No Pucks Given: Arena Food Reviews "The Fishtown Steak"
The excitement was palpable. The Flyers were getting ready to square off against the lowly San Jose Sharks, a game which they won 4-2. I was preparing for our typical setup of “The Press Row Show” when I saw this tweet from the fine folks at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA:
🚨New cheesesteak at Wells Fargo Center🚨
-House-made lager cheese sauce
-Freshly ground pork
📍Section 110 pic.twitter.com/Wm2KilgobD
— Wells Fargo Center (@WellsFargoCtr) February 25, 2020
Well, WFC Twitter account, you had my curiosity at “pretzel roll”, but you had my attention at “house-made lager cheese sauce”. So I did what anyone in my position would do. I tried to get the attention of our fearless leader Kyle Scott in Slack, often an exercise in futility, but just one hour and nineteen minutes after I asked him if I should review the new sandwich, he responded, “Yes Russ. Are you there now?” Of course I was. I was at Wells Fargo Center in body, but my mind and spirit were with this culinary creation. Would the caramelized onions be diced, as they often are on WFC cheesesteaks, or would they show up in rings? Could the lager cheese be that different from the cheese whiz you find on the typical sandwich? Would the ground pork have awkward chunks with casing? Would that gorgeous pretzel roll hold up to the various juices that often render a hoagie roll useless by the time you take your seat? Most importantly, would the sandwich match the description?
I decided that in the interest of fairness, I should include my culinary comrade on press row, Anthony SanFilippo, to accompany me on this journey to Section 110 to answer those questions and more. The results were truly surprising.
We hope you enjoy this inaugural episode of “No Pucks Given: Arena Food Reviews”.
The first thing that stood out -other than the staggering $11.50 price tag- was the glaring difference between the item description in the Wells Fargo Center tweet and the concession stand screen.
As mentioned above, the WFC tweet claimed there would be:
- Pretzel roll (✓)
- Caramelized onions (✓)
- House-made lager cheese sauce (✓)
- Freshly ground pork (X)
The Concession Board
- Pretzel bun (✓)
- Onion Jam (X)
- Lager Cheese (✓)
- Sweet Italian Crumbled Sausage (✓)
This was a pretzel vessel masquerading as a roll. It was tasty and salted, but it was the size of a bun that had been rolled out to the size of a Wawa shorti. That’s not a good look when you’re paying over $12 with tax. There was no onion jam. These were the chopped up caramelized onions you’d get on any cheesesteak, certainly not like what was pictured in the tweet. The lager cheese sauce did have a different flavor profile to the whiz you can get at the same stand. The meat is the real issue. This wasn’t freshly ground pork. Could you add spices to make freshly ground pork taste like sweet sausage? Sure. The texture, however was chopped up sausage through and through.
What we learned as part of our journalistic process is that while feedback on “The Fishtown Cheesesteak” has been positive, people hate waiting for it. We were informed that each sandwich is made-to-order and could take upwards of five minutes from purchase to departure. If you’re trying to beat the crowd during a stoppage, you could very well miss a much larger chunk of the action.
This is a fork-and-knife endeavor. It’s an absolutely messy yet worthwhile experience. The issue, of course, is that not everyone has a table in front of them to eat the sandwich. Load up on plenty of napkins.
$11.50 is too much to charge. If this were a Wawa classic-sized hoagie, Anthony and I agreed it would be a fair price. You could argue that this sandwich could go for around $8.50 at your local gastropub and that $3 isn’t much of a markup for an in-arena food. That’s fine, but when coupled with the wait and lack of convenience to eat it, $11.50 is too high of a price to pay in good faith.
We decided that if the WFC concessions decision-makers were to take our advice -bigger sandwich, fix the inconsistent marketing, make it a less-involved eating process- this would be a 4-star offering and one we’d recommend in earnest. Without those changes:
Russ: 3 1/4 stars
Anthony: 3 stars