- Alex Springer
I'm always grateful when people move to Utah and decide to bring their favorite foods along with them. For example, Anthony Duran opened Fat Boy Phillies (5823 S. State Street, 801-261-0313, facebook.com/FatBoysUtah) two years ago because he's in love with an American classic—the Philly cheesesteak sandwich. This East Coast staple has a decent foothold here in the Beehive State, but proper cheesesteak sandwiches remain rare enough to earn special consideration. Fat Boy Phillies is unique because it's one of the only local joints that uses the traditional Philly cheesesteak combo of sliced ribeye, melty cheese and grilled peppers as the focal point for its entire menu.
For those who haven't delved deeply into the art of cheesesteak sandwiches, the whole concept may appear disarmingly simple. When you're working with something that has been a bona fide crowd-pleaser for nearly a century, however, it's best not to make assumptions. Fat Boy Phillies is a good example of capitalizing on the cheesesteak's versatility to expand its menu. When it first opened, diners could only get three different sandwiches, along with a cheeseburger. With a bit of time and experience under their belt, the restaurant has taken their cheesesteak recipe and created several exciting variations on their original theme.
Before accurately developing an opinion about Fat Boy Phillies' more creative sandwiches, one must start at the beginning with the foundational Philly Steak ($10). Though you can get a decent variety of melty cheeses on your sandwich, the only way to experience the true Philly nature of this sandwich is to get it loaded with Cheese Whiz, or Whiz as they call it. It also comes with grilled peppers, onions and mushrooms, which is another tradition of the craft. I'm typically a provolone kind of guy when it comes to cheesesteaks, but there is something to be said about the salty excess that comes from throwing a shockingly yellow swatch of Cheese Whiz to the sandwich. Its viscosity coats the entire sandwich, infusing every bite with processed cheese goodness. I remain a provolone purist, but I can totally understand why Whiz is the Philly tradition.
With the Philly Steak under your belt, you can begin to see the method to Fat Boy Phillies' menu. Each additional item builds upon the Philly foundation in interesting and surprisingly sophisticated ways. My favorite variations are the chipotle ($11) and the garlic ($11)—both preserve the traditional Philly framework, but with the addition of some dynamite flavors that are even better when combined with cheesesteak. Apart from being a match made in alliterative heaven, the chipotle cheesesteak invites the smoky flavors and slow burning heat of chipotle peppers to party with the "in" crowd. I've always felt that traditional cheesesteak sandwiches could use more kick, and that's what you get with this sweet little number. The flavors that garlic imparts to the cheesesteak are exactly what you'd expect; garlic and ribeye will always be gastronomic BFFs. Honestly, it's one of those combos that should have worked its way into the cheesesteak genealogy years ago.
Establishing their street cred with traditional cheesesteaks over the past two years has given the team at Fat Boy Phillies enough artistic leeway to make some radical changes to the game they grew up on. If one is so inclined, they can make any Philly on the menu into a Fat Boy, which makes your sandwich into the proud owner of a homemade spicy sausage for a dollar more. In all my Philly cheesesteak research, I've never heard of anyone bold enough to add Italian sausage to the mix. Philly purists might clutch their pearls with Whiz-covered fingertips at the notion, but why are any of us here if we don't step up and challenge social constructs every now and again? The sausage in question feels right at home with the other members of the menu. It's plump, piping hot and just spicy enough to keep you from overlooking its presence.
If the idea of adding sausage to your cheesesteak sandwich is anathema, you may want to skip the King of Steaks ($20) altogether—if not, prepare to be amazed. Named with a clever nod to Philadelphia's own Pat's King of Steaks, the fabled genesis point of the Philly cheesesteak sandwich as we know it, this monstrous sandwich defies tradition to an obscene degree—and I love everything about it. If the twenty-dollar price point didn't tip you off, this sandwich redefines the term "fully loaded." It's got everything a regular Philly has, plus two additional cheeses, sausage and bacon. The first bite is so packed with salty, melty, meaty flavor that it's hard to fully process. As you work your way through, however, you start to see that the genius of this sandwich comes from the small moments when the exact right combo of meats and cheeses sets fire to your taste buds.
The Philly cheesesteak sandwich is sought after by those craving something lavish and excessive for lunch. Fat Boy Phillies will satisfy that primal need, but it's also ready to take on anyone whose definition of excessive is slightly more aggressive. They don't call that thing the King of Steaks for nothing.