Meat & Cheese Combo Proves Edible

Armed with empty stomachs and discerning taste buds, we descended upon New York City determined to find a cheesesteak of quality. I’m happy to say, we succeeded.

Cheesesteak Crawl scorecards

Heading into this, I had a suspicion that the day might be anticlimactic, full of half-rate wannabe restaurants that wouldn’t know a cheesesteak from a Manwich. We were threatened by rain and potential steak overdose, but we persevered. Just shy of 100 miles away from the land of cheesesteaks, we found NYC to harbor some superior offerings that could capably sustain the most diehard Philly meathead.

To rate our findings, we all carried scorecards so that we could declare a winner at the end. The rating system was simple, 1-4 stars—ranging from “Blech!” to “Yo, Philly!”—for the attributes of each restaurant: Ambiance, Roll, Meat, Cheese, Taste, and a grade for Overall appeal.

The Good

From the moment we stepped into Wogie’s we knew it felt right: old skool Eagles and Phillies jerseys, photos of Philly hotspots, high-back wood booths, and the Stones playing in the background. They made a very tasty sandwich, and the $3 Yuengling didn’t hurt. Later, a double header of 99 Miles to Philly and Carl’s, made for strong contenders. 99 Miles to Philly’s cheesesteaks were greasy, in the best way possible. Extra points for also selling Tastykakes, a Philly staple. Carl’s surly staff couldn’t detract from a very good offering: finely chopped meat with cheese fully melted and blended into a roll with just the right amount of soft-to-crisp ratio. Up on the West Side we hit Shorty’s, a slightly more upscale joint with a very friendly staff, for good but somewhat uneven sandwiches that skimped a bit on cheese and were overpowered by the inclusion of caramelized onions. Exceptional rolls though.

On the crawl

The Bad

Ahh, I wish I could say they were all good. BB Sandwich Bar, a cramped little walkup touting the “The Best Cheesesteak”, failed on a number of levels: kaiser roll instead of long roll, rubbery cheese, and the use of their own special sauce. A little later was the Cheesesteak Factory, a rather dingy spot that turned out to be the lowest point of the day, with most of us unable to finish our portions due to their craptastic flavor. My cheesesteak inconceivably tasted like chicken noodle soup. Last stop of the day was Philly Slim’s, a small storefront with a salty staff. Authentic Philly attitude for sure, but with very average offering of undercut rolls that yielded small portions of meat and cheese.

Wogie's, the winner

Envelope, Please

The bar was set high very early on and, despite some very strong opposition from 99 Miles and Carl’s, Wogie’s managed to win the day. Wogie’s presented a multi-facted package, from thoroughly delicious sandwiches to authentic Philly flavor. It’s clear that these guys get it, and they treat you right.

All three of our top scorers rank on par with some of the best cheesesteaks I’ve had in Philly and I can confidently recommend any of them for a good time. With the exception of Shorty’s, I’d suggest steering clear of the rest. If you find yourself in NY with no way to get to Philly and need a good cheesesteak, there are delicious options indeed.

There are many photos to commemorate the day in the NYC Cheesesteak Crawl Flickr group. Lastly, a round of applause for the brave folks who put their stomachs on the line to achieve this great feat (not everyone gave me their full name): Stewart Becker, Jessae Brown, Jason Campbell, Ian Corey, Justin Dickinson, Jonathan Gala, Boyce Griffith, Rosalee Laws, Shawn Morrison, Garrett Murray, Niff Nicholls, Laura Palese, T.J. Schuck, Amy Sly, Matt Sutter, Tyler Thompson, and Adam.

Scoring Results Out of a possible 4

BB Sandwich Bar

  • Ambiance 1.63 (1.63 out of 4)
  • Roll 2.19 (2.19 out of 4)
  • Meat 1.94 (1.94 out of 4)
  • Cheese 1.94 (1.94 out of 4)
  • Taste 1.94 (1.94 out of 4)
  • Overall 2.00 (2.00 out of 4)

Tasting Comments:

Kaiser roll buck the tried and true formula, “wet sauce” left us dry, and cheese was like a car tire. Plus a long ass wait. Has anyone from here ever even been to Philly?

