Still left aching for a satisfying meat & cheese experience, I ventured the day after the 8 oz debacle to Spanky's Cheese Steak Factory in Oakland Park, FL.
The parking lot appears empty, but there are actually quite a few people dining inside. The patrons apparently walked here tonight. It's a true neighborhood joint, everyone who comes in greets each other by name.
Inside, a mother plays the video slot machine by the register while her child giggles with the cooing waitress. She pauses long enough to great us warmly and seats us. The menus are laminated and on every table.
Every single picture on the wall is crooked, including the gigantic Scarface mural on the back wall. A TV plays Inside Edition to the cooks, patrons and video slot players.
We place our order. One full sized cheese steak, one mini. ($8.95 & $5.25, both come with fries), add onions and hot peppers, no charge. Our drinks are served. They come in two different plastic glasses. They don't match but they are clean.
We hear a sizzle followed by the attentive and precise metallic chop, chop, chop of a spatula on a flattop. The smell of hot beef and onions waft out of the kitchen to our table.
It arrives glistening and pipping hot. slices of white american cheese are starting to melt into the finely fried steak tartar. My first bite is interrupted by pain as hot grease falls onto the palm of my hand. It's not too greasy, but perfectly greasy. It's served right. No lettuce, no tomato. No goddamn salad on it. Onion, hot peppers, mushrooms by request. The bun is soft, corn dusted, and substantial enough to contain it's deliciously greasy insides. It's worth the potential grease burn.
The fries look previously frozen but they were fried well. Crispy outisde/fluffy potato-y inside. They tasted pretty darn good with Spanky's own hot sauces. They have two on the table, a hot habanero and a more mild cayenne garlic sauce. The hot habanero was chunky and flavorful. The cayenne garlic sauce was fine. I didn't detect the garlic, though.
I lived a short stint in Philadelphia so I've had a good share of "the best": Pat's, Geno's, and Jim's on South Street. Spanky's Cheese Steaks is legitimately comparable. I am already planning my next trip back, and perhaps will try some of their other items. Maybe I'll try the corn nuggets served with honey; or maybe Belvue Burger, a burger slathered in peanut butter(!) because I have faith that they could pull that off. Spanky's made me a believer. But I don't think I'll try the grouper parm. That just sounds gross.
Over all, the place ain't pretty but they make a mean cheese steak. I'll be back, soon.
***** (5) So good it hurts. (literally.)