Omnivore - Get in Ma Mouth: Philly Cheesesteak Edition
Finding the Philly mojo somewhere in Dorawoodyville
When I get a tip that there’s a legit new cheesesteak in town, I try check it out in a hurry. Why? I went to college in Philadelphia, love a good cheesesteak, and have enough years of cheesesteak-hunting under my belt to know that uncovering cheesesteak excellence outside the Philadelphia (and/or New Jersey) area is a rare and elusive thing. There’s no real reason that should be the case, since the cheesesteak is a fairly straightforward construct - bread, meat, cheese - but the universe has somehow been created in a way that (mostly) restricts cheesesteak greatness to a small geographic area alongside the Schuylkill River (google it).
Back to the tip. It came from a local food forum frequent contributor who goes by the handle “uOTPia dweller.” His headline? “Urgent News! Real Philadelphia Quality Cheesesteak Found in Dorawoodyville.” I was out that very same day roaming the streets of, um, the area between Doraville and Dunwoody - looking for Dave’s Philly & Water Ice. I found it, attached to a Shell gas station, marked by a brightly colored banner featuring water ice cups decorated with the Philadelphia skyline. Inside, the menu was written out in marker on a whiteboard, all of eight items long, but I only wanted one thing - a cheesesteak ($8.75 with fries).
? ? ?
Before I get to the sandwich, let’s fill in a bit about the place, which opened about seven months ago. The owner is Derrick Hayes, who moved to Atlanta a year ago from, yes... Philadelphia. He named Dave’s after his father, who passed away in 2009 but had instilled in Derrick the drive to create something special. And that Derrick does. Dave’s imports their rolls from Philadelphia - Amoroso’s, it goes without saying. And the cheese? Dave’s standard is a mix of provolone, white American, and Whiz. Yes, the Whiz. Bonus points for the cheese trifecta. I placed my order, and sat down to the click, click, clack and sizzle, sizzle of spatulas chopping thinly sliced steak on the flat top, an audible cue that things were heading in the right direction.
My cheesesteak passed over the counter a few minutes later, steaming hot. I took one bite, and it was clear - Dave’s has the elusive Philly mojo. They’ve got the right balance of toasty and soft in the roll. And, even more importantly, the beef and cheese in Dave’s cheesesteaks cease to be distinct things - they merge into one salty, gooey, tender mess of deliciousness. Like I said, it shouldn’t be so hard to make a great cheesesteak beyond the bounds of Philadelphia and New Jersey, but countless cheesesteak shops touting “just like Philly” fail to bring the real Philly mojo. Dave’s nails it.
Once you finish your meal, you may want to head back to the counter to choose from the many flavors of brightly colored water ice - all imported from Philadelphia. Me? I’d rather just have another Philly cheesesteak.
Dave’s Philly and Water Ice
5020 Winters Chapel Road