Food: Classic Diner
Location: 414 E. Main St., Norristown
Phone: (610) 279-5415
Date visited: 05-10-2008, 10:45 a.m.
Rating: 4 out of 5
This morning, I awoke to a Saturday free of responsibility until 4:30 in the afternoon, which is really the most I can hope for in terms of free time. I might note, since I haven't yet on this blog, that I'm a seven-day workweek guy; I spend five days a week waiting tables at a restaurant in Conshohocken (to pay the bills), and the other two days working at a P.R. company in Philadelphia (to further my career). So there are certain places that I'm usually not able to go for food, like John's Roast Pork in South Philly, which has obscenely inconvenient hours but apparently sensational food.
Today, my craving came on early, just after 10:00. My stomach was still pretty gorged from a plate of leftover pasta that I devoured just before I fell asleep, but once I start reading that list of WIP's best cheesesteaks (see link listed on the left), my mouth doesn't stop watering. I knew for a fact that I was almost out of gas, and fuck you, I'm not paying $3.75 a gallon for gas until I absolutely have to. So I went down the list and picked out the place closest to my house: Lou's Sandwich Shop, a "dive" on Main St. in Norristown.
I placed my phone call at 10:30, and learned over the phone that there were at least three sizes of cheesesteak - small, six or seven inches long; medium, your standard cheesesteak roll (about a foot); and large, which I didn't bother asking about. I got a medium, with fried onions and American cheese, threw on a sweatshirt and was on my way.
The drive was incredibly easy, west down ridge pike with an easy parallel park in front of the church across the street. The establishment itself, while well-lit and brightly painted, was populated by the homeliest, most hopeless breed of Norristonians that I've ever seen in such close concentration. I have a feeling I would have attracted a fair amount of attention if my sweatshirt hadn't been concealing my "Barack The Vote" t-shirt.
The cheesesteak was ready and waiting when I reached the counter, and with a 20-oz Coke came to an even $8. The smell overpowered my car almost immediately, prompting me (as usual) to tear in during transit. A thin line of melted cheese came away as I opened the paper, revealing a beautifully crafted sandwich with the meat intact, rather than shredded. The onions glistened like diamonds, the roll soft and almost malleable. The looks of this cheesesteak made me positively swoon.
The taste was out of this world, a gracious collaboration of juicy meat, fresh cheese and sweet onions, probably teetering on a 4.8 or 4.9 out of 5. It was piping hot and very well-sized, leaving no room whatsoever in my stomach (and even warranting a mid-sandwich slowdown, though my late night pasta binge last night was a major contributor). But a few deductions must be made from this otherwise phenomenal creation. First, while I do derive a certain satisfaction from eating a cheesesteak with longer, less chopped cuts of meat such as this one, that feeling may well be nearly negated by a stringy cheesesteak, one which you had to kind of tug at in order to sever a bite from the rest of the sandwich. This problem was in the cards here, though not to an uncomfortable extent. Just slightly bothersome. Second, the roll didn't hold up; before I made it through the first half, the meat had torn through the bottom of the oversaturated roll. Normally, this would be the grease's fault if a sandwich wasn't eaten in enough time after it was prepared; however, I knew it wasn't the case today, since I'd placed my order not twenty minutes beforehand.
Finally, I have to reiterate the poor dining environment. It might work for some people, but I have a feeling that if I had sat down to eat in, my review would have been lowered by at least a half point. No joke.
This place is open for breakfast - how early that is, I don't know, as they did not have any to go menus on hand when I visited. But if you live on this side of Philadelphia and you want a great cheesesteak, call ahead and get one for the road.