Review: Balboa’s Cheesesteaks

So, after the minor comment war after I panned Balboa’s at Taste of Cincinnati, Terry and I decided that we had to try Balboa’s in the restaurant, under their normal conditions. We decided, actually, to do it twice– once during the day, and once during their special evening hours.

The first time, Terry went during the day. He got what he would normally order in Philadelphia (he spent the better part of several summers in Philadelphia a few years ago). He got a cheeseteak with provolone and tomato sauce (he corrects me: “Steak, provolone, sauce, fried onions.” Okay, then.). It was towards the end of lunchtime, with no wait. It was, in his words, “Okay, at best”. He commented that the bread was still a little stale. The trouble might be getting the Amoroso’s rolls here– if they’re baked in Philadelphia, they’re a day old at best. If the dough has been frozen, that might compromise the quality as well. There was something off a bit about the meat– we can’t quite figure out what’s wrong, though we have our (unprovable) theory. He left me half the sandwich, which greeted me on my kitchen counter when I got home from work that day (accompanied by a voice mail hoping that the cats didn’t get to it). I took a couple of bites– it wasn’t bad cold, but not anything to write home about. I don’t think I finished it.

A couple of weekends ago, we found ourselves out late on a Saturday night and determined that it was the perfect time for both of us to try one fresh, together. The line was enormous– we waited for 45 minutes. Several people actually left while we were there because the wait was so long. Problem? Not nearly enough ovens for the pizza. The guy behind the counter said that they weren’t used to this many people. Most people were ordering the pizza, which were made individually and by hand to order. I think that perhaps there is a way to roll out the crust in advance– this is what took most of the time. Since the pizza was so labor-intensive, there were fewer people working the sandwich line than there might have been. We– or really, Terry, as I was instructed to grab a table to spare my feet from standing forever– ordered two cheesesteaks, prepared the same way as he ordered a week or two before.

I may need to try the pizza, because even fresh, these really weren’t worth the wait. The beef was bland, the sauce had a distinct tinned taste, and the bread was again a little stale. Terry is a bit more positive about them than I am, but I just don’t get it. I would, however, like to try the pizza– they looked cheesy and delicious. The next time we find ourselves out that late, we’ll try the pizza.
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