I've been meaning to write about this for a while, and I honestly thought I would forget about the topic. However, the idea keeps popping up in my mind, so I've decided to purge these thoughts into an electronic forum. So here it goes: I hate Phlly cheesesteaks.
Up until 2004, I didn't have an opinion of Philly cheesesteaks. My knowledge of the sandwich came from the hit television show "Fresh Prince Of Bel Aire" where Will Smith portrayed a character from Philadelphia. The subject of Philly cheesesteaks came up often enough for me to remember. I'm guessing it was attempt to give Will Smith some Philadelphia street cred, but I think we can all agree that any street cred Mr. Smith may have had went out the window with such hits as "MIB: Men in Black," "MIB II: Men in Black II," and "I, Robot." Does anyone else remember that crap video for the "Men in Black" movie theme song? God, someone stick a fork in that guy. Is he even really from Philadelphia? Ah fuck it. I don't care.
What was I talking about? Oh yeah. Phillly cheesesteaks.
It was February of 2004. I needed a part time job to fund an adventure I was planning to take just after I graduated from college, and it just so happened that a restaurant was opening up in the building I lived in. "How convenient would it be to take an elevator three floors down and be at work," I thought. I'm guessing this was the laziness in me. Why should I walk more than ten feet to a job I didn't want any way? If it's not by elevator, I didn't want any part of it. So luckily for me, PepperJax Grill was opening up on the ground floor of my building, and more importantly, they were willing to hire me.
Now let me explain a few things:
1. I was desperate for money. I had credit card debt to pay off (note: I still have credit card debt to pay off). I needed to make a fair sum of money to not only save for my trip but to pay off money I owed Capital One, Bank of America, etc.
2. I knew I only had roughly around four months left in Lawrence, Kansas, so I wasn't really concerned with my image.
3. I didn't realize that i was this close to working in fast food until one day I realized I was standing over a fry machine wearing a sun visor, which matched my polo shirt, both emblazoned with the PepperJax Grill logo. Friends, It was a defnining moment in my life. I believe anyone about to graduate from college who finds themselves standing over a massive vat of boiling grease has the same thought: "OHMYFUCKINGODI'MMAKINGFRENCHFRIES!" It's a humbing experience. You never really forget that feeling.
So it was at this job that I learned to hate Philly cheesesteaks. The cheesesteak was the main item on the menu, which i found funny for multiple reasons.
A. The man who started the restaurant chain was from Nebraska, and his name is Gary Rohwer. He was a cowboy to be exact. He had invented a certain way to cut a piece of meat that allowed it to cook faster, thereby revolutionizing the meat cooking industry (and yes, that is a real industry. Go take an aspirin, I understand completely). I can't remember the guy's name, but he was a millionaire. (I've learned from the website that Gary has "several well-established sandwich shops in Philadelphia." Funny they never mentioned this to their employees...To see the full story behind PepperJax Grill, visit http://www.pepperjaxgrill.com/story.htm)
The cheesesteaks served at PepperJax Grill had no tie what so ever to Philadelphia. I don't even know if this Gary Rohwer had ever been to Philadelphia. The meat came from the midwest, the buns from another random state, and the vegetables from Mexico I'm guessing. So our philly cheesesteaks were actually bastard cheesesteaks. No one really knew who their father was or where they came from. And this thought makes me happy.
Upon doing a Google search this evening, I learned that PepperJax Grill now has a website. On this website, they refer to Gary Rohwer as a "legend." All I have to say about this is that the man wore skin tight jeans and cowboy boots every day, and he had no idea how to make his own product. Legend? John Lennon was a legend. The Knights of the Round Table were legends. The man who revolutionized the partnership between the Philly cheesesteak and "casual-quick dining" a legend? Gag. Me. With. A. Spoon.
