I’ve increasingly been touching on what may be the cheesesteak issue of our time lately. That would be the split between those who look for massive quantities of meat and cheese on every steak they order and aren’t satisfied unless they get it; and those who can be perfectly happy with a moderate amount of both and care more about how well-proportioned the meat and cheese are to each other, as well as to the roll.
I fall solidly into the latter category, but for lunch today, I visited a place that could be the poster child for adherents to the former philosophy – Meatheadz of Lawrence Township, New Jersey, which is just above Trenton. It’s debatable whether they are actually in the Philly metro region. I’ve always considered Trenton to be part of it, but have never really given much thought to where the cut-off is in that area. Regardless, there have been more than enough good reviews of their steaks – many of them absolute raves – from my fellow members of the Cheesesteak Gurus group on Facebook for me to feel like they need to be included in my survey.
Yet I was skeptical that their steak would be good enough to get serious consideration for my eventual Top 10 list because a significant part of their reputation seems to be based on the huge amount of meat and cheese they put into each cheesesteak. That’s somewhat of a turn off for me right off the bat. On top of that, a number of the photos I’ve seen of their steaks featured piles of meat that were big enough to be intimidating. Based on that, it was hard to see how the cheesesteaks at Meatheadz could meet my proportionality preference.
But I did my best to keep an open mind and was genuinely excited to knock another long-time resident off my list of elite steaks to sample. I’ve been pleasantly surprised before and was hopeful it would happen again.
The building and parking lot used to be an old-fashioned root beer drive-in. It had been sitting in disrepair for a while when the two guys who went on to own Meatheadz spotted it and saw possibilities.
Unlike the old drive-in, there is no car service at Meatheadz. They have a window and ordering counter that looks like it would fit in comfortably in South Philly. There are picnic tables in a semi-enclosed area for those eating on site, which my friend John and I would be doing on a sunny and warm afternoon.
If you like this old-school set-up, you should run on over to check it out sooner rather than later. The owners have announced they’ve purchased a larger building that will include dine-in tables and I assume have a more modern look. They’re working on getting it into proper shape before moving the business there.
Meatheadz added Cooper Sharp to their cheese options last year, and as usual, I went with that and fried onions. I also requested their seeded roll. They won’t ask you if you want one of those. You need to request it. I’ve seen their basic seedless rolls, which come from Amoroso Bakery, cited as the steak’s biggest weakness, even by those who love the sandwich overall, several times.
After about a 15-minute wait, my name was called out and we were ready to start eating our sandwich – as soon as I had finished taking photos of it.
Before getting to the steak itself, I want to give kudos to Meatheadz for the way they packaged it. Rather than wrapping it in paper and/or foil, like most shops do, they put it in an easily sealable box that is the perfect size for the sandwich’s two halves when they are placed side-by-side. This method of packaging significantly reduces the likelihood of the roll steaming. There is also no need to worry about cheese sticking to the paper or foil while you unwrap the sandwich.
Unfortunately, that may have been the high point of eating this cheesesteak for me.
The roll was actually a mixed bag. The top – or seeded – half was soft and not that good, while the bottom had some crustiness and was much better. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that before. Normally both halves of a roll are either good or not so good.
As expected, this was as hefty as any of the steaks I’ve eaten over the past year-plus.
Incredibly, they actually have a menu option for extra or double meat, and I have no doubt that there are people who order it. I’ve also seen it said online that they will sometimes give you close to the equivalent of double-meat even when you don’t ask for it. I guess it depends on who is working the grill. Based on the various photos I’ve seen, my steak was probably closer to the smaller end of the scale at Meatheadz.
And yet, we both thought there was too much meat and cheese on there. John joked that he wouldn’t want to bring a date to Meatheadz because it’s impossible to eat their cheesesteak without making a mess in the process.
For me, the biggest problem was the cheese. I would think it’s fairly difficult to overwhelm the amount of meat they put on a steak at Meatheadz with cheese, but they managed to do it.
While there was still plenty of meat throughout, there was so much cheese in a couple portions of the sandwich, that it was all I could taste or feel in my mouth. And it was oozing out of one end while I was eating from the other.
The cheese should lightly coat the meat; not come in big globs that leave one feeling like he is eating a grilled cheese sandwich at times.
I usually do my best to shove any meat and cheese that falls out of my cheesesteaks back onto them, but I didn’t bother this time. There was too much of it and a lot of what was dripping out was virtually all cheese.
This was my second consecutive steak for which I felt the cheese overwhelmed the meat in spite of the fact that there was a pound or more of meat on each sandwich. It was even more pronounced this time.
As always, I’m not trying to dissuade anyone from eating at Meatheadz. They’ve got to be popular for a reason. A lot of people clearly like their product. If there is no such thing as too much meat and cheese for you, by all means, run on over and try one of these behemoths. But I won’t be doing so again.