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Monday, July 16, 2007

Cheesesteak Quest: Natural Fact Deli

Posted By on Mon, Jul 16, 2007 at 4:37 PM

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click to enlarge We need an official ruling.
  • We need an official ruling.

We need an official ruling.

Technically, I should disqualify Natural Fact Deli (20 Allen Avenue) from Cheesesteak Quest. The Philly cheesesteak on the Webster Groves restaurant's menu isn't a Philly cheesesteak.

I hesitate for two reasons. First, Natural Fact Deli's cheesesteak was highly recommended to me by a reader who had recently undertaken his own cheesesteak quest and clearly knows his cheesesteaks. Second, it's a pretty awesome sandwich.

If you've never visited Natural Fact Deli, imagine the food co-op in your college's student union, but with much better food -- mostly sandwiches and wraps. Prices are reasonable, too. My cheesesteak was $5.99, which includes a side of the restaurant's excellent homemade sweet-potato chips.

The menu clearly states "Philly" cheesesteak, but even before I tasted mine, I knew it wasn't exactly what I was seeking. Rather than sitting open on the plate, its meat, cheese, etc., etc., spilling out, it was arranged in orderly fashion: hoagie top; meat, cheese, onions and peppers; hoagie bottom.

The meat had been sliced too thick -- closer to fajita-size -- and there wasn't that much of it. The cheese was jack cheese. (Perish the thought!) But none of this mattered once I took a bite. The hoagie was fantastic: wonderfully fresh, not too soft, not too firm. The steak was delicious, if a little chewy. The cheese had a satisfying piquant note.

Call it a steak-and-cheese sandwich rather than a true cheesesteak. I'll split the difference on the 0-to-5 scale:

cheez_whiz.jpg
cheez_whiz.jpg
cheez_whiz.jpg

The quest continues. Though, for the sake of my waistline and arteries, maybe after a week's break.

Update: I suppose splitting the difference on a 0-to-5 scale would be 2.5 Cheese Whizzes (Cheese Whizzi?). But this sandwich was better than that. This is why I was an English major.

-Ian Froeb

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