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California Cheesesteaks and Hoagies


MarketStEl
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Before I go any further, let me state that I fully understand how it is that people come to the Bay Area to visit and then never want to leave. The region has a Mediterranean style and charm that I find very appealing. And I'm sure that I'd be a lot more fit climbing those hills every day.

That is, if I don't overcompensate by pigging out on the food. My trip started with a very good lunch at a waterside restaurant in Oakland's Jack London Square, Kincaid's, where I had a Kobe beef meatloaf (had to try it on those grounds alone). My cousin Akiba loves this place, and I can see why.

But I wasn't prepared for what I encountered when I took BART up to Berkeley Wednesday morning.

Oh, I fully expected to find the Sixties alive and well on Telegraph Avenue, and I wasn't disappointed. Sproul Plaza was pretty much what I expected to see; only the causes had changed -- Vietnam then, Darfur now.

What I hadn't expected to find was this:

gallery_20347_4452_11296.jpg

Here I traveled about as far as one can from Philadelphia while remaining in the contiguous United States, and there, staring me in the face, is a shop selling cheesesteaks and hoagies.

Of course, I could not let this place pass by uninspected. I needed to see if they served sandwiches worthy of the name.

So let's start with the name. As Californians who haven't read my foodblog -- which is the overwhelming bulk of them -- are unfamiliar with the term 'hoagie,' it needs definition, which the proprietors of IB's provide...

gallery_20347_4452_28691.jpg

...in error. First off, hoagies are most emphatically NOT HOT. A proper hoagie is served, and eaten, cold. Secondly, if you travel anywhere on the East Coast that's more than about 50 miles from Philadelphia and ask for a "hoagie," you will be met with a blank stare, then, "You mean a sub?"

So with that established, I went up to the counter, presented my Pennsylvania driver's license to the counterguy to establish my bona fides, and proceeded to order one of each sandwich: the Italian combo hoagie -- not toasted, please -- and the teriyaki cheesesteak. (In doing the latter, I have committed what would be heresy back home, but I have to allow for some local variety here -- and IB's does have variety down pat when it comes to cheesesteaks.)

IB's also oven-toasts its sandwich rolls for cheesesteaks too, as you can see in the photo below.

gallery_20347_4452_2425.jpg

While waiting for my cheesesteak, another customer ordered a burger. The patty was substantial and handmade, a good sign.

So how did the sandwiches taste? Well, folks, it really is all in the bread. The meats were fine, and the teriyaki sauce added a nice tang to the cheesesteak, but the bread left a lot to be desired. Someone do the folks at IB's a favor and give them the phone number for Amoroso Baking Company.

IB's Hoagies and Cheesesteaks

2513 Durant Avenue (off Telegraph)

Berkeley, CA 94704

(510) 841-1681

Nearest transit service: BART (Richmond-Fremont or Richmond-Daly City lines) to Berkeley station. Walk down Shattuck Avenue to Bancroft Way, five blocks on Bancroft to Telegraph, and one block on Telegraph. Or AC Transit Routes 40 or 40L from Bay Fair or Berkeley BART to Telegraph and Durant.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Secondly, if you travel anywhere on the East Coast that's more than about 50 miles from Philadelphia and ask for a "hoagie," you will be met with a blank stare, then, "You mean a sub?"

Au contraire. If you were lucky enough to be in Leoni's, where I went to when I grew up outside New Haven, CT, you'd be asking for a "grinder."

Welcome to the Bay Area! If you're looking for a nice toasted sandwich in SF, try DeLessio's Cuban. I have no idea how it ranks in authenticity but it's damn tasty. Top it off with a piece of their chocolate sour cream Bundt cake, and you've basically justified your trip to SF. It's on Market (F streetcar line) at Gough, next to the McCroskey mattress factory (which goes well with any proper lunch, come to think of it).

My fantasy? Easy -- the Simpsons versus the Flanders on Hell's Kitchen.

