It's rare that I visit a restaurant on opening day. It's even rarer that you read about it later that same day.
From the moment it was announced in the weekly food section of the Akron Beacon Journal about a month ago, something about Eddie's Famous Cheesesteaks has simply grabbed hold of my attention and refused to let it go. Was this a national chain? It kind of felt like it but initial research indicated otherwise. The Facebook page for the restaurant was filled with endless mono-thematic rants of, "Cheesesteaks, baby!" and a gratuitous over-use of the exclamation point. To top it off, even though the original ABJ article written by Lisa Abraham stated that the restaurant was supposed to open on May 24th, in actuality, because of delays in getting various permits and certifications, it didn't open until today, Wednesday, June 15th at noon. And I only discovered that since I periodically checked the Facebook page for updates.
Eddie's Famous Cheesesteaks was located at 1375 North Portage Path, Akron, OH 44313 and can be reached at 330-864-8500 (this was a different number than was listed on their Facebook fan page). There was ample parking around the small group of businesses clustered together. Here was a shot of the front entrance to Eddie's:
What you don't really see to the left of the above shot was the painter's scaffolding that was still up. If it wasn't for the balloons with the "Welcome!" message on them, I might have thought they still weren't open. Once inside, I was surprised to discover that I was the first actual paying customer (not of the day, mind you, but like, ever) and I was warmly greeted by about six people. While service today felt a little "rough," since this was their opening day, I didn't take any service blips into account (employees were still learning the cash register, soda fountain, etc.). Those things should gradually ameliorate themselves over the next couple of weeks.
While there were wall menus hanging above the service line, I wasn't able to get a picture of them with my rather conspicuous camera, so I resorted to grabbing one of the printed menus at the cash register and photographing it at my table instead:
I liked the composition of the menu. It felt focused and yet had enough variety to appeal to a crowd not interested only in beef and dairy offerings. What I didn't care for on the menu was the lack of attention to grammar, punctuation, and spelling. For instance, under the "Our Story" section at the bottom in the above photograph:
"Welcome to Eddies Famous Cheesesteaks & Grille! We started at festivals and street fairs across the U.S. -- in Panama City Beach something happened. Eddie met a cat ironically also names Eddie. What happened the next three years is truly what legends are made of: Eddies created cheesesteaks beyond real. The "Eddie", a pound and a half of cheesesteak love took Eddies to a new level of fanatic admiration on the beaches of Panama! Cheesesteak Eddie, as the PCB cat came to be known, convinced Eddie that it was time to open a full time joint. Eddie's is fresh stuff right off the griddle -- before your eyes and made-to-order. Our soon to be legendary fries with our cheesesteak heaven are amazing. Crossed the country to find the bomb fries, found them on a boardwalk in Maryland, and "WOW", we found French Fry Nirvana! Ours are close but we one upped 'em and added the gourmet French Fry Bar! Lots of other good eats to choose from -- all made with the highest quality, freshest ingredients. Think of it as your festival faves, taken up a notch. We threw in kick butt salads with housemade dressings to make sure you know were serious about our food. Eddie thinks you'll love this joint and come back often -- See ya soon!"
Now look, gentle reader, I realize that I have made plenty of spelling and grammatical mistakes over the course of the last two and a half years of writing this blog; I don't claim to be perfect. However, to my eyes, I count numerous punctuation, grammar, and spelling errors in the above copy. This is on your menu, for goodness sake! A blog can be easily corrected; five thousand copies of your menu have to be reprinted once the corrections are made. [Ed. Note: My high school senior composition teacher, Ms. Rohrer, probably would have had a stroke reading that paragraph.]
Okay, so enough with the English lessons. How was the food? After ordering and paying for my lunch, I took my French Fries and glass of water and retired to one of many tables lining the dining room area. Shortly afterward, my cheesesteak joined the party. Here was a shot of my lunch after I had applied some of the regular ketchup from the "gourmet French Fry Bar":
Incidentally, the gourmet French Fry Bar was six or seven sauces inside translucent plastic bottles sitting on one of the islands in the dining room. Today I was here for the standard meal, so I choose plain, ordinary ketchup for my fries. Perhaps next time I will be more adventurous and try one of the other sauces.
Just as I was about to sit, a man walked over to me and introduced himself as Ed Sutter, owner and general manager of Eddie's. He asked my name (which I dutifully provided) and thanked me for being the first customer. I thought about revealing my true reason for coming in, but decided since he hadn't asked and since I wanted to try and enjoy my lunch instead of talking all the way through it trying to explain what I do on this blog, I allowed the conversation to end quickly.
First, I started up with my half sandwich, the "Original":
I don't know whether this was a conscientious decision on Ed Sutter's part or not, but nowhere had he ever claimed that he was offering a Philadelphia or "Philly" style cheesesteak. That is an important distinction because many outside of Philadelphia have claimed it and nearly all of them have failed. Miserably. The only two I've come across in my travels that have been nearly as good or as good have been Cosmo's Cheesesteaks in Scranton, PA and Original Steaks & Hoagies in Twinsburg, OH.
The "original" comes with grilled meat, sauteed onions and mushrooms, and Provolone and Mozzarella cheese. The meat, lying under the bed of cooked onions, was tender and seasoned well. The onions and mushrooms were cooked nicely, soft, but not mushy. My only criticism of the onions was that they were a bit unwieldy; had they been chopped more finely and integrated into the meat, they wouldn't have been falling out with each bite. The blend of cheeses was noticeable visually, but not so much in the taste. It wasn't that the sandwich lacked salt, more like it lacked punch. Perhaps using a sharp Provolone would've made this sandwich stand out more.
Finally, the roll. Believe it or not, the roll on a cheesesteak sandwich, Philly-style or not, is as important as the ingredients it carries within. Most versions of this sandwich I've had in northeast Ohio haven't held up to the juiciness of the meat, sogging out and falling apart mid-bite. To Eddie's credit, the steamed buns, while completely soft, actually held up during the entire consumption of the sandwich. A true Philly cheesesteak would've been served on a roll (such as the ones made by the Amoroso Bakery) that had both a nice chewy exterior while maintaining a soft interior. But, as I said before, Eddie's wasn't advertising an authentic Philly cheesesteak. Overall, as a steak sandwich, it worked. The full size was a foot long, but I was completely happy with my half today for lunch.
I next turned my attention to the boardwalk-style fresh-cut fries:
Fresh-cut fries have generally meant thin, limp, oily masses of fried potatoes. Some people love this style of fry. I, as has been stated numerous times before, do not. I was surprised to discover that I actually liked Eddie's fries. They were thick cut and for the most part, properly fried. Seasoned correctly even without the ketchup, I am guessing I could have enjoyed them plain. I did find a fry or two at the bottom of the container that was a touch greasy and undercooked, but this was mostly a successful side dish.
In the end, I was pleasantly surprised by my lunch today at Eddie's Famous Cheesesteaks. I think it definitely takes some chutzpah to open a restaurant in an area where you aren't known and claim that you are "famous" for offering a food item for which there are plenty of purists around, ready to dispute your version. Essentially, if you are looking for a "whiz wit" or a "mushroom Provolone witout," Eddie's is not for you. Find your way up to Original Steaks & Hoagies in Twinsburg for that. However, if you are looking for an overall decent cheesesteak and pretty darn good boardwalk-style fresh-cut fries, Eddie's may just be the place where you can get your fix.
Now if they could just get a menu printed that didn't require the use of a red pen.