Just as my ex-New Yorker husband, Jon, is always searching for great bagels in the Bay Area, he is equally determined to find great cheese steaks around here. (He went to college in Philadelphia.) When you live in the suburbs, you learn that some of the best eateries are located in bland strip malls -- and Jersey Joe's is no exception.
On Friday night, we took El Camino Real north until we saw the Jersey Joe's sign by the road. There's not much to say about the exterior, except that there are a few tables set up on the "sidewalk." Inside, you order at the counter and take a seat until they call your number. The decor includes plenty of sports memorabilia and items invoking NY, NJ and Philadelphia (of course). There's a big-screen TV, as well as several smaller, ceiling-mounted sets.
Since the restaurant wasn't too busy when we walked in, it only took about ten minutes for our order to come up. We quickly got to work. Mmmm... tasty! After inhaling half of his cheese steak, Jon gave it an enthusiastic thumbs-up, but did add that the bread is "different" -- and by that, I think he meant they aren't crusty rolls. Jersey Joe's uses "special rolls," and they are indeed special in that they are more like bread pockets. I love this idea -- even if it makes for a slightly less authentic East Coast-style cheese steak -- because you don't have any meat falling out of the bottom. And believe me, these cheese steaks are SO stuffed full of goodness (mine had thinly sliced steak, melted cheese, grilled onions and mushrooms) that it certainly would have spilled out into my basket if it weren't for the well-designed rolls. I only managed to finish half of my cheese steak, but Jon picked up the slack and ate his entire cheese steak plus my leftover.
Oh, and in case you like your cheese steaks with Cheez Wiz (a la Pat's in Philly), you can ask for that instead of American, which is Jersey Joe's default cheese.
If you're not in the mood for a cheese steak, there are lots of other options on the menu -- including hoagies, burgers and wings. In addition to our cheese steaks, Jon and I ordered a side of fries (eh, just okay) and a chocolate milkshake (very good). The shake, which was made with Breyer's ice cream, was not too thick (you could use a straw) and not too sweet (Jon and I split the entire thing and didn't feel sick later).
Another thing this place has going for it: tabletop arcade games! So you can eat, drink and face-off in Ms. Pac-Man or Galaga. Aside from a couple of Tastykakes, what more could you ask for?
21 El Camino Real
San Carlos, CA
Note: Jersey Joe's is in the process of updating its web site. Some of the prices listed online are outdated.