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Food Fight: Cheese Steaks

In the interest of full disclosure: I was born in Philadelphia. Therefore, along with being a completely obnoxious sports fan, I have a special place in my clogged arteries for cheese steaks. I also get upset when I see the words "Philly Cheese Steak" on a menu only to find out they're just serving some meat and Provolone cheese on a roll. Philly cheese steaks require two things: thin-sliced rib eye steak and glowing orange processed cheese (preferably the Whiz). That's not to say that only cheese steaks made with the Whiz are good. I'm just saying if you're going to add the word Philly to your description of the cheese steak, make sure you at least have a jar of Cheez Whiz under the counter somewhere. Until recently, the only place I knew in Broward and Palm Beach counties to get a genuine Philly cheese steak was Big Al's, so I decided to just pit a couple of cheese steaks against each other, leaving the Philly part out of it.

The World Famous Parrot Lounge in Fort Lauderdale is a sports haven for

Philly fans. Every Sunday, the bar is absolutely packed with passionate

fans screaming at the top of their lungs, sometimes cheering, sometimes

jeering the Eagles. Every square inch of the bar has some piece of

Philly paraphernalia, so I assume this place knows how to make a

cheese steak. I notice it's not listed as a Philly cheese steak on the

menu, so I order one with onions and peppers, knowing the cheese won't

come from a can. The cheese steak comes out of the kitchen a few minutes

later, and the first thing I notice is the size. It's definitely on the

skimpy side. Measuring just a shade over 7 inches and relatively light

on the meat, the Parrot's cheese steak won't win any awards for


Obviously, the most important thing is the taste. The Parrot's

cheese steak is very-well-made: The cheese is melted throughout the

entire sandwich, soaking every inch of rib eye and bonding it to the

bread. The Parrot's bread is chewy and warm but lacks any kind of

crunch to the outer crust. Surprisingly, despite the small stature and

underwhelming presentation, the Parrot's cheese steak is tasty. The

cheese is tangy and makes the meat even juicier, the bread soaks up the

grease without getting soggy, and the onions and peppers are diced thin

enough to provide the taste without getting in the way of the meat.

The challenger is Sonny's Famous Steak Hogie. The first time I visited

Sonny's was about six months ago, and I found their cheese steak to be

subpar. The meat was on the dry side, the cheese wasn't properly

melted, and the bread was a little too crunchy. A friend of mine

recently visited and told me I was way off, so I decided to give it

another shot. I ordered a number 50, which stated it was steak, sauce,

and onions. I assumed (incorrectly) that the sauce in question was

their newly available cheddar cheese sauce (AKA Cheez Whiz). When I

brought the cheese steak home and unwrapped it, it looked like a murder

scene. Evidently, the sauce in question was marinara sauce, and it

didn't look appetizing. The cheddar cheese sauce and marinara sauce not

only drenched every inch of the meat; it also leaked out and coated the

outside of the bread. It's hard to blame them for that, as it would not

have happened had I eaten it at the restaurant and not taken it on the

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride home.

Sonny's cheese steak is heavenly. It is stuffed with almost three times

the meat as the Parrot's cheese steak, the meat is juicier and more

flavorful, and the combination of the cheese sauce and marinara sauce

bound every ingredient together, and neither sauce overpowered the other one. As a matter of fact, If I hadn't seen the red sauce all over the place, I would have thought the meat was marinated in a tomato sauce rather than covered in it. The bread has a crunchy outer crust,

which is amazing due to how much of the cheese had leaked onto it, and

it's warm and chewy on the inside. It's clear Sonny's bakes its bread

fresh in house every day with great success.

Verdict: It's a landslide in favor of Sonny's. Every ingredient is of

higher quality, there is more meat and cheese stuffed between the fresh-baked bread, and it's almost twice the size for the same price (just

under $8).

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Brett Gillin

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