I tried to order from “Carl’s Steaks” a week before this review got posted, but even at noon when the lunch rush has only begun, the line to order from this truck was wrapped around the block. The following week it returned, I made a sneak attack to it at 11:30 when there was practically no one there yet, and finally got my Philly Cheesesteak.
“Carl’s Steaks” and their long, black truck are a sponsor of the Yankee’s and list that they are the “best sandwich in NYC” according to AOL Cityguide on the side of their truck. That is quite the claim to make, especially when we have already reviewed heavy-hitters like Alidoro and Olive’s who blew me away. I am a lover of all things cheese steak, and was glad to give this one a try, but when the truck is already placing it on a high pedestal before you can even order, my expectations were far greater than my reality.
A six-inch ordinary cheesesteak will cost you $6, while 10-incher’s are $9. You can pick from the three types of cheese – cheez whiz, american, or provolone (I went with the latter). Grilled onions are optional, but how can you eat a Philly cheesesteak without them? If you want to pile more things on top of your sandwich, you can also order mushrooms, hot or sweet peppers, pickles, tomatoes, and more cheese or meat.
The Italian bread is firmer and larger than what a proper Philly cheesesteak would be, and that texture is extremely important to making it authentic. The meat is nicely cooked, and not at all greasy which is a big plus, with the provolone mellowing it out and the onions adding that necessary sweetness and bite into it. The ratio of meat to bread is where it starts to fall apart, although thanks to the thickness of that bread, your sandwich will certainly never collapse. There is a good amount of beef for the price, but there is definitely more carbs than protein in this one.
If your cheesesteak doesn’t fill you up, a side-order of greasy fries will. The fries ($3.50) come in a brown paper bag, which also holds your napkins and trio of single-serve Hunt’s ketchup packets (the official ketchup of the NY Yankees). I enjoy the use of the paper bag, as readers of my previous posts about fries know that I loathe plastic sacks for fries. The oil seeps into the paper bag, giving it a lovely greasy translucence, as well into the napkins and ketchup containers (thus, eliminating your napkins). At least the ketchup smells like the fries now. I pried it open to get a better photo of the insides, but much like the review we did of the “Paris Sandwich” truck, it was nothing to picturesque worth photographing.
Soft inside with a breaded coating on top, these fries lack much of a crunch when you bite into them, but at least the potato part is tasty. Frankly, the fries do nothing for me and (so little that I did not waste time snapping a photo of them), while thankfully not as greasy as I expected thanks to that bag soaking most of the oil up, I recommend skipping them and just ordering a larger cheesesteak if you are really hungry. I have to admit, it’s become quite a task finding a place that makes cheesesteaks that also has decent fries. Maybe some Philly natives can explain it to me, but for now, I have only found one or two places that have both, so it’s probably time I review those.
“Carl’s Steaks” earned itself many accolades that it touts on their website. A quick glance at those will reveal that the majority of the dates for these things happened at least four to five years ago, and in some cases nearly a decade. The New York food scene has changed quite a bit since then, and to have “Best Sandwich in NY” emblazoned on your truck when you won that award five years ago is not just misleading, but blatantly false. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the sandwich, but it lacked what other places that I liked more had, which is the bread, meat, and toppings. It’s a good and solid sandwich that is far from perfect, and I can gladly recommend it, but there are certainly places in NY that do cheesesteak’s much better than this truck. However, for $6-10, it’s still a great deal and a tasty lunch, just make sure you go when the line is more manageable and you will not regret it.
“Carl’s Steaks” has a store on 507 Third Ave (that is open very late on most days), but they also have a food truck that I went to in the review that travels around the city.