Food versus Food: Upping the (cheese)Steaks

Is it possible to get a good cheesesteak outside of Philadelphia?

Thinly sliced steak, just the right balance of grease, oozing cheese of indiscriminate origin, all soaking into a long sub roll that still maintains both a textural bite and a pleasant flavor...


...actually, I've never had an "authentic" cheesesteak from within the Philly city limits. I will be able to tell you in a few months (road trip!). Until then, let me rephrase the question.

Where is it possible to get a good cheesesteak in the HoCo? (hocofood@@@)

And that, my friends, brings us to the newest round of Food Versus Food - starting with...

Contender #1: Mombo Cheesesteak at Simmies Arirang Hill Cheesesteak in Columbia.

Simmies (Arirang Hill?), tucked away at 10750 Hickory Ridge Rd Ste 101, is short on frills and big on flavor. Mombo flavor, that is. This condiment, a sweet, reddish, slightly spicy sauce that reminds me of sweet chili sauce, appears on cheesesteaks, wings, and even fries. Fun trivia: Mombo/Mambo/Mumbo sauce may have origins in this area.

Simmies is strictly carryout. And it might... sorta... look a little shady. A yellowing post clipping that declares Arirang Hill Cheesesteaks "Acceptable" in a 1999 WaPo feature hangs from the wall. But Simmies has served Columbia for 20 years, and the gentleman behind the counter was patient, friendly, and efficient.

I walked out ten minutes later with an 8" mombo cheesesteak with lettuce, tomato, and fried onion. Oh, and a side of fries. The whole meal set me back just over $8.

This meal smelled amazing. The fries, golden and screaming hot, were dusted with a combination of salt and pepper. Ketchup was on offer, too, though I declined at the store. The spice from just that little bit of ground pepper really upped the ante as far the fries were concerned.

Mombo cheesesteak and fries from Simmies Arirang Hill.
I couldn't find the picture that showed the filling.
As for the cheesesteak... the thinly sliced steak was hot and tender. The fried onions melted away into the meat - I could barely tell they were there, aside from the little bit of savory and sweet they added. The cheese, too, clung to the pieces of meat almost like a sauce, all melty, by the time I got in to the sandwich. This was not a healthy meal - I could tell it was greasy - but at the same time, I never came across lumps of fat or gristle in the steak. 

The roll was probably my least favorite part of the cheesesteak. A pretty pale gold and soft, it was very mild in taste. I would have preferred a slightly more flavorful bread, although it did a good job of soaking in the cheesesteak juices and the mombo sauce, so it all worked out in the end.

I was stuffed after my dinner at Simmies. (share? what? huh? can't hear you!)  That didn't mean I wasn't looking forward to...

Contender #2: Philly cheesesteak with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayo at Philly's Best Pizza & Subs in Columbia.

Philly's Best is just like a standard pizza takeout place. Located on 5134 Thunder Hill Road (right by the pool), they offer carryout and counter service. There are about half a dozen tables for eating-in. I zeroed in on the 8" cheesesteak, which was offered as a combo with fries and a 20 oz. soda for about $8.50. 

The staff churned out my order quickly and efficiently, a bonus for those (aka, Me) who want hot food on the run, but I had enough time to catch some Family Guy on the TV in the corner and further browse the menu. I got the sense that most of their business this time of year is delivery.

I really liked the fries. They were brown and crispy and salty. They reminded me of the "beer battered" fries available at Late Night in the dining hall at UM. I was eating them out of the bag as I headed to my car. And then as I was headed in to work. Yum!

Philly's Best cheesesteak combo.
A few fries were 'lost' in transit.
The cheesesteak was... huge. The first thing I noticed was the roll, actually. The sub roll was baked to a deep brown, and it was sturdy enough that it didn't get soggy during transport. The flavor of the bread was really great, too - like a nice, toasty (although not toasted) italian bread. The inside was just soft enough to sop up the flavors of the sandwich.

Also, this cheesesteak was stuffed full of thinly sliced steak. There was an imbalance of cheese and steak - the cheese was pretty much lost, actually, although I could sort of taste it while I was eating. The steak itself was thinly sliced and chopped-at, with the good beefy flavor that can often be found in the cheap cuts. There were a few chunks of gristle in the meat, which is also par for the course with the cheap cuts. I was ok with that.

I will say, I could not finish this cheesesteak. Too much food. But every last bite was tasty and delicious. It was difficult, but eventually I came to....

The Decision: Both carry out places are awesome, and they were new to me. I'll happily return to try other things on the menu. But based on the cheesesteak battle, I declare Simmies Arirang Hill Carry Out the winner! I really liked the flavor of the mombo sauce, but I thought the sandwich was pretty high quality, a good value, and satisfying.

Where do you go for your local cheesesteak fix? Tell me in the comments below!

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