Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Phillyman’s Cheesesteak

Nashville Restaurants and Food

Phillyman’s Cheesesteak
The Downtown Arcade

Cheesesteaks aren’t complicated. You gotta have the right beef and you’ve gotta have the right bread. I grew up in Boston, so I’ve always known the New England version, called a Steak and Cheese. No matter what the title, it comes down to the ingredients and the simple, but essential, method of preparation. And most people outside of the northeast manage to screw it up along the way. As an east coast ex-pat I’ve searched high and low for a decent rendition in every city I have lived in. I’m happy to say the new Phillyman’s Cheesesteak in the downtown arcade does a pretty decent job.

Phillyman’s is a spartan place right now with perhaps the world’s simplest menu. You can get a beef Cheesesteak in spicy or regular and you can get a chicken and cheese. The sides consist of potato chips. That’s it folks. So, you figure these sandwiches must be pretty damn good for this place to survive. And that they are.

The beef is thin sliced and chopped on the grill. The owner piles up a small mound in the corner, which can be dangerous on slow days, since you can’t allow the beef to cook very long at all or it will go tough. This day the business was hopping so the beef had a little char but with plenty of flavor. The main ingredient choice is onions or no onions. I ordered mine with. The grilled onions are mixed with the beef and then Provolone is added. There doesn’t appear to be a cheese selection, just the Provolone, which is what I’m used to anyway.

The hoagie bread used at Phillyman’s is the right combination of soft and chewy, with just a thin crisp crust. It holds up well to the sandwich and takes on flavor when it is placed on the steak and cheese still sizzling on the grill. In Philadelphia the hoagie of choice is Amoroso’s rolls. I’m not sure where Phillyman is getting his bread in Nashville, but it reminded me of the Po-Boy rolls at area Cajun joints.

The only strange thing is that if you order everything at Phillyman’s that includes tomato and lettuce, which I believe in Philadelphia is called a Cheesesteak Hoagie. It seemed kinda weird to me. While I like tomato and lettuce on a Po-Boy, the steak and cheese really needs to meld together with the bun, an action the lettuce and tomato would prevent.

I skipped the veggies and bit into the classic version. It’s a great sandwich that brought be back home for just a few minutes.

You have to eat outside in the arcade. They do have room to add a couple of tables and chairs inside. I went past the restaurant after I ate outside and realized the reason they probably will never do that: about 10 people were standing in the small restaurant waiting for their cheesesteaks. With that kind of popularity hopefully we can keep Phillyman’s in Nashville for some time. It’s the closest thing I’ve had to an east coast steak and cheese, outside of the east coast, in years.

I paid a total of $6 with tax for the combo, which includes a bag of chips and a drink.


Lannae said...

Dude! Thank you for going to this place and blogging about it. I have lived in Boston for 10, and Phila. for 10, I miss those cheesesteaks! When the weather gets warmer, I will be walking on down to get me one of those beauties. The Amoroso rolls were the *s**t* that made the cheesesteak in Phila. The last time I had friends traveling up to Cherry Hill NJ, right over the river from Phila, I had them bring me back a pack of Amoroso rolls, so I could make a proper Italian sandwich. Thanks dude!

Eric and Katie said...

I'll be interested to see what you think. There are a bunch of east coast folks who have moved here, each with their own favorite steak and cheese version...I think this place will help with the cravings, in between trips to Boston and Philly.

Anonymous said...


Don't let Jim Ridley see this post. Talk about someone getting real cranky when some of us northeasterners mention *anything* about cheese steaks *and* authenticity. He seems to think it don't matter.

By the way, is this part of the big chain based out of Memphis(?) or is it a standalone?

Eric and Katie said...

I wish I could say it didn't matter...I've just had too many crappy fake cheesesteaks over the years(there are several of those joints here in Nashville). I don't know, but Phillyman's probably is a stand alone given the simplicity of the operation. I checked around the I can't find anywhere else in the country with that name. The owner was too crazy busy for a chat when I was there. I think someone from the Scene Bites Blog needs to get over there and grill the guy (sorry).