See the updated review (this time with pictures) and an upgrade in rating!
Regular readers (hi, Mom) know that there are just a few foods I miss from the East. One of those is the cheesesteak hoagie (sub sandwich). I liked Calvin's in San Jose, but only because Calvin himself is so Phillie. I really was disappointed in the acclaimed Amato's in San Jose. In my Yelp review, I said:
On the plus side: Good, fresh ingredients. But assembled, it was a so-so cheesesteak.
Worst was that it was pretty dry. I want my cheesesteak moist, somewhat gooey, with juices that soak into the bread.
The bread was more of a bun. It was fresh and delicious but the wrong type. A cheesesteak should have a chewy Italian-style loaf with good crust. Amato's is too light and puffy.
Flavor was OK. Value was good.
If you have never had an authentic Phillie cheesesteak, then this rates a "B" grade. If you have, then this is a "C-minus."
I noticed a new hole in the wall cheesesteak place in Sunnyvale a couple of months ago. No rush — I've been disappointed so many times. No high hopes. I didn't even have my camera so this will be a blind review.
It turns out the plainly-named Cheese Steak Shop (and mis-named, since cheesesteak ought to be one word — yes, that's sloppy and run together but so is a good cheesesteak) is a small chain, with a couple of dozen locations in Northern California. But they know how to make a good cheesesteak. Now, when I say, "good," let's be clear — cheesesteak quality is subjective. Even Philadelphians are divided, between Pat's and Geno's, both of whom claim to be king. And both spell it cheesesteak, one word, no space.
But I liked what I saw. The place looks Phillie. The menu is simple and steers away from the affectations that Californize so many contenders. I kept it honest and went for the "Classic Philly Cheese Steak" (that extra space still bothers me). Hot, fresh, and moist, with a very nice melding of beef and cheese. They use Cheese Wiz (don't say nothin', that's how it's done, and it's right) but will use provolone if you like (which is also right, just not right-right). The peppers and onions were perfectly cooked and gave just the right amount of kick (enough to make me say "whoa" after the first bites, but not enough to stop me). The bun is soft and fresh but not as Wonder-Bread soft as Amato. I would like a bit more chew but maybe that's because most of my hoagie time was in Jersey. The main thing was that this was a juicy sandwich, but not drippy, just the way I like it. Some reviewers on Yelp whine that they want more meat but I thought this was just right. You can order more meat if you like.
So, how'd we do? Well, I need to go back (with camera) and report again but right now, I'll give it a B+, rating it against East Coast cheesesteak. An A- if they get rid of the extra space. If you have never had an authentic Phillie cheesesteak, then this rates a solid "A".
One heart breaker: This place has been around for 25 years. How could I have been so in the dark?!