Philadelphia: A tale of two sandwiches

First, my lovely travel companion and I did more than eat in Philly. It might not seem like it and certainly there were a few times that it didn’t feel like it…but I promise I also drank.

This is the first of two posts about our trip, I figured I’d dedicate one to food and the other to history. Or herstory. Or if you’re a moon landing conspiracy theorist just “story”.

Ok…so sandwiches.

Let me start by saying that I’d wear these sandwiches like an “A-Line” skirt with an intriguing but tasteful slit on the side.

Cheese Steaks:

We landed in Philly at about 1030am. Which meant we’d left our house at 530am to get to the airport and get our 750 flight. Needless to say, I was tired for the flight. I remember falling in and out of sleep, head tipping this way and that, a petite and almost nonexistent spindle of drool rolled down my chin (Stax has asked me to add that the description of my drool is perhaps a tiny bit under exaggerated….a lot). In my sleepy state I remember the ghostly call of “cheese steaks” from what I can only assume was the ghost of George Washington reaching from beyond the grave.

Needless to say, my body and mind were ready.

I’d been told by people to go seek out Jim and learn from him all that there is to know about cheese and steaks and bread. And so, I did. Stax and I dropped our bags off and made a beeline for South Street. Which is apparently a famous street and boasts many a shop and restaurants, including the Condom Kingdom…which is really more like a Condom Estate with several adjacent properties. (Ironically it’s right next to the Johnny Rockets…which was my wife’s joke at the time, but mine now).

Jim’s had a line, as most of good places do. This one was out the door and looped twice inside, but I didn’t let that deter me. As we got closer I could see the chefs cooking up loads of beef (literal loads) and onions, cheese whiz in a metal drum and stacks of provolone built up like the parapets on the castle of the Condom Kingdom. I walked in and smelled the smelly smell of something that smells beefy. I was in heaven. After waiting in line and deciding on a Cheese steak, Whiz, with onions the man shouted at us the words we’d longed to hear for nearly 30 minutes “Next! Yo, Hey, What do you want?”. Oh siren song that called to me with the sweetest words I’d ever heard, I want a sandwich, one of beef and cheese and onions…and two beers and those chips please.

Stax and I shared a sandwich….she felt a feared for her stomach and I knew I had a lot of eating ahead of me.  Here it is, in all it’s glory:

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DO YOU SEE THAT! LOOK AT IT! DON’T TURN AWAY FROM IT’S GLORY! mmmmhmmm, excuse me.

So we ate it…and then we left. And honestly, I couldn’t have been happier. Until later that day…when I went to Reading Terminal and got another sandwich. But I’ll get to that in a moment.

On Monday, we got another cheese steak. This time, we were just walking along Market street in search of lunch and I thought it might be good to get another sandwich of the cheese steak variety. So, we stopped at the closest one which just happened to be Sonny’s. It also happened to be freaking amazing. Honestly, I’d wear this sandwich as a dainty but practical head scarf.

There was also a line here, not as long but definitely filled with less tourists. They also had more options for their cheese steaks. You could get yours with bacon and bleu cheese or mozzarella, but I still go the OG. For science.

Here is an action shot of me action-ing.

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That is joy in meat form. The meatiest form of all forms. Stax got the Bacon and Bleu sandwich, this was also good….but honestly. The original was amazing. In fact, and I’ll go on record saying this…it was better than Jim’s. The whiz held up better to the meat and each bite was completely filled with falvor. I didn’t get that at Jim’s. Don’t get me wrong, Jim’s was good. But I thought Sonny’s was better. But I’m not a doctor.

Side note to this, there was a guy in line ahead of us, he was alone and he carried some cash and a coupon in his hand. He was anxious at the sight of the line, you could tell. He waived at the busy counter but they didn’t see him. As he got closer his anxiety turned into a slight rocking and he waived again, but they didn’t see him. Finally when he was about 4 people from the front the cashier saw him and yelled to him and waved. I cannot describe the smile on his face when he heard his name, it was so wide that it stretched to me and Stax and we had to smile too. That in it’s self was enough for me to love this place, the food was icing on the meat cake.

Warning, this next section might be hard for die hard cheese steak fans to read.

Psst, over here. Yo, there is another sandwich in Philly that you need to try. It’s amazing, It’s actually beyond amazing. It’s like happiness wrapped in the laughter of children and sprinkled with the joy of your first Christmas morning.

I am talking, of course, about Tommy DiNic’s sandwiches in Reading Terminal. This is the mother of all sandwiches. If sandwiches could walk and talk and have an organized religion that required a hajj this would be their Mecca. It is, without a doubt the best sandwich I have ever eaten.

First, they slow roast pork in what I can only assume is “awesome juice”  and slice it into relatively thin slices. Those go on top of some hand cut pieces of sharp provolone and are covered with a spicy sauteed broccoli rabe. It’s so juicy that I needed to wear mud waders to eat it. It was like white water rafting on the meat juice river. It required lots of napkins.

Here’s a gratuitous shot of pork:

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YOU LIKE THAT!?

And here is a trio of pics of me eating said pork:

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That’s some life changing shit right there.

I had this sandwich on the first day and went a full day without having it again…to avoid killing the magic. But when I went to go on Monday, I found to my complete despair that Reading Terminal was closed. I sat, weeping, in my bathtub with the realization that the best day of my life had come and gone. I’ll always have my memories…and a stained shirt.

Long story short, Philly has great food, beyond sandwiches. But if you’re going to Philly you need to eat a cheese steak and Tommy DiNic’s Pork. It is a must. Give Sonny’s a try if you want but ask around, people will tell you where to find the best.

PS! I promise the next blog post will have more of my wife in it, but here are a few pictures to tide you over.

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