Cheesesteak #8 Cleavers

11:15 AM

On a Friday

Philadelphia, PA

I still have 2 major spots left to hit. Pat's and Geno's. I want to have a side by side comparison, so that review is going to have to be more planned than other lunches.

After careful consideration, I've decided that the show must go on. And by "show" I mean trying cheesesteaks.

So now I'm really just going to go wherever I want and eat whatever I want.... which isn't too different from the life I'm currently leading. 

 

I've wanted to go to Cleavers for quite a long time and, really, for quite a few reasons. They've got an incredible beer selection (always of interest), boozy milkshakes and floats, waffle fries, and fantastic looking cheesesteaks.

I really thought that getting all of those things the first time I went would be a little much, so instead I opted for a cheesesteak and a boozy milkshake. 

So lets get to the meat of it, shall we?

Before I start the rating, I want to say that if I could just rate the milkshake it would be a freaking 15 out of 10. It was boozy, creamy, and awesome. I can't wait to try all of their flavors and, maybe next time, throw in an extra shot.

- Rating -

So how does it rate?

The categories are:

  • Roll
  • Meat
  • Cheese
  • Onions
  • Team Effort (how it all works together)
  • Service (at the establishment)
  • Overall Value

A maximum of 5 points can be assigned to each category.

  • Roll - 2
    • Honestly, maybe it was because I got the seeded roll instead of the regular, but this cheesesteak would've been better served between 2 pieces of toasted white bread. There was a lack of any texture and every bite left my mouth feeling dry.
  • Meat - 3
    • Fine. Not good. Not bad. Fine.
  • Cheese - 4
    • This was an issue of cheese distribution, not volume.
  • Onions - 3
    • Good number of onions, but no real addition as far as texture.
  • Team Effort - 3
    • This was an okay cheesesteak.
  • Service - 5
    • Service was great. My meal was ready within minutes and served to me at my table. They give you a number to display and drop your order off accordingly.
  • Value - 3
    • An okay cheesesteak for an okay price.

TOTAL:  23

Other Elements of Note:

This location is NOT cash only. Cards are accepted and probably expected.

This building itself was actually quite interesting. It has an industrial feel with iron stairs leading up to a second story seating area.

There are a couple outside tables in front of the building, but be aware that they can get quite hot in direct light during the summer.

Cleavers boasts a robust beer selection that allows for you to match the perfect beer to suit your tastes. On the other hand, boozy milkshakes and floats are available in a variety of fun flavors with extra shots available for an additional fee. My pick, Birthday Surprise, is a combination of birthday cake ice cream and vodka topped with whipped cream and a cherry.

I WILL BE BACK.

This location is fairly close to my home.

Their milkshake was AMAZING. 

I need to try their waffle fries. Since my biggest complaint is the bread, I'm guessing their Steak Fries (waffle-cut fries, ribeye steak, fried onions, white cheddar sauce) would be a very different experience.

More information, including location, hours, and menu, can be found on their website.

- Recap -

I'm extremely glad that I came here. The location is perfectly central, their food and beer selections will surely satisfy those of all tastes, and their prices are reasonable.

Their standard cheesesteak left a bit to be desired, but I'm sure something like the BBQ Cheesesteak (ribeye steak, onion rings, thick cut bacon, American, BBQ sauce) or the Effin' Hot Cheesesteak (ribeye steak, hot cherry pepper relish, fried onions, American, Sriracha Aioli) could be real culinary contenders.

I'll definitely be returning again for Steak Fries, beer, and maybe another milkshake.

Cheesesteak #5 Dalessandro's

5:30 PM

On a Friday

Philadelphia, PA

 

The trip to Dalessandro's meant an Uber or cab ride to head a couple miles north of Center City, right outside Manayunk. I planned poorly, leaving home right at the beginning of rush hour. This meant that I was pretty hungry by the time I arrived.

Dalessandro's is a well-oiled machine. The employees orchistrated dozens of people in the time I was there and seemed to have an efficient system of ordering and payment that was pretty easy to pick up, even from an outsider like me.

The end result is spectacular. I mean, who can ask for anything more than this meal encompassing all the food groups you could want.

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I never thought I'd find myself looking forward to taking photos of onions, but here we are.

Also, I'm not even sorry.

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And that cheese is more evenly distributed than any I have seen before. I'm learning there's a fine line between too little and too much Whiz, though some may disagree that there could ever be too much Whiz.

While I would generally prefer slices of steak over the minced result seen here, I would say that this pile of delicious steak has something special to offer. The mincing gives the meat a particular melt-in-your-mouth sensation, which I very much enjoyed.

Even though I may describe the consistency as a tad greasy, I am well aware that I requested a cheesesteak, not a lettuce wrap.

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- Rating -

So how does it rate?

The categories are:

  • Roll
  • Meat
  • Cheese
  • Onions
  • Team Effort (how it all works together)
  • Service (at the establishment)
  • Overall Value

A maximum of 5 points can be assigned to each category.

