Jeffrey Merlot
Mr. and Mrs. M.

Lunch, the Philly Way

By - Aug 20th, 2009 10:31 am
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the philly way

Real Cheese Steaks: The Philly Way, grilled up at 405 S. 2nd Street.


Mr. & Mrs. M like to get around in nice weather via bicycle, and that’s how it happened, on a recent summer day: lunch “The Philly Way.” Mr. and Mrs. M were cruising along South 2nd Street in Walker’s Point, returning from a round-trip bike odyssey from their home on the Eastside to the long, lovely bike trails that hug the shore of Lake Michigan from Bay View all the way down to Cudahy. They were pedaling mighty quickly when Mr. M. spotted something out of his corner vision – something painted on a wall, something about “real” Philly cheese steaks.What the heck? With an excited exclamation he yelled, “Stop!”  Mrs. M. snapped out of her fresh-air daydreaming and hit the brakes.

Mr. M. looked back, scanning the area carefully, but saw no sign of delicious Philly cheese steaks.  A faint hint of onion in the air held promise, however.  But what sort of urban mirage is this?  They pedaled back. It was there – at 405 South 2nd Street, lo and behold: “Real Cheese Steaks The Philly Way.”  This did not seem to be any ordinary, upscale or funky lunch venue.  Mrs. M. mused, “It looks like a cross between a tire repair garage and a welding shop!” Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.

The Philly Way shares Milwaukee’s enthusiasm for outdoor dining with a covered outdoor patio for eating, plus a couple of small tables inside. The lunchtime crowd seems mostly takeout, and popular with area firemen, construction workers, cops and guys who need substantial and filling food at midday. Mr. and Mrs. M. were greeted warmly by the gal behind the counter who was doing double duty as order-taker and fry cook, throwing a batch of fries into the fryer basket behind her as the head cook was overseeing the main operation of the place at the large, flat griddle stove where he tended patiently to simmering thin slices of beef, translucent onions and other tasty little things.

Being Philly cheese steak virgins, the M.’s asked which was the basic, authentic type. Of course, it is the “Cheese Steak” at the very top of the menu board over the kitchen. A Philly Cheese Steak is what it is – meat (shaved rib-eye steak), onions and cheese, together on a soft bun and served up hot. There are variations, and the Philly Way offers several, including a choice of white cheddar or provolone cheese. But according to the counter gal, it just ain’t the real thing unless it has cheese whiz on it.

“Do you take credit cards?” Mr. M. asked the gal behind the counter. She was quick to point out the ATM machine conveniently located right behind him (they take cash only).

Mrs. M. opted for the basic sandwich at $6.60: shaved rib-eye steak, grilled onions and whiz.  Mr. M. ordered the “WORKS,” with shaved rib-eye steak, grilled onions, sweet red peppers, jalapeño slices, mushrooms and double whiz for $7.95. For $2.50, we threw in an order of regular fries.

Back at the table, Mrs. M. dove into the fries out of a long-standing concern that cold fries are never good fries. Expecting the usual, ordinary fries that are served up at every-day grease pits, they were both pleasantly surprised that these fries deserve an honorable mention.

“They’re lovely!” says Mrs. M. “Very slender little fries, and have just a firm, light crunch as you bite into them. They still taste like potatoes, not fryer grease.”  Says Mr. M.:  “They remind me of the fries in France last summer!” Too bad about the little packets of weird-tasting, generic ketchup they serve with them, though.

But the sandwiches:

Mrs. M.:  The bun is fabulous. The top isn’t crusty – it’s soft all the way through (so you can press it all down to actually take a bite out of it). The meat and onions are honest and filling – not too jazzed up with a lot of spices or additional flavors. If you’re a persnickety cheese person, you might want to exercise your options. The cheese whiz seems novel, but really, it tastes like … cheese whiz, in all its strange and fabricated glory.

Mr. M.:  No fan of Philadelphia (or the Eagles, especially now they’ve hired the dog killer), he is certainly a fan of this sloppy-meaty-cheese-whiz goodness, and quite content to shovel it down surrounded by Eagles and Phillies posters. The “WORKS” works as a complete meal in itself, loaded with plenty of succulent, shaved rib eye and grilled veggies.

Bite after bite, the M.’s came to the end of lunch. The sandwiches were huge; barely finish-able, but totally worth it. The menu flyers and signs at “Real Cheese Steaks The Philly Way” tout their accolades in Philadelphia Magazine, which apparently voted this place’s sandwich as the best cheese steak in America outside Philadelphia.

Thumbs up for some tasty cheese steaks at The Philly Way!

The Philly Way
405 S. 2nd Street, Milwaukee

Cash only.

All this sandwich talk, particularly sandwiches that are associated with cheese and certain places, got us thinking about that trip last summer to France, and what the Parisian version of this kind of street food. Surprisingly well known by visitors to Paris from all over, here’s Mr. M.’s recipe for these delicious sausages on French bread with cheese and mustard.

Parisian Wiener-Cheese Street Sandwiches


2 natural-casing wieners of a longer variety (we use Usinger’s brand)
1 baton French bread
@ 4 oz. gruyere or some other white, French cheese that melts nicely, like Doux de Montagne
4 tablespoons Dijon mustard


Bring a large, flat grill pan to medium heat. Place the wieners on the grill-pan and heat them through well, leaving nice grill marks on them.

While the wieners are grilling, cut the loaf in half, then slice open top from bottom of each half to make two sandwiches. Dig out a shallow trench along the length of each sandwich top. Spread a good two tablespoons of Dijon mustard on the bottom half of each. Try to cut the cheese in the thinnest slices you can, then spread the slices evenly over the mustard layer on each sandwich bottom.  Position a wiener in the trench you dug out of each top-half, then put the two halves together, forming the two sandwiches.

Preheat your Panini sandwich press. If you don’t have one, do what we do and wrap the bottom of a large skillet or frying pan firmly with aluminum foil. Set aside.

If using a Panini sandwich press, put the sandwiches in it. Otherwise, if doing what we do, turn the heat under the grill pan down to low and place each sandwich on the grill pan, top-side down. Press down on them firmly with the aluminum-wrapped skillet Panini-style (we load the foil-wrapped pan down with heavy plates, but you can just press down on it with your hands). Let cook only for a couple of minutes, just until nice grill marks appear. Then flip the sandwiches over and do the other (bottom) side a few minutes longer, until the cheese is nicely melted.

Next, pretend you’re standing in line to see the Paris catacombs on a hot, summer day and Enjoy!

Categories: Dining, Life & Leisure

0 thoughts on “Mr. and Mrs. M.: Lunch, the Philly Way”

  1. Anonymous says:

    If you find yourself in the North side of Milwaukee, there is an excellent Philly steak shop called ZaZa’s Steak and Lemonade on Capitol next to midtown center.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the input Andrew, perhaps that would be a good follow up post or even an adventure for you to post more philly cheese steak places around town.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Although unfortunately, my experience was pretty dull at Phillyway. I got practically a chopped burger on a hoagie, with the flavor of frozen gas station burgers. Never again.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I can’t believe you just discovered Philly Way! Having worked downtown for 10 years, it’s a favorite of ours when we want to get away from the office. The chicken Philly is also good… just be sure to let the grease drain off before you eat it. It’s a must visit restaurant if you want a bit of calories to get you through your day.

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