Cheesesteak at Philly Bar & Grill

philly bar and grill cheesesteak overhead

By Daniel B.

Cheesesteaks might as well grow on trees. Even though we are more than 200 miles north of Philadelphia, this signature dish from the City of Brotherly Love is as ubiquitous in the Capital Region as it is across the country.

And why not? It's a classic combination of beef, sauteed onions, and cheese. Although there are some philistines who don't care for onions and order their cheesesteaks "witout."

But most of these sandwiches -- even though they may look like Philly cheesesteaks, and are called Philly cheesesteaks -- sadly are not Philly cheesesteaks.

There is one critical component that transforms a simple everyday steak sandwich into the classic made famous at joints like Jim's and Pat's and Geno's. And luckily for us, the good people at Latham's Philly Bar and Grill are in on the secret.

It's the roll.

You can take all of the contents of a banh-mi, and if you put them inside a supermarket version of a baguette, the sandwich is going to fall flat. The Vietnamese sandwich demands a crisp and crackling crust that shatters when you bite into it.

philly bar and grill cheesesteak bread closeup

For a Philadelphia cheesesteak you want something else entirely. The interior of the roll needs to be light enough to absorb some of the fat from the beef and fried onions. It should coalesce around the sandwich's meaty core. But the crust needs to be firm enough to just barely hold the whole thing together. Its flavor should be light, but present, so as not to detract from the star of the show.

Amoroso's bakery has been the source of such rolls for Philadelphia's best cheesesteaks for generations. Which is why when I heard that the Philly Bar and Grill imported Amoroso's rolls from their namesake city, I was eager to put them through the paces.

Their menu doesn't make it easy for people to order a simple, classic Philly cheesesteak.

It requires an incredible amount of resolve when faced with twenty different toppings and a choice of any three of them on your sandwich to focus simply on sauteed onions. Add to that six premium toppings and seven choices of cheese, and the odds of patrons gilding the lily increase tremendously.

philly bar and grill cheesesteak cheese whiz closeup

If you are not a philistine, the only real choice when ordering a Philly cheesesteak is deciding between provolone or whiz. And really the style of the steak should dictate that decision.

Just as spicy foods go better with fruitier off-dry wines, and big tannic red wines demand rich foods to balance out their power, greasy cheesesteaks are elevated by the presence of Cheez Whiz. Pat's is a perfect example of the type of steak that calls for whiz.

After trying both the provolone and the whiz at the Philly Bar & Grill, I endorse the whiz.

For sandwiches like these, the rendered beef fat of the steak and oil from the griddle fried onions commingle with the orange cheesy goo to form a powerfully flavorful sauce that seeps into every nook and cranny of the chopped meat and binds the whole sandwich into one gloriously greasy, mouth-coating, palate-pleasing extravaganza of carbs, fat, salt and protein.

philly bar and grill cheesesteak closeup

Provolone works better on cheesesteaks that are a little more delicate. If you want a good example of this style, you are going to have to travel to Jim's on 4th and South in Philadelphia.

Some people will claim you can't have a cheesesteak with Cheez Whiz since it's not even cheese. It's a combination of whey, canola oil, milk, milk protein concentrate, maltodextrin, sodium phosphate, whey protein concentrate, salt, lactic acid, sodium alginate, mustard flour, worcestershire sauce, sorbic acid, milkfat, oleoresin paprika, annatto, natural flavor, cheese culture, and enzymes. At least it doesn't require Yellow #5 to make it so orange.

While in other cases I might be disinclined to consider this jarred and canned goo to be cheese, this isn't a French cheesesteak, it's a Philly cheesesteak. And one of the reasons why it's always sunny in Philadelphia is because you can get Cheez Whiz on just about anything. In fact if you don't put it on your fries, people might start to look at you funny.

philly bar and grill latham exterior.

Speaking of fries, you can skip them here. Come for the sandwich. Order the sandwich. Don't get distracted by the menu options and try to improve upon the simple classic. Eat the sandwich. Leave happy.

It's kind of incredible to believe that one whiz wit in Latham is even remotely comparable to what you can get down between the banks of the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. But they obviously care about doing it right and have the buns to prove it.

Daniel B. is the proprietor of the FUSSYlittleBLOG.

Find It

Philly Bar & Grill
622 Watervliet Shaker Road
Latham, NY 12110

Comments

I can't believe they have Amoroso's buns up here! Kudos!

I am, sadly, a philistine I guess. It's not that I don't like the flavor of onions and peppers, I will always choose to cook with the powders and herbs... It is the texture when chewing them that I can't enjoy. And do you know how much food out there has onions and peppers in them? Even getting eggs and bacon for Sunday breakfast is problematic as I love home fries...without onions and peppers. Couldn't order what I really wanted to yesterday, had to find something else to buy.. which ended up not really hitting the spot. Can't even eat the potato or pasta salad served as a side in all restaurants, even though I am hungry.

I've been avoiding the Philly Bar & Grill based solely on the assumption that they didn't have Amoroso rolls. Now that I know otherwise, I'll be headed there soon. I'll admit that I'm one of the provolone folks, but will allow no other heresy.

Now we need a local source of Pennsylvania Dutch style smoked sausage, a blend of beef and pork with some secret magical spices and heavily smoked with hickory. Mmmmm -- it always tastes like more.

I haven't been to Philly Bar & Grill in a few years but used to frequent it for lunch when employed at my previous job. Always got the "wiz wit" and they were always great. The size of the cheesesteaks were also huge. Nothing like in the first picture in the story. The amount of meat on that sandwich looks puny in comparison to what I remember.

Philly Bar & Grill has the best cheesesteak I've had outside of Philly. At least I don't feel like a dolt and have to say "one wit whiz" like you have to at Jim's on South Street. It's a nice place to go and take in a Phillies or Flyers game and makes my husband feel at home!

Oh yeah, they're good. Whiz or provolone.

I guess now the search begins for a comparable banh-mi. It really is all about the roll.

I am reading this post while eating a (particularly boring) salad at my desk. Sad face...

While we're discussing heresy/philistines, where does everyone come down on the pickled peppers debate?

I'm a firm believer in fresh green peppers on my philly cheese steak, not to mention provolone, and a thin layer of mayo.

Maybe I'm just not a philly sort of person. ;)

That pale white bun, in your top photo, with no wiz on it, gives me the willies. Please tell me that's a special setup he did for you and not a way he'd ever serve an actual sandwich.

The times I have had cheesesteaks at Philly B & G you could not even see the bun there was so much meat on them. The cheesesteak in that picture does not look like sandwiches I have had there in the past.

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