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Jay's Cheesesteak lost a
Cheesesteak Trial versus
The Cheesesteak Shop

Jay's Cheesesteak
553 Divisadero Street/Fell St., SF
Map This Restaurant

Pretrial hearing at Chances
9/25/03

McClure

Out front.I have a friend named Jay. He's the one who likes pizza so much.  I'm not sure what his feelings are on the cheesesteak but I know I'm a big fan.

Jay's Cheesesteak makes an okay enough sandwich but it's not what I want in a cheesesteak. First of all the bun is not right, some sort of French roll, toasted, why toast it? Maybe 'cause it's not the soft melt in your mouth kind of roll you get at the Cheesesteak Shop, where they don't need toasting to cover up a mediocre bun. Then the meat, they boast Niman Schell natural beef, which you think would be tasty but even after they attempt to spice it up in some mysterious way it just ends up being blander than bland -- a little salt and pepper would have gone a long way.  I had Jay's Original Cheesesteak which, like all the other CS's, will cost you $5.75 and comes with mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and grilled onions.  Sounds more like a sub sandwich than a cheesesteak. As a sandwich it was okay, but as a cheesesteak it was pretty bad.

Video EvidenceThe "basket" of fries, at a buck-fifty, was more like a single serving, leaving me wanting more. The "basket" of onion rings, at $2.50, was similar: not enough of 'em for the serving to be called a basket, although they were nice, crunchy, and oniony.

I look forward to a cheesesteak, it's definitely a treat, not something I have everyday, so when I have one I want it to be great.  Jay's Cheesesteak did not deliver. As I think I've said it wasn't bad, or maybe I did say it was bad, it was just blah. If I make my way to Jay's again I think I'll try a burger: $5.75 including fries.  Maybe my friend Jay will join me and try the Pizza Cheesesteak, hold the pickles, hold the mayo.  One more thing, watch the cashier, somehow there was an extra cheesesteak added to our bill, not saying it was on purpose, mistakes happen but I'm not paying for them.

 

Baskets.Turner

Attention expatriates from Philadelphia, or anyone who's ever lived East of the Mississippi river: If you want to get all bent out of shape, drop by Jay's Cheesesteak for one of their "cheesesteaks." You'll be hopping mad! Because what they're calling a cheesesteak is about as far from an authentic Philly cheesesteak as you can imagine. Not that they don't have their merits, these sandwiches, but they sure as heckfire ain't no cheesesteak proper.

Had high hopes, as we so often do. Mainly because they were throwing down with the Niman Ranch beef, which should mean tasty, natural-style beef from happy free-ranging California cows. Sadly, they sauce and/or season the "steak" too much to appreciate that. I swear there was some kind of cinnamon or cloves or something going on. Coriander? I suspect a Mediterranean influence. At any rate, NON-TRADITIONAL cheesesteak. Plus, by default the cheesesteaks come with mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and grilled onions. No mention of peppers anywhere. Crazy, huh? I got mine with everything but pickles -- had to draw the line somewhere. And if one can forget the word "cheesesteak," it's not bad for $5.75. Decent amount of beef and all that. Slightly skimpy on cheese perhaps. I don't recall a choice of cheeses, either, but I guess we got the default. White American? Provolone? Hard to say. The bun, as you may have guessed, is not the proper soft torpedo roll, but a French roll of some sort. Which is FINE..but a point of contention when it comes to cheesesteak authenticity. I think most will agree that that roll ideally comes from the Amoroso Baking Company.

Had some fries, too, which were not bad but also perhaps a bit skimpish portionwise at $1.50 for a "basket." I mean, "basket" sounds like, you know, enough for two people at least. This is really a side order of fries, and I think it wouldn't kill them to throw a few more in the basket for a buck and a half. Then there were the onion rings, also decent (crispy, big, juicy) but at $2.50 a "basket," also somewhat skimpish.

One reason to go to Jay's Cheesesteak would be if you are a vegetarian. Yes, they have Seitan cheesesteaks. Not Satan, the dark lord of evil, I'm talking about the "vegetarian wheat meat." Made from gluten or something. We failed to try it, but don't let that stop you. They also will do an avocado and cheese version, among other veggie options.

So, I'd advise cheesesteak purists and Philadelphians to steer clear of this joint unless you can pry the word "cheesesteak" from your brain while you're eating. But then, can anyone pry a word from their brain? Probably not.

 

The whole deal.Vardigan

Mired in an eating slump that left many reader-eaters fearing for our health, we reached back for basics, like a slugger might after long hitless summer days. I'd rather not admit how long it had been since we all ate together. And, truth is, I don't even know. What was sure is that things had gotten away from us. So we called on another cheesesteak -- the subject of our very first reviews -- to bring us back.

But we looked for it in the wrong place. Call it a cheesemisteak.

While we sat waiting for our 'steaks and baskets of fries and onion rings, I listened for that telltale rat-a-tat of spatula on grill, but all I heard was some clunking. However, later they got to it, and as it turned out, maybe they got to it a bit much. What wound up in our buns (toasted, kind of unconventional, but I kind of liked them) was much closer to a Sloppy Joe in a sub bun. When I bit in, reddish viscous sauce dripped out with every bite. That doesn't happen with your standard cheesesteak. Maybe they were saucing up the meat during the rat-a-tat? Not to say this isn't allowed -- innovation has its place. But the end result just didn't add up. The elaborate assemblage -- it featured Niman Ranch steak and non-traditional trimmings like mayo, mustard, pickles, and tomatoes -- wound up bland. By the second half I was slogging through, eating just to finish.

In the end, what you've got is a cheesesteak that's less than the sum of its parts, one that fell way short of bringing back our streaky brash early steak days. Where do we look for them now?

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