2550 5th Ave. Suite 171 (619)231-2912
Due to a major photographic mishap, the Laurel restaurant review has been postponed until next week. Revisiting the site of Laurel did however, present the opportunity to feature Alex's Brown Bag, located across the street. Alex's offers fresh, made to order Italian and American East Coast style food. For the purposes of this article, I decided to focus on the Brown Bag's rendition of the legendary Philly cheese steak.
Philadelphia natives constantly argue the relative merits of Pat's, Geno's, Jim's and dozens of neighborhood cheese steak purveyors. These denizens pose questions like; 1:Do they use Amoroso's bread and if not, what kind? 2:Should you order "wit or wit-out" onions, mushrooms, or bell peppers? 3:How fine should the meat be chopped? 4:Is the meat better wet or dry? 5:Finally, the most contentious of points, Cheez Whiz, American, or mozzarella cheese? Not meaning to offend Pat's fans the world over, I must say I am just not a Cheez Whiz guy. I don't know what is in that yellow/orange goo, but I am pretty sure that it is not cheese. To my satisfaction, Alex's goes the mozzarella route. Another belief I subscribe to is that the meat, preferably thinly sliced rib eye, should be really juicy. Eating a good cheese steak should entail juices running down your forearms.
As you can see from the bag and wrapper, Alex's cheese steak passed this test with flying colors.
I ordered the original Philadelphia cheese steak ($6.75) which came with grilled onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms all topped with melted mozzarella cheese.
The quality of the bread can make or break any sandwich. Upon the first bite I knew this was great bread. The baked fresh Solunto's Italian roll had a perfectly crisped crust, with an interior that was soft, tender, and tasty. Next I focused on the meat. The authentic, thinly sliced rib eye, is finely chopped, much to my liking. Naturally juicy, the meat had a rich flavor reminiscent of a quality home made beef stock. It turns out that Alex's supplier is Liberty Meats in Philadelphia. Liberty also supplies Jim's Steaks, part of the triumverate of cheese steak royalty in South Philly. The onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms had been sauteed until tender and flavorful. The next step was to see how the flavors stood up to hot sauce.
The classic addition of hot sauce enhanced the flavor nicely but did not over power the cheese steak. This is an excellent rendition of the famous Philadelphia sandwich. Next I tried the house potato salad (8oz $1.49)
Tender potato chunks were mixed with a slightly sweet mayonnaise dressing that had a hint of mustard. Tiny pieces of sweet pickle and celery were also blended in. I liked this potato salad a lot, almost as much as D.Z. Akin's fabulous offering. I also tried the house macaroni salad (8oz $1.49.)
The pasta had a firm al dente feel, toothsome but not under cooked. The mayonnaise based dressing with pimento and sweet pickle pieces had a sweetness that was pleasant. This is a simple but enjoyable version of macaroni salad.
If, like many of us, you are having trouble finding a good Philly cheese steak in San Diego, I recommend giving Alex's Brown Bag a try. Owners Dave Sherako and Jim Mullen were raised in the Philadelphia suberbs, and are producing high quality, made to order Italian and American specialties. I believe they have earned the title of "San Diego's King of the Philly Cheese Steak."
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 7am-5pm Closed Sat. Sun.