I’ve never had a Philly Cheesesteak in Philly, but when it comes to ordering one in Austin, it’s a bit of a gamble. You never know what you're going to get.
Will it be doused in vinegary peppers? Will the meat be overcooked and rubbery? Will the rolls or the cheese be just plain nasty? (I have had all of these experiences.)
So when I saw that Phatso’s Cheesesteaks had opened on South First Street, I went in with reservations (and not the kind that get you a table). Fortunately, what the brand-spanking-new trailer is putting out is pretty tasty sandwiches.
The menu at Phatso’s takes a build-your-own approach, and the more you put on, the more it costs. You start out with $5.25 or $5.75 to have beef or chicken on the crispy, buttery rolls imported not from heaven, but from Amoroso’s Bakery in Philadelphia. Then you can add cheese – either Cheez Whiz or provolone – and items ranging from grilled onions and mushrooms to pepperoni, bacon and marinara.
If you don’t like what you put together, the menu says: go back to the end of the line and try again. (If your wallet can take it.)
For our main meal, my friend Cassandra and I ordered one typical cheesesteak and one unusual one.
The first was a beef cheesesteak with provolone, grilled onions and mushrooms. The beef was chopped very thin and grilled crisp. It had a nice flavor, but the grilled onions and mushrooms really shone through. The melty provolone on top was nice, but next time I should try the Cheez Whiz variety to see if I get the more authentic cheddar taste.
I heard some guys at the table next to me saying that they thought the cheesesteak could use more spice than the jalapenos you can choose to add, and found out that Phatso’s is still working on adding an option with more spice to the menu.
For the basic customer however, I appreciated that there was no overly vinegary grilled pepper mixture messing up the flavor of meat, provolone and greasy grilled goodness.
Cassandra ordered the unusual option, a cheesesteak with chicken, provolone marinara and pepperonis. It tasted to me more like an Italian sub than a Philly Cheesesteak, but it was tasty nonetheless. The chicken was moist and cut into slightly larger chunks. The marinara sauce and the pepperonis didn’t stand out on their own, but put all worked together. Plus, on both sandwiches, the buttery rolls were fabulous.
Because Phatso’s is so new, several of us in line were offered some of the queso that is a contender for the menu. The queso was creamy and mild, but had large chunks of spiced sausage in it that made it really stand out. Once that queso is on the menu, any cheesesteak topped with it will be a knockout.
Check out Phatso's on Facebook.