Alex swears — SWEARS! — Pagano’s is the place to go for a cheese steak in Philadelphia. Or at least North Philly.
I’ve given up even trying to approximate the cheese steak at home. Steak-ums create the wrong kind of greasy mess and I just don’t have a pan with enough cooked-in tallow to get the right beef flavor in the steaks. And furthermore, it is impossible to the get the appropriate rolls outside of Philadelphia.
(During my Summer in Tampa, I tried Frankies version of a cheese steak, lured by the “best cheese steak south of Philly” proclamation on their sign and was surprised disappointed disgusted at what I was presented with.)
We can debate (and we will) whether Cheese Whiz is appropriate on a steak or not. I say no, Alex says yes. Look, who’s the native Philadelphian here?
So, yes, Pagano’s. South of the projects of the 1950s and 70s, north of the projects of this century. The inside is small, the walls covered with grease and photos of the owner and his employees. A simple menu, as any real steak shop should have (I was surprised disappointed disgusted to see a chicken cheese steak at the bottom, as if this was Applebee’s, but I digress), one price listed for each. None of this half-sandwich bullshit.
We were handed a huge stack of napkins along with our sandwiches. This could only be a good sign indicating the full greasiness we were about to consume.
I won’t bore you with the gory details, but yes, they were good. Very good. Greasy. Overflowing with meat and fried onions. The kind of cheese steak that forces you to take a nap and then skip the next couple of meals. Not that I will. I do, after all, have to get some scrapple for breakfast.