I met a former colleague for lunch today at Charlie’s Roast Pork in South Philadelphia. While they have a very traditional South Philly sandwich shop name and menu, Charlie’s has only been around for a couple years. May they stay in business for 100 more based on the tremendous dining experience I had there.
My lunch companion was kind enough to allow me to order for both of us after I expressed an interest in splitting a couple different sandwiches on the menu. I considered opting for two cheesesteaks, one with Whiz and the other American cheese. But Charlie’s is also known for serving outstanding Italian-style roast pork and beef sandwiches. When I say ‘Italian-Style,’ that means with sharp Provolone cheese and broccoli rabe.
There are those who feel the Italian roast pork should be Philly’s signature sandwich rather than the cheesesteak. I’m not one of those people, but because it’s such a vaunted South Philly delicacy and is in the name of the place where we were eating, I did decide to order one to go with our cheesesteak. And on that cheesesteak, I went for Cheese Whiz and fried onions.
If they had Cooper Sharp cheese, I’d have probably gone in that direction for the steak, but basic American cheese has less flavor and I have a definite weakness for Whiz on a cheesesteak. I may try one with American next time any way, just so I can compare it to what I had today.
As I’ve said before, the roll can make or break a cheesesteak or any other kind of long-roll sandwich. The seeded rolls at Charlie’s are tremendous, with just the right amount of crustiness and not too doughy.
While I’m not as fanatical about Italian roast pork sandwiches as some, I did like this one a lot. The flavors of the sharp Provolone and broccoli rabe were a perfect compliment to the sliced pork.
Yet as good as that pork sandwich was, I enjoyed the cheesesteak even more. In addition to that stellar roll, the meat was seasoned just right and chopped the way I like it; which is to say not too fine. There was an abundance of Cheese Whiz, but it wasn’t overdone and coated the meat beautifully. And the fried onions were a great addition to the flavor-mix. I can’t think of a single negative thing to say about this steak.
In fact, while I’m not prepared to pronounce Charlie’s cheesesteak the best in the region, that’s only because there are still a couple very highly-rated places I haven’t been to yet. But I will say the sandwich I had today was as good as any steak I’ve ever eaten and maybe better. We’ll see if Angelo’s Pizzeria, also in South Philly, matches them when I get around to trying their steak. They have a tremendous reputation in their own right.