I mentioned in my last post that I had a big week of cheesesteak-eating ahead of me. It got underway Tuesday, when my friend Robert joined me for a pair. I’ll be accompanied by another friend Friday as well. The plan is to split steaks from two different shops both days. That would enable me to sample four different sandwiches this week while only eating the equivalent of two. I doubt I could handle four whole ones in a few days without feeling somewhat disgusting. But two is manageable.
Our big day started at “something new,” at least for me. Jack’s Place, a classic corner sandwich shop in the row-home dominated Tacony section of Northeast Philadelphia, has actually been around for a while. Another friend of mine, George, has been trying to get me to go there for years. I feel slightly guilty about finally doing so without him, but it fit well with Robert’s location and our other plans Tuesday.
Although Jack’s Place has cheesesteaks on the menu, their claim to fame is their hoagies. They have a very loyal following who swear they make the best. I intend to return soon – with George – to find out.
As was the case with at least a couple other places I’ve been to during this run, the interior of Jack’s is sparse, with only a counter and kitchen. But their air conditioning felt great, so I stayed in there while the steak was being made and admired their walls. One is filled with photos of customers holding extra-large hoagies. There was also a great saying about quality.
A pleasant discovery I’ve made the past few months while out on my cheesesteak adventures is that a lot of these sandwich shops and pizzerias have a good selection of sodas; usually with black cherry and birch beer – two local favorites – included. I grabbed a can of the latter.
Our cheesesteak was ready in short order. We ate it on a bench they have outside, right next to the shop.
I committed an unforced error when I forgot to request a seeded roll. Based on photos, I would guess they generally use them for hoagies, but would have given me one if I’d mentioned it. It turned out to be a very solid – albeit unusually shaped – roll anyway, with a nice bit of crustiness.
As you can see, this steak, which included American cheese and fried onions, won’t win any beauty contests. I think a large part of the aesthetic problem is due to the roll’s slightly odd shape. It’s a bit wider than typical and doesn’t stand on its side, which makes it harder to take a flattering photo of the sandwich.
A little more meat – to make it proportionate to the big roll – also would have helped, although what was on there was flavorful.
There was an ample amount of cheese, and it was mixed in nicely with the meat and onions.
While this is not close to being one of the top steaks in the region, I enjoyed it both for the roll and overall flavor. If I were to compare it to any other steak I’ve had over the past year, it would probably be the one from the Original Thunderbird in Broomall, PA. That was also light on meat, but had an appealing overall flavor profile. I know Thunderbird offers extra meat as an option. I’m not sure about Jack’s Place. I’ll definitely look into that if I go back there for another steak.
We had a schedule to keep and were off to our next destination – “something old” – as soon as we took our last bites at Jack’s Place.
Da Vinci’s Brick Oven Pizzeria, which is just outside of Northeast Philly, in Feasterville, PA, probably isn’t really that old. But I’ve already written about them a couple times. The reason for a third visit was an inconsistency between the first two steaks. Both were outstanding; one was just a little more so because of a difference in the roll..
Da Vinci’s is attached to Leonardo’s Italian Bakery, which provides their seeded steak rolls. When I went there the first time, that roll was among the three or four best I’ve had; and it may have had the hardest crust of any of them. I know that’s a turn-off to some people, but I happen to love crusty rolls, even when they are used for cheesesteaks. The second time around, the roll was still very good, but the crust wasn’t as crisp as it had been the previous time. I felt like a third steak was necessary to see which of the first two was more indicative of what they normally serve.
While I like the look of Da Vinci’s outdoor seating area, their air conditioning enticed us to eat inside.
You can see in these two photos what I was referring to about the shape of the roll when discussing the steak from Jack’s Place. This one – at Da Vinci’s – is the standard shape with the standard cut for a steak roll, and that made it much easier to take photos that showed the sandwich in the best possible light.
The steaks at Da Vinci’s are also not filled with a lot of meat in comparison to many of the others I’ve written about. They use a half-pound of chopped ribeye. That’s half of what was in last week’s steak at Curly’s. But my regular readers know that I’m not in the more-is-better camp for either meat or cheese. I want everything to be well proportioned, and I’ve had steaks that fell into that category with both a huge amount of meat and as little as a half-pound. Da Vinci’s is one of them.
The meat has been among the juiciest and most flavorful in any of the steaks I’ve written about for each of my visits, while the Cooper Sharp cheese compliments that great meat, rather than overshadowing it. The onions were also mixed in nicely. This was my third great steak in three tries from Da Vinci’s.
As for the roll, it was more similar to the one used for the second steak I had there – meaning it was not as crusty as that amazing first roll. But it was still better than than all but a few of the rolls I’ve had since starting this last summer. In fact, all of the steak rolls I’ve sampled that have been made on-site have been outstanding.
Da Vinci’s unquestionably makes one of my favorite steaks. The less crusty roll could possibly impact how high it winds up on my final list. But I have little doubt that it will be on there.
Robert’s birthday is this week, and he wanted to celebrate by topping off our two cheesesteaks with an ice cream sundae.
It just so happens that there is a Richman’s Ice Cream – a local chain I’ve mentioned – a few blocks from Da Vinci’s.
I could see possibly going back to this Richman’s at some point with Robert to try their burgers, but we were only there for ice cream on this occasion. Each of us went for a hot fudge sundae with chopped peanuts and whipped cream, but no cherry.
Richman’s has above average soft-serve, both in terms of density and flavor. The sundaes could have perhaps used a bit more fudge, but I should probably be thankful it wasn’t on there.
The fact that I was able to eat a sundae at all after our first two stops should be an indication that the steaks at Jack’s Place and Da Vinci’s are relatively light. There is no way I was going for ice cream after eating the steaks at Curly’s or Lillo’s.
If all goes according to plan, I’ll be back Friday with commentary on two more cheesesteaks – from South Jersey this time.