South Philadelphia has more classic-looking cheesesteak stands and is more associated with the sandwich than any other part of the city. While most of the well-known steak shops in other neighborhoods, as well as those in the suburbs, have indoor service, South Philly specializes in walk up stands, where customers order at a window while remaining outside. During cold or windy weather, some stands will put up a tent-like structure to give some protection to those placing orders and eating.
Although Avenue Steaks & Pizza, on South Philly’s Oregon Avenue, just east of Broad Street, has the look of an old-school cheesesteak stand, it’s actually fairly new. I believe they didn’t open until after the pandemic hit.
I had to run an errand that took me into South Philadelphia this morning. After seeing a huge line at the first place I considered trying, I settled on Avenue Steaks as my plan B. They have a good reputation among those in the online cheesesteak group I check for recommendations, but being so new, they haven’t achieved the level of renown that some of the area’s older stands possess. So I figured there would be less of a line there, and I was correct. There wasn’t any line at all when I walked up.
Avenue Steaks has a quintessential setup. As was the case at Steve’s Prince of Steaks, which I wrote about in my last post, they have separate windows for placing sandwich and pizza orders on the one hand, and drinks and sides on the other. They also have large condiment dispensers, seasoning shakers, and a metal container of peppers for self service on the counter between the two windows.
While walking up to Avenue Steaks, I noticed they had Liscio’s Bakery boxes piled up on the sidewalk. Liscio’s seeded rolls may be my favorite for cheesesteaks, at least among those put out by the region’s Italian bread bakeries.* And I was pleased when told at the steak-ordering window that they do, in fact, have seeded rolls. As much as I love those, I’m less enamored with the seedless ones Liscio’s makes. They aren’t that similar.
I went with a cheesesteak on a seeded roll with Cooper Sharp cheese and fried onions and only had to wait about five minutes for my order. I decided to eat it at one of the large tables that were under cover today due to a fairly strong wind.
I wasn’t surprised by how good the roll was. It had a nice, hard crust and not much dough; just the way I would draw it up. I am pretty sure Liscio’s bakes their rolls differently for the various steak shops they serve. Although all of the seedless ones I’ve tried have been outstanding, the Liscio’s roll you get at one shop won’t necessarily be the same as one you get somewhere else. This one was a little less soft inside than some of the others I’ve had. But that’s not a criticism. It was among the better cheesesteak rolls I’ve tried.
The meat seemed to be high quality and was chopped down to medium-sized pieces. My one serious issue with this sandwich was that it needed more cheese and the cheese needed to be distributed better throughout the meat.
The overall flavor was good, but not up there with the top tier steaks I’ve tried since last summer.
If I go back to Avenue Steaks, I will probably try one with Whiz. I’d also like to sample their pizza at some point. It looks good in the online photos I’ve seen.**
And now that I know that John’s Roast Pork – the maker of one of the area’s best known cheesesteaks and my averted Plan A for today – gets such a big line by around 11:15 a.m., I may have to plan on having one of their steaks for breakfast some day. They and another place in South Philly – Angelo’s Pizzeria – are at the top of my list of steak shops to try.
* My qualification is that there are a few steak shops that do a tremendous job of baking their own rolls. It would be tough for me to say definitively that Liscio’s seeded rolls are better than the ones served by those places. But it’s a close call.
** I’m starting to think I may have to do a survey of the Philly region’s top pizza places at some point after I finish with cheesesteaks.