Fresh off surviving the Mayan apocalypse (Ha! Now I don't have to watch the movie 2012), I was bored and had nothing to do. Can you blame me for not having made plans for the day after the end of the world? Anyways, one thing that didn't end was my hunger, so I decided to walk on over to H Street and see if the newly opened Taylor Charles Steak & Ice was still standing.
Opened by the same guys from Philly that own Taylor Gourmet, Taylor Charles Steak & Ice is decidedly South Philly. It's as close to an authentic Philly cheesesteak experience as you'll find outside of Pennsylvania. And why wouldn't it be? Co-owner Casey Patten's from Philadelphia, and he hangs out in the restaurant regularly to chat with customers and offer them samples of water ice and zucchini fritters.
The decor is one of a kind. Well-done graffiti adorns not only the walls, but the ceilings too. And yes, those are real streetlamps used for lighting up the joint. The little touches, like soft wax-covered metal picnic tables, a standing bar by the main window, and a chain fence at the back add enough grit to the otherwise clean-cut feel of the place to maybe convince you that you're in the right neighborhood for a historically blue-collar food.
Be sure to study up on the lingo if you're gonna order here. "Ribeye, provolone, wit" gets you the classic - a cheesesteak with original provolone cheese and grilled onions. Of course, if you're of the mind that Cheez Whiz is more authentic, that's cool too - they make their own white cheddar cheez whiz in-house. Customize it however you want - ribeye, thinly-sliced chicken, or portabellos, mushrooms, peppers, pepperoni, even hot sauce - although some of the toppings will cost you extra. They've thought of everything that I wouldn't be surprised if they used Amoroso rolls to hold the sandwiches together.
I put American in my sandwich as it's a great compromise between actual cheese and the creaminess of whiz. Add in some mushrooms and peppers, and the above is what you get. It was delicious, everything melding together into one big chewy, gooey hurricane that leaves your taste buds reeling after the first bite. The best part for me, though, was the fact that this sandwich, almost universally known for being a giant grease bomb, didn't feel that way at all here. And hours later, I'm not regretting my decision to eat it. Somehow Casey and the crew have figured out how to retain all the best parts of the cheesesteak without the annoyingly disgusting amounts of grease that'll keep you searching for napkins after every bite. And the bread? It didn't get in the way, which is as good a review as I'll give for bread. I honestly can't wait to try their chicken and portabello, wit whiz!
There were just too many tasty sounding sides to try, but I went with the staple Old Bay fries, and they were top notch. The fries were supremely crispy, and if you like Old Bay (who doesn't?) you'll have nothing to complain about here as they dump the stuff on there pretty liberally.
Oh, and the "ice" part of the restaurant's name stands for water ice, a delicious treat that you should definitely make room for when you go. It's somewhere between a slush and italian ice, served in a cup, and you don't eat it with a spoon, so keep some napkins handy. The flavors rotate every few months, but ask Casey for a taste of the lemon (it's always there) when you go. It's as tasty as it is elegant in its simplicity, and it's a refreshing way to end your meal.
For giving me a great meal to celebrate surviving the end of the world, Taylor Charles Steak & Ice earns 4.5 Cherries.