  • Roll - 4
    • Solid. Not too soft, but no real crisp in the crust. Enough to hold up to the meat, but probably not the main reason I'll be returning
  • Meat - 3.5
    • The meat was good, if a tiny bit on the greasy side. Do not take this the wrong way, but the meat kind of reminded me of a sloppy Joe...a sloppy Joe where it's real meat and freshly prepared on a seasoned grill
  • Cheese - 4.5
    • FINALLY! The perfect amount of cheese. Not so much that it was running out of the cheesesteak, but not so little that I felt like I was eating a steak sandwich
  • Onions - 4
    • A good amount of onions. They had a lovely crunch and were a great addition to the composition of the sandwich
  • Team Effort - 4
    • Between the good meat, good bread, and good cheese I have every reason to rate this cheesesteak as GOOD
  • Service - 4
    • Service was pretty great for the size of the facility. The women behind the counter were great about keeping the orders together and making sure the right meal got to the right customer. They were also very eager to make sure every order had everything you need, even offering to add items after they were picked up
  • Value - 4
    • A good $10 cheesesteak. More than enough for a meal, no matter how hungry you might be when you arrive

TOTAL:  28

Other Elements of Note:

Another CASH ONLY establishment and another location where beer is readily available to accompany your steak.

Condiments were offered at every opportunity at Dalessandro's. There are at least 8 different toppings for burgers and steaks that are offered for FREE. That's right, free additional toppings in a world where you often find yourself paying $0.25 for a cup for water at almost every establishment.

There's limited indoor seating at Dalessandro's. Also, there's limited outdoor seating as well...basically, you shouldn't plan to sit down if you're heading to Dalessandro's, unless you're willing to wait or make some new friends to eat with. Many patrons seemed to be taking their orders to go, while I was happy to join a couple at one of their tables outside to enjoy the lovely spring evening.

More information about Dalessandro's can be found on their website, such as menu, hours, and contact information.

I had a very interesting conversation with my Uber driver as I was on my way home from Dalessandro's. He's originally from a little north of Philadelphia, but was surprisingly chatty as we discussed the best cheesesteaks in the area. While he gave me some pointers for avoiding tourist spots (Pat's and Geno's, I'm looking at you) he also came to the same conclusion I have found so far: 

Even a bad cheesesteak is still pretty good.

As long as the meat is fresh and the bread isn't soggy, it's really hard to have a bad cheesesteak. I hope that this holds true as I keep working my way through the city, but for now I'm glad to continue testing some tried and true locations looking for the very best.

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- Recap -

Dalessandro's is an experience. Away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Philadelphia, their location lends itself to a customer base that's made up of regulars, not tourists wandering the streets on their way back to their hotels after viewing the Liberty Bell.

The space is small, but they seem to have no problem filling the constant stream of orders as people pack the room from counter to door. Their cheesesteak was wonderfully balanced between the crunchy onions and the greasy meat that's not for the customer worried about their summer body... or really even for those whose waistbands aren't made of elastic.

And, while I wish it were closer to me so that I could return more frequently, it's probably for the best that I would need to make a special trip here in the future. 

Cheesesteak #3 Jim's Steaks

11:30 AM

On a Friday

Philadelphia, PA

I think I've found my favorite place in Philadelphia.

South Street.

It's home to some great nightlife, fun shops, and many of the buildings are covered with mosaics. Just walking there brightened up my day. It's like walking through an outdoor art exhibit.

As I neared my destination, I thought about how this cheesesteak quest is leading me around the city in a way I wasn't expecting. I find myself taking the long way to my destination, hoping to find some other new shop or historic street along the way. It's basically a self guided tour where, in the end, I get to eat a cheesesteak. 

Maybe all tours should end this way.

 

As I got to Jim's I was immediately taken in by both its external presence and interior details. Once you head through the doors, you know you're in a place where magical things are going to happen.

Grill orders are taken separately from other orders to speed up the process. Having a view of the grill while you wait really makes the experience that much more interesting.

No complaints about the view.

After receiving my cheesesteak I followed the signs toward the upstairs seating area. Careful not to disrupt my perfectly assembled meal, I maneuvered up the stairs and took a spot by the windows overlooking the intersection of South Street and 4th. Though, to be fair, I spent far more time looking at my tray than people watching.

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But can you blame me?

I mean, really?

I don't think that it's fair that my food photographs better than most people...

- Rating -

So how does it rate?

The categories are:

  • Roll
  • Meat
  • Cheese
  • Onions
  • Team Effort (how it all works together)
  • Service (at the establishment)
  • Overall Value

A maximum of 5 points can be assigned to each category.

