Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Cheddar Beer Fries From Phat Philly

And for something a bit different ... Phat Philly, a cheesesteak shop, in the Mission!  Located right in my old stomping ground near Big Mouth Burgers and Papalote, somewhere I rarely go these days.  The cheesesteaks seem pretty legit, with your choice of white american, provolone, Cheez Wiz, or their housemade Newcastle Cheddar Beer sauce.  Classic beef or chicken, with all sorts of additional toppings, or numerous veggie options.

But, I'm not here to review cheesesteak.  Don't get me wrong, I like a cheesesteak from time to time. But on this occasion, I had my eye on the other half of their menu: fries.  Yes, I meant it when I said the "other half" of the menu: there is a HUGE section of fries.  All start with basic cross-cut waffle fries.  You should of course add their cheddar beer sauce.  If you are adventurous, go "Royal Style" and add fried onions and shredded cheddar.  Still feeling crazy?  Now add on chili or bacon (yes, in addition to the cheddar beer sauce, the fried onions, and the extra cheddar).  Or, you could have gone for the fries topped with house made marinara sauce and Whiz.  Oh, there are also onion rings, but I didn't get that far.

The other offerings are Utz chips, in assorted flavors, for only $1 per bag.  Totally reasonable price, when do you ever see chips that cheap?  And they carry a few types of Tastykakes, which I was tempted to try, but not being from Philly or having any associations with them, I kinda thought their charm would be lost on me.  It would be like trying Little Debbie products for the first time now, right?

Anyway, the shop is small, clearly most of their business is takeout and phone/online orders.  On my first visit, there were only 2 other people there the entire time I was, but the staff were busy making cheesesteaks and ringing up togo orders the whole time.  On my next visit, there were 3 people when I arrived, and only 1 more came in while I was there.  The space is well laid out, with picnic tables both inside and out on the sunny sidewalk.  Yes, picnic tables indoors, which was totally cute.  They also have counter seating with stools along the windows, perfect for people watching.  Which, given the location, you know there will be all sorts of interesting folks passing by :)

The condiments station has 3 varieties of peppers, spicy, mild, and sweet.  I know they are intended for the cheesesteaks, but I couldn't resist piling some on my fries.  The sweet ones I really enjoyed.  The mild were just pepperoncinis, not particularly interesting.  And the spicy ... yes, they packed a punch.  On the tables was an assortment of sauces, basic ketchup, 2 types of Tabasco, Crystal, and Frank's.  Many choices to heat things up!  The condiment bottles were all very, very sticky though.  I was fairly grossed out picking up the bottles, but I really wanted some Frank's on my fries!

Service was friendly, fast, and efficient.  My fries were made to order, and delivered to me at my table.  And, they take Paypal, which is really easy to use.  I'm loving it these days, and I hope to see its usage spreading, far more convenient than any other mobile payment system I've tried.

I'm not in the Mission often, but next time I am, there is certainly a good chance I'd stop back by Phat Philly.  They make some great fries, and I'm tempted to try an actual cheesesteak too!
Cheddar Beer Fries.  Small.  $3.50.
As I mentioned, the fries come in a slew of varieties.  I wanted to be more interesting than just getting plain fries, so I asked for a recommendation.  The worker told me without hesitation that the cheddar beer fries were her favorite.  I was pretty much leaning that way anyway, so I went for it.

The fries were piping hot, perfectly fresh.  Obviously, fried, but not greasy.  Super crispy.  Perfectly crispy in fact.  And well seasoned.  Wow.  Probably the best fries I've had, in any form, in recent memory.

The fries were topped off with the cheddar beer sauce.  I had a moment of thinking that I should have asked for the cheese sauce on the side, just in case I didn't like it, or just in case they put on too much, but it turns out my fears were unfounded.  This was tasty stuff.  The consistency was good, not too think, not too runny.  It didn't seem to change much as it cooled down, I expected it to get a bit gloopy, but it didn't.  Or, maybe these were just so delicious I ate them too fast for that too happen.  I tried to pace myself, I really did.

The sauce was drizzled over the top, and pooled up in the bottom.  As I neared the end, and I found myself totally addicted to the sauce, such cheesey deliciousness.  I also added some Frank's hot sauce to some, and thought the extra kick was great.  And, I added sweet peppers.

