Everyone seems to think making a cheesesteak is as easy as making a ham sandwich. That’s why we Lunch Guys have seen franchises from Quiznos to Dominos try their hand at "cheesesteak" lunches — and flounder where Philadelphians flourish.
Sonic is the latest one to try with the new Extra-Long Bacon Cheddar Cheesesteak. Is it worthy of Lunch Guys love?
Chris: This wasn’t so much a cheesesteak as the concoction of a mad scientist ... or a burnt-out chef trying to get rid of leftovers after a lunch rush.
This Extra-Long Bacon Cheddar Cheesesteak is part hot dog, part sub and part genius. As much as I loved the shredded steak that was a cross between the Quiznos prime rib and a Steak-umms, as much as my eyes popped at the juicy bacon strips running along the entire bottom of the bun crevasse, I hesitated to eat this when the smokeless "smoky" cheddar cheese sauce had literally welded the bun to the wrapper.
If I had to take a fork to this to cut the cheesesteak from the packaging, what was my heart surgeon going to have to do to separate this cheese from my aorta?
But Tom, as you and our longtime readers should know by now, I put health concerns aside and went to town on this cheesesteak. That town wasn’t exactly Philly, but it was definitely a suburb — blander and homogenized, but with a touch of character.
The white-bread bun really did nothing but add foot-long-ish length. The grilled-onions-mayo-and-cheese weld were too light to do much either. But that hearty helping of steak with the river of bacon running through it — that won me over.
Tom: This is a polarizing sandwich. Some people will be repulsed by the notion of a bacon cheesesteak on a cheap foot-long hotdog bun. Then there are people like us who are drawn to the words "Philly" "bacon" and "foot-long" like moths to a light bulb.
It sounds more like the angioplasty-maker than it really is but also sounds more filling that it really is.
Yes, it’s high on the calories and fat but not into unprecedented territory because this sandwich isn’t stuffed like a true Philly. It’s long but it has a light dose of shredded beef strips giving it about the same heft as an actual foot-long hot dog.
As you said, the taste is not really "Philly" at all. To me, it falls somewhere between an Italian beef sandwich and a bacon cheeseburger. The word "cheesesteak" is almost a misnomer here. I was expecting a lava-flow of gooey cheese but instead was met with a barely-tasteable sprinkling.
With every bacon-filled bite I still wasn’t sure if I liked it and Chris, before long there was only a nub of the bun left in the funny square-serving box. Even though this looks like something off the state fair midway, once you get over the fact that it doesn’t taste or look like you expect it goes down pretty easy.
Chris: I agree. It’s a little weird, but it’s a winner. And overall, this cheesesteak adds to the roller-skating, slush-slurping, tater-tot-chomping zaniness that is Sonic. Or maybe that’s just my slush ice headache talking.
Tom: Offbeat as they are, I also like Sonic. They’re like Avis — they try harder. Regardless if I like what I’m getting, I’m never bored by it.
Tom James and Chris Tauber are Orlando-based writers.