Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs is a region of sandwich shops. I would doubt any other metropolitan area in the U.S. has as many family-owned deli’s, steak and hoagie shops and pizzerias that sell an array of long-roll sandwiches per capita. And among the suburban counties outside of Philly, my unscientific judgement is that Delaware County – where I live – has the most.
Along a roadfood-abundant stretch of MacDade Boulevard – in Delco – that I touched on in a post about a place called The Hot Dog Stand, sits Anna’s Sandwich Shop, which has been family owned since 1935. I’ve passed by it a number of times and have always assumed I’d get around to trying their cheesesteak at some point. I had plans to sample a steak shop in Northeast Philly on the way to visiting my father today, but that visit had to be postponed, so I decided to stay closer to home and finally check out Anna’s instead.
There has been a “for-sale” sign outside of Anna’s for a while, but they still seem to be going strong. The shop has a very old-school, classic sandwich shop interior that I neglected to photograph. There is also one table that would accommodate perhaps a half dozen people in the center of Anna’s small space. I considered eating my steak there to avoid any soggy-roll issues from wrapping, but opted to take it home instead.
While they offer other types of sandwiches and chicken platters, Anna’s is known primarily for their cheesesteaks and hoagies. They come in three sizes: mini, small and large. I asked to see the difference between a small and large roll and immediately opted for a small steak with American cheese and fried onions. That turned out to be a wise move. Not only did the large roll appear more appropriate for two people, but the grill-man stuffs an enormous amount of meat onto the more standard-sized small roll. I can’t imagine I’d have gotten through much more than half of a large.
Anna’s had a couple other classic Philadelphia food and drink options that I picked up to go with my steak. A meal doesn’t get any more “Philly” than a cheesesteak and Tastykake lemon pie washed down with a bottle of black cherry Wishniak soda.
I actually haven’t gotten around to eating the pie yet because I was too stuffed after finishing the steak to jump right into anything else.
Black cherry Wishniak is a soda flavor that may only be familiar to people from the Philadelphia region. For years, Frank’s Sodas were a beloved brand in this area, and their most popular flavor was black cherry Wishniak. An Internet search showed that Wishniak is a Russian cordial made with cherries, sugar and vodka. But I suspect the word was added onto black cherry soda by Frank’s for no other reason than it has an exotic or enticing ring to it. Frank’s may still be sold by a few beverage distributors, but it is not owned by the same family any longer. At some point – a good number of years ago – Canada Dry also started selling black cherry Wishniak and it tastes just like the Frank’s. So when I saw that Anna’s had the Canada Dry version in their refrigerator, I grabbed one. Man, was that good! I used to practically live on the Frank’s, and nicknamed it “the elixir of life” when I was in my formative years.
As I alluded to previously, Anna’s cheesesteak contained an abundance of meat and was extremely filling. The roll was on the soft side, but it had a nice fresh and chewy quality to it that I enjoyed. While I wish they offered Cooper Sharp, there was plenty of American cheese and a good amount of fried onions mixed in with the meat.
If I have one complaint about Anna’s cheesesteak, it’s that the meat tasted like it was unseasoned. But as I was eating it at home, I sprinkled on a healthy dash of salt and pepper and that took care of any flavor-blandness.
It’s inspiring to me that Anna’s is still putting out quality sandwiches after nearly 90 years in business. I hope that if they are sold, the new owners won’t make any major changes.