No Second Fiddle: The Philly Roast Pork

Unless you’ve been living in a cave (I’m looking at you, Osama), you know that only one sandwich reigns supreme in Philadelphia – the cheesesteak.

Contrary to popular opinion, however, it’s not the only hoagie in town. Recently, a different meat and cheese combo has emerged from the City of Brotherly Love to challenge (or at least provide an alternative to) the almighty cheesesteak. It is the roast pork with sharp provolone.

A number of places in and around Philadelphia specialize in this new nirvana, among them John’s Roast Pork, Tony Luke’s, and the lesser known Lenny’s (in Conshohocken). Tommy DiNic’s in the great Reading Terminal Market may be the best of the bunch.

Like the others, Tommy’s has an extremely limited menu — your only choices are the pork or the beef brisket — and is a cash-only establishment. What you see is what you get, and what you get is heaven on a roll.

There are just three add-ons: sharp provolone, roasted peppers and greens (broccoli rabe, I think). From what I’ve seen and tasted around the Philly area, the first two are standard and the greens are optional.

A few other things to keep in mind when you visit DiNic’s:

  • As you may or may not be able to tell from the picture, the pork is sliced, not shredded or chunked. It’s certainly different from the other ways I’ve tried, but the format doesn’t matter. Taste is the thing that counts.
  • Same thing goes for the roasted green peppers. I’m more accustomed to the red ones, but the greens went just fine.
  • This thing’s sloppy. Remember to roll back those sleeves and get your legs under the table. Better yet, bring a bib.
  • Sharp provolone doesn’t melt all that well. You may miss some of the ooey-gooeyness from the cheesesteak, but the sharp’s flavor more than makes up for it.
  • Be prepared to wait, especially during peak lunch hours. It’s worth it.

Will the cheesesteak ever be toppled? I doubt it; certainly not in Philly. But if you have time for just one more lunch and you’ve had your fill of the great beef beast, try something different.

The Philly roast pork – it’s like Yahooing when everybody else is Googling.


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