This is for a 2015 trip to Chicago, including the following posts:Big & Little's, David Burke's Primehouse, Little Goat Diner, Philly's Best, and The Publican.
Regular readers know that I've never really been a fan of the majority of Philly's cheese steak joints. There's either not enough cheese or the meat is really dry. That being said, my Center City / South Philly favorites are John's Roast Pork, Ishkabibble's, Mike's at the Comcast Center, Tony Luke's, and Jim's. Heck, I'll even throw in Gooey Looie's for the sheer heft! Hmm, maybe Philly has grown on me over the years (more on that later)? Admittedly, I may have had some bias because the first "Philly" cheese steak I had was at college - in Chicago. After a late night and even the next morning, there was nothing better than some cheese steaks from Philly's Best. They were always juicy, dripping, and satiating that inner craving for grease, meat, and cheese. Granted, I'll admit most of my faculties were probably not up to snuff when I ate them.
So when I came back to Chicago for a work conference, the first stop I made (even before the hotel!) was to the Greektown outpost of Philly's Best. It was late and midweek, but there were still plenty of folks from nurses to the gentlemen in blue - all stopping by for a cheese steak. You couldn't help but notice the Philadelphia Inquirer articles adorning the walls and the pride they had in using Amoroso rolls!
Cheese Fritters [$5.99]
I started off with the cheese fritters. I can see these being decent hangover snacks, but I couldn't help but compare them to fried cheese curds. While the fried cheese fritters were decently buttery and nicely crisped, there was no stretch from the cheese and frankly, you couldn't really discern what was within. It came with a pat of marinara. But no matter - the fritters were just an attempt to satisfy my inner fat boy. I obviously came here for the cheese steak.
Large Philly Cheese Steak [$13.24]
Whiz & provolone, 'wit, garlic bread
These days, I have to order mine with both whiz and provolone - 'wit and on a garlic toasted roll no less. The melange of meat, cheese, and onions was just as I remembered - incredibly juicy, inundated with fried onion flavor, and well-seasoned. This isn't clean living - the taste will be on your hands 'till the next morning.
The only downfall? The whiz was put underneath the steak and thus, on top of the bread. That's a huge pet peeve of mine. In what world should the roll be breaking apart from the liquid gold? Good thing I didn't ask for delivery because that would have been a bigger mess. Dean, from Philly's Best, did let me know that usually the whiz goes on top, but the cook made the call with my request for two cheeses.
Either way, in retrospect, structural integrity is something that Philly definitely has in spades. But I still have to give it to Philly's Best (in Chicago!) - there's something about their combo of meat, cheese, and onions that makes for the perfect bite. Combine that with a fresh roll that holds up to the heft - it's definitely one of my top gustatory pleasures.