Cheesesteaks I have known
The whole thing is my fault, really.
When I was tabulation the results of YES! Weekly’s
readers’ poll last month, I was surprised to learn that
longtime Greensboro institution Ghassan’s had won for
When I think of Ghassan’s, I think of Greek food: gyro, souvlaki,
kabob, hummus, falafel. But subs? At the time, I was thinking
that I didn’t even know they served subs.
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 on
the menu, most of them variations on one of my all-time favorite
sandwiches: the Philly cheesesteak.
I’ve eaten them at more than half of the states along the Eastern
I’ve made them at home. I’ve eaten them in Louisiana,
made with ingredients imported directly from the City of Brotherly
Love. And I’ve taken a cheesesteak tour of Philadelphia, the
home of the sandwich, where I sampled both Pat’s and Genos —
meh — as well as samples from urban pizza joints, the downtown
Reading terminal and the outlying suburbs, as well as a variation
on the theme called the “Schmitter” at McNalky’s in Chestnut
Hill, served on a Kaiser roll with a couple slices of salami, fried
onions and special sauce — fabulous. I’ve had cheesesteak hoagies,
pizza steaks, chicken cheesesteaks, ones made with shredded
beef and others with the whole steak left intact.
And last week I had one at Ghassan’s, the 8-inch, because a
6-inch cheesesteak does me no good, with mushrooms, because
why the hell not?
Ghassan’s cheesesteak sub has been winning Best of the
Triad awards since before YES! Weekly even began publication
in 2005. Part of the reason is the steak itself, which
is authentic in both fl avor and texture — no pre-formed
shingles here. Part of it is the bread: a good, crusty sub
roll, toasted on the outside and chewy on the inside, hearty
enough to handle the copious amount of meat and grease without
And part of it is the cheese.
Many Philadelphians prefer their cheesesteaks with potted
cheese product — that’s Cheese Whiz, folks, and in my book that
is not okay. Some steaks come with yellow American cheese,
which is perfectly acceptable in many circumstances, and others
are piled with gooey mozzarella, which can be delicious but in my
mind detracts from the overall experience with its bulk and texture.
Ghassan’s uses provolone, which may well be the smelliest
cheese in common usage, but is the one I prefer on my cheesesteaks
because of its subtle fl avor, excellent melting capabilities
and pleasing color. The use a lot of it at Ghassan’s; thick strings of
it stretched between the halves of my sandwich after I unwrapped
the thing from its foil jacket and pulled it apart.
Not to sound like a purist, but Ghassan’s version is technically
more of a cheesesteak hoagie, with a bit of the house Greek salad
tucked into the roll with the meat, seasoned with oil, vinegar and
spices — similar to the portion that, along with a generous pile of
fries, came with my platter but without the chopped feta cheese
and diced tomatoes.
And while the side salad is one of the best in the quick-eats lunch game, the cheesesteak was the main event, the kind of sandwich that maybe won’t fall apart when you put it down, but you still don’t want to put it down. I ate it slowly as I let the grease drip onto my fries, and I thought about Philadelphia and New Jersey and some of the cheesesteaks I have known. Ghassan’s version — the best in town, according to our readers, can stand toe to toe with any of them.
Ghassan’s 2501 High Point Road, Greensboro;
1605 Battlegound Ave., 400 E. Cornwallis Drive,
Greensboro; 336.272.8400 Greensboro; 336.378.1000