Wogie’s Bar & Grill

  • Ambiance 3.56 (3.56 out of 4)
  • Roll 3.11 (3.11 out of 4)
  • Meat 3.00 (3.00 out of 4)
  • Cheese 3.11 (3.11 out of 4)
  • Taste 3.44 (3.44 out of 4)
  • Overall 3.44 (3.44 out of 4)

Tasting Comments:

Killer decor, cheap drinks, and pleasant staff. Oh yeah, a damn good cheesesteak cooked to perfection. Absolutely delicious. Repeat visits suggested.

Cheesesteak Factory

  • Ambiance 1.39 (1.39 out of 4)
  • Roll 1.72 (1.72 out of 4)
  • Meat 1.33 (1.33 out of 4)
  • Cheese 1.22 (1.22 out of 4)
  • Taste 1.28 (1.28 out of 4)
  • Overall 1.28 (1.28 out of 4)

Tasting Comments:

Dubbed “McCheesesteak” by the group. Dirty interiors, and shockingly bad cheesesteaks. Most of us were unable to take more than a bite or two. The staff was very pleasant though.

99 Miles to Philly

  • Ambiance 2.94 (2.94 out of 4)
  • Roll 2.78 (2.78 out of 4)
  • Meat 2.94 (2.94 out of 4)
  • Cheese 3.11 (3.11 out of 4)
  • Taste 3.28 (3.28 out of 4)
  • Overall 3.28 (3.28 out of 4)

Tasting Comments:

Represents Philly in good form, complete with wall flare and Tastykakes. Greasy, but in that oh-so-good comfort food way. Whiz done right.

Carl’s Steaks

  • Ambiance 2.38 (2.38 out of 4)
  • Roll 2.63 (2.63 out of 4)
  • Meat 3.06 (3.06 out of 4)
  • Cheese 3.19 (3.19 out of 4)
  • Taste 3.38 (3.38 out of 4)
  • Overall 3.19 (3.19 out of 4)

Tasting Comments:

This place is straight out of South Philly, complete with ornery staff. Perfectly prepared with all flavors in balance. These guys are cheesesteak machines.

Shorty’s

  • Ambiance 3.00 (3.00 out of 4)
  • Roll 3.20 (3.20 out of 4)
  • Meat 2.67 (2.67 out of 4)
  • Cheese 2.13 (2.13 out of 4)
  • Taste 2.93 (2.93 out of 4)
  • Overall 2.80 (2.80 out of 4)

Tasting Comments:

A slightly fancier cheesesteak: harder roll, caramelized onions and sharp provolone cheese. Points for dressing it up a bit, might not be to everyone’s tastes.

Philly Slim’s

  • Ambiance 2.27 (2.27 out of 4)
  • Roll 1.87 (1.87 out of 4)
  • Meat 2.67 (2.67 out of 4)
  • Cheese 2.13 (2.13 out of 4)
  • Taste 2.33 (2.33 out of 4)
  • Overall 2.40 (2.40 out of 4)

Tasting Comments:

Average if not lackluster offering swayed by an uneven bread to meat and cheese ratio. Cut those rolls all the way! Tastycakes on premises.

Grand Totals

  • BB 1.94 (1.94 out of 4)
  • Wogie’s 3.28 (3.28 out of 4)
  • Cheesesteak Factory 1.37 (1.37 out of 4)
  • 99 Miles 3.06 (3.06 out of 4)
  • Carl’s 2.97 (2.97 out of 4)
  • Shorty’s 2.79 (2.79 out of 4)
  • Philly Slim’s 2.28 (2.28 out of 4)

Graphs made possible by Wilson Miner’s Accessible Data Visualization.


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