Marly's Grill on State Street could be described as a "tasty little corner sandwich shop." This would be precisely accurate on all counts. Marly's serves sandwiches, most notably cheesesteaks; their fare delights the taste buds; and their structure is minuscule, triangle-shaped and situated adjacent to diagonally-cut West Lemp Street.I was instructed by a friend in the know prior to my visit: Try the fries; they're great. I'll confess, though they were freshly cut fries, some still sporting the potato peel, they didn't quite live up to the hype, I'd rate them above average. Here's an odd compliment to offer instead: The fry sauce was delicious. No Thousand Island dressing or mislabeled onion ring dip here.
Additional props go to the courteous wait staff, who accidentally delivered me a neighboring table's order, only to fix the mistake with profuse apologies while politely declining my offer to pay for the mix-up. Though I'd already come armed with my own coupon plucked out of the mail—good for a sandwich, fries and small drink for $5—the friendly cashier dispersed similar coupons to all tables while we dined.
As a product of a microwaveable meal upbringing, I'm a fan of the simple. An entree doesn't need much to please me, just a lot of flavor. So I chose the basic steak sandwich ($5.49). Just the meat, onions and cheese, the menu says. But I said, "Hold the onions," thinking to myself, "Let's see how this thing tastes stripped down."
My girlfriend is a fiend for everything garlic, so she chose a chicken sandwich with green peppers and herb garlic cream cheese ($5.89). We each got medium fries ($1.35) and refillable Diet Pepsis, mine small ($1.25) and hers large ($1.75).
Neither of us were disappointed. My beef was thinly shaved, smothered in provolone and, with a dash of salt added, was some of the tastiest meat I've had outside of Mom's kitchen. The girlfriend had no complaints about hers, either. We both remarked on the softness and quality of the freshly baked bread, the texture of which reminded me of some European pastry I'd sampled last year.
We discussed the simple decor as we chomped. Three skylights overhead illuminate framed motivational posters and a guide to building a strong community hangs on the alternating red and aqua walls. A sign above the exit indicates a maximum occupancy of 36, but I'm guessing the fire marshal must've been thinking standing room only because the main dining area features only four tables of four and a couple of tables pushed together in a backroom "banquet" area. At a busy hour, I could see a line winding out the door in no time.
"It feels like a snack bar at a theme park—or a beach," my girlfriend remarked. Astute observation, I'd say. But what Marly's lacks in glitz, it makes up for in effectiveness. Give me a delicious meal and I'll come back—period.
Though small, this eatery isn't very difficult to find. Cruise down State Street and you'll see the bus stop directly outside, next door to the carryout Pizza Hut and kitty corner from the gaudy $3 Value Car Wash.
I have to admit I've never been to Philadelphia. I might be able to pick an authentic Philly cheesesteak out of a lineup, but perhaps only just barely. But I certainly wouldn't order one. There's too much gunk in between the halves of the roll. As it is, I can't tell you for certain whether or not Marly's offerings live up to the reputation of the sandwiches served in the City of Brotherly Love, but I can tell you without a doubt that what they do prepare is good. Damn good. If Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb weren't so filled up on Campbell's Chunky Soup, I'm sure he'd agree with me.
—Travis Estvold believes that salt, not variety, is the spice of life.