Yesterday I accompanied a friend to an appointment at Mt Zion medical center, and after some bad news we needed comfort food. He had heard from a colleague that The Cheese Steak Shop, right across the street, was good, so we gave it a try.
The simple, shabby decor, with pasted-up maps and posters related to Philadelphia lore, reminded me a lot of sub-type shops in the blue collar New England town where I grew up. When we arrived, around 12:30, the place was bustling.
The menu includes some hoagies, but clearly the emphasis is on cheese steaks. You can get about ten different varieties, from the classic Philly to barbecue and even a cheeseless version. Subs come in 7, 10, and 15 inch lengths.
We both went for the classic Philly: I ordered a 7 inch, he got a ten inch. We added sweet and hot peppers as well as onions. We split a side of steak fries, and also ordered chocolate Tastykakes and two fountain root beers.
The cheese steak was great, set on a roll with just the right amount of give and absorption. The onions had been cooked and chopped into the meat and melted American cheese, with peppers piled on top. If anything, I would have liked a touch more cheese, but this is definitely the best cheese steak either of us had tried on the West Coast.
Tastykakes are a Mid-Atlantic snack cakes, much like Hostess or Entemanns, but with more of a cult following. The restaurant keeps chocolate, butterscotch and (I think) crumb cake Tastykakes in the fridge. It was strange to eat a cold cupcake, but we liked them.
This seems like a tough place to get into and out of during a lunch break--they guy who was taking orders from the line was also handling phone orders and pick-ups, so it took about half an hour for me to order, though I was only fifth or sixth in line. We weren't in a rush, so it was no problem, but if you were on a lunch break you would probably want to call your order in.
We both liked the slice of SF society the restaurant offered. In line with us were MUNI drivers, doctors, nurses and blue collar workers from the hood.
Also, the price was ridiculous. On Wednesdays, all sides are half off, so our fries were $.80 and Tastykakes were also discounted. Our total bill was $14, a great deal.