Lads, I had my first ever Philly cheesesteak sandwich the other week and I’m still REELING from the experience.
I just cannot believe that over the years Londoners have managed to fall in and out of love of all manner of bloody stupid food trends – deep-fried croissants, ‘rainbow’ toast, ‘Freakshakes’, an entire restaurant dedicated to crisps – yet the Philly cheesesteak has never had a chance to grip London in between its meaty, Whiz-slathered thighs and give it a jolly good squeeze. It’s especially incredible considering the unwaning popularity of the ‘dirty’ meat trend, because a Philly cheesesteak done right is the next stage in the evolutionary chain. Burger 2.0. Charizard in a bun, is what I’m trying to say.
Whiz, if you didn’t already know, is an artificial cheese goo manufactured by Kraft and beloved by Americans and almost nobody else. It sounds disgusting and probably is, especially considering that Americans are about as known for the sophistication of their palates as they are their approach to international relations. (No shade, transatlantic pals! We’ve got jellied eels and Brexit, so…) But it’s okay, because the brains behind the otherwise painstakingly authentic Passyunk Avenue – previously cult street food outfit The Liberty Cheesesteak Company – have anticipated this and created their own-recipe, all-natural cheese goo, which is the sort of stuff you hope to be fed via a tube when you’re old and toothless.
Our party of four, one of whom was a bona-fide, real-life, walking, talking American, ordered ‘jumbo’ buffalo wings (£8.00) to start, which were so gargantuan they may as well have been carved off of emu carcasses, and a mountain of rib-eye steak nachos (£9.50) so comically and unnecessarily outsize that Jamie Oliver would absolutely shit his wig if he saw it.
In fact, all the portions are enormous. That picture there? ^ That is only HALF a cheesesteak sandwich (£11.00). The whole thing contains about 250g of rib-eye steak. Take a moment to admire the sheer girth of the thing, its chewy ‘hoagie’ roll designed with structural integrity in mind. This is no MEATliquor creation, where the best – nay, only – strategy is to ram the whole thing home as quickly as possible to minimise the chances of slopping it down your shirt. (Which is probably for the best – the thing is so robust that eating it too quickly could result in near-terminal indigestion.)
And that’s all we ate. That’s all we could eat. We did order chips as well, topped with more Whiz, naturally, but mercifully the waitress forgot to put them through and they never turned up. By the time we finished our sandwiches – some of which had to be wrapped up ‘to go’ – we were nearly in tears at the prospect of having to eat more food.
Passyunk Avenue is the Liberty Cheesesteak Company’s first permanent location, and in some ways it’s still finding its feet. The food is exactly where it needs to be, the prices are good, and the service is just as jolly as you’d expect in an authentic American outpost. My only criticism is that it is, perhaps, in places, a little too authentic. The drinks list could use some work, though you’ll be fine if you like Bud. The house wine – indeed, the only wine – falls somewhere below properly delicious but way above pub plonk. And, despite a small but respectable collection of bourbon in the basement bar, nobody had any idea how to make an Old Fashioned.
But it seems to be doing well, despite its slightly out-of-the-way location in the shadow of the BT Tower. Apparently it’s absolutely heaving at lunchtimes, even though I can’t for the life of me imagine attempting anything even slightly productive after sinking one of their sandwiches. They’re basically nap fuel. But when you do go, get the original cheesesteak. Order it ‘wit onions, wit wiz’. (They make you say it like that.) And go soon. There’ll be queues around the block once it becomes the next big thing.
Passyunk Avenue, 80 Cleveland Street, Fitzrovia, W1T 6NE
Header image credit: Passyunk Avenue
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.