Writer's Note: The cheesesteak. Is there any delicacy more synonymous with the city of Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs?
No, of course not.
This region has long taken pride in the cheesesteak. It is the Holy Grail of food in these parts.
It's become a lazy cliche for sports networks. In town to do a nationalbroadcast for a Phillies or Eagles game? You can bet a producer will include some shots of a guy at a deli dicing up a steak.
Pat's. Geno's. Steve's. Chink's. Dalessandro's. You've heard the names, and if you've been lucky enough to make your way across the bridge and sample some of these sandwiches, you know why the debate over where the best cheesesteaks are always begins and ends with Philadelphia.
The cheesesteak has become an art form. You want to be a legit sandwich shop around here? You better have a good cheesesteak to back it up.
When done properly the sandwich is a perfect blend of grease, cheese, and tender meat that combines to fill every inch of a fresh roll with delectable flavor.
When done improperly, the sandwich can be an uninspired, bland, fattening contraption, leaving one feeling full, yet unfullfilled.
Now, I love cheesesteaks. But I've always been reluctant to order one around here because I have long been skeptical that local shops could perfect the art. So, last week I set out to find if my suspicions were in fact true.
I'm not going to put a rank on the first shop I visited. While the premise of this series is to write about the best of Gloucester Township, this sandwich shouldn't be included on the list. Still, I wasn't about to take a 1,000-calorie sandwich to the face and not get any content out of it, so today I'm going to detail my stop at Big Cheez on Blackwood Clementon Road.
I'm not a cheap guy. I'm willing to pay for a good product. But when I stopped in at Big Cheez and order a 12-inch cheesesteak for $8.50, I said to myself, "This better be good."
And, well, it wasn't.
Now, in fairness, Big Cheez has a large menu, friendly workers, and a clean and spacious dining room. I'd go back there under different circumstances. They could be masters of another food, but this is about the cheesesteak.
This chewy steak was served on a overly soft roll, with half melted American cheese draped on top.
You have to give a me a more memorable roll, it's a part of the sandwich, not simply a container of meat and cheese. The steak itself lacked grease, was a bit tough, and the meat was bland. I liked to get the cheese running throughout the sandwhich—the cheese on this one sat half-melted on top. It wasn't terrible, but it was just a sandwich. My friend, upon finishing the steak, adequately summed it up best:
"If someone handed me this, I'd eat it. But I wouldn't go out looking for it."
Seems about right.
Big Cheez1661 Blackwood Clementon Road
Blackwood, NJ 08012-4633
Check back tomorrow when I break down the cheesesteak from Sporta's Deli.