The woman taking our order at Cheesesteak Experience has the kind of South Philly accent that's so thick you could cut it with a knife. I've never heard so many "dees," "doze" and "dems" in a three-minute conversation.
But what I'm hearing is authentic music to my ears.
Am I the only person who can't tell if people with South Philly accents are being emphatic or rude?
"This is the way we do it in Philadelphia," exclaims the woman I later realize is Bobbie Strauss, who owns the 2-month-old restaurant with husband Jeff and son Jon.
The Strauss family moved to South Florida in 2006 and for six years operated their Cheesesteak Experience at the Festival Flea Market Mall food court in Pompano Beach. Jeff Strauss says they closed last August to move closer to the beach, where they could also stay open in the evening.
Their cheesesteak recipe is unchanged.
For the record, says Strauss, there are two kinds of Philly cheesesteaks: one made with sliced rib eye, the other with chopped sirloin.
Cheesesteak Experience uses chopped sirloin, which Strauss says is what Philadelphia's famous Pat's King of Steaks uses. Geno's Steaks, across the street from Pat's, uses rib eye.
Not being well-versed in cheesesteak lore, all I can tell you is that I loved my Whiz steak wit ($7.95).
That's a sirloin sandwich that's been chopped and banged around on the griddle with a metal spatula. The meat is mixed with Cheese Whiz and topped with (wit) fried onions. The Strausses bring in authentic rolls from Amoroso's Baking Company in Philadelphia. The whole shebang is served on a piece of waxed paper inside a red plastic basket.
The meat is tender. The Cheese Whiz doesn't overwhelm. The roll holds up to the moisture in the meat and cheese. Jon Strauss makes a spicy Buffalo sauce, which Bobbie recommends we put on our sandwiches and use for dipping sweet potato fries ($3.50) and onions rings ($3.50). Both of these sides are well done to dark golden crispy. There's nothing worse than anemic fryer items.
The sides menu also includes seasoned crab fries ($4.95), cheesesteak fries ($5.95) and scrapple ($2.50), a kind of loaf made from random pork parts. The Strausses use Dietz & Watson deli meat in their hoagies ($7.95-$8.95). They also served meatball sandwiches ($6.95), hot dogs ($1.95) and pork rolls ($6.95), a kind of sliced pork loaf that's not unlike bologna. There are wraps ($6.95-$7.95) and chicken sandwiches ($7.50-$8.50).
But back to cheesesteaks. We also ordered a cheesesteak ($7.95) with provolone cheese. We thought it needed a little more cheese, but our complaint was met with: "That's the way we do it in Philly!"
The tiny restaurant — 26 seats inside and out — is decorated with framed photographs of Philadelphia present and past: the former Horn & Hardart automat; the old Veterans Stadium; Charles Barkley early in his 76ers career' and that spot-on T-shirt slogan — "I'm not angry. I'm from Philly."
South Florida's most famous former Philadelphian gave the Strausses a signed $100 bill to hang on the wall.
That would be Steve Martorano, of nearby Cafe Martorano. Now that's a true South Philly blessing.
3341 NE 32nd St., Fort Lauderdale
Cuisine: Sandwiches, wraps, hot dogs, hoagies
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday
Credit cards: D, MC, V
Sound level: Moderate
Outside smoking: Yes
For kids: High chairs, boosters, menu
Wheelchair accessible: Yes