Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Review: A Taste of Philadelphia

Name: A Taste of Philadelphia
Address: 2533 James St, Syracuse, NY
Phone: 315-463-9422
Neighborhood: Eastwood
Website: www.atasteofphiladelphiasince1976.com
Menu: View Menu
Cuisine: Cheesesteaks, hoagies, sandwiches, fried foods
Restaurant Hours: Monday-Friday 11 AM to 8 PM, Saturday 12 PM to 7 PM
Parking: On-street and private lot
Accepts Credit Cards: No
Take-Out: Yes
Delivery: Yes

I rarely get a craving for cheesesteaks. But despite eating on the vegetarian side of the spectrum with cooking and ordering out as of late, I had a hankering for a greasy, meaty, and cheesy sandwich and figured A Taste of Philadelphia would be my best bet in not only filling that void but also maybe bringing something new into the common rotation of weekly restaurants.

A Taste of Philadelphia is situated on James Street in the busy section of the city's Eastwood neighborhood. Parking is available on-street as well as in a lot behind the building. (A sign in the window said this. I couldn't find the actual lot so I risked parking in a lot that I probably wasn't allowed to do so in).

Inside is a homey interior mixed with plenty of table and booth seating as well as a ton of Philadelphia city and sports memorabilia lining every space of the walls. Posters and framed pictures of things like Rocky, The 76'ers, Benjamin Franklin, and Dr. J are plentiful and interesting to look at. Thankfully, The Phillies stuff wasn't overboard. I was expecting it to be thrown in my face given their rise in popularity lately. Or maybe I'm just a self-loathing Mets fan...

Menu items include classic cheesesteaks and varieties like the original (with steak and cheese), pizza style (with mozzarella, pizza sauce, and optional pepperoni), hoagie style (with onions, lettuce, and tomatoes), and the special (with onions, hot or sweet peppers, mushrooms, and pizza sauce). And according to wikipedia, their variations are right on the mark. Other menu highlights include the chicken parm sub, chicken bacon ranch wrap, roast beef, Italian sub, grilled ham and cheese, and sides like garden salads, potato and mac salad, cheesesteak salad (yup, you read that correctly), mozzarella sticks, fries, and cookies.

The order...

Onion rings: $3.25
Classic cheesesteak with onions and sweet peppers: $6.80
Coke: $1.75
Total Money Spent with Tax & Tip: $14

After ordering at the counter, I grabbed a seat in a corner booth. Aesthetically, the room was somewhat smelly and the booth seat really needed a good scrubbing. The table itself was very clean, but most of the seats and chairs that I saw, as well as the carpeting, needed some heavy recycling from being old, dirty, and worn out.

Pictured below is my meal. Yum yum!

I couldn't pass up the opportunity to get onion rings. I had heard some good things prior to the visit and they must've been true because a customer walked in after me and ordered them as well, only to be disappointed that I had gotten the last batch of the day. Cha-ching!

The rings were excellent. Large, golden fried rings were found to be very oniony and crunchy; most of which were perfectly fried revealing that great crunch (a couple rings were overly fried though). Biting all the way through didn't string the onion out of its shell either. I would definitely order these again.

Deliciously juicy and finely chopped prime rib mixed with small pieces of onions and sweet green and red peppers filled the inside of the cheesesteak that was held together by a row of melted white cheese. Despite the cheese giving off a heavily processed feel (I'm guessing provolone?), I thought it was a perfect fit. Especially for a greasy sub. It probably could have used a bit more cheese as well as onions and peppers, but the meat held up on its own and didn't disappoint. It was very juicy and even a little fatty in spots (it was delicious - and if I've learned anything from my mom about her meat loaf and her lasagna, it's that you want a bit of fat in there for better flavor).

A little bit of grease emanating from the meat lined some of the bread on the outside. The roll was fairly soft and a bit generic. I think a heartier or stronger bread would've helped, but that didn't stop me from scarfing the entire sandwich down. And according to their website, the bread stays true to the south Philly style from the 1930's.

Like I've said, I rarely eat cheesesteaks so my take is probably a little subjective in that I don't know what constitutes good or bad cheesesteaks other than what tastes good to me. Overall, I thought the food was very good and the cheesesteak was a nice change of pace from what you'd expect to find in Syracuse. It's something that I'm more than happy to introduce into my rotation of places when I need some quick food. The meal probably wasn't the best decision for my heart, but it was tasty and well worth it.

Additional notes...

- It's cash only!

My uneducated guess would say that this is about as close as you're going to get to a Philly-style cheesesteak in Syracuse. Again, the interior could use a major cleaning overhaul as some of my dining experience was overshadowed by fairly noticeable uncleanliness. I'd go back though. Either for the same meal or to try some different varieties of cheesesteaks, most of which sounded very good. And if the classic style that I ordered is any indication, I'd bet that they're equally as good. As far as dining goes... I'm probably doing take-out next time.

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