May 30, 2012 11:08

Cheesesteaks I have known

2012-05-25 13.05.14

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 Best Subs. 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. 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 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 Seaboard.

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 falling apart.

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.

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