Far from the Italian market where the cheese steak was born, Mama's makes a magnificent sandwich. When I dined at this modest pizza parlor and sandwich shop in the company of Roadfood.com's Bruce Bilmes, Bruce declared his opinion that Mama's steaks are too masterly to deliver the raunch factor that is the soul of the more traditional version, as served, for instance, at Steve's Prince of Steaks.
It is true that Mama's cheese steaks tend to defy the proletarian nature of a street food sandwich most commonly made from stringy beef and Cheese Whiz. Good beef and a proprietary cheese mix (not Whiz, not even Provolone) are worked over thoroughly on the grill, causing the cheese nearly to vanish into the finished product, but saturate every bite. Onions are not cooked with the beef, which is the typical Philly way to do it. Instead, they are sautéed separately and added to the sandwich as it is assembled.
One thing that makes Mama's steaks extraordinary is the high-quality bread on which they are built. The same bread is used to envelop all the restaurant's superb hoagies, hot and cold. And be sure to pay attention to the "Extras" section of the menu. Here you will find sweet peppers and hot peppers that are freshly roasted in Mama's ovens – a magnificent garnish for almost any sandwich. One of these days, I will try one of Mama's pizzas. They look mighty good. But it's hard not to focus on a cheese steak so good that it sets the bar beyond all others.
"No sauce or pickles or peppers (although Mama's fresh-roasted hot peppers are wonderful): just a swirling confluence of beef and cheese and caramelized onions packed into a length of brawny fresh Italian bread. In my book, this is the ultimate cheese steak."
"Hoagies, garnished with crisp lettuce, sweet onions, tomatoes, and hot peppers are a major distraction from Mama's superb steaks. This is a classic Italian; other variations include roast beef, turkey, and tuna."
"Mama's is far from the neighborhoods in which cheese steaks typically thrive. But for those in search of greatness, it is worth any detour. "