I struggled a bit with how to headline this post. It includes reports on three different cheesesteak shops I’ve eaten at over the past couple days, one of which was a second visit to the place that served the cheesesteak I picked as the best I ate during 2021. But one of the two sandwiches I tried for the first time was from Curly’s Creations in the northern suburb of Levittown. That may not mean anything to most of you. But among the 70,000 die-hards from the Cheesesteak Gurus group on Facebook, it is extremely significant.
Curly’s is unquestionably the most popular steak shop on that group’s posting board. It’s greatness is declared by both regulars and those trying it for the first time on a daily basis, with a large chorus always ready to declare, “Amen.”
Levittown is a bit of a hike for me and I kept reading about how hard it can be much of the time to successfully place an order with Curly’s on short notice. There have been frequent recommendations on the Facebook board to call it in a day or more in advance of a planned visit, a practice Curly’s encourages. I finally did that Friday after making arrangements with my oldest friend, John, to go on a Saturday afternoon cheesesteak outing.
As is the case with so many of the great roadfood joints I’ve been to over the years, Curly’s is not a book that should be judged by its cover. It looks like a fairly basic fast food restaurant from the outside and only has a half-dozen or so two-person tables in what is more like a vestibule than a dining area should you decide to eat there after picking up your order at the counter.
I only ordered one cheesesteak with Cooper Sharp cheese and fried onions for John and I to split. For one thing, we were considering stopping for a steak at another of the shops on my list after we finished this one. And Curly’s steaks are known to be huge. They stuff a pound of shaved ribeye into their seeded rolls, and, as you’ll see in the photos below, they don’t skimp on cheese either. A half of one of Curly’s steaks contains about the same amount of meat and cheese that would be used for a full sandwich at many places.
But man – and woman – doesn’t live on cheesesteaks alone. So I added an order of hush puppies for us to share on the side. I love hush puppies. They are ubiquitous in the Carolinas and probably parts of Virginia, but they aren’t very common in the Philly region. And these were very good. While I was surprised that they were sprinkled with a bit of sugar, I didn’t mind. It helps that I have one of the world’s great sweet-tooths. They were fried perfectly without a hint of excess grease, and their flavor and texture were spot on.
When it came time to choose a beverage, I was pleased to see that Curly’s carries Kutztown Sodas, which I wrote about in an earlier post. I grabbed a black cherry, which you have probably noticed I rarely pass up, while John had white birch beer.
But the cheesesteak was the main event, and it didn’t disappoint. The seeded roll was fairly light, but it amazingly held up perfectly in spite of containing such a large amount of meat and cheese. I’ve probably liked a few of the other seeded steak rolls I’ve had a little more than this one. But it was still high quality and the overall flavor and texture of this sandwich was every bit as good as its reputation. The meat was seasoned perfectly and extremely tender, not to mention coated with cheese in every bite I took. That’s a rarity among even the other highly rated steak shops I’ve been to.
This steak was certainly up there with the best I’ve had and will unquestionably be on my eventual Top Ten list of the Philly region’s best cheesesteaks. It will take careful consideration to determine whether it deserves the top spot. I also have other highly regarded places to get to before I can make that call.
Given how I feel while writing this post, I would say John and I probably should have called it a day after finishing our meal at Curly’s. But we planned on an afternoon of eating, and we decided to stick with that plan. I also really wanted to knock off another steak shop from my list.
We passed through Warminster, Pennsylvania, on our way back to John’s. There are a couple places there I’ve been meaning to get to, and one of them – Dino’s Pizza – offers the option of buying half-sized cheesesteaks. I needed that option after John informed me he wouldn’t be helping me out at Dino’s. He was prepared to order a slice of pizza, but it turned out that Dino’s only sells whole pies during weekends.
My steak was actually pretty big for being only a ‘half.’ If their whole sandwiches are twice that size, they are huge. I took some of it home, but ate enough to rate it in Dino’s parking lot. Their seeded Roll is outstanding. I probably liked it a little more than the roll at Curly’s. The rest of the sandwich, which also came with Cooper Sharp cheese and fried onions, was also of good quality. It just had the misfortune of having to follow shortly after the remarkable steak at Curly’s.
Dino’s cheesesteak had much less meat and cheese than Curly’s, but there was plenty of cheese on there in terms of proportion to the meat. The meat also seemed to be chopped a little finer. Having said that, the sandwich had a very nice overall flavor. I will probably give it another shot at some point without squeezing it in after another steak.
I mentioned at the start of this post that I would be reporting on three cheesesteaks. I certainly didn’t eat another one today. But I did have one for lunch yesterday, and it was from a sandwich shop I gave a rave to in December; Charlie’s Roast Pork of South Philly. I had a steak with whiz during that first trip. I decided to go back and try one with American cheese. They don’t offer Cooper sharp.
Charlie’s seeded rolls may be as good as any steak roll I’ve had. The sesame seeds are well toasted and add an extra layer of flavor to the sandwich; the crust has some body to it, and the inside dough is nice and squishy. They chop their meat into bigger pieces than most places and season it beautifully. I had fried onions in addition to the American cheese. One of the friends and former colleagues I was with added long-hot peppers to that same equation. Another friend also went with American, fried onions and long-hots, but she had them on a roast pork sandwich instead of a cheesesteak.
If I had one complaint about this sandwich, it was that the meat and cheese could have been more evenly distributed. There was clearly more on one half than the other. While it was still a great sandwich – definitely one of the best – I would say I liked the one I had with whiz during that earlier visit a little more than the steak with American cheese that I had yesterday. I’ll go back to whiz the next time I return to Charlie’s. I’d also like to try their hot roast beef sandwich
I’m going to stop writing now so I can go out for a nice long walk with my wife. I really need it.