11. The South Philly Experience


While I was standing in line to get a free pass to a Flaming Lips show last week, I overheard the guy in front of me talking about food trucks with his friend - specifically the cheesesteak truck, called The South Philly Experience. I had been waiting to see them along my route that week and was excited to try them out. You see, I know nothing about that which is the cheesesteak. I like steak. I like cheese. I like bread. Sounds like a great equation to me.

So a few days ago, when I saw them in my world, I went to get my cheesesteak on.

Just hitting the streets last month, SPE is run by, recently-transplanted, cousins who worked together in an Italian restaurant back in South Jersey (right across the river from South Philly). To create an authentic product their sandwiches are made on bread that is shipped from the popular Amoroso’s Baking Co. in Philadelphia.

Upon my usual request for suggestions, the man in the truck simply said, “cheesesteak”. I quickly learned that cheesesteak consumption has its own etiquette. When ordering, there are two critical questions to answer: First, what kind of cheese do you want? (Whiz (yes, Cheese Whiz)? Provolone? American?) Second, do you want onions? (“Whiz wit?”) The correct way to respond is “Wit” for “Yes, I would like Whiz and onions,” or “Widout” for “No, just the cheese.” Then, ask for any other toppings or condiments you desire.

I ordered a “Prov wit”.

The sandwich (am I allowed to called it a sandwich?) was pretty good – and very huge (which is a good thing as it clocked in at $9.30!!). The bread was a nice combination between soft and hard (insert joke here), the onions were lightly grilled, and the meat was frizzled to perfection. The provolone was sharp and tangy. I only would have liked a bit more of it on there. It was not as prominent an element as I would have thought a cheesesteak would have. I mean, it is the first word, out of two, in the sandwich's namesake. Oh, breaking news! This was not messy, at all! Impressive. 

All in all, I enjoyed my South Philly Experience. But, I’m sorry guys, $9 and change for a sandwich, no matter the size, simply does not cut it for me.

The darndest thing happened while I was in line to order. Remember the guy that was in front of me, in that Flaming Lips line, talking about food trucks? Well, he was right behind me in the SPE line! What are the chances? He's actually the second guy in line in the first picture. We had a laugh, chatted briefly about the show, and went our separate, cheesesteak, ways. Don’t you just love it when that happens in this big, metropolis of ours?

The truck also sells a little nostalgia: Philly’s own, Tastykakes, Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes, and Butterscotch Krimpets for deserts.

For an educational cheesesteak experience, I suggest watching Bobby Flay throw down "wit" Philly’s famous, Tony Luke.

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