But it got me thinking.  Sure, I like beef.  But I don't really care for sandwiches, or bread, really.  When I get a cheesesteak, I'm in it for the delicious cheese sauce, the onions, the peppers, and the mushrooms.  In my world, the bread, and even the beef, are just a way to get the toppings.  Here, I had the delicious cheese sauce on top of something I liked even more than beef and bread: fries.  What I REALLY wanted, was the fries done up like how I'd get my cheesesteak, that is, with peppers, onions, and mushrooms.  How amazing would that be?  All the toppings I love, served on top of something delicious on its own!  I wondered if I could convince them to make me this creation, since they do a version with onions already, it isn't that far off.  Even though I was stuffed from my fries, I was drooling thinking about this new idea, and vowed to return.

$3.50 was a fine price for the portion size, which was just perfect for a snack.  I'm sure it is a good size for sharing with someone if you have a cheesesteak too, but as just the fries, perfect size.  Plenty such that I was full, but not soooo many that I felt gross after.  I'll be back.

Update: I did indeed return.  And I did indeed ask to order the fries the way I wanted them: cheddar beer fries, with onions and mushrooms.  The person taking my order was totally friendly about this, and said it was no problem.  She said she'd ring me up as if I had the Royal, which is the cheddar beer fries, with onions, and shredded cheddar.  That is, I'd sub out the shredded cheddar for mushrooms.  Sounded perfect.  I didn't really understand why anyone would want the shredded cheddar in addition to the cheddar beer sauce anyway, but certainly liked the idea of the onions.

So, a few minutes later, much faster than on my first visit, my fries arrived.  I took a photo, but alas, my phone lost it.  I was surprised at how fast my order came, since last time it had taken a few minutes.  And ... the shredded cheddar was on top.  It wasn't melted, it was just thrown on top, and really didn't look good.  I commented that I hadn't wanted the cheddar, and she said that was right, but the cook must have just done it out of habit when he added the onions.  She whisked my fries away, saying she'd take off the cheddar and re-top them.  Hmm.

A few minutes later, my fries came back, sans cheddar.  I probably should have just kept the original ones.

The fries weren't really crispy, something I'd loved the first time around.  They were pretty soggy and mushy.  I'm not sure if it was from sitting while she fixed the cheddar issue, but I think they actually just were not freshly fried to order like that had been the first time, given how fast they showed up on this visit.  There wasn't nearly as much cheddar beer sauce as the first time either.  Maybe there was more, and it got scraped off when removing the cheese?  I found myself wanting more.

So, these were a disappointment.  The fries were soggy and not very good.  There wasn't nearly enough of the delicious, creamy cheddar beer sauce.  The sauce tasted more like beer than cheese, too strong for my liking.  The sautéed onions were nicely cooked, soft, not too oily, but I think I'd skip them in the future, as they didn't really add anything to my creation.  The mushrooms were slimy and didn't look great, but had wonderful flavor.  Paired really well with the cheese sauce.  I really liked this addition.  I again liked adding Frank's hot sauce, somehow that combination of Frank's and cheddar beer sauce is killer.  They should just make a spicy version of the sauce!

I still have faith in Phat Philly, and wonder how much of the poor experience was due to sending my mis-order back.  Next time I might try getting the sauce on the side, to help prevent the sogginess?  Although, on my first visit, they were really quite crispy.  And maybe I'd go for the Whiz instead of the cheddar beer sauce, since it was a bit too beer-y for me this time around ...

Update: and again, I did return.  This time, Ojan was with me, and he wanted Wiz instead of cheddar beer sauce.  I didn't like it as much, it was really just cheese.  Meh.  The fries also didn't seem amazing this time around.  They were fresh, crispy, but just not exciting.  And, I remembered that I liked having the grilled toppings, so I added onions, but didn't really like the with the fries or sauce.  They were great with the sweet peppers from the toppings bar, but now I re-read my last review, and realized that I liked the mushrooms, not the onions, with my fries.  Whoops.  I did again love the sweet peppers and the addition of Frank's Hot Sauce, but overall, was quite underwhelmed.  I might be over these.
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