Eat Here, Not There: Cheesesteaks

biteofjersey.jpg
We have a friendly competition around here with our counterparts over at the Register's Food Frenzy blog. Sometimes we discover the place; sometimes they do. Sometimes we concur with their findings; sometimes we don't. In this case, Claudia Koerner was the winnah, writing about a place called A Bite of Jersey, a little corner place in a strip mall in a really desolate area of West Garden Grove.

Well, it was like a red cloth to a bull. You see, as a proud son of New Jersey, I love cheesesteaks. I love them even though they come from the Extreme Eastern Philadelphia part of New Jersey, not the Extreme Southern New York part that I hail from. I don't know what else I would've lived on during the long days staring jadedly at skinny Québécois touristes parading down Jenkinson's boardwalk if there hadn't been a lot of greasy cheesesteakeries.

I have a major problem with cheesesteaks in this county, though. The places I've been to so far have all desperate to prove their Philly bona fides, and they all--yes, all of them--go overboard. Phillies and Sixers and Flyers paraphernalia everywhere, and tall brunette native Californians trying so hard to project that inimitable Philly 'tude. They go to great lengths to import Amoroso rolls from Philadelphia, except that even back East not every place uses Amoroso rolls.

Most places also try to use the lingo that Pat's King of Steaks and Geno's Steaks--the two tourist traps that face each other across 9th and South Passyunk--enforce, with blonde Californians trying to order "wiz wit" or "American witout" in completely unconvincing accents, without understanding the idea that the shorthand is part of the East Coast type-A hustle required to get through lines two hundred people deep.

It was, therefore, with a heavy heart that I stepped into Bite of Jersey and saw New Jersey paraphernalia everywhere, from a huge stenciled green outline of the state to misspelled scenic posters (it's Paterson, guys, not Patterson). We get it; you're called A Bite of Jersey; moving on.

Fortunately, ordering was straightforward; there's no need to bellow "WIZ WIT!" and plunk down your money (cheaper, incidentally, than Geno's or Pat's) in a twenty-second encounter. I tried; the counterperson didn't get it.

biteofjerseysteak.jpg
​As for the food, Claudia got it spot on. The meat was desperately underseasoned; a little dusting of the fry seasoning salt and a little creative massage (which, of course, also spread the cheese throughout) and it was much better. The Wiz was spread down the sides of the roll, with a nice little drizzle on top; the roll was good, not at all gummy or chewy. I asked about the meat and was told they're still getting their bearings, which I hope means the promise of improvement.

The fries, even unadorned with Cheez Wiz, were excellent; piping hot, with a crispness that belied their relatively pale color, and well-seasoned; not too salty, but salty enough, and definitely not greasy. Trumpet those fries, Bite of Jersey guys: they're some of the best in the county. If you just made disco fries--a real taste of home--I'd be there every time the potato urge struck.

Why is this an Eat Here, Not There? Because, despite the over-the-top Jersey décor and the meat issue, Bite of Jersey was a damn sight better than anything you'll get in a food court. The cheesesteaks served in food courts--yes, that's right, the Great Steak and Potato Company that infests every mall from here to the Mexican border--don't deserve the title. I mean, food court cheesesteaks are just disgusting; sinewy, gristly meat indifferently chopped up and shoved into gummy rolls that seem like they were baked as part of a DARPA experiment during the Carter administration.

Head for A Bite of Jersey; tell them to season up the meat during the cooking process, and you'll be much more richly rewarded than going to some awful chain.

A Bite of Jersey, 5244 Lampson Ave., Garden Grove; (714) 894-9900; no website.

Follow Stick a Fork In It on Twitter @ocweeklyfood or on Facebook!


Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
11 comments
Claudia Koerner
Claudia Koerner

Good to hear the take of a New Jersey native! Yeah, if they can up the seasoning on the beef, I'll be a major fan. Totally agree on the fries as well -- Sam was shocked and appalled at how quickly I inhaled them.

foodgps
foodgps

Wiz is traditional and all, but give me Provolone instead, every time.

