A Long, Rewarding Hunt for a Pulse-Stopping Philly

Don't read this if you haven't seen John Candy's The Great Outdoors.

When I finish a Philly cheesesteak sandwich, I don't want to feel even remotely healthy—I want to feel like John Candy. I want to periodically inhabit the folded skin of an arteries-be-damned lardbelly who's wheeled into the E.R. grinning after a massive coronary, so smitten is he with the sweet memory of thinly sliced steak, peppers, and gooey processed cheese on a hoagie roll.  Elo's Phily Grill (you read that right: Elo's sign is one "l" shy of a properly spelled Philly) on Airport Way looks like exactly the sort of place that should send me out of my booth strapped to a stretcher with a smile on my face. It's housed in a massive concrete building in an industrial area, and caters almost exclusively to very hardworking union clock punchers, the sort of folk who typically aren't too concerned with counting calories at the lunch counter. So I tore through a "large" Philly Steak (they spell it right on the menu; go figure). Then I got up, walked out the door, and felt like I'd just had a bagel, turkey croissant, or some other calorie-conscious sandwich I eat when I want to feel like the opposite of John Candy. Super fucking lame: Elo's sandwich was short and skimpy, a major disappointment for a place with such a sterling rep. Speaking of sterling reps, next stop on the steak train was Philadelphia Fevre, the longtime East Madison outpost that is almost universally regarded as Seattle's finest East Coast imitator. No letdown here: The pepper steak at Fevre (so named for founder Renee LeFevre, who sold the establishment in '99) featured a rainbow array of peppers, a sufficiently large and fluffy hoagie roll, and a pile of searing hot steak that could not be constrained by said large, fluffy hoagie roll. And as an added bonus, if you purchase a copy of Chocolate Friday, the latest romance novel by co-owner Edwina Martin-Arnold, you get $2 off your sandwich. (Martin-Arnold's Web site offers this summary of the novel's plotline: "...Olivia Anderson, a sedate English professor...learns the real meaning of 'necessary hunger' when she is enticed to take a walk on the wild side and attends an all-male revue with a distinct urban edge.") But as good as the Fevre was, down the street lurks a nondescript establishment that is at least its equal. At 23rd and Union sits a restaurant called simply Philadelphia Cheese Steak. Here, the napkins are not well-stocked, the tables and floors are a little stickier than you'd like them to be, and the exterior screams Burger King. But the sandwiches? To die for, which might have explained the constant flow of walk-in traffic even during off-hours (we visited around 2:30). Bottom line: If you live near the CD, you're in fat city when it comes to Phillys. And if you work in SoDo, sorry: You'll have to make do with half as much sandwich, half as many l's , and shamefully unclogged arteries. mseely@seattleweekly.com

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