Our Friday began by waking up at Bernadette
's house in Conshohocken,moving leisurely toward the car after saying goodbye. I'm comforted by the fact that Bern is not only coming out to visit us for the 10,000 Lakes Festival in July, but also might be joining us in Pittsburgh during Father's Day weekend. The sooner, the better, as far as I'm concerned. She is one special lady.
Before we left town, we needed to satisfy that one craving that inevitably begins to boil in my belly whenever I approach Philadelphia. That craving, of course, is for a cheesesteak. This magnificent sandwich is indigenous to Philly, created by Pat Olivieri during the 1930s and adopted today by hundreds of restaurants, delis and sandwich shops as the preferred method of fighting hunger.
Anyone who's not from Philly will probably tell you the best cheesesteaks come from the old rivalry in town - Pat's
, the originator, and Geno's
, the competitor. You can find these two dinosaurs directly across the street from one another at Ninth and Passyunk.
They're 100% wrong. In fact, it's this truth that makes me distrust any food travel program that talks about these two places like they're the cat's new pajamas. They're tourist traps, the both of them, with overpriced food in smaller quantities than what you'll get at a modest, hard-working establishment like Dalessandro's
, at Henry Ave. and Wendover St. in Roxborough. There are a lot of places in Philly where you can get an amazing cheesesteak, and this one was always the closest to my house. Anytime I drive by and don't stop for a bite, I always end up regretting it a minute later.
But some people might argue with me that Dalessandro's is lacking in some regards. Examples:
-Dalessandro's features a variety of beer in six-packs, but does not feature a full bar.
-Dalessandro's does not carry Cheez Whiz as an option for their sandwiches, though it has essentially become the standard at the touristy spots we discussed earlier. These guys won't budge.
-Finally, had we decided to visit to Dalessandro's on a Sunday, they would have been closed altogether, laughing at our disappointment from the comfort of their homes. Monday through Saturday, they're in full swing; Sunday, they give their bats a rest.
. Directly across Henry Ave. lies the second half of what I consider to be Philly's modern
cheesesteak rivalry - a far more relevant competition for yours truly, simply because a cheesesteak from either of these places is just endlessly superior to either Pat's or Geno's.
Chubby's steps in where Dalessandro's chooses not to, saying yes to each of those three stipulations I mentioned above. Full bar, Cheez Whiz available, and open on Sundays. With this rivalry, there's actually something to distinguish one place from the other, rather than merely a bunch of flashing lights and an ignorant sign in the window.
We did the only reasonable thing we could think of, and got three cheesesteaks to share between the three of us. One with Whiz from Chubby's, and across the street, an American and a Provolone from Dalessandro's. Fried onions on all three, because without them, you're not really eating a cheesesteak. It's like a hot dog without mustard, fries without ketchup. They just don't make sense, period.
We sat in the car and indulged in one after the next, starting with the Provolone from Dalessandro's (amazing) and followed it with the Chubby's Whiz (also amazing). The Chubby's steak was very amply sized, but both the Dalessandro's sandwiches were gargantuan. They had to weigh a pound and a half each.
We ended with the Dalessandro's American, and despite its slight loss of heat while it waited for us, and the fact that we were nearly full by the time we got to it, it tasted the best. Both places gave us some great food, but Dalessandro's won today's battle. Cheers.
Sarah summed up the majority of our day in her most recent post
, and I don't care to do it again. Let's just say we made a wrong turn a leave it at that.
But when we did finally roll into the right Plainfield in N.J., we sat down for a quick pizza dinner with my grandmother, my Aunt Susie (both shown here) and my grandfather. They wished us all luck in the world, with my granddad adding, "Don't look back."
From there, the drive into Manhattan was only about an hour, but with the sun down and the rain falling rapidly, we'd missed any chance to get out and see the city. I'm sure it winds up being the first in a long string of irritating lessons to be learned.
Thankfully, awaiting us in Manhattan with open arms were my good friends Kelsey (shown here) and Noah from college. Noah was kind enough to offer us some of his beverages and a place to crash for the night. His place, in the upper east side, was just what we needed after the baffling day we'd just had.
Sleep was a necessity. We had plenty catching up to do here in NYC. Check back soon for coverage of our weekend in town.