Is your mouth watering for a meaty, cheese-topped, juicy Philly-style steak sandwich? Although some say that if you don’t live in South Philly you can’t get an authentic one, don’t buy a plane ticket and pack your carry-on. Check out these recommendations for the best cheesesteaks in San Francisco’s East Bay. Please note that most of these relatively inexpensive, casual restaurants operate on a cash basis and may charge a fee for paying with plastic, none of them cater and they’re all fairly busy at lunch time. Take out is usually available, and you may call your order in ahead of time.
Philly’s Cheesesteak & More
5800 Shellmound St
Emeryville, CA 94608
Philly’s Cheesesteak & More, in the Emeryville Public Market, serves up an inexpensive, good, crispy-meat, non-soggy-bun cheesesteak sandwich. The fresh roll is dense to absorb the juices you expect with this style of food. Order the bacon-cheese fries too, and eat the sandwich over the potatoes to taste the full Philadelphia effect. If you add grilled mushrooms, you gain some great taste but lose points for moving away from Philly.
Bob’s Hoagy Steaks
29623 Mission Blvd
Hayward, CA 94544
Bob’s Hoagy Steaks, a mom-and-pop style venue in Hayward, fills your hoagy craving with friendly service and one of the most mouth-watering Philly cheesesteaks in the East Bay. Cheesesteak restaurants usually aren’t too high on ambiance, so don’t be put off by the hole-in-the-wall appearance. You will get your money’s worth in good eats. Try the juicy mushroom-onion cheesesteak with Bob’s crispy steak fries and a pickle for a true East Coast food experience. Bob’s welcomes phone-in and take away orders.
1866 Euclid Ave
Berkeley, CA 94709
Want some nostalgia with your cheesesteak sandwich? Head to Vinnie’s Cheesesteaks in Berkeley to try its chipped steak on a starchy soft roll with Cheez Whiz. If you’re from California, that might not be quite your taste, but if you emigrated from Philadelphia – you’re back home. Inexpensive, oozy, toothsome and salty (with your choice of Cheez Whiz, provolone or American to top it), these cheesesteak sandwiches might be as close as possible to the mother of them all. (Note: probably because this is Berkeley, Vinnie’s puts tofu and portobello mushroom cheese “steak” sandwiches on the menu, but please be mindful that the same grill and utensils are used for all the sandwich makings). Order Hank’s Root Beer, a Tastykake for dessert and if the doctor has okayed your health, add a basket of skin-on salted garlic fries with ranch dip or the gigantic onion rings to your meal. Vinnie’s is fairly crowded at lunchtime, but the food and service is just as good later in the afternoon.
I.B.’s Hoagies & Cheesesteaks
1601 San Pablo Ave
Oakland, CA 94612
Perhaps I.B.’s Hoagies and Cheesesteaks costs a bit more than some of the other fast food-style establishments, but you get what you pay for, right? Spending a premium for good, efficient service and the best flavor in what is supposed to be short-order cooking might be worth it when you can dive into a gooey and hot, fresh garlic, steak, cheese and sweet pepper sandwich piled on a hoagy roll. Don’t forget the garlic sweet potato fries – which, of course, aren’t authentic Philadelphia-style potatoes. But heck, we are in California.
The Riata Diner & Tavern
190 S J St
Livermore, CA 94550
Once upon a time, California’s Spanish-heritage cowboys used special braided ropes to handle livestock. Called riatas, they were plaited from four or six strands of rawhide taken from a single hide. Averaging from 60 to 100 feet in length, they held up better in rough conditions than other ropes of the times. Today, this style of roping is an art form kept alive by a handful of tradition-conscious vaqueros. This last restaurant on the list is called The Riata Diner & Tavern to commemorate California’s history. It’s a small world. Here, you can “virtually” travel to taste an East Coast tradition. The Riata, in downtown Livermore, has lassoed in a great Philly cheesesteak sandwich for its lunch menu. Fashioned with tri-tip, smothered in sautéed onions and peppers and topped with provolone, the sandwich is just $9.99 with fries included. Now that’s carrying on with a great tradition.
Nina Holtons creative background in travel and cooking and a passion for writing empowers her to share the Bay Area scene with readers avid for information about where to go and what to do. A free-lance online journalist, she lives in Santa Clara; and her work can be found at Examiner.com.