Jersey Mike's - Irvine
Geographic irony has never tasted better than in Jersey Mike's Famous Philly. The fact that the meat starts out as raw and thinly sliced before its slapped on the griddle when you order is reason enough to forget that Philly isn't in the Garden State (though it's really not that far).
Then the cheese goes on as soon as the pink is cooked out. And it ain't Cheese Wiz as it's usually done at Pat's Steaks. Instead you get your choice on what to melt. Whatever it is, realize that the cheese bubbles into a sauce that will eventually burn your upper palate. Calling it a sauce is incorrect. I should say scorching hot cheese lava.
I sunk my teeth into my sub and was immediately sorry I didn't wait. Best I could do was do the tongue dance, suck in air as fast as I could, and fan it frantically with my hands as if that would help. They weren't kidding when they billed this as a hot sandwich. And I like it that way.
The onions and bell peppers (red ones!) transform into sugary flavor boosts and the whole sandwich worked as a kind of sloppy wet, steaming meat stir-fry encased in an insulating pillow of bread.
I was surprised how much I liked this sandwich. I had little or no expectations for Jersey Mike's when it opened. But there's routinely a line out the door despite the hidden location in a practically deserted plaza where even Sam's Club couldn't manage to succeed.
I suppose it helps that it's the only lunch time alternative from the other fast-food purgatory options of Taco Bell, Burger King and Panda Express. There used to be a food court here, but that died long ago.
The second time I had the sandwich, the meat was a little less tender, and I knew better than to bite into it as soon as the torpedo-shaped, foil-wrapped thing was handed to me. Pausing to take a picture helps.
Next time I'll order a cold sub sandwich. They seem to do a little show when they assemble it, showering the open faces with a deluge of oil and vinegar from a tall bottle like an overzealous weather effects prop man on Gene Kelly.
And aren't you glad I went this long talking about something from Jersey without mentioning Snooky?
Von Karman Plaza
16525-G Von Karman Ave
Irvine, CA 92606
THIS WEEK ON OC WEEKLY:
Raya at The Ritz-Carlton, Dana Point