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Big Mac Food Blog: The best cheesesteak in Philly is still on the street

John’s Roast Pork is supposedly the best cheese steak in Philly.
John’s Roast Pork is supposedly the best cheese steak in Philly. Star-Telegram

The best cheesesteak I’ve ever had in Philly was from a street vendor on the Broad Street. God only knows what was in that meat – the menu claimed it was beef, but that’s a 50/50 proposition at best.

As the “official home to the best cheese steaks in the world,” Philadelphia does have the "name" tourist places such as Pat’s, Jim’s and Geno’s. Geno’s and Pat’s are basically the same place, and Jim’s is not good.

The locals go to a place called John’s Roast Pork. I will call it John’s Overrated Roast Pork.

Located in South Philly not too far from famous Italian Market, this is the place to go. There was a long white limo idling at the curb when I went on Saturday - a validation from the obnoxiously wealthy. There is a James Beard plaque hanging inside the restaurant’s modest walls.

The menu of cheesesteak options that range from pork to turkey to tuna is impressive. But the real sign that John’s Roast Pork is legit is that it only accepts cash. The lasting impression from this noted food critic that as a rule of thumb will eat anything was "Meh."

It’s not bad, but it’s not worthy of a James Beard plaque, or a picture of Giada’s “I Don’t Actually Eat Food” De Laurentiis’ frame here.

What separates these type of charming, hole-in-the-wall establishments is the feeling that the local health inspector receives a monthly payment after their “inspection” is complete. The inspector takes a look at the kitchen, has his meal comped, and grabs his envelope on the way out the door.

John’s Roast Pork has all of the finer details as that type of place – the floor looks a tad dirty, and the kitchen appears to be well worn. Seating is outside on picnic tables in a busy area of car traffic.

The bread is doughy and good, but the meat was a dry and it left you with the feeling of, "That’s it? Why didn’t we just go to the street vendor?"

Mac Engel: 817-390-7760, tengel@star-telegram.com, @macengelprof

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