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Melanie Wong | Nov 8, 202001:47 AM    

Yesterday's news filled me with gratitude for the voters in the City of Brotherly Love . . . and a craving for a Philly cheesesteak. Not easy to find a good one in California, let alone wine country. Searching menus I appreciated the local honesty, allowing me to screen out a place that uses sourdough baguettes. One restaurant even states on its menu: "WARNING: Nobody from Philly should order this California version of your namesake sandwich!"

This research pointed me to Guerneville to Koala's Fine Food, a sushi bar that serves burgers and hot sandwiches as well. The style of sushi suggested Korean ownership. One of the best cheesesteaks I've had on the West Coast was from a Korean restaurateur. An experienced touch with bulgogi carries over to griddling shaved ribeye for cheesesteaks. This, plus reading that the rolls are homemade, made me want to check it out.

Koala's is open for take-out only during the pandemic, accepting orders at the walk up window. Outside, six small tables are available on the covered walkway. Before ordering, I confirmed that the bread is homebaked and that they use steak. "Yes", the staffer replied, "People come from miles for this sandwich, everything is original."

Several options are available, including teriyaki style. I loaded mine, adding mushrooms and bell peppers, setting me back $10.95. The staffer wrapped a buzzer in saran, then handed it to me for notification when my order would be ready.

Though a round hamburger bun shape, this homemade bread makes the sandwich even though its nothing like an Amoroso roll. A little chewy, airy and tender with yeasty overtones, it reminded me quite a bit of lepinje, the soft Croatian bread served with cevapcicci that some describe as midway between naan and ciabatta.

The thinly shaved and seared meat was quite beefy tasting though lean, so probably ribeye and not round steak. Here it's sliced rather than chopped. Deeply caramelized onions turned sweet and the added bell peppers and mushrooms retained good texture. No cheezwhiz, but the gooey meltiness of the cheese component suggests white American cheese.

Though a bit spare, in total, this was a wonderful sandwich. I'd drive to Guerneville again for this cheesesteak.

Koala's Fine Food
16380 Mill St
Guerneville, CA 95446
(707) 869-3300
(Across the street from Safeway)

Home koalas

www.koalasfinefood.com
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