Friday, August 19, 2011

The Best "Secret" Cheesesteak in Town is at Penn Station

Battleground of Cheesesteaks
So what if it's a bit faux pas to crown a national chain as the reigning champion of our local cheesesteak restaurants? Perhaps you're thinking it's merely an unopposed sandwich in our small culinary pond here locally, but no, I'm comparing this with years of data and research that my taste-buds have compiled, and can say honestly that this sandwich, this cheesesteak is the best I've had in Greensboro. No, the best anywhere. Yes, I've even been to Philadelphia, and visited Pat's and Geno's, who both are famous for their versions of the cheesesteak, but it's a completely different animal. Don't get me wrong, I love Philly and their cheesesteaks, but I grew up on Miami Subs on High Point road. an East Coast style sub with more than just "wiz" and onions. I loved the loaded, cheesy, awesomeness of their gooey subs mixed with green peppers, onions, and cheese. Of course like any good restaurant in Greensboro, eventually it, as most do, closed leaving me without a replacement. So for years I searched for a replacement. When Monk's, a Greensboro favorite returned to a strip-mall near me, I immediately set out to get one. They were good, but ultimately Tito ended up closing up his cheesesteak dream once again leaving me without very many options. Then there was Elizabeth's Pizza and their version. Good, but still not amazing, and then Sub Station which wasn't too bad, nor good.  Jersey Mike's was decent, and heck, I even gave Hardee's a shot with their Cheesesteak Thickburger. In the end I had practically given up on finding a steak sandwich worth clamoring about. One in which every bite would be followed with a involuntary "mmm", or "ahhh". That's the sign of good food.

We knew something was up with the place the first time we went to Penn Station. Apparently the food is so good people get impatient in line having to wait, as Shannon recalls from 2009:
We were just about through at the counter when this jerk comes in, and after standing behind us only long enough for Ren to tell me what kind of cheese she chose, the guy started flipping out. He literally threw a 40 year old man-tantrum when the girl asked Serenity if she wanted mustard. After his abrupt and uncalled for huff and puff, I said "it's okay dude, chill out". He did not like my response and shot up his hands in the air, then started hollering and stormed out of the building. I yelled back to him as he was in total meltdown, "yeah, have a GREAT day SIR!" I apologized to the counter help for the incident and bent back down to Ren and was like "So, Ren sweetheart..." 

I tremble for that which is before me.
The review also goes on to say that I deemed the sandwich "orgasmic." I was on to something, but it took a chance encounter with some local foodies over at Table 16 one night to really show me the light. As we broached the subject, I was instructed that my mistake was ordering Penn Station's cheesesteak like it was some sort of build-a-sandwich. The greatness of the food wasn't the sandwich being a cheesesteak, it was the sum of its parts (that I hadn't been ordering), which made this a great cheesesteak. I was still trying to order my Miami's Sub, picking and choosing toppings like some sort of three year old, failing to see the big picture, failing to grasp the abstract cheesesteak paradise I could have if I'd only open my eyes to see it. This is when my friends that night decided to have mercy on me and wrote down instructions on a piece of paper and slid it to me across the table. They said "next time you go say this":

The Secret: "One large cheesesteak, all the way, add lettuce and tomato."

Of course when you do, the lady at the register, now worried that someone like me knows the "code", and is equally worried if I can handle it asks, "Are you sure?" I then request some of their amazing lemonade, fresh cut French fries and reply "I was born for this moment."

Vinegar and Fresh Cut French Fries are out of this world!
See the "secret" is  like a tavern password during prohibition; it enters you into a local club of cheesesteak enthusiasts, a few select local people who can say they've had the "best of the best." What is this sandwich? It's a massive baguette filled with steak, provolone cheese, sautéed onions, fresh mushrooms, banana peppers, spicy-brown mustard, mayonnaise and pizza sauce. Pizza sauce? Oh that's what makes it golden! Add the lettuce and tomato on top, and you have the most beautiful, the most aromatic, most heavenly tasting, perfect cheesesteak in town. I lust after this sandwich, drool upon writing this review and to be honest, I'll drive out of my way to buy one of these when my cheesesteak addiction tries to rear its ugly head again and I need my drug, my cheesesteak fixation. Just the thought of the way the mustard mixes with the marinara to create a delightful tang to enhance the steak, and then is cooled off by the creamy mayonnaise- gets me excited. The crunch of the toasted bread, as the gooey, buttery cheese stretches from the sandwich to your mouth is enough to make you scream while eating this sandwich. I'd genuinely love to say some locally owned establishment had came up with this, but to be honest I've not found anything that remotely comes close. So go on, and gnaw your inferior cheesesteaks hoping to find something that rivals Penn Station like I did for years, or come over to the in-crowd, where the secret of cheesesteak perfection awaits.


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