Food Truck: Carl’s Steak
Sighting: 47th and Park
Growing up in Central NJ, I got to know Philadelphia quite well. I have the strange distinction of being both a die-hard Yankees fan and a die-hard Phillies fan, since I got Channel 11 and Channel 17 both clearly and my formative baseball years happened to fall between 1977 and 1980. Whenever I made my way down to a Phillies game I’d always make a point to stop by Pat’s or Gino’s (and contrary to the religious zealots on either side, I say that you can enjoy both equally).
As I moved into northern NJ and eventually into Long Island I didn’t get to enjoy cheesesteaks quite as often (and no, Steak Umms don’t count). But to my delight when I’d go to Yankee games in the new stadium, there was a Carl’s Steaks right there. Being trained on how to order cheesesteaks from my young days I knew exactly what to order: “Provolone Wit”. Alas, over the years they eventually phased out Provolone, but I still enjoy my “White American Wit” or “Whiz Wit” from time to time when I visit the Stadium. And I’ve visited Carl’s brick-and-mortar location on 3rd Avenue occasionally.
And so I was delighted to find the Carl’s Steak truck at 47th and Park. And even more delighted to find that they had a full menu, including my beloved Provolone. And so on this day when we mourn the passing of #8 Yogi Berra, I thought I’d treat myself to a Carl’s Steak.
The truck itself is decorated with autographed photos of Yankee greats—there’s Tex, A-Rod, Jorge, Joe Torre, Joe Girardi, Mick the Quick, Johnny Damon, and more as well as some nice write-ups from magazines.
I’d come to this truck once before and I get the sense that the folks working the window themselves don’t know cheesesteak etiquette. Last time a few months ago I said to the woman “Provolone WIT” and she had a puzzled look on her face. “You want a cheesesteak?” Today was a little better—I said “10 inch Provolone WIT” and the guy seemed to know what I was saying but told his cook “he wants a cheesesteak”. “With onions?” “Do you want it with on—yes, with onions”. Kind of defeats the purpose, but okay, as long as they got my order right.
The cheesesteak came pretty quickly, odd because I thought there were others in line before me but it turns out they were all just loitering. It was wrapped nicely in thick paper that kept any loose grease in securely.
When I got to my desk I unwrapped my prize. Disappointingly, there was no ketchup included and I didn’t see anywhere on the truck where I could help myself, but happily there were plenty of packets lying around that I assume were from this decade. Also disappointing, it looks like in their haste to get my sandwich to me quickly, they didn’t melt the provolone with the meat but just haphazardly placed it on top, so instead of being melted with the steak most of it came out on a clump. But all I had to do was take the fork I’d picked up from the road (not really, just my homage to Yogi) and reconstitute the sandwich.
As with my experiences on Third Avenue and Yankee Stadium, I’d put a Carl’s steak on par with any of the steaks in Philly. It’s got that wonderful beefy aroma and that wonderful greasy flavor that envelops you to the bone. I wolfed it down pretty quickly and then proceeded to scrape off whatever cheesy bits I could from the wrapper.
Still, Carl’s has been good to me over the years, so I’ll overlook the missing ketchup and the imperfectly melted cheese and give them the 5 they deserve. If you see them, don’t miss it.
5 of 5
Price I paid: $10.00
Line: 5 minutes
Tricks for fast ordering: Learn how to order a Philly cheesesteak the proper way. Cheese first, and then “with” or “without” grilled onions. Examples: “White American Wit”, “Provolone Without”, “Whiz Wit”, etc. Also, don’t forget your free toppings–hot peppers, sweet peppers, green peppers, or mushroom and onions.
What to order if you’re a newbie: 10″ Provolone Wit
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