Back in April, I finally stopped by a beat-up little restaurant that I’d seen before and thought had been closed for years. It was just resting, waiting for us to come by looking for a great sandwich.
For all that we try to be positive, the reality is that in quite a few “favorite food” categories, Chattanooga lags far behind Atlanta in direct comparisons. Our favorite barbecue place here wouldn’t rank in Atlanta’s top ten. There’s a Mongolian grill that wants to be The Real Chow Baby when it grows up. We went to a salad bar restaurant that has since closed and the best thing on it was the pepperoni. Every couple of months, we make a hesitant sample of “Chinese” food which is just like the shopping mall garbage that people offer you on toothpicks. There is no Buford Highway in Chattanooga.
But I’ll tell you this with a smile. Chattanooga has a cheesesteak which is at least the equal of any that I’ve had in Atlanta. Mr. Philly’s steak is every bit as good as the ones you can get at celebrated places like Woody’s or Roy’s, and it’s even on par with Dave’s up in Dorawoody. It may well be even better. This place is fantastic.
One of Marie’s former co-workers had mentioned they do terrific pizza here, and I asked whether she was really talking about that beat-up old Golden Gallon Milk Jug building on 4th across from the projects. Let’s be clear: Chattanooga has some neighborhoods where I don’t feel safe. I appreciate Nelson making the effort to start bringing this part of town back to life. I’m not ready to linger, but the improvement that every citizen craves is not going to come if loudmouths like me – pampered, fat, white middle-aged jerks with blogs – stay away from restaurants because they’re leery about the buildings across the road. So I filed it on the to-do list and figured I’d bring back a pie from here instead of Gondolier the next time we wanted a take-home pizza.
But then Sean at Nooga.com wrote a story raving about their cheesesteak and this place jumped to the top of the list. Interestingly, the following week, he wrote about how he also really enjoyed the cheesesteak at Mimi’s Deli in Hixson as well. It’s also pretty good, to be sure – we may do a story about Mimi’s someday – but it’s no Mr. Philly. This is a cheesesteak that everybody in the city needs to try. The meat is tender and just salty enough, and the bread is pillowy and delicious, really a perfect roll for a great sandwich.
We shared another cheesesteak a few weeks later, when we tried their pizza. That was a bit of a comedy of errors, but there is definitely a good pizza there underneath all the cheese. He was apologetic when I arrived and my order wasn’t ready. He explained that something had got caught in the oven and they were behind, but he was making it up to me. It was cooking now and he gave me some extra cheese. I think that was extremely kind. He wasn’t to know that Marie and I may be the only people in Chattanooga for whom the cheese already on the pie is always just a little bit more than enough already.
“Oh, it’s… a box of cheese soup,” Marie said as she opened it. Never mind our wincing, just think about the greatness of the gesture. We enjoyed the pie, after tamping away as much of the excess oil as we could, and decided to swing by for another pie one day. And in the meantime, that second cheesesteak that we split was heaven on a bun.
In June, we tried another pie with a whole lot less cheese. If you’re like us and prefer a pie with more sauce than cheese, you’re certain to enjoy this. It’s not amazing – the cheesesteak remains the star attraction – but it kind of reminds me of Pizza Pronto, which I enjoyed in Athens GA many times in the nineties. We’ll have the sandwich again before long, I’m sure.
2701 4th Ave
Chattanooga, TN 37407
You can see all the restaurants that we have visited for our blog on this map, with links back to the original blog posts. It’s a terrific resource for anybody planning a road trip through the southeast!