#73: Charley’s Grilled Subs

Just a couple things first off:

  1. Charley’s Grilled Subs is a massively bigger chain than I realized
  2. I brilliantly left home without a memory card in my DSLR, so this is an iPhone edition! (I even checked a few places in the mall for a small card on the spot but came up empty)
Since I ended up using my phone to take the photos for this post I was thinking I would eventually go back and do it properly, but now that I see how enormous a chain this is I’m just going to call this one final.  Anyway, obviously I went to Charley’s Grilled Subs tonight.  It’s located in the food court between Panda Express and Kai Hawaiian BBQ.  This is yet another cheesesteak focused business (no more cheesesteaks for a while, I promise!).  Similarly to the new Cheesesteak Shop they are using LCD displays for their menus, and with them they’ve made the same mistake and made the text size pretty small and difficult to read.  Standing about 6 feet back from the counter in line I was able to make out the titles of the items.  The descriptions were way too small though.  Once I got up to the counter I was able to focus in on them better and see what they were.  Here they have no paper take out menu (at least none that are sitting out front) so if you have trouble reading the menu you’re gonna have a bad time.
I decided on a small Bacon 3 Cheese Steak (steak, bacon, swiss, cheddar, provolone) and an order of the Buffalo & Bleu Gourmet Fries (perhaps a new or soon to be discontinued item, this does not appear on their website, it was fries with hot Buffalo sauce and blue cheese crumbles).  My cheesesteak was ready in about 3 minutes with the fries following by about a minute.  Both were hot and steaming as I sat down in the food court.  The fries were very crispy and the buffalo sauce looked and felt like molten lava, so I let that cool off a bit.
On my cheesesteak I went with most of the available toppings: onions, mushrooms, lettuce & tomato (though I changed my mind and removed it).  The roll was soft and tasty, though I doubt it was an Amoroso roll like the good places use, it didn’t seem to have the same texture.  The steak was fairly similar to the stuff I had at Cheesesteak Grille and Cheesesteak Shop, but maybe a bit less flavorful and moist.  With the swiss, cheddar and provolone however, it was a fine steak.  I don’t recall there being much in the way of onions, but the mushrooms were plentiful and excellent.  Thin strips of bacon were hidden deep in the roll, and I suspect they were the microwave variety due to their texture, but they had decent flavor.  I had hoped for more cheese since it was the “3 Cheese steak.”
I picked at the fries a bit in-between bites of the cheesesteak, but by the time I went full on into them after the steak was gone they were fairly soggy fries.  The Buffalo sauce was very bright orange, and a lot hotter than I expected (not temperature hot).  Consecutive bites required a follow up with a swig of Dr Pepper.  The blue cheese wasn’t as strong as I like but it was just strong enough to mello out the sauce when I got a big chunck with a few fries.  There isn’t quite enough to get one with every bite, so I found myself rationing them so that I had a couple good sized pieces to finish off the last of the fries with.  THese were pretty good, but nothing compared to the Urban Fries at Jack’s Urban Eats, which is what came to mind when I saw these on the menu.
All in all this wasn’t all that bad, considering it’s in a food court and I paid under $10 for the food and soda.  It’s not the best cheesesteak in Roseville by a long shot, but it’s worth checking out if you find yourself looking for a cheap bite while at the Galleria.


#71: The Cheese Steak Shop

The Cheese Steak Shop is one of Roseville’s newest eateries having opened just over a week ago.  They are located next to Mas Mexican, by Mikuni and Century Theaters.  Jersey Mike’s used to reside here and I was extremely bummed when I showed up one day to find that they were gone.  Not long after I had discovered the Cheesesteak Grille on Sierra College I learned that this new shop would be opening in the summer.  I’ve looked forward to it as my interest in a good cheesesteak has rapidly grown since having my first one not long ago.

From what I had read on the Roseville Patch, Reddit and other tidbits I found here and there it looked like they were striving for an authentic Philly cheesesteak experience, from the famous Amoroso rolls, imported peppers and Tasty Kakes.  I believed this would be The Cheesesteak Grille’s closest competitor.  I brought along my personal cheesesteak expert, Justin, last Saturday to see what he thought.

We arrived at about 1:3o in the afternoon to a very light crowd.  Waiting behind the single person in line I started to look at the menu, well, try to look at the menu would be a better way to put that.  They opted for 2 large LCD panels as their menus.  I’m a big fan of this trend.  I like the way they look, I like that they can easily be updated without McGyvering an expensive printed menu on the wall and most of all I like how dynamic they can be made (see movie theaters or mall food courts for good examples).  Here however they simply displayed a static, mostly text based menu that was way too small to comfortably read from behind the counter.  I ended up snagging one of the printed to-go menus to look at. (Update 3/7/13: They have moved the LCDs so that they now hang just over the counter and angled down at you and are much easier to see.  In addition they also have a large printed menu on the wall and what looked like most of the menu printed and displayed on/around the counter just in front of the register.)

