bite... was singing the praises... they use VERY good quality meat, flavorful, tender, juicy but absolutely NO gristle... just little chopped up meaty bites...


                1. re: Dommy

                  I have also been to the truck a few times and enjoyed the sandwiches. I drop by when they park on Olympic and Butler and have never had to wait in a line for more than a couple of minutes. They bring in Amorosa rolls from Philly and are trying to get either Wise or Herr's chips.

                  1. re: chuck

                    And they have tasty cakes... :)

                    1. re: chuck

                      Get out, I used to LOVE Wise chips - haven't thought about those in YEARS!

                2. re: Dommy

                  Oh. My. God. Easily the best cheese steaks I've had outside Philly. Even their chicken cheeses are delicious. I can't recommend the South Philly Experience truck highly enough.

                  1. re: a_and_w

                    Glad you liked it... The guys really seem to want to put out something good. :)


                    1. re: a_and_w

                      I had it for lunch yesterday since they were right next to my building. Second time I've had it and it's pretty good. Next time I'll give their chicken a try in a vague attempt to convince myself that I'm eating healthier.

                      1. re: Jase

                        My only complaints are that they're really greasy, and they use white American cheese -- yellow would blend more aesthetically with the whiz if you get both. But these are minor quibbles. The roll and steak meat are better than most -- there are even some delicious crisp bits on the latter. Regarding the chicken, I wish they used thinly sliced chicken breast, but the chunks are really moist and well seasoned. This may be the best version of a chicken cheese using chunks of breast meat that I've had.

                    2. re: Dommy

                      Just stumbled across these guys when I was wandering around Santa Monica. Unfortunately their truck had just broken down so I wasn't able to get a sandwich! I was impressed by the boxes of Amoroso rolls that I could see inside, though. Hopefully I can catch them again. They're part of the Twittering nouveau food truck movement.


                    3. I think the Great Western Hoagie has pretty good cheesesteaks, wicked reasonable. But don't know how authentic they are - no whiz here, just sliced american. And topped with pizza sauce?? I know, but it works. Yummy. on Lincoln in SaMo/Venice line. Go Dodgers.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: Phurstluv

                        Great Western can be hit or miss. In 30 plus years of eating there, I've had hits and some misses. When they're hot and fresh, the meat is tender enough and not overcooked, the prov melted just right, and the bun toasted on the grill to perfection, it's terrific. 1 in 5 times, the meat's overcooked, dry, and "meh." You'll catch crap from the board here because it's not a purist's true-Philly cheese steak, but who cares?

                        Since moving to El Segundo I've eaten at Big Mike's a few times. Just slightly underwhelmed by it. Sorry folks. A good steak from Great Western beats out the ones I've had at Big Mikes. I'm sure many disagree.

                        I tried Philly West years ago in college. (Like decades ago...) So I think I should probably go back before I comment.

                        (And right now, the Dodger Rally Cry is a silent scream.)

                        1. re: Phurstluv

                          I live in the Santa Monica-West L.A. area and Great Western is by far the best Philly Cheesesteak sandwich I have tried, for me, it has been consistantly good. Of course I haven't been to the East Coast yet. The food at The Shack in Santa Monica is excellent, but the Philly cheesesteak was not good at all, I won't order it again at The Shack.

                          1. re: LaBarbara

                            I had the Philly cheesesteak at The Shack on Wilshire today. It was pretty good -- I really liked the roll, which was on the soft and chewy side rather than having any real crunch. A lot of onions, which I would have preferred cooked more, and the diced cherry peppers were nice but not as good as the hot and sweet I ask for at Big Mike's. At first tasting, I'd rank The Shack's just under Philly West's -- a bit more generous with the meat but not as succulent and more costly. For me it is still Big Mike's by far (though it is a lot far).

                            My experience with Great Western a couple years ago was ghastly -- not much meat, way too much American cheese, onions were burnt and acrid. Guy cooking was surly, place was windy, traffic within arms reach. Hated it.

                            1. re: nosh

                              Folks, no one in Philly orders their cheesesteaks with peppers mixed in!!!!!!!

                              The moment you order one with peppers, your cheesesteak review credibility just goes off the cliff.

                              1. re: Sgee

                                Obviously you have never been to Dalessandro's in Roxborough.

                                1. re: Adamlick

                                  Places may offer it, but dead give away you are not local if you inisist on having peppers mixed into the steak.....

                                  Check out this picture of a classic cheesesteak from Dalessandro's (from

                                  1. re: Sgee

                                    Dalessandro's is famous for their hot pepper spread. The picture you attached does not prove your point because it goes on the roll, is fantastic, and would be blocked by the meat.

                        2. It's not very authentic (and certainly no whiz), but the steak hoagie at Hoagies and Wings is excellent. The meat and onions have great flavor and the bread is not too soft. They do come with lettuce, tomato and mayo, but you could have those removed for a more traditional taste.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Jwsel

                            I found the Hoagies there a real let down, the amount of meat in them was PALTRY and not flavorful at all...



                            1. re: Dommy

                              I will admit that I always get the ultimate hoagie, which has double meat. As for flavor, I like it, but obviously we can disagree on that.