A couple of months ago, I had a craving for a Philly Cheese Steak and found myself in the midst of a new place called “Corleone’s” at 16th Street and Camelback in Phoenix. While I admitted that I liked the steak, I found the whole lunch less than stellar because of the awful fries and the expensive cost.
That craving for another cheesesteak hit me recently and I remembered someone mentioning the little place near my home where I could get a cheesesteak. So, I took a leisurely walk from my home to Paul’s Little Philly, located at 36th Street and Indian School Road, just three doors down from the Circle K and next to a cell phone store and car repair shop. The building has been there for some time and has been a multitude of things since I was a little kid.
I entered the small shack and wasn’t too surprised to see the interior devoid of anything really amazing as far as interior decorating goes. The furniture and the cold case of soda pretty much decorated the place, but I wasn’t expecting much anyway. A small television with a grainy picture was broadcasting some football game featuring Notre Dame, but since I am an ASU fan, I wasn’t interested in it.
I walked to the small counter and placed my order after reviewing the menu on the wall. I decided to get the Mushroom Steak ($6.65) and a side of Onion Rings ($2.99). I also ordered a 32 oz. soda, but it was a freebie since they were running a special (buy one whole steak and either fries or rings and get the drink for free). My total, including tax, was $10.45.
There were only a handful of tables, so I parked myself on one just in view of the kitchen so I could head up to the counter when my sandwich and rings were ready. While the place was small and non-descript on the inside, it could have used a bit of a touch up in the paint department. It really was less than inviting on the inside. Small or not, a few flourishes here and there could have made all the difference.
I waited about 10 minute before a very nice man brought me a tray containing my sandwich, rings and a pile of napkins. The footlong sandwich was very quite enticing, but I was caught off guard by the fact that the cheese was covered in Provolone cheese as I was expecting Cheez Whiz. No matter, as I am a fan of provolone.
The meat was fully cooked and there were plenty of mushrooms and onions. I picked up the first half and tasted it. The bread was warm and very soft, which I really liked. The meat had a bit of seasoning on it and the onions and mushrooms were quite a good combination with the beef. The cheese was decent, but for provolone, it certainly did not have much flavor. Overall, I liked the mushroom steak, more so because it was quite filling.
Next up were the onion rings. They were battered in a tempura-like coating which I prefer to the bread coating that is often used. They were hot, crispy and excellent. The onions were whole rings and the batter was light enough to enhance the taste of the onion instead of dominating it. Sadly, they had been paired with that God-awful industrial Ranch dressing that restaurants buy in bulk. Don’t get me wrong. I love Ranch dressing. But the look alone (off-white color and somewhat pale) really had me shoving the container of dressing under a napkin.
Overall, I would give Paul’s Mushroom Steak a slight nod over Corleone’s for two reasons: First, Paul’s had a significantly greater amount of meat on the bread than Corleone’s; and 2) the side dish as Paul’s was a hands-down winner over Corleone’s (sans the Ranch dressing).
The service at Paul’s was friendly and I enjoyed my sandwich very much. However, I really struggled as I was walking back to my home. For a sandwich and onion rings that were good, I shelled out $10.45. No matter how I tried to justify it, that seemed rather expensive, especially considering that I can get a Boar’s Head Deli sandwich, chips, candy bar and a drink at the deli in the building where I work for under seven dollars.
I would recommend Paul’s for a Philly Cheesesteak and might go back at a future time. Like Corleone’s, however, I still wonder if I am getting a fair value for my dollar.
Right now, I am leaning toward the camp that says “no.”
Paul’s Little Philly
3538 East Indian School Road
Phoenix, AZ 85018
Hours: Monday through Friday - 9 AM to 8 PM; Saturday and Sunday - 10 AM to 3 PM.
Notes: On the north side of Indian School Road and just west of the Circle K.
An additional photo can be found at www.feastinginphoenix.com