JB
JB

I got very excited when I saw this post "before the jump" on my laptop screen...it appeared one of the SAFII guys -- from as close as Exit 11 on the Turnpike, no less -- had found a decent cheesesteak. 

Gotta say, though, that yet again, the photo killed my hopes.  I can't decide if that "underseasoned" meat looks more like Alpo or the medium-rare broiled remnants of the kangaroo carcasses discarded by Del Taco.  It looks chewy and dry and tough.  Please tell me it's the Smartphone resolution. 

And no cheesesteak should have the 'Wiz dolloped on top!!It's got to be smeared on the bread, to more easily lubricate your chewing and swallowing as you savor the beef and the fried onions!!

And the bread...my heavens, it looks par-baked!!  If that was a dinner roll at a Hometown Buffet in Tampa, great...but it's a cheesesteak!! Crustiness = mandatory!!

One more thing...Geno's Steaks is as good as it gets!Not a tourist trap in the least...and worth every penny of what they charge.  Pat's with their Amoroso rolls and inferior chopped meat, I don't like, but Geno's is the "Break of Dawn" of cheesesteaks.  Boyz II Men sure thinks so. 

My address was Philadelphia, PA, 19104 for more than 5 years of my life (two separate times), so YO, I know my steaks!!

909Jeff
909Jeff

But do they have Taylor Ham? 

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

The bread was flaky enough that I had shards; and dude, you've got to read the article. It WAS smeared down the bread, with the extra dollop on top. The meat was just underseasoned.

Is it the best cheesesteak in OC? No. But this was about avoiding things like the Godawful offerings at the Wrstminster Mall and the overhyped pablum that is John's Philly Grill.

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

Geno's is overrated, and the owner a Know Nothing; Pat's is where it's at AND they have dried Japanese chilies to put on your cheesesteak.

And, unless you want to invest a couple of million into Village Voice Media, you're going to have to deal with our smartphone photos--tough tamales!

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

Not that I saw... which is a point not in their favor (Philly's Best has Taylor ham, and it's available for purchase from LA, so it's not like it's not available) but this is about cheesesteaks.

Their hoagies looked pretty good too, even though I know the cold ones as subs and the hot ones as heros.

JB
JB

Ah...I did overlook the smearing on the bread. 

And I also overlooked the context of "Eat Here, Not There."

But frankly, like the pizza and bagels here in OC, my philosophy is if it ain't great, it's not worth the bother.  I'd truly rather do without the stuff and consume my consciousness in things like fish tacos and french dip sandwiches and banh mi that I don't miss the cheesesteaks and other Eastern delicacies.   

JB
JB

The founder/owner of Geno's, Joey Vento -- who sadly passed away recently -- publicly and secretly gave thousands of dollars to charities and the needy every year, including the families of police officers killed in the line of duty.  Right after September 11th, 2001, 100% of Geno's revenue for *3 days* went to the victims fund. 

You don't like him because he dared suggest to the Mexicans that they order in English? Maybe it would actually do them some good to master the language, so they can grow up and be qualified to run a newspaper, and be the voice of injustice. 

Joey Vento was a self-made millionaire who dared share the secret to his success -- i.e. not play the victim and assimilate as necessary to make your dreams come true.  Sounds like a heck of a lot more than the self-anointed guardians of these immigrant folks do. 

JB
JB

I respectfully disagree about Joey Vento (not Venti, like the Starbucks drink). 

While many wealthy businessmen do truly "grandstand," this was a guy who seemed genuinely affected by the plight of the needy, some of whom, I wouldn't be surprised, were likely your compatriots from the land of reptiles, habanero peppers, and Teresa.

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

Ooo, we just got a glimpse of your politics! Carl Karcher gave a lot to charities, but he was also a sick homophobe. Venti's point was nothing more than ahistorical grandstanding--sad...

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...