My hope had been for the Dodgers to crush the Phillies, then to write a piece about a cheesesteak battle, offering locals the opportunity to consume the symbolic heart of Philadelphia, metaphorically finishing them off with a few voracious bites. But then the Dodgers got destroyed without putting up a fight, then blew the next game in
extra innings the bottom of the 9th. So now? Look at the cheesesteak as a Phillies voodoo doll, and your opportunity to inflict pain by chewing them up, swallowing them, then digesting and flushing them down the toilet. Hey, maybe it'll even help the Dodgers get something going. Like in four and half hours.
But despite that vindictive intent, there's no reason the cheesesteaks shouldn't also be tasty, right? At two westside restaurant bars, Philly West and The Shack, the owners are true Philly guys who take their sandwiches seriously. Both restaurants have multiple cheesesteak options, but for this battle, the sandwiches being judged are the ones listed simply as “cheesesteak”. Both come on nice crusty rolls, both with American cheese (for those cheeze whiz “traditionalists”, remember that the cheesesteak was invented before whiz was), lightly grilled onions and thinly sliced ribeye.
But there are differences. At Philly West, the sandwich includes a light dusting of marinara sauce, pushing it slightly more in the direction of a pizza steak, but ultimately creating a pleasant accent rather than Italian domination. At The Shack, they use no sauce, but a small collection of diced cherry peppers, which are mixed together cohesively with the onions, beef and cheese.
When it comes down to it, both are quite good. Both are about soft, luscious creaminess, wrapped in bread, eaten in a pleasant, casual space, ideally, with a cold glass of beer while watching a sporting event. But there are no tie games during the playoffs, and at The Shack, the flavor ever-so-slightly wins out, nudging them ahead in extra innings. Plus, from The Shack, you can always walk across the street to Sonny McLean's and make fun of Red Sox fans for losing in the first round.