I broke from my standard ordering pattern the first time I visited Big Al’s Eatery of Media, PA, back in early February. Rather than getting a cheesesteak on their optional seeded roll, I tried it on seedless garlic bread. While it was an enjoyable sandwich from a flavor standpoint, I didn’t like how moist the garlic-butter enhanced roll remained after spending time on the grill and wrote that I would return to try one prepared the traditional way. It took longer than it should have, but I finally followed through on that promise Tuesday.
Big Al’s is a cross between a classic sandwich shop and – because it has more seating than those typically have- a luncheonette. In spite of the fairly loud TV that they’ve had tuned to ESPN both times I was there, I find it a pleasant place to eat a sandwich and catch up with an old friend; Brenda in this case.
In addition to the hot sandwiches list in one of the photos below, they have an array of cold ones and a daily special as well.
While I didn’t take advantage of their video game, I did grab a Hank’s root beer out of the refrigerator. Brenda went with an Orange Crush.
She also ordered a meatball parmesan sandwich, while I stuck with the plan – a large cheesesteak on a seeded roll with Cooper Sharp cheese and fried onions – they offer them on both 7 and 11-inch seeded or seedless rolls. I knew that the seedless roll was softer than I prefer both from that earlier experience and comments I’ve read online. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the seeded roll, but there was no question as to whether I’d order one.
The meatball sandwich looked underwhelming, especially so soon after the great one I had from DiNic’s at the Reading Terminal recently. That one was made with wonderful homemade meatballs on a top-flight roll. Big Al’s appears to use the kind of pre-formed meatballs that are now commonly found in refrigerated meat sections at supermarkets. They are better than frozen meatballs, but not any decent homemade version I’ve had. Brenda did like the toasted roll, but I doubt I’d order a meatball sandwich there after seeing this one.
I had much better luck with my cheesesteak. While the seeded roll wasn’t up there with the best I’ve had, it was a good one; a little on the soft side, but with a nicely chewy crust.
There wasn’t exactly an abundance of meat, but I thought every component of this sandwich – roll, meat, cheese and onions – were proportionate to each other; a factor on which I place a lot of value.
And the chopped meat was beautifully seasoned and extremely moist.
There was maybe not quite enough of a Wow! Factor for me to have put this steak in my Top 10 list. Perhaps I’d have felt differently if it had been on an elite roll and had just a touch more meat. Nonetheless, it’s still an outstanding cheesesteak with a great overall flavor, at least when it comes on the optional seeded roll. As I live relatively close to Media, it’s likely I’ll return to Big Al’s to enjoy more of them.