I’d been here before, but every time I’d gone it had been for its staple sandwich, the roast pork. This time, though, I came for the almighty cheesesteak, which I’d heard for years is comparable to, if not better than, their roast pork. Such a claim warranted my attention, so I made my trip down City Line Ave. onto 76 East, 676 East, and then 95 South, eventually getting off at the Columbus Ave. exit. A few more miles, past the stripmalls and strip clubs, and I took a right onto Snyder Ave. and there on the left was my destination, John’s Roast Pork.
It was scolding hot, the first real heat of the summer- 97 degrees. I didn’t let that deter me though. I had decided a few days before that I would start this tour with Philadelphia’s most legendary sandwich, so the anticipation for one of the city’s most admired producers of the cheesesteak easily goaded me past the oppressive weather. I took a left on Weccacoe Avenue and found parking easily enough. Even with the sizziling conditions, there was still a strong lunch crowd outside. Since I had been here before, I knew that I needed to arrive early enough to order a cheesesteak, because at John’s, they actually run out sometimes as early as noon.
I followed the line, forming to the left and waited for the call of the grill. The crowd of lunchtime enthusiasts was fairly diverse. Men in three-piece suits; a couple in tie dye shirts, face piercings, and matching purple hair; a grandfather and his three Jon Runyan-sized grandkids; a few scrawny teenagers; and a some other random stragglers. There were white people, black people, Asians, and Latino. A place like John’s Roast Pork captures the best of a lunchtime eatery, with its welcoming nature to all walks of life, brought on by a shared passion for food that’s not just affordable, but outstanding and genuine. It welcomes every person to be equal and to equally enjoy the decadent food of this diamond in the rough. The line moved cordially from left to right and eventually I was beckoned forward by the grill man, who took my order for a large cheesesteak, with fried onions, hot peppers, hot sauce, and American cheese.
You should know that if you decide to go to John’s for a cheesesteak, you’re going to have to wait. This is not Pat’s, Geno’s, Tony Luke’s, or Jim’s, which use an assembly line manner of production to make their steaks. At John’s, there are multiple high-quality options- roast pork, meatball, hoagie, etc. The cheesesteak takes the longest, but it is made to order, and it is completely worth it. Once I received my sandwich, I chose to sit in my air conditioned car, on account of the lack of seating outside and the nuclear sun beaming down on me. I moved my seat back, turned on 610 WIP Sports Talk, and opened up my steaming hot work of culinary art- I was in Philadelphia heaven!
After letting it cool for a minute, I took my first bite into what is unequivocally the finest cheesesteak I’ve ever enjoyed. The meat was tender and perfectly greasy, and the cheese was melted beautifully into the meat, not drizzled on top or placed insipidly on the bottom. The fried onions, hot peppers and hot sauce blended just as perfectly to give the whole sandwich that extra little bite. All encapsulated with a firm, crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, seeded roll. This effort, to make all the ingredients merge in such harmony, may add a little to your wait time, but it adds just as much to your satisfaction.
The cheesesteak is amazing. There’s little left to be said, or written, about the iconic sandwich. I’ve heard before, though, that if the cheesesteak is the king and the hoagie the queen, then the roast pork must be the prince of Philadelphia. So, for an unsuspecting lunchtime place best known for its roast pork to produce arguably the best cheesesteak in town must make John’s Roast Pork the true Royalty of Sandwiches in Philadelphia. So when you find the time, come hold court at one of Philadelphia’s finest.
4 out of 4 Lunch Boxes!
Patrick Edmonds is a co-founder, editor, and writer for/of The Lunch Break. His passions include Food, Arts & Entertainment, and Educational News. You can follow Patrick Edmonds on facebook and on Twitter @patrickedmonds1.