All right, I’m just going to put this out there: I’ve never been to Philadelphia. Not once. I’ve never, um, wanted to go there. I’m sure it’s nice—there’s that cracked bell, guys named Sal, amusing taxi drivers with attitude. So you may not believe what I have to say about Philly’s Best Cheesesteak and Hoagie shop. You may ask, “How can a guy who’s never been to Philly properly review a Philly cheesesteak joint? Isn’t that a bit like a priest giving sex tips—to non-pedophiles, at least?”
But hey, I know a good cheesesteak when I taste it. First, though, I had to find it. Philly’s Best is located next to something equally cheesy, Ontario Mills. After my third circle around what’s perhaps the worst mall in the world, I finally spotted it, next to a McDonald’s. When I walked in, I couldn’t help noticing the ton of Philadelphia crap on the walls—mostly posters of all the denizens Philly is proud of: Ben Franklin, catcher Bob Boone, Rocky Balboa, Hall & Oates. Hall & Oates? Proud?
While I pondered how anyone could be proud of a fictional boxer or a ‘70s duo that made Billy Joel seem edgy and profound, I gazed at my fellow diners—they were all, how shall we say, large. Morbid obesity, though, is always a good sign, foodie-wise. Even the air in Philly’s Best seemed infused with calories. I ordered, then could barely wait for my cheesesteak to finish grilling. I was nervous, excited, and felt like I was joining some secret organization, one dedicated to combing steak, cheese, and onions into an irresistible combo.
And I wasn’t disappointed. The cheesesteaks at Philly’s have a gooey, onion-licious texture—almost liquid—which enabled me to scarf down half of mine in little under a minute. The Italian peppers I threw on added a touch of serious heat to the second half, helping me slow down and resume a more moderate pace. As I ate, I daydreamed about moving so I could be closer to Philly’s and try out the rest of menu. After all, there are still items like the Philly Chicken and Cheese, a healthier menu option, if you could call it that. Also worth exploring is the Pizza Steak—think cheesesteak with tons of pizza sauce. Philly’s serves up burgers, too, although isn’t that a bit like going out for Mexican and getting the hamburguesa? There’s even a vegetarian sandwich offered, so your hippie friend doesn’t have to wait out in the car. But there are a few things to watch out for after you drag him in by his Birkenstocks.
For one thing—and this is almost criminal—they hide the fact that they serve alcohol (if you really need a beer, they’ve got Rolling Rock). Also, the cheese fries are the best appetizer option—this is a place built on the notion that cheese goes with everything, so who are you to question their modus operandi? (Don’t make the mistake I did by getting the onion rings and then regretting the extra cholesterol shot that fries lathered in cheese provide.) And for the ultimate cheese freak, Philly’s offers the equivalent of crack cocaine—Cheez Wiz, served straight out of the can and onto your sandwich. I couldn’t pull the trigger on this one, though—I still remember the Cheez Wiz ex-junkie who came to talk to us of its dangers back in fourth grade. Some things just stay with you.
Philly’s Best, 4320 E. Mills Circle Rd., Suite F, Ontario, (909) 484-7433; www.eatphillysbest.com. Other locations in Upland, Corona and Temecula (Chino location opens in January).