Monday, April 23, 2012

Off the Map: Don't All Cafeterias Feature Chandeliers?

Cheesesteak -- Tony Luke's, Atlantic City, NJ
Tony Luke's

If past experience is any indication, we don't always do so well by trying to knock a Philadelphia Best Thing I Ever Ate dish off of our list at the restaurant's Atlantic City location (we're looking at you, Buddakan).
Well, At Least t's Better Than Camden
These results thus begs the question why Vodka would insist upon going to the Tony Luke's at the Borgata casino rather than the original South Philly franchise.
Here's a Tip: This Is Not the Borgata
The answer to this question is twofold:

1. Vodka finds herself down the shore more often than she does underneath the Walt Whitman Bridge.
2. She is hellbent on validating her theory that the best cheesesteaks actually come from South Jersey.
Cheesesteaks and, Well, People, Too
For these reasons, Vodka and her friend (who asked to be called "Diet Coke" on this blog, a moniker that was shot down immediately for not featuring alcohol), while spending the weekend by the seaside, make their way to the Borgata Cafeteria.
Guessing This Is Not the Kind of Cafeteria Which Serves Tater Tots....
Said cafeteria features a Tony Luke's counter where we can find Marc Summers's chosen REGIONAL FAVORITES dish, the beloved cheesesteak.
They Say the Neon Lights Are Bright in AC... in AC
And said cafeteria also features multiple chandeliers.  Gotta love Atlantic City decor.
This Is From Where New Jersey Gets Its "Charming" Reputation
"Diet Coke" (Vodka writes this with disdain), seemingly the only person on the planet who despises cheesesteaks, scours the culinary options before taking her place in line at Lettuce Head, leaving Vodka alone to procure the highest calorie meal known to the Borgata Cafeteria.
No Real Philadelphian Would Ever Deign to Eat at This Place When Cheesesteaks Are Available
The problem is that while Marc Summers recommends the regular cheesesteak on official Best Thing I Ever Ate documents (aka the Food Network website), he actually ate the pizza steak on the show.  This circumstance means that Vodka, for purposes of completion, is forced into ordering not one but two cheesesteaks.  To eat by herself.  Because heaven forbid she bring a friend that eats something other than rabbit food with her on this particular jaunt.
So What You're Saying Is the Usual Serving Size Is ONE Cheesesteak Per Person?!
Placing her order for a cheesesteak with Cheez Whiz and fried onions, a pizza steak (a cheesesteak with marinara sauce), a side of onion rings, and a small soda, Vodka can only hope that the highly efficient workers behind the Tony Luke's counter do not call into question why her tray has enough food to fill up a football team.
The Biggest Loser Producers Would Have a Field Day with This One
To add to the humiliation, the cashier is insistent that he address Vodka by name at least eighty-seven times during this proceeding (including forty minutes later when she returns to the counter for a doggie bag), thus shredding her anonymity as the person ordering a week's worth of food... at Tony Luke's.
Old Philly Style Sandwiches, Old Philly Style Girth
Vodka sheepishly carries her tray to a table to await the arrival of her friend's salad, which inexplicably seems to be taking a full eternity for the staff at Lettuce Head to toss together.
This Is Clearly a Very Complicated Tray of Food to Pull Off
This delay causes an especially conspicuous photo shoot, as Vodka sits alone at a large table with cheesesteaks spread in front of her, photographing them.
It's Not Easy Being the Greatest Freak Show in Atlantic City, But Vodka Is Up to the Challenge
When Lettuce Head finally manages to pull themselves together, we go about the task of eating, Vodka diving into a bevy of fried, greasy and gooey delights while her friend chomps entirely-too-happily through a whole wheat roll.
One Girl's Roll of Bread Is Another Girl's Roll of Fat
Trying the pizza steak first, Vodka is ambivalent about the addition of the marinara sauce.  Always preferring a helping of cheese rather than sauce, she finds that the marinara flavor takes over the proceedings, rendering the steak and cheese almost flavorless (a problem that is rectified by, of course, a generous helping of salt).
Cheesesteak Via Italy
Interestingly enough, when "Diet Coke" deigns to try this creation, she finds it much more enjoyable than other cheesesteaks she has had for exactly the reason Vodka is not impressed -- the marinara sauce is completely overbearing.
Much Like Its Real Housewives of New Jersey Cousins
In contrast, the regular cheesesteak allows each of its ingredients to shine -- the Cheez Whiz smothers the chopped beef and onions, all pulling together to create a runny, goopy, and all together delicious version of a Philadelphia cheesesteak.
Now THAT'S a Cheesesteak
The feature that both cheesesteaks have going for them is the roll in which they are buried.  Soft and supple, they cradle the fillings without overtaking them, and Vodka prefers the rolls alone to just about any other variety of cheesesteak she has had.  Ten points on the carbs, Tony Luke's.
Lack of Pesky Sesame Seeds = 100 Bonus Points
The onion rings are greasy and crunchy enough to be tasty, if nothing remarkable.
Ring Around the Rosie
They are clearly not meant to be the star of these proceedings; for this, we have the duo of cheesesteaks, which are worth this meal's steep $25 price tag.
Thanks for the Price Gouging, Borgata
By the end of the meal, Vodka believes she has figured out part of her friend's cheesesteak disdain: she has never been taught to consume them correctly.
Why This Process Is a Complicated Endeavor Remains a Mystery
Rather than holding the sandwich tightly with two hands -- a technique that any Philadelphia-area native knows intuitively at birth -- her friend holds the cheesesteak gingerly with a single hand, contorting her head at a disagreeable angle in order to bite in and subsequently, to force half of the contents back onto the paper wrapping.
Approximate Number of Napkins Used for This Cheesesteak Consumption
After a lesson in the art of cheesesteak eating, she no longer looks like the Arizona-grown child that she is.
Presumably She Would Find This Easier to Eat If It Came with a Side of Cactus
Though she still doesn't exactly look like she's enjoying the thing.
How Is This Possibly Not Enjoyable?!
Wrapping up half of each sandwich to bring home, Vodka finds herself parading around the Borgata with two half-eaten cheesesteaks in hand.
Nothing Like Double-Fisting Cheesesteaks Around a Casino
Classy image or not, she is certain of one point: this scenario sure beats going to South Philly.

Tony Luke's Cheesesteak: 4 stars

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