I had the day off yesterday, so I thought I'd wander downtown for lunch and check out South Philly, the new "authentic" cheese steak place just east of Peabody Place (behind Hooter's). Now, sadly, I wish I hadn't.
I've never had a steak from Pat's or Geno's in Philadelphia, so I can't judge authenticity, but I will relate the experience.
First, at 1 pm on a Friday afternoon, the place was busy, but not what I'd consider crowded (maybe 20 people in the place). Nevertheless, it took nearly 40 minutes from the time we ordered our food at the counter until the sandwiches arrived at the table. This was occurring with everyone in the restaurant--not just with us--so it wasn't as if they'd just lost an order. Both the waitress and the manager (I presume) apologized for the wait, but a wait of that duration smacks of unprofessionalism at best, and disdain for your customers at worst. That alone would keep me away in the future.
Second, the sandwich looks good--good-sized, meaty, juicy, etc.--but is kinda flavorless. Or rather, what flavor there was wasn't particularly good. I'd ordered a cheese wit (onions, cheez-whiz--nothing special). I don't believe that the orange substance on the sandwich was actually Kraft Cheez Whiz; it bore a striking resemblence to commercial "cheese sauce" in being bright orange and kinda oily but didn't have a creamy texture or smooth flavor of the authentic item. (Yes, I know I'm waxing poetic on Cheez-Whiz on a chowhound discussion board, but dammit, these things are important.) I had a similar substance labelled "cheese dip" in a Mexican restuarant in New York. It was vile then, too. Also, the "cheez whiz" was ice cold, squirted in a stream on the bottom of the sandwich (another reason I don't think it was the real thing). Perhaps the version with provolone or American is a better match, but sadly I won't be returning to try it.
In short: looks good, tastes bad. The manager (I think) asked how the sandwiches were, and I replied "okay," mostly because I'm non-confrontational, and it wasn't abysmal, but still.
Just for the record, other available cheese steaks in town that taste better than what I had at South Philly: Sonic, Steak Escape, Lenny's, Huey's, my house. (Other places have them as well, and I'd wager that they're all tastier than this particular sandwich). For my money, the best one's at Lenny's, which, while a chain, does a good job of delivering a consistent, quality product even if they've gotten rid of the lemonade in favor of something by Coca Cola.
One place that has a worse cheese steak: Goody's on Winchester in Whitehaven. Tasted good, had a bone in it.