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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Novice Foodie's First (!) Cheesesteak

Posted By on Tue, Nov 3, 2009 at 3:15 PM

click to enlarge KELLI BEST-OLIVER
  • Kelli Best-Oliver
I don't really care about the World Series. Unless the Redbirds are playing, I see it as nothing more than an excuse for my husband to monopolize the television and Fox to preempt Glee. Blasphemous. This year is no exception as, to me, neither team has a compelling narrative. The Phillies won last year. And who, outside of New Yorkers, cheers for the Yankees? Cheering for the Yankees is like rooting for the rich bully who got bikes from the tooth fairy.

I will, however, use the World Series as an excuse to do my duty as a novice foodie and sandwich lover and honor the culinary treasure beloved by generations of Philadelphians: the cheesesteak.

You see, my friends, until the very meal eaten for this column, I was a cheesesteak virgin.

click to enlarge KELLI BEST-OLIVER
  • Kelli Best-Oliver
Philadelphia treats the cheesesteak as an institution, replete with an ongoing, vociferous debate as to just which establishment serves up the best. However, a trip to Philly is nowhere near the top of my hypothetical travel wish list. Word from the curb states that the best cheesesteaks to be had in our fair city can be found at 9th Street Deli in Soulard -- in fact, this humble publication awarded it Best Cheesesteak in 2008.* My two associates and I ventured down to 900 Shenandoah Street for a late lunch and hopefully a fitting tribute to an iconic sandwich.

The profile of a cheesesteak is this: long roll, thinly-sliced beef cooked on a griddle with onions, then slathered with cheese, either provolone or (the true classic) Cheez-Whiz. I'm not a fan of processed cheese, save for a few incantations: nachos, cheese fries and, now, the "Just Like Philly" cheesesteak at 9th Street Deli which comes on French bread with onions, roasted red peppers and the Whiz, all toasted up together.

I probably should have eaten this thing on Sunday to counteract my Halloween hangover. It's a gooey, toasty, greasy belly bomb of a sandwich, resplendent in its neon orange haze. The meat is tender, the caramelized onions add a touch of sweetness, the crunch of the toasted bread adds texture, and Cheez-Whiz acts as the salty binding agent holding it together. Couple this with salt & vinegar Zapps and a drink, and I had the makings of a home-run lunch that I can add to my reliable St Louis sandwich list.

Kelli Best-Oliver is on a quest to become a full-fledged foodie. She chronicles her adventures every Tuesday. She writes about any damn thing she pleases at South City Confidential.

* - Longtime Gut Check readers will remember that 9th Street Deli came out on top of my Cheesesteak Quest. - Ian

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