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Dining out: The Downtown Philly

Published: Friday, May 30 2008 12:03 a.m. MDT

The Downtown Philly makes cheesesteaks, and there's not a lot of fooling around with anything else.

Sure, there's a burger — topped with cheesesteak toppings. And you can get a few kinds of subs, hot or cold.

But I'm not sure why anyone would get anything else when the cheesesteaks are this good: super-fresh meat and veggies; oozy cheese of various kinds; substantial rolls, baked daily, that are tasty but not too fancy, in keeping with this proletarian food.

My friend, Kim, and I visited The Downtown Philly for lunch on a recent weekday, four kids in tow. You could feed two young children very well on a six-inch cheesesteak, but there is a kids' menu that includes grilled cheese, grilled ham and cheese and "pizza bread," a halved, toasted cheesesteak roll topped with sauce, cheese and a baseball-size slice of pepperoni. Our kids tried all of the kids' menu items and liked them.

Authenticity seems to be a key principle at The Downtown Philly, and if you want to ride that wave, you'd better have what the menu calls "the traditional steak" — freshly grilled, thin-sliced beef simply dressed with grilled onions and, no kidding, Cheez Whiz.

I know that for us non-Philadelphians, the words "Cheez Whiz" and "authentic" don't often go together. But something really nice happens to Cheez Whiz when it's used on a hot, steamy sandwich. It breaks down, losing that chemical-laden, processed taste and lending salty, creamy smoothness to the meat. If you liked Cheez Whiz on celery as a kid, give this one a try. You might get the murmured, "good choice," that was bestowed on me when I ordered.

If you just can't wrap your mind around eating Cheez Whiz, go for the cheesesteak with everything, which Kim had on the day we visited. This one had provolone (also an authentic choice), plus beautifully grilled onions, mushrooms and green peppers. It was heavenly good.

I was intrigued by some of the variety on the menu at The Downtown Philly. There's a super basic sandwich: grilled steak with either provolone or American, slapped on a bun. I like to call it the "Bud Kratz special" after my father-in-law, a man of simple tastes. But there are more elaborate creations, too: cheesesteak with mushrooms, provolone, bleu cheese and A1 sauce; or the "garlic steak" with mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, garlic butter, provolone and cream cheese.

The owners of The Downtown Philly also have imported some Philly-area classics to go with the sammies. My favorite was the birch beer, shipped to the store from Doylestown, Pa., and tasting like a sharp, spicy version of cream soda. I also had a bag of Herr's pretzel nuggets from Pennsylvania, and the online menu promises Tastykakes, the beloved baked goods that are so popular on the East Coast.

Because The Downtown Philly is a young business, the owners seem to be still working out the kinks regarding maintaining consistent inventory of these East Coast items. I hope they find a way to do it, because I've always wanted to try a Butterscotch Krimpet.

Sandwiches $4.99-$9.49, kids' meals $3.99, combos $1.89 plus cost of sandwich, sides and extras 99 cents-$2.99.

The Downtown Philly

Rating: ***

Where: 1665 W. Town Center Drive (10600 S. Redwood Road), South Jordan

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Monday-Saturday

Closed Sunday

Payment: Major credit cards accepted; no checks

Phone: 878-8450

Wheelchair access: Easy

Also: For orders larger than 15 sandwiches, call before 3 p.m. the previous day


Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret News. E-mail: skratz@desnews.com