  • Roll - 4
    • A lovely, fresh roll. It had a bit of a hard time holding up to the volume of components included in this sandwich. Honestly, there are way worse things
  • Meat - 4
    • The meat was fantastic. And, of course, there was a good deal of it on this cheesesteak. It was well seasoned, well cooked, and was so moist it threatened the integrity of the bread
  • Cheese - 4.5
    • They've got this figured out. light spread of cheese on the bun allowed the juices from the meat to not overwhelm the bread. Then...oh then, they drizzled more cheese on top. It was literally a cheese sandwich. Incredible
  • Onions - 4
    • These onions were beautiful. While some pieces were a little large, they were well cooked and an excellent additional component to the meal
  • Team Effort - 4
    • A great team effort! The components worked well off each other and together composed a truly fantastic cheesesteak experience. A point was lost for the bread's inability to hold together under the weight/moisture of the other ingredients
  • Service - 5
    • Lovely. Just lovely. Everyone behind the counter seemed genuinely happy to be there and, at the very least, enjoyed each other's company. The upstairs seating area also had an employee available to swiftly clear tables. I imagine this is especially important as I expect they experience constant customer turnover
  • Value - 4.5
    • An excellent $10 cheesesteak. Truly a delightful meal that needed no additional components 

TOTAL: 30

Other Elements of Note:

THIS IS A CASH ONLY ESTABLISHMENT. You've been warned. Plan ahead.

Another fantastic eatery that serves beer! Always a delight to see.

The upstairs walls are lined with signed notes and photos of celebrities who have eaten there, an array of pictures from Philadelphia, and a lovely neon sign. My favorite is a picture of a Ben Franklin impersonator looking at a cheesesteak like a male lead looks at his love interest in a Nicholas Spark's inspired movie. 

More information about Jim's Steaks can be found on their website, such as menu, hours, and other locations.

- Recap -

Jim's Steaks has set a new standard. They clearly know what they're doing and I firmly believe that food always tastes better when it's made by people who care.

I expect to return in the near future and maybe this time I'll actually do some people watching.

Cheesesteak #2 Campo's Deli

6:00 PM

On a Sunday

Philadelphia, PA

Onward to cheesesteaks!

Onward to cheesesteaks!

About a block south of Betsy Ross's house and a block west of the Delaware River, you'll find Campo's Deli nestled in a lovely brick building in Old City Philadelphia on the well-trodden Market Street.

 

At least twice as long as it is wide, Campo's interior is dotted with small, round tables and aluminum chairs arranged in sets of two. There are even two small sets along the wall across from the counter where orders are taken, though I'd assume no one over 100lbs would be able to fit there. 

While their menu has an extensive range of sandwich options, I was there for just one.

This time I was able to walk to the counter with confidence, make my order, and watch the magic happen.

It took about 10 minutes for my cheesesteak to be prepared but, honestly, I'm rarely ever going to complain about fresh meat being cooked to order.

I sat at a small, round table by the windows to watch the world go by as devoured my beautifully crafted masterpiece.

- Rating -

So how does it rate?

The categories are:

  • Roll
  • Meat
  • Cheese
  • Onions
  • Team Effort (how it all works together)
  • Service (at the establishment)
  • Overall Value

A maximum of 5 points can be assigned to each category.

  • Roll - 4.5
    • This roll was a thing of absolute beauty. In full disclosure, I love carbs more than anything in the world, and consider myself an expert, so when I say this is good bread....This. Is. Good. Bread. I had to take off half a point for it being cold. Like, so cold that it almost immediately chilled my meat
  • Meat - 3
    • Volume. This cheesesteak was filled to the brim with meat. It was fresh, but was a little chewy and could've benefited greatly from some extra seasoning. All in all, fine
  • Cheese - 3
    • No major praises or complaints. I'd say the roll could've used a little more all over, but really was just okay in that regard
  • Onions - 3
    • So, here's the thing: There was a pretty good onion flavor to be had, but honestly, that effect could've been completely synthesized through onion powder. The onions in the sandwich had almost no texture, which made it difficult to rate higher than average
  • Team Effort - 4
  • Service - 3
    • Perfectly adequate
  • Value - 4
    • Fairly quick service and a $9.72 charge isn't too bad. Hell, I'd almost pay that just for their bread

TOTAL: 24.5

Other Elements of Note:

THIS IS A CASH ONLY ESTABLISHMENT. I REPEAT, THIS IS A CASH ONLY ESTABLISHMENT. If you don't know that ahead of time I can only imagine that you will be supremely displeased by the time you get to the counter and order. All hope is not lost though, there is an ATM available near the entrance.

A surprise greeted me when I reached the cash register and saw the cooler behind the counter was filled with various gleaming bottles of beer. This could be a game changer. While a cheesesteak itself can be a wonderful meal, it's pretty universally agreed that a cold beer improves almost any dining experience.

Campo's cheesesteaks are also the official cheesesteak of the sports complexes that house the Philadelphia Flyers, Phillies, and 76ers. This comes at no surprise after I almost scarfed down the paper that my cheesesteak was wrapped in.

More information can be found on their website, such as menu, hours, and even shipping information. That's right, Campo's delicious cheesesteaks can actually be delivered to anywhere in the country.

- Recap -

Campo's Deli provides a great Philly cheesesteak experience. Again, I can't stress enough about how much I enjoyed their bread. The location is fairly central, and lends itself to a nighttime stroll along the river or late-night partying in Old City's many bars and clubs. I will definitely be back, or, maybe the next time will be at some sort of Philadelphia sporting event. We'll see.