Thursday, July 23, 2009

John's Roast Pork

14 Snyder Ave
(corner of Weccacoe and Snyder Avenue)
Philadelphia, PA 19148
(215) 463-1951

You have probably driven by this place on Snyder, near Target, and wondered what the deal was. It appears to be some sort of food shop built from the remains of an old auto supply store. I have been told by many of my friends that they, “always see it and think about stopping, but it’s never open.” Well, that’s because it isn’t ever open (at least when the average person is down in that neck of the woods). And the reason - because they don’t have to be.

John’s Roast Pork (aka John's Lunch, The Snyder Avenue Lunch Bar, and The Shack), has been around since 1930, and has been a family run business for 3 generations, and it shows. The sandwiches are made with love (and grease), and they are divine. Although your only chance to eat there is Monday thru Friday 6:45 AM to 3 PM (the grill closes at 2:30), it is absolutely worth the journey to experience the best cheesesteak in Philadelphia. Wait, what????

Although the “John’s Roast Pork” name implies “hog” - it is, in fact, the beef that is the true magic. Now don’t get me wrong; I have, at a point in my life, called their roast pork italiano, with sharp provolone and sautéed spinach - an overly juicy, garlicky-peppery torpedo of flavor served on a fresh seeded Carangi roll from the South Philly Bakery - the best hot sandwich in the world, but I am afraid I have to relinquish the throne to their cheesesteak as the best in the land. You see, I am a very ethnocentric person, but I have been all over our great country, and I believe that Philadelphia makes the best sandwiches around. So, if this is the best cheesesteak in Philadelphia, (and if cheesesteaks are the pinnacle of sandwichery) then it obviously is the best hot sandwich in the world.

Let’s start with the line. Because there WILL be a line.

In line, you will see construction workers, city workers, office suits, older folks (some of whom might have been eating there since the place opened), and a basic cultural sampling of the diversity Philadelphia has to offer. Except for the one thing EVERYONE there has in common. They are in the know. John’s is the type of place you don’t mind telling people about, because more than likely, they will not be able to find themselves there, thus making the line even longer, with any regularity. I admit, I don’t go as often as I would like, as I have a job and go to school, although I do plan my non-holiday days off around the sandwiches there. In doing so, I’ve discovered a secret that most people don’t know about - if you are ordering Roast Pork, you can jump ahead in line. The line is waiting for the grill. The cheesesteak grill. The pork will be sitting on the counter bubbling away in its juicy goodness, and so if that is your sandwich for the day, by all means, poke around ahead in line and you will get called up to the front like a coach calling the scrawny kid up from the end of the bench. However, if you are getting a cheesesteak, hold fast and know your order.

While you may wait for what seems like an eternity, just be patient, cheesesteak nirvana awaits. You might be bored and sweaty from standing in line, but make sure you have your specs in mind. Take note of all of the various awards, newspaper articles and old pictures, but keep an eye on the order girl because your time there will go faster than expected, and you’d better know what you are ordering when your number is up.

John’s cooks the steaks to order, and they use a cut of sirloin, unlike the typical ribeye found at many steak shops. He does not freeze the meat, rather chills it in the freezer to slice it, and then has individually wrapped bags of steak. The meat is heavenly. You can get it with sharp provolone too. I alternate between the sharp prov and American, but never whiz; add fried onions, sometimes mushrooms. The juicy steak, which drips with twice as much cheese as your ordinary joint puts out, is a perfect storm of tender meat, sweet onions, cheesy goodness and grease. Oh god that grease. The South Philly baked Carangi roll, tough and crispy on the outside, soft in the middle, gets gutted in order to cram the maximum filling inside. It holds up perfectly to the drippy, gooey task presented by both the steak and the pork, and makes John’s food, much like their store front, truly stand-alone. Two final words of advice: first, CASH and second, PATIENCE - let your sandwich sit for a few minutes. It really allows the flavors to meld, and reduces the chances of a molten cheese bite burning off your taste buds before you can savor the rest of your meat-packed masterpiece.

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