I hadn’t eaten since dinner the night before so I was particularly hungry.  I was almost immediately drawn to The King of Philly.  It’s their mid-sized (10″) cheesesteak with 50% more meat & cheese.  Justin ended up ordering the same thing.  I skimmed over the premium cheesesteaks for a moment but decided I wanted to stick with the classic.  I’ve had a few different styles of cheesesteak including the blue cheese variant at the Cheesesteak Grille.  While they can be interesting, I think I prefer the standard in most situations, so I went ahead with the King of Philly.  When asked if I wanted hot and/or sweet peppers I initially asked for hot peppers, then went ahead and said to put both on.  I ordered curly fries, a soda and grabbed a Tasty Kake to finish it off.  I never got a chance to try them at the Cheesesteak Grille since they were sold out the few times I went there.  I was a bit put off by the $2 price but was determined to see what they were all about.

After I filled my Dr Pepper up and sat down I noticed how unchanged the dining room was from the Jersey Mikes days.  It seemed they had the same tables, trash bins and even napkin dispensers.  Our cheesesteaks came out within about 5 minutes and they were steaming hot right off the grill.  I dug into the fries, which were also very hot, while I let the cheesesteak cool down a bit.  I usually like to dip curly fries in ranch.  I was not offered any and didn’t think to ask for some but these were very good on their own and I tore through them very quickly.  In true Justin fashion he was nearly done with his cheesesteak by the time I was just getting started on mine.

Justin’s Cheesesteak without peppers:

The Amoroso roll was pretty hefty with the extra steak and white american cheese.  It was soft yet sturdy, and on the inside was soaking up the excess juices, making it extra flavorful.  The steak itself was absolutely fantastic.  It was savory and juicy, and there was enough in the roll that it threatened to fall out unless I payed attention and held it at just the right angle while I ate.  The white american was well melted and creamy throughout the roll, save for a corner or two sticking outside.  A nice amount of grilled onions added a nice little flavor and texture to the whole thing.  I found the peppers to be way too strong and overpowering and by the end I had removed pretty much all of them.  I wanted to taste the cheesesteak and it wasn’t happening with them on top.

Finally I moved on to the Tasty Kakes.  They had several to choose from and I randomly grabbed Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes.  These were little disc shaped pieces of white cake with a thin layer of sweet peanut butter on top and coated with chocolate.  They were decent, a bit like a light version of a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup with cake in it.  Ultimately I think they are a bit overhyped and certainly not worth $2.

I happened to stop here once more today for a quick bite before running some errands and was informed that on Wednesdays, sides and desserts are half off.  I figured for a buck it would’t hurt to give a different Tasty Kake a shot, so I picked up the Cream Filled Chocolate Cupcakes to take home for later.  These ones tasted a lot more like the Hostess cupcakes which I’ve often heard they are similar to.  I wasn’t really impressed by these either.  $1 is a better price to try them out, but I doubt I’ll find myself ordering them again.

The Cheese Steak Shop is high on my list as far as a solid cheesesteak goes, either tied with or just slightly edging out The Cheesesteak Grille.  Justin said he liked Cheesesteak Grille better saying he felt they give you a bit more cheese there but that this was still a good one.  Menu visibility improvements are needed, but otherwise I’m really happy with this new shop.


#64: Granite’s Famous Cheesesteaks & Wings

UPDATED 9/15/2012 – Followup visit: See bottom of post

Granite’s Famous Cheesesteaks & Wings is located on Pleasant Grove near 65, cater-cornered from the Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club shopping center.  Based on their Facebook history it seems they’ve been there since sometime in 2010.  I only noticed them a couple months ago and have been meaning to try their wings, you know, since they’re famous and all.

Yesterday I stopped by for lunch at about noon.  The little shop was about half full.  There are only a handful of tables, I imagine they do a fair amount of take-out business.  The menu isn’t all cheesesteaks and wings, they actually have a lot of different choices including sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers, salads, fish & chips and lots of sides.  I was interested in the hot wings, which come in 10, 15, 30, 50, 75 and 100 count orders.  Based on a photo on the wall I gathered that they are made without batter.  Sauce options were mild, hot, inferno, insane & garlic parmesan.  I figured I should get a side to go with them and the New York fries caught my eye.  The menu said “Nacho cheese & N.Y. Hot Sauce”, which sounded pretty good to me.

