Any Philadelphian will tell you that opening a cheesesteak restaurant a mere 150 miles from the sandwich’s birthplace takes guts. Philly natives Casey Taylor Patten and David Mazza—the pair behind the local hoagie chain Taylor Gourmet—know the risks. If a Philadelphian doesn’t like your sandwich, he’s gonna let yuhs know. Happily, their Taylor Charles Steak & Ice, which opened four months ago on Northeast DC’s hopping H Street, delivers all the necessary components of a bona fide cheesesteak.
Working behind a gleaming white counter at the graffiti-walled shop, sandwich makers start with thin slices of rib eye, grill them on a steamy flattop next to a pile of onions, top them with six slices of American or provolone cheese (there’s also house-made “cheez whiz”), then chop it all up and scoop it into a sub roll. The bread is similar in texture to that used at Taylor Gourmet, but it’s a far better vehicle for a hot, wet sandwich than for a cold-cut sub, because the moisture makes the hard roll soggy on the inside and a little spongy, reducing the sense that a wee chain saw is shredding the roof of your mouth.
Taylor Charles offers a menu of specialty sandwiches that range from a decent pizza steak to an ill-conceived riff on wings called the Buffalo, with chicken and way too much blue-cheese dressing. It’s best to keep it simple with a plain cheesesteak, some thick-cut fries dipped in whiz (we prefer the original over the white version), and a sweet-and-sour lemon ice. There are salads, too, but ignore those. Healthy food is anathema to the spirit of cheesesteak, which is all about relaxed indulgence—and respect for a sandwich that requires no further embellishments than those dictated by tradition.
This article appears in the April 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.