If you've ever been to Philly, you know that the locals take pride in their cheesesteaks. If you've ever been to the local mall-area eatery West of Philly Cheesesteaks, you know that they, too, take pride in their cheesesteaks.
Boise is really, really west of Philly, and that's evident in the lack of Benjamin Franklin decor in this little sandwich shop on Franklin Road.
But Boise gets this little taste of Philly thanks to West of Philly. There are no frills; order your sandwich--a 7-inch or a 12-inch--and grab a seat until it is ready. There's also soup and salad, chips and fries, and other distractions, but diners at West of Philly are there on a mission to remind themselves of those skeezy, undersized grease pits along South Street in the city of Brotherly Love.
At the Boise joint, Philadelphian sandwich experiences are limited to chicken or steak with the standard house fixins: provolone, green peppers and onions. They are kind enough to offer an array of additional options such as garlic, buffalo sauce, bacon, and more. On my most recent excursion, I got the 7-inch chicken with mushrooms and an order of fries. This set me back about eight clams.
On a weekday around 1 p.m., the place was dead. I was the only patron, and I felt like a burden to the lonely miss working the griddle. She tossed my chicken on the grill next to the sizzling pile of onions, peppers and mushrooms. I sat back, picked up a stray Boise Weekly and waited. Engaged in profound reading, it seemed like just a minute passed when the miss brought a heaping sandwich and fries to my table.
Now, when I say heaping, I mean even my fist-swallowing big mouth can't get around this hoagie. Gooey cheese and onions slipped out as I tried to round up the mass. "Ooh, it's hot," said my chin when a steaming gob of provolone made contact. I put it down for a minute, finished the newspaper article, and then went back to conquering the cheesesteak.
Damn, it was tasty. All the right textures, all the right flavors. I closed my eyes and imagined I was back in Philly, which would have been great except that the last time I was in Philly eating cheesesteak, I got a $25 parking ticket for overstaying my welcome at a street meter.
--Jennifer Gelband wears bifocals to read Poor Richard's Almanac in her rocking chair.