I stepped up to the counter and after a couple of minutes the cashier came up from the back to take my order.  He didn’t really greet me, he just kind of got his pen and order ticket in hand and then looked up at me.  I went ahead and ordered my food, I chose hot sauce for the wings, blue cheese to dip and ordered them all as drummets for an extra buck.  I got a fountain soda as well.  They have a small selection of beers and other beverages as well.  I saw glass bottled coke in the cooler to the right of the counter but was in the mood for Mr. Pib today.  Since it’s such a small place they didn’t take my name or give me a number.

I got my soda filled and gathered some paper towels around the corner of the front and took a small table against the front window.  My order took about 10 minutes, maybe a little under, to be ready.  One of the cooks got my attention and handed me my tray over the front counter.  He was much more personable than the cashier and, with a smile, told me to enjoy.

The chicken wings were doused with hot sauce.  A pool of it had formed on the plate.  They were steaming like crazy, obviously right out of the fryer.  I started with the fries in order to let them cool off a bit.  The New York fries had a thick layer of nacho cheese on top, and underneath I found ground beef, which was not in the description.  I couldn’t tell if there was hot sauce on them just by looking.  The fries themselves were very crispy, which was good because they held up well under the beef and cheese without becoming soggy.  Unfortunately, they were very bland.  Not only were the fries bland, the cheese and beef didn’t really have a lot going on either.  I definitely didn’t taste any hot sauce.  Texture-wise they were satisfying, but they had little flavor.

The wings looked pretty thin.  Only one or two seemed to have a good amount of chicken on them.  When I picked up and bit into the first one I thought, oh, they do have batter.  I figured out quickly though that I was wrong.  In actuality, the wings were fried so long that they had become tough and crispy.  The little chicken that was on them was stringy.  The only good thing about them was the sauce, which was fairly hot and flavorful.  Even the blue cheese was a little disappointing.  At most places where I’ve had wings with blue cheese it’s strong and chunky, but here it was runny and medium strength as best.

Obviously I was very disappointed with the wings.  The fries were a little better but I still wouldn’t order them again.  With all the other items they have on the menu there’s a good chance something is good, but I would have thought with “wings” in the name they would be very good.  These were probably the worst, if not very close to the worst, I’ve had.  Maybe if I find myself starving and directly in front of the shop I would be tempted to try a cheesesteak, but I certainly won’t be getting wings here again.

UPDATE 9/15/2012:

After posting this I received many comments from people that had much better times here, as well as from the staff of Granites.  I decided I would revisit this place for a cheesesteak and possibly try the wings one more time to see if I just had an isolated experience.  Today I did just that.  I called in my order (as not to be recognized and have it possibly affect the service or food) and picked it up at around 1:30.  I had the same cashier (both on the phone and in person) with roughly the same customer service.  Once I paid I filled up a soda cup and my order was ready for my as I was putting the lid on.  I  ordered a Steak Combination (Cheesesteak with mushrooms, onions and American cheese) as well as 10 wings with original hot sauce and blue cheese.

I was going to eat at the nearby park but there was a huge event going on there, soccer or something like that, so I just parked by Home Depot in the shade and ate in my car.  Everything was heavily wrapped in foil, which I’m thankful of because like last time, the wings were in a pool of excess sauce.  The styrofoam container mostly held it all, but in carrying it and driving caused some of it to leak out into the foil wrapping, instead of into the bag and then possibly onto my car seat.  These wings looked identical to the last ones, but it was a night & day difference in terms of texture.  These had definitely been cooked for less time and were tender and very enjoyable.  My focus this visit was the cheesesteak but I ended up eating more wings than I planned on because they were great.

The cheesesteak was fantastic and despite eating quite a few of the wings I still ate the whole thing.  It was VERY hot when I first unwrapped the foil.  Everything was good about this ‘steak: taste, temp, texture, cheese/meat ratio, bread softness, I can’t think of a single thing I didn’t like about it.

Granite’s has won me over.  I believe that my first visit was atypical, at least in terms of the food.  Clearly they are capable of making some very good cheesesteaks and wings here.  I will say that I still think they have a lot of room for improvement as far as customer service goes.  I think a more appropriate rating would be 3.5-4 out of 5 now.  I am leaving the original post untouched because it still represents exactly what I experienced on that visit and is certainly possible that it could happen again, but take into account this followup as well as reviews on Yelp if you are hesitant in visiting Granites.  I think you’ll find that for the most part they are generally well respected.

Website: http://www.graniteswings.com/

Scanned Takeout Menu: Click Here