1624 Market St
Denver, CO 80220
Editors Note: We always have people asking about cheesesteak places outside of the greater Philadelphia area, and/or claiming they are just as good. One reader thought that this place was owned by the lesser evil of the two tourist-steak places, so we sent a friend of the site (Mayor McCheese) who resides in Denver to investigate. Enjoy. And forgive the crappy pics.
Full disclosure: I’m not from Philadelphia. In fact I’ve never been to Philadelphia. But, I have spent the bulk of my life eating cheesesteaks everywhere else. Seriously, I scout cheesesteak places before Chicago pizza and hot dog places and I grew up at 183rd and Halsted. The point is, just because you’ve never seen the Sistine Chapel, doesn’t mean you can’t know that Damien Hirst is crap. So, here we go.
There is a fairly decent cheesesteak in the area of downtown Denver where I work, but I just found out about another that has somehow slipped by unnoticed: Pat’s Philly Cheesesteaks. Well, at least that’s what it’s called at its two other Denver area locations. For some reason it’s called Pat’s Downtown Bar & Grill over this way, but it supposedly offers the “best cheesesteak in Denver” just as the others do. The location is pretty ideal at 16th and Market, mostly because this is the biggest bus terminal in the city, meaning you could (in theory) eat 4-6 cheesesteaks and sleep them off in the back of the bus no matter which suburb you lived in. It’s also ideal because the 16th Street Mall Ride is free, stops roughly outside my door, and offers information you can get nowhere else (e.g., “Nukes are under the entire city” and “Sometimes I love searching through the trash because you find a bus pass and don’t have to walk everywhere”; thanks Guy Dressed Like Gandolf and Girl With Mike Tyson’s Face Tattoo On Her Chin, respectively!)
Here I am, outside Pat’s, and it is starting to look more like a fake-divey bar than anyplace with a high likelihood of a good cheesesteak. As I walk down the stairs (yep, downstairs is divey, right?), there’s a sign for today’s specials. It includes a $6 crabcake sandwich. If you’re wondering how they can offer a crabcake sandwich for so cheap, I assume it's local, Rocky Mountain crab, plucked from the Sea of Colorado (note: this sea does not exist).
Sure, weird to find crabcakes living alongside a cheesesteak, but perhaps it's a fluke. Nope. Look at this menu.
And there's another side, equally as populated! Can you really have a "specialty" when you've got so much else to worry about?
I ordered a cheesesteak with onions and white American, minus the included peppers (aye...), plus some mayo (I'm from the Midwest; I'd put macaroni salad on it if it was offered). The waitress was fantastically nice, and quick with my Coke.
As I waited, I took in some soundless ESPN on the three dozen flat screens. Certainly a fine setup, but I am accustomed to one or two crappy televisions when pursuing choice hotcdogs, Italian beef, and overstuffed gyros. If you're not worried about making a place sleek, you've got to worry about serving up greasy, lovefilled food. Otherwise no one will come back. What was Pat's setting me up for?
Let me knock the fries out quick. They were perfect. Unbelievably crispy outside, warm and potato-y inside. They were extremely oily, but I prefer them that way. If that's a problem, mop them up with the napkin. After I polished those off (I insist on eating items in their entirety, in reverse order of deliciousness), I examined the one for which I came.
The first thing you notice is a bread-to-meat ratio of at least two-and-a-half to one. And the bread is clearly some sort of Safeway bakery bulk buy. Listen, the cheesesteak should be gluttonous; it should make you feel bad about yourself. Glutton gave way to gluten and my jaw felt like it was in the sourdough championships by the end of the first half. The steak was tasty and tender, and the onions not overpowering, but seriously, I felt like I was just eating a roll.
To give ol' Pat his best shot, I ate the second half starting with the ends and working my way in. I packed as much meat as I could into the last bite. The result: pretty good. That's it, pretty good. When you stage your eating so that the last bite will be best, you expect more (like saving a cheese corner on a Big Mac). But all I got was back up to neutral.
There are two lessons here:
1. The fancier the place, the less likely you're getting good fat food.
2. Look out Iran, Denver's strapped.