The Sandwich Solution
At the bottom of this week's Bite Me, I wrote about my troubles getting a decent hoagie out of Taste of Philly -- specifically the one at 18121 East Hampden Avenue in Aurora, but I've had similar issues at other locations. Although every once in a while I'll get a good T.O.P. hoagie, over the years the bad ones have far outweighed the good. The saving grace at this chain? It does good cheesesteaks almost all the time.
Pat's Philly Steaks & Subs has always been my go-to joint for great sandwiches, with a collection of Best of Denver awards to show for it. But the cheesesteaks at Pat's are always dry and wickedly heavy on the pepper (for reasons I can never understand), and this place also makes some of the worst french fries in the city of Denver.
I went to Pat's last night for my standard order: a gigantic ham hoagie about as long as my arm and a slightly smaller cheesesteak, with an order of fries on the side. Why did I order the fries at all? Because Laura, my wife and a native of Cheesesteak Country (having grown up just outside Philadelphia), insists on ordering them every single time because, to her mind, no sandwich order is complete without a paper bag full of french fries. And since she insists that every sandwich shop in Philly makes absolutely terrible fries, Pat's is doing nothing but being authentic in its insistence on serving these awful, mealy, up-from-frozen, under-salted, thick-cut fries that somehow manage to come both undercooked and burned every single time.
True to form, the fries were inedible. Also true to form, the cheesesteak was dry (missing that essential element of liquified beef fat greasing up the melted cheese and soaking into the roll like a sponge), very heavy on the pepper (which has become something like a trademark at both the Pat's locations and Large Marge's Philly Cheesesteaks up in Wheat Ridge -- another longtime favorite of former Pennsylvanians hunkered down in the West) and disappointing in all ways except for its size. This was a huge sandwich, stuffed with so much beef that it was impossible to eat without leaving enough fallen meat on the table to make a half-dozen tacos as dessert.
But dammit, if this place doesn't know its way around a big-ass sandwich. Because the hoagie was terrific.The ham was thin-sliced and cheap, the lettuce chopped and soaked down in sandwich oil, the white onions cut into small pieces. Everything had been salted and peppered perfectly and stacked high on a good, chewy roll. It was exactly the sandwich I'd been looking for last week and couldn't find at Taste of Philly.
So from now on, I have a solution. I'm going to stick with the cheesesteaks at T.O.P and the hoagies at Pat's. I'm sad that I haven't yet found a place that can do both of the polestars of the East Coast sandwich experience well, but I'm going to keep looking.
And until I do find that mythical sandwich shop? Well, I guess I'm just going to be stuck doing the ex-pat sandwich shuffle.
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