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Before I go any further, let me state that I fully understand how it is that people come to the Bay Area to visit and then never want to leave.  The region has a Mediterranean style and charm that I find very appealing.  And I'm sure that I'd be a lot more fit climbing those hills every day.

That is, if I don't overcompensate by pigging out on the food.  My trip started with a very good lunch at a waterside restaurant in Oakland's Jack London Square, Kincaid's, where I had a Kobe beef meatloaf (had to try it on those grounds alone).  My cousin Akiba loves this place, and I can see why.

But I wasn't prepared for what I encountered when I took BART up to Berkeley Wednesday morning.

Oh, I fully expected to find the Sixties alive and well on Telegraph Avenue, and I wasn't disappointed.  Sproul Plaza was pretty much what I expected to see; only the causes had changed -- Vietnam then, Darfur now.

What I hadn't expected to find was this:

gallery_20347_4452_11296.jpg

Here I traveled about as far as one can from Philadelphia while remaining in the contiguous United States, and there, staring me in the face, is a shop selling cheesesteaks and hoagies.

Of course, I could not let this place pass by uninspected.  I needed to see if they served sandwiches worthy of the name.

So let's start with the name.  As Californians who haven't read my foodblog -- which is the overwhelming bulk of them -- are unfamiliar with the term 'hoagie,' it needs definition, which the proprietors of IB's provide...

gallery_20347_4452_28691.jpg

...in error.  First off, hoagies are most emphatically NOT HOT.  A proper hoagie is served, and eaten, cold.  Secondly, if you travel anywhere on the East Coast that's more than about 50 miles from Philadelphia and ask for a "hoagie," you will be met with a blank stare, then, "You mean a sub?"

So with that established, I went up to the counter, presented my Pennsylvania driver's license to the counterguy to establish my bona fides, and proceeded to order one of each sandwich:  the Italian combo hoagie -- not toasted, please -- and the teriyaki cheesesteak.  (In doing the latter, I have committed what would be heresy back home, but I have to allow for some local variety here -- and IB's does have variety down pat when it comes to cheesesteaks.)

IB's also oven-toasts its sandwich rolls for cheesesteaks too, as you can see in the photo below.

gallery_20347_4452_2425.jpg

While waiting for my cheesesteak, another customer ordered a burger.  The patty was substantial and handmade, a good sign.

So how did the sandwiches taste?  Well, folks, it really is all in the bread.  The meats were fine, and the teriyaki sauce added a nice tang to the cheesesteak, but the bread left a lot to be desired.  Someone do the folks at IB's a favor and give them the phone number for Amoroso Baking Company.

IB's Hoagies and Cheesesteaks

2513 Durant Avenue (off Telegraph)

Berkeley, CA 94704

(510) 841-1681

Nearest transit service: BART (Richmond-Fremont or Richmond-Daly City lines) to Berkeley station.  Walk down Shattuck Avenue to Bancroft Way, five blocks on Bancroft to Telegraph, and one block on Telegraph.  Or AC Transit Routes 40 or 40L from Bay Fair or Berkeley BART to Telegraph and Durant.

Dude: you travel as far as you possibly can from Philly and -- confronted with all the delights of the Bay Area -- you order a hoagie and a cheesesteak? That's such a rookie mistake. Gah -- unless you have a month in a new place you're not allowed to try food from home and pronounce it inferior. I've read your posts: you know better!

(Were you just jonesing? That kind of makes it a little more forgivable. I mean, I was in Amsterdam once and blew off a hash bar -- I mean rijsttafel -- because I was having cold sweats and nightmares for lack of a Big Mac, so I understand. "Special Sauce" probably has the same odious, addictive chemical in it as Cheese Whiz. Cold turkey, whether the week after Thanksgiving or in a faraway town, can be a bitch. :wink: )

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Fair criticism, Charles. But a good hoagie is like no other sandwich, so if it's been a while since I've had one, and the opportunity presents itself, I'll, ahem, bite.

