John's Roast Pork

Jeff's Take:
I had read enough about the countless honors that John’s Roast Pork has won for its cheesesteaks. Local radio station WIP gave it top honors in its recent “Ultimate Cheesesteak Challenge.” Esquire named it one of the Best Sandwiches in America. The James Beard Foundation gave it an “America’s Classic” distinction. It was time to see what all the fuss was about.

To clear up any confusion, John’s doesn’t deal exclusively in pork products. The “cheesesteak” is made with beef, and the “pork sandwich,” made with Italian roasted pork, is served up either on a Kaiser roll (small) or a hoagie roll (large). Both are excellent, but the pork sandwich is a true masterpiece.

The Cheesesteak: The thinly sliced steak at John’s is of excellent quality. It’s cooked in small batches, which speaks volumes about the quality control at John’s. Most other busy shops cook their steak in huge batches, which often makes it tougher and drier, since it sits on the grill for longer periods of time. John’s also cooks the steak on top of the onions—something I haven’t seen anywhere else. The end result is a generous portion of flavorful, moist steak that isn’t too greasy. My main gripe with the cheesesteak was that John’s doesn’t offer cheese whiz, which I prefer on my steaks. The American cheese on my steak wasn’t distributed evenly enough, and in fact had accumulated into a few hardened globs near the outside of the bun. All in all, high marks for the steak, but the cheese is holding it back.

The Pork Sandwich: This thing is a work of art. The pork at John’s is seasoned and roasted daily, then thinly sliced and left to cook in its own juices. It’s not fried on the griddle like a cheesesteak, but the lack of fresh cooking doesn’t make a difference. The generous serving of pork is juicy and bursting with flavor, without being too salty. I couldn’t even begin to guess how many spices they use. For cheese, the sharp provolone is the way to go with the roast pork—it’s a perfect marriage of great Italian flavor. You can also order it with spinach, but I passed up on that. Finally, the Carangi Bakery roll (the same roll on which the cheesesteak is served), with light sesame seeds on the outside, is nice and soft while still maintaining a good crust on the outside.

So why isn’t John’s Roast Pork a tourist destination, like Pat’s, Jim’s, or Geno’s? First, it’s located just off of Columbus Boulevard, sandwiched between old factories, strip malls, and strip clubs. Not an ideal tourist spot. Second, the service is incredibly slow. While the touristy places may have long lines, they usually average less than a minute per customer. At John’s, the cooks take their time. It’s more like three to five minutes per person, which in my case translated into a 30-40 minute wait for our food. Finally, the hours are inconvenient: 6:45 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. And the grill closes at 2:30, so don’t expect a cheesesteak any time after then.

John’s does things its own way, and has for a long time. While it’ll probably require a special trip and a long wait, it’s well worth it.

14 E. Snyder Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19148


Mithras said…
My main gripe with the cheesesteak was that John’s doesn’t offer cheese whiz ....

You what?

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