Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Philly West hides in plain sight, behind an unassuming storefront on Westwood Boulevard, just south of Santa Monica Boulevard. Inside is a little bit of the East Coast, specifically Philadelphia, transported to Los Angeles. Philly West is both a restaurant and bar, although it should be noted that it is more of a beer spot than a cocktail joint. The service is friendly and on both of my visits, most of the customers appeared to be regulars. It kind of felt like Cheers, if Cheers had been a cross between a more casual restaurant and a sports bar.
On my first visit, I had to get a Philly cheese steak. The cheese steaks are served with grilled onions and marinara sauce, but I asked them to hold the sauce. The cheese steak comes with white American cheese although for $0.50 you can upgrade to provolone or mozzarella. The sandwich is served on a hoagie roll and was delicious and put the truck versions to shame. The cheese was there in ample quantity, was melted and well distributed in the sandwich. The meat did not have to resort to asian seasonings to be flavorful. All of this for only $4.75. For $2.25 more you can ask for double meat. I'm looking at you Midtown Lunch.
The fries are described as "cut fresh from 'real potatoes', with skin on" and are some of the best in Los Angeles. They are thick fries but not quite as large as steak fries and the exterior has a nice crunch. The potato skin gives them an extra bit of texture as well. With some salt and ketchup a thing of beauty. ($1.25 small / $1.75 large).
I'd read positive reports online about the burger at Philly West, so returned to get more of those fries and to sample the burger, which is also served on a hoagie roll. It is half a pound of charbroiled ground beef with lettuce, tomatoes, grilled onions and mayonnaise. I asked them to hold the toppings and had mine with just ketchup. Is it a contender for the best burger in the city? No. But its only $4.95, there is free parking in back and no wait for a table. They also have Fat Tire, Anchor Steam, Sierra Nevada and Angel City on tap as well as Guinness and Newcastle; not a bad selection for a local spot.
To remind Philadelphians in exile of home, the dessert of choice is Tastykake, the signature Philly chocolate cupcakes. The package contains three tastycakes and I don't think I'll rush to have them again, although I did eat them all in one sitting. ($2).
Overall I really enjoyed my visits to Philly West. It is unpretentious, serves good food at reasonable prices and is the kind of place where the waitress will likely remember your name when you return. There are likely more hidden gems to discover on the brief menu, perhaps in the Hoagie section which I have yet to explore. Philly West deserves a place in the Westside firmament and I'd recommend it without hesitation for anyone looking for a casual spot to grab a bite at fair prices, satisfy their cheese steak craving, or simply grab a beer and watch the game.
Philly West: 1870 Westwood Blvd @ Santa Monica Blvd. Phone: (310) 474-9787. Website: phillywestbarandgrill.com