426 Belmont Ave.
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004
Much like Tony A's, Mama's Pizzeria has been roundly endorsed as one of the best cheesesteaks in Philadelphia. Also like Tony A's, Mama's is not actually in Philadelphia. It is, however, close enough that a short bike ride or car trip will take you there without any problem.
I had probably ridden past Mama's a few dozen times without ever even noticing it. It's kind of tucked away. When you walk in, there is a counter and a few small tables. However, in the back there are more places to sit, and a waitress will take your order.
The dated interior had me hopeful for cheesesteak glory.
I went with a small cheesesteak, as I was actually on bicycle and thus unable to take any leftovers with me. My dining mate ordered the large cheesesteak hoagie (inexplicably with lettuce, but no tomato), and also happened to be the same one who ordered Hawaiian pizza at the Mexican pizza place.
The "cheesesteak hoagie" was ordered with both oil and mayo, which is my favorite way to eat hoagies, but not something I usually look for in a cheesesteak. Again, it was Hawaiian pizza guy who crafted this delicacy - always questionable. I have to say, the hoagie dressing and mayo really helped add some flavor to this steak. I was surprised at how it changed the flavor profile and gave it some zing (I ate almost half of his as well).
For my sandwich, I went with fried onions and some banana peppers. The first thing you will notice about these sandwiches is the cheese. There is a lot of it. Possibly too much. Which I can't believe I am saying. This was not an extra-cheese order, either.
They use a blend of cheeses, they call it "pizza cheese." It does add some zip. The meat itself is pretty good, finely chopped, and the well caramelized onions are nicely mixed throughout. The 'fluffy on the inside' and the 'crispy on the outside' of the bread were likely the best components. I had a couple of problems. One is that these are rather expensive. The large was $12, which, after figuring in a soda and a tip, equates to a $17 cheesesteak lunch. Yes, you can get two meals out of it, but that is still tipping the scales for me. The second is that the regular steak just kind of lacks something. The meat was under-seasoned, and that may have been the main culprit, but it lacked the "pop" of a truly great steak. The portions were big, but with the price tag, they should be. Finally the greasiness of this sandwich was kind of crazy. I took a video to illustrate this. Keep in mind, this was the tail end of the dripping, I just happened to be eating while it was really rushing off the back.
Overall, it's a decent steak, but not deserving of the hype that I have heard. It is probably many people's favorite for the nostalgia factor, but with today's stiff competition, it would not be among my top choices.