Raising the steaks: four Philly cheese steak sandwiches from Toronto
By Jon Sufrin
OddSeoul's Philly cheese steak sandwich (Image: Cheol Joon Baek)
Toronto is in the midst of an American-food obsession. Our collective love of burgers, fried chicken and Southern barbecue has never been stronger. Fittingly, Philly cheese steak sandwiches are popping up on menus across the city. Here are four versions to try, from the authentic to the meat-free.
The real deal
Yonge and College’s I Went to Philly probably offers the city’s most authentic cheese steak sandwich, which isn’t surprising considering that it’s the restaurant’s mandate. The place earns major street cred for its unabashed use of Cheez Whiz, drizzled over shaved rib-eye steak that’s cooked on a flat-top grill with black pepper, soy sauce, Worcestershire and butter. It’s all set into a white Italian bun (“wit” or “wit-out” onions), and for those who can’t stand the Whiz’s metallic tang, it’s not considered a cardinal sin to opt for provolone instead (or, just wash it down with some Yoo-hoo chocolate beverage).
I Went To Philly, 462 Yonge St., 416-927-9090
OddSeoul, currently the hottest joint on the Ossington strip, offers a Korean take on Philly cheese steak. Owners Leemo and Leeto Han know their stuff: they grew up in Philadelphia. Their sandwich is creamy, umami-spiked and electrifyingly good. The show stealer is rib-eye beef — marinated Korean-style in soy sauce, mirin and sugar — accompanied with kimchi, crunchy Kozlik’s mustard, American cheese and a touch of sriracha on toasted banh mi bread.
OddSeoul, 90 Ossington Ave.
The best thing about Yonge and Lawrence’s Stack Restaurant is the pungent smell of wood smoke wafting out of the massive Southern Pride smoker at the back. In addition to its other barbecue offerings, Stack makes a chipotle Philly sandwich that is “Philly” in name more than anything else: it uses a panini bun, and it features smoked brisket that’s smothered in chipotle barbecue sauce. It comes with carmelized onions and some Monterey Jack cheese.
Stack Restaurant, 3265 Yonge St., 647-346-1416
There is one main reason for carnivores to try Hogtown Vegan’s meat- and dairy-free Philly cheese steak sandwich: novelty. Man-made substitutes for meat and cheese are often ingenious, even if they rarely stack up against the real deal. This sandwich uses slices of house-made seitan (wheat gluten) in lieu of meat, and it’s drizzled with a sauce made from Daiya, a cheese substitute viewed as a godsend by many vegans. The result isn’t half bad, even if you’re the type who’s never watched a left-wing documentary.
Hogtown Vegan, 834 Bloor St. W., 416-901-9779