While at a baby shower recently, my sister-in-law reached into her purse and handed me a menu from Mac's Philly Steaks, which is near her house in East Rochester.
"You need to go there," she said. The concept was cool: Owner Ryan MacNamara spent the summers of his youth on the Jersey Shore and got hooked on the taste and smell of authentic Philadelphia cheesesteak served in shore delis, then recreated that atmosphere in three locations around Rochester (the others are in Canandaigua and Geneva). I took my friend Sue to Mac's for a weekday lunch.
Black tables and chairs, checkered flooring, neatly arranged photos of Philadelphia scenes and a vibrant mural of that city's cheesesteak houses fill the narrow space. A flat-screen TV was tuned to ESPN.
After talking with friends and family in Philadelphia, MacNamara decided that no cheesesteak would taste authentic without Amoroso rolls imported directly from Philadelphia. So he ships them in.
I ordered the eight-inch Philadelphia Cheese Steak with white American cheese, green peppers, sweet onions and mushrooms ($6.29), and Sue got the eight-inch Pizza Steak with tomato sauce and provolone cheese ($6.29).
We both raved about the soft, moderately sized bread first thing. Sue's take: "So often, places put stuff on these huge hoagies, and it's just way too much bread, but this is the perfect amount." We had equal praise for the restraint used in adding toppings to my sandwich; the amounts were generous but manageable, so I didn't have to fight to keep them on.
Sue's Pizza Steak had even softer bread, thanks to the tomato sauce. Provolone cheese is a favorite among cheesesteak connoisseurs, although Sue thought another type might have been a better match for her palate. (Perhaps next time she'll try Cheez Whiz, available by request and another popular choice.)
With the exception of a last bite or two, we cleaned our plates. "I'm not going to eat dinner tonight," said Sue, who also ordered a steaming cup of Garden Veggie soup ($3).
Also on the menu: chicken steaks, hoagies, salads and a Friday fish fry.
All 24-ounce fountain drinks (Pepsi products) are $1.79 (Sue mixed pink lemonade and iced tea), and 20-ounce drinks and Gatorade are $1.59. I had water.
The damage: $22.76
Next time ... The Philly Plate ($9) — steak or chicken with cheese over a bed of macaroni salad, onion rings and french fries, smothered in hot sauce and served with an Amoroso roll. But I'll have to go on a diet first.