Denver Ted's still has a lot to learn about cheesesteaks
Red Trolley is a one-trick pony (an ice cream shop) trying to find other ways to make money (selling hot dogs, among other things) when the season isn't right for ice cream — becoming all things to all people in a very deliberate and calculated way.
Denver Ted's is a different kind of pony altogether, a place that is all things to only one very specific kind of person: one who will live and die by cheesesteaks, despite the obvious handicaps of area code, time zone and altitude. This is a local joint, a hole-in-the-wall with a rainbow-colored sign and a pure dedication to the art of the cheesesteak. It does almost nothing else. Some chicken, sure, and fries. But Denver Ted's has staked its future on cheesesteaks.
And its single-minded dedication has been rewarded: People swear by this place. They hold it up as the alpha and omega of cheesesteaks in Denver — a city so far removed from the ancestral cheesesteak homeland that, until a few years ago, you couldn't get a cheesesteak in this town that didn't have bell peppers and onions on it. I know of Denver cheesesteak fans who will eat them nowhere else, who love Ted's to the point of obsession, who drag their friends and neighbors there, who know all the Ted's employees by name.
But I am not one of those fans. Although I have had decent cheesesteaks at Ted's, I've never had a great one. Almost invariably, there's never enough cheese to lubricate the meat. Often, the meat itself is chewy (meaning overcooked) or tasteless. And while, yes, the buns are imported from the Amoroso bakery in Pennsylvania and there is Whiz on offer here and everyone swears up and down that these are the closest cheesesteak cousins to those done on the streets of the City of Brotherly Love, I don't order my cheesesteaks with Whiz, don't believe that a historically accurate bun alone can redeem a sandwich, and have had plenty of crappy cheesesteaks while in Philadelphia.
Ted's might remind me of some of the cheesesteaks I've had while visiting Laura's family back East, but it only reminds me of the mediocre ones I've had from whatever sandwich shop was close by when the urge for a pound of meat and cheese on a squishy roll hit. The benefit of being in Philly is that there are pedestrian cheesesteaks everywhere and truly great ones regularly within reach. The problem with Ted's is that it mimics only the average.
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