I’ll admit it: I’m a total homer. I’m a born-and-bred San Diegan, and I love this place, warts and all. And, yes, I’m one of those people who get impatient with those who endlessly wax nostalgic about where they came from, lamenting the fact that San Diego lacks fill-in-the-blank. But I also empathize with those who just can’t shake that touch of former-hometown homesickness, especially when it comes to food. Philly natives? There’s a place in San Marcos just for you.
Philly Frank’s Steaks claims that it’s solved the problem of the difficulty of finding an authentic Philly cheese steak in Southern California. I won’t wade into the debate of Pat’s vs. Geno’s (two of the most famous hoagie houses in Philly), but for a taste of the City of Brotherly Love in the county of San Diego, Frank’s is pretty great.
(I would like to point out that one of the more famous icons of Brotherly Lovin’ City is a big-screen pugilist famous for punching people. Meanwhile, one who embodied Philly’s nickname, the gentle Fred Rogers, was from Pittsburgh. Discuss.)
Frank’s imports Amoroso’s Rolls direct from Philly—the bread of choice for all cheese-steak connoisseurs. Now, the “cheese” part of a cheese steak evokes strong opinions: Are you a proponent of sharp provolone, or do you prefer the artificial decadence of Cheez Whiz? Frank’s offers both, plus good ol’ American.
As a nursing mother, I’m hungry a lot and can pack a lot more food in my belly than normal. I had no trouble inhaling a healthy-sized traditional Pepper Cheese Steak, complete with well-seasoned, thinly sliced beef, grilled sweet peppers and onions and gooey cheese. It wasn’t until later that I realized they didn’t let me choose my own cheese. I wasn’t too miffed, as the Cheez Whiz they selected on my behalf was fantastic.
I realize Cheez Whiz should be offensive to our food-snob sensibilities—I doubt it’s organic, and it sure as hell isn’t seasonal or locally grown. But it binds the beef, pepper and onions into a juicy, creamy, drip-down-your-chin concoction that borders on obscene. That said, I do look forward to going back and trying a version with recognizable slices of provolone.
Frank’s is also stocked with less-famous nibbles. Try a “water ice,” essentially sorbet, made with every fruit you can imagine. There are also creamy options (can we just call it “ice cream,” please?) like chocolate chip and so forth, but I liked the fruity strawberry option. It was tasty, but didn’t blow my mind as some sort of exotic I-can’t-find-this-anywhere sort of treat.
The walls are covered with all things Philly: sports paraphernalia, movie posters—you name it. The ladies behind the counter are boisterous and welcoming, peppering every order with a “hon” and a “sweetie.” They greeted many a regular by name, and on a Saturday afternoon, the place was hopping.
Go get yourself a cheese steak and think, There’s no place like home. No matter where home may be.