Cheesesteaks I have known

by Brian Clarey

The whole thing is my fault, really.

When I was tabulation the results of YES! Weekly’sreaders’ poll last month, I was surprised to learn thatlongtime Greensboro institution Ghassan’s had won forBest Subs.When I think of Ghassan’s, I think of Greek food: gyro, souvlaki,kabob, hummus, falafel. But subs? At the time, I was thinkingthat I didn’t even know they served subs.Silly me.I had forgotten that, aside from fi rst-rate, authentic Greek food,Ghassan’s has formed a legacy around a small slate of hot subs onthe menu, most of them variations on one of my all-time favoritesandwiches: the Philly cheesesteak.I’ve eaten them at more than half of the states along the EasternSeaboard.

I’ve made them at home. I’ve eaten them in Louisiana,made with ingredients imported directly from the City of BrotherlyLove. And I’ve taken a cheesesteak tour of Philadelphia, thehome of the sandwich, where I sampled both Pat’s and Genos —meh — as well as samples from urban pizza joints, the downtownReading terminal and the outlying suburbs, as well as a variationon the theme called the “Schmitter” at McNalky’s in ChestnutHill, served on a Kaiser roll with a couple slices of salami, friedonions and special sauce — fabulous. I’ve had cheesesteak hoagies,pizza steaks, chicken cheesesteaks, ones made with shreddedbeef and others with the whole steak left intact.

And last week I had one at Ghassan’s, the 8-inch, because a6-inch cheesesteak does me no good, with mushrooms, becausewhy the hell not?Ghassan’s cheesesteak sub has been winning Best of theTriad awards since before YES! Weekly even began publicationin 2005. Part of the reason is the steak itself, whichis authentic in both fl avor and texture — no pre-formedshingles here. Part of it is the bread: a good, crusty subroll, toasted on the outside and chewy on the inside, heartyenough to handle the copious amount of meat and grease withoutfalling apart.

And part of it is the cheese.Many Philadelphians prefer their cheesesteaks with pottedcheese product — that’s Cheese Whiz, folks, and in my book thatis not okay. Some steaks come with yellow American cheese,which is perfectly acceptable in many circumstances, and othersare piled with gooey mozzarella, which can be delicious but in mymind detracts from the overall experience with its bulk and texture.Ghassan’s uses provolone, which may well be the smelliestcheese in common usage, but is the one I prefer on my cheesesteaksbecause of its subtle fl avor, excellent melting capabilitiesand pleasing color. The use a lot of it at Ghassan’s; thick strings ofit stretched between the halves of my sandwich after I unwrappedthe thing from its foil jacket and pulled it apart.

Not to sound like a purist, but Ghassan’s version is technicallymore of a cheesesteak hoagie, with a bit of the house Greek saladtucked into the roll with the meat, seasoned with oil, vinegar andspices — similar to the portion that, along with a generous pile offries, came with my platter but without the chopped feta cheeseand diced tomatoes.

And while the side salad is one of the best in the quick-eatslunch game, the cheesesteak was the main event, the kind ofsandwich that maybe won’t fall apart when you put it down, butyou still don’t want to put it down.I ate it slowly as I let the grease drip onto my fries, and Ithought about Philadelphia and New Jersey and some of thecheesesteaks I have known. Ghassan’s version — the best in town,according to our readers, can stand toe to toe with any of them.

wanna go?

Ghassan’s 2501 High Point Road, Greensboro; 336.294.4060

1605 Battlegound Ave., 400 E. Cornwallis Drive,

Greensboro; 336.272.8400 Greensboro; 336.378.1000