In all fairness, the first local delicacy (after that Kobe beef meatloaf at Kincaid's, which was really good) I had was an In-n-Out Burger (double-double, animal style, of course).

I insisted Akiba take me there, over mild "I make better ones at home" protests. I'm sure she does. So do I. But those are a different category of burger. For what they are, In-n-Out burgers are awfully damned good --juicy, beefy and (when served animal style) gloriously messy. (Closest East Coast analogue, for anyone who cares: Five Guys, whose fries beat In-n-Out's.)

(En route there, she gave me a glimpse into the Bay Area's famous cause-driven politics by telling me how Wal-Mart managed to open a store in Oakland -- in the same shopping center where the In-n-Out is, near the airport -- despite a City of Oakland ordinance forbidding chain stores. It seems the Port of Oakland is a law unto itself.)

I'll be back on Saturday to sample more indigenous fare and ride the F-Market. (We did spot a car in Red Arrow livery while walking down Market Tuesday evening.) In the meantime, I have an amazing day in Seattle to recap.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Paraphrasing Kim Shook from her nice nice trip report from NYC, "There aren't good diners, delis or subs" in Richmond, VA. I'll add, not in the Bay Area either!

So much great food out here but don't look for super subs, grinders, hoagies or cheesesteaks... :smile: The one sandwich I discovered out here and that you can get great renditions of is Vietnamese Banh Mi. It's fun that you tried the cheesesteak though!

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Paraphrasing Kim Shook from  her nice nice trip report from NYC, "There aren't good diners, delis or subs" in Richmond, VA and not in the Bay Area either! 

So much great food out here but don't look for super subs, grinders, hoagies or cheesesteaks...  :smile:  The one sandwich I discovered out here and that you can get great renditions of is Vietnamese Banh Mi.  It's fun that you tried the cheesesteak though!

This former Philly resident is still looking for decent cheesesteak and italian hoagies out here in the west....

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I'm not from Philadelphia, but some friends who are seem to think this place is pretty good for California:

Cheesesteak Shop

Their San Francisco location is on Divisadero near Bush, lots of other locations around the Bay Area.

They make a point of "importing" the Amoroso rolls and other ingredients from back East.

I would prefer a roast pork sandwich, but I haven't seen anything like that here.

Pamela Fanstill aka "PamelaF"
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I'm not from Philadelphia, but some friends who are seem to think this place is pretty good for California:

Cheesesteak Shop

Their San Francisco location is on Divisadero near Bush, lots of other locations around the Bay Area.

They make a point of "importing" the Amoroso rolls and other ingredients from back East.

I would prefer a roast pork sandwich, but I haven't seen anything like that here.

Tried it once at the Walnut Creek location, doesn't cut it, sorry.

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Sandy, it isn't accessible by public transportation, but Amato's here in the South Bay (Silicon Valley) has pretty decent cheesesteak.

eG member 'ghost', who is from philly, has said that walking through the door transports him home.

let me know where you are, i'll pick you up and drag you down here!

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...in error.  First off, hoagies are most emphatically NOT HOT.  A proper hoagie is served, and eaten, cold.

In Pittsburgh, Sandy, hoagies are hot. And, as well as I'm able to remember that place near South Park from the '70s, quite good.

Charlie, the Main Line Mummer

We must eat; we should eat well.

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For what they are, In-n-Out burgers are awfully damned good --juicy, beefy and (when served animal style) gloriously messy.  (Closest East Coast analogue, for anyone who cares: Five Guys, whose fries beat In-n-Out's.)

For future reference, if you like Five Guys' fries because they're on the brown side of golden brown, order your fries at In-N-Out well done. They'll cook them longer for you so they get crispier and browner.

Frankly, after seeing those menu descriptions and options (a teriyaki cheesesteak, yeesh; an incorrect definition of "hoagie"; etc.) I would have run away.

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