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Ask And You Don’t Always Receive When It Comes To Cheese Steaks.

Cheesestak after visit to condiment bar.widea

When it looks this good it can’t be bad. via

After living in South Philadelphia in the mid-70’s I became a fan of the locally named delicacy.

The Philadelphia cheese steak isn’t limited to Philadelphia. They’re nation wide.

But the question remains: Can you get a good sandwich this side of the Mississippi River?

Closer to home: Can you get a good cheese steak on either side of the Willamette River?

Portland baby boomers in need of a good local cheese stead have many options.

I tried a few before giving up.

This is the Portland cheese steak story and the shocking aftermath.

It started in the gym.

Everyone knows exercise increases circulation.

Most of all it increases circulation to the brain so people say things they ordinarily wouldn’t say.

I overheard a conversation between two guys talking about the Philadelphia Eagles.

After checking their bonafides I asked them where get their cheese steaks in Portland.

One of the guys said he never eats Philly food. The other gave both barrels.

“There’s only one place in Portland. They even import the right rolls. Everyplace else sucks compared to them.”

I asked where this magical place was and he said NE MLK and Lombard.

My first cruise to the area was solo. Drove through and saw no cheese steak in sight.

The next time was with a buddy. Again, no sign of cheese steaks.

He knew where we could find one, though. SW 99 and Durham in Tigard.

O’Brien’s in Tigard. It’s called an Irish Sports Bar. It’s an Eagles’ fan base.

After beers and a cheese steak, and watching the Eagles lose, we left.

I told my gym resource about O’Brien’s and he didn’t have a good word.

“There’s no place on Lombard and MLK,” I said.

“Bullshit. You didn’t even look. It’s there. If you want authentic that’s where you go.”

My next trip to cheese steak mecca included my mother in law.

Same story, no sandos. This time I stopped and asked everyone from the gas station guy, a taxi driver, and a Starbucks guy.

Starbucks guy made the call for Steakadelphia on SE 58th and Powell.

Mummy and I drove across town in rush hour traffic, ordered four cheese steaks, a PBR, and waited half an hour.

Then we drove around with a bag a greatness tempting me to tear into one of those wonders.

By the time I got home I wished I’d stayed in SE to eat. Something is lost on fresh food with a time lag.

Next time I saw the Philadelphia guy I reported in on Steakadelphia.

“That’s bullshit. Did you go to MLK and Lombard like I said? If you want a real cheese steak that’s where to go.”

“There’s no restaurant there.”

“Who said restaurant. It’s a food cart.”

One more time to the intersection of cheese and steak.

The only Portland food cart was for barbeque. I talked to a young lady who’d just moved up from Houston.

She didn’t know anything about the neighborhood, who’d been there and left.

I wasn’t angry this time. I just wanted a cheese stead and I wasn’t going home without one.

So I went to Safeway and shopped after checking a recipe.

Onions and peppers and provolone and Swiss cheese, torpedo rolls and mushrooms and a roast and I had the goods.

I froze the roast and the next day used an electric knife to cut thin beef shavings off the frozen beef.

You need to hold the meat in one hand with a towel to avoid frost bite and cut with the other.

The electric knife handle got hot enough to feel like it might catch fire. Smelled like it could, too.

If you switch hands you even out the hot and cold but still need to avoid adding a finger to the pile.

With chopped onions and garlic in one big pan, mushrooms and peppers in another, the last thing was slicing the rolls with a hinged back.

Pull out the middle of the rolls for more room then toast them in the oven.

Put the beef in with the onions once they’re about three quarters clear and stir with salt and pepper for the traditional mix.

Pull the warm rolls out and pack in the steak. Add cheese to the top and put it back in the oven to melt.

Serve with a side of peppers and mushrooms.

Was this the best cheese steak in Portland?

Since I couldn’t find my straight edge steel spatula I used a plastic one. It wasn’t strong enough to chop the meat so the my sandwiches had a fajita look to them.

Ordinarily there’s lots of chopping during the cooking phase.

Next time it’ll be perfect, or pretty close.

In the meantime the search for the most authentic Philadelphia cheese steak in Portland, Oregon continues.

Leave a comment if you have a place in mind and explain what makes it authentic.


About David Gillaspie
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