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Gloucester Township Food Tour: Cheesesteaks

The first stop on Bob Wankel's cheesesteak tour didn't go quite as he hoped.

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 Cheez

1661 Blackwood Clementon Road
Blackwood, NJ 08012-4633
(856) 228-1177

Check back tomorrow when I break down the cheesesteak from Sporta's Deli. 

Lisa Bariana July 19, 2011 at 07:30 PM
I respectfully disagree. I have found Big Cheez to have one of the best steaks in the immediate area and we order there often. We had occasion to order steaks from there while family was visiting, specifically family from South Philadelphia, who know their way around a good cheese steak. They still talk about how good they were, including the size of the sandwich, freshness of the roll and quality of the meat. In an area where pizza shops are on every corner, Big Cheez really stands out--super friendly staff, clean shop and quality ingredients (try the chicken fingers--huge portions of REAL chicken breast tenders!).
Bob Wankel July 19, 2011 at 07:36 PM
That's the beauty of it, it's a matter of personal taste. I agree in that I thought it was a nice restaurant with friendly people, I just didn't care for the sandwich. Just one man's opinion. But the feedback
Scott Leusner July 20, 2011 at 04:55 AM
The best thing there is the brick oven-cooked upside down pizza
OCNJ July 20, 2011 at 08:40 PM
Big Cheez is pretty darn good! I hope they make it. Nothing else in that location has made it and most were very good.

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