Instead of describing what the rest of the menu consisted of, I've taken the liberty of just posting it below. The online version of this menu can also be found here: http://www.pepperjaxgrill.com/menu.htm
Famous PhillyWhat legends are made of grilled to order and perfectly seasoned steak, chicken or veggies with loads of sautéed red or green peppers, onions and mushrooms taken right off the grill and piled over fresh cheese lining the inside of a hearth baked Italian roll. And if youre into messing with perfection, try any of our 40 additional fresh toppings to make it your own famous recipe.
Giant WrapOur wraps are made fresh to order starting with your choice of the finest steak, chicken, shrimp or veggies, seasoned and grilled to perfection with sautéed onions, peppers or mushrooms. Top that with vegetarian black or pinto beans, rice, fresh vegetables, salsa, sour cream, or any of our 40 different toppings. We wrap it up neatly in a jumbo flour tortilla, but thats where the neatness ends, because this is truly a knife and fork monstrosity.
Gourmet Rice BowlOur gourmet rice bowls start with a generous bowl of freshly steamed long grain rice, seasoned, then topped with grilled to order steak, chicken, shrimp or veggies, perfectly seasoned and sautéed with onions, peppers or mushrooms. Top that with vegetarian black or pinto beans, fresh vegetables, salsa, sour cream, or any of PepperJax special sauces for that extra kick you are looking for.
Fresh SaladFor the health and carb conscious, try our perfectly seasoned and grilled to order steak, chicken, shrimp or veggies over a generous bed of mixed greens. Top it off with any or our 40 different fresh toppings, sauces and dressings for a meal that is much more than just a salad.
First off, I feel that any claim to any of the food at this restaurant being healthy is ridiculous, and even Helen Keller would notice how outrageous this claim was...and I'm talking Helen Keller without her helper.
For instance, the rice bowl comes with a pound of rice. Yeah, you heard me. A FUCKING POUND OF RICE! Who needs that? Who needs a pound of rice?! Then add on top of that a huge portion of the meat of your choice, vegetables, and then all the unhealthy condiments, and not only do you have a meal big enough to feed a family of four, but you've got a meal that is only being consumed by one PepperJax Grill customer!
After spending four months as a PepperJax employee, I jumped ship. I had a month left until graduation, I had moved out of my loft by then, and was now living with my good friend Diane, sleeping on her couch. I no longer could rely on the elevator to take me to work. Instead, i was expected to walk six blocks to get there. So I stopped going. I hated that job more than any other job I've ever had. Having to seriously ask "Would you like fries with that?" is single handedly the most humiliating experience of my entire life. Call me a snob, but I didn't go to college to serve up this shit.
Philly cheesesteaks remind me of my lowest point. Philly cheesesteaks remind of how much I gave up to achieve a goal that I was never going to obtain. Philly cheesesteaks are the modern day Holocaust. They make people fat, they cause heart attacks...ok...maybe not the modern day Holocaust, but they are pretty close. Give them a few more years, and they'll wipe enough people for someone to start noticing.
To wrap this all up, and just in case you are as irritated with the Philly cheesesteak as much as I am, PepperJax Grill has actually posted a testimonials section on their website. Now lets all sit down together...and imagine the kind of people who submit testiomonials to a pseudo-Philly cheesesteak restaurant's website. Have you barfed on your keyboard yet? I have. Enjoy!
"How fun! I enjoyed watching my food being grilled right in front of me!"
"You won't leave hungry, the portions are HUGE!!"
"The rice bowls and salads are a healthy alternative to sandwiches."
"Probably the most overstuffed Phillies I have ever seen. Quite delicious mixture of meat and spices. If you get a double meat, get a lot of napkins, it can be a bit messy. It's worth a visit!"
"The food is phenomenal! If you are in the mood to be impressed, stop in and let the guys behind the counter wow you."
"Great place for lunch. The Steak Phillies are awesome. Try the variety of sauces, offered both at the condiment bar and on the table."
"My family and I are absolutely addicted to this place. We all have different favorites and I haven't tried anything here that I didn't love. Besides great food, I love that its a smoke-free environment."