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DINING: Jersey's Cafe satisfies a Jersey boy

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Dining - A&E

I’m not one of those Jersey guys who thinks that nobody west of Harrisburg, Pa., knows how to make a decent cheesesteak sandwich.

Dining A pickle and a side round off Jersey’s Café’s hefty cheesesteaks. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Sure, I was shocked when I moved here from the Garden State (quit laughing) and found Indianapolis eateries selling alleged “Philly-style” cheesesteaks with green pepper on them. But I spent enough time eating steak sandwiches all over the mid-Atlantic that I’ve come to respect variations. The kind of cheesesteak you get at Pat’s or Geno’s in South Philly, for instance, is very different from the suburban ones at Mama’s Pizzeria in Bala Cynwyd, Pa., or Gaetano’s in Willingboro, N.J. Heck, I used to get a chicken cheesesteak with barbecue sauce from a Korean street cart vendor outside my old office. Vive la cheesy difference.

So I didn’t go into Jersey’s Café (13710 N. Meridian St., Carmel, 846-7760) with a (pickle) chip on my shoulder. I just went in looking for some form of goodness that involved meat, melted cheese and a crunchy, soft roll.

And I’m happy to report that Jersey’s Café in Carmel would hold its own along any exit of the Garden State Parkway.

Before I get into specifics, let me offer a warning: This is one place where I say look at the menu before going in. Every sandwich on the menu has variations and each variation has its own name. Your head may well spin and your belly cry out while you try to sort out the differences, for instance, between a Piscataway Grinder and a Bridgewater Grinder or between a Red Sox Suck Chicken Cheesesteak and a Florham Park Cheesesteak.

We embraced Jersey’s Café’s gluttonous streak, diving into a Cherry Hill Cheesesteak ($8.99—all sandwiches include a wide range of sides, from sliced bananas and granola to mustard potato salad).

Yes, there was a satisfying steak sandwich in here—but it was gilded with sliced handmade meatballs and red sauce. It was impossible to eat, sandwich style, but the pleasure of alternating forkfuls of meatball and sliced steak, both bathed in provolone, was practically carnal for this carnivore. Oddly, the Giovanni da Verrazanno Cheesesteak ($8.99) featuring eggplant and Italian-seasoned steak worked better together. Roasted tomatoes and black olives accented.

You think those sound big? If you want to feed a whole offensive line, there’s The Eli No. 10 ($8.99), packing Italian roast beef, roasted red peppers, fried egg, fried potatoes, cole slaw, tomatoes and Redhot sauce—onto a nearly football-size roll.

Simpler sandwiches were equally sizable. The Chatham Meatball Nonie Grinder ($8.99) featured the aforementioned meatballs covered in lettuce, tomato, onion, oil and vinegar, and oregano. Half the toppings could easily be pushed aside to form a large salad and the handmade orbs were a bit undercooked, but the flavors still combined nicely. The Bada Bing Hot Hoagie ($8.99) found a nice marriage of red sauce, provolone cheese and chicken cutlet.

Dessert? Really?

Well, to complete the experience, pick up some salt water taffy, available for 10 cents a piece at the cash register. And, if you are from Jersey (or even eastern Pennsylvania), make sure to sign the already rapidly-filling-up banner by the rest rooms.

This Wildwood native did. With pride. And a full stomach. •

__________

First in a month-long look at restaurants within easy reach of Carmel’s new Palladium.
 

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  • Horrible Service at Jersey's Cafe
    We visited Jersey Cafe on Saturday, June 117, 2011. We waited 30 minutes to get in, another 30 minutes to get served and over an hour to get our order (2 simple sub/hogie sandwiches. We got no refills until we asked the server. We had to beg to get our check. The food was great like the Food Channel advertised, but the service was so HORRIBLE I would have walked out if I wasn't talked out of it by a family member. This place will go out of business unless some serious changes aren't made in the service department. I WOULD NOT SUGGEST ANYONE GO THERE IF YOU SEE THE PLACE FULL, OR FOLKS STANDING IN LINE. I hate to say this but the Jersey attitude of the employees of this cafe will ruin this business. I predict it within 6 to 12 months unless serious changes aren't made in the SERVICE deparment.
  • Maplewood Sloppy Joe
    Everywhere in the world, a sloppy joe is a loose meat sandwhich. In NJ, a sloppy joe is more like a Dagwood Sandwich. My mom in NJ always used to get them as a platter for special parties. So, I was so excited to see that the Jersey Cafe also had them. Try it, you will love it.
  • 9th & Passyunk
    I would agree this is the closest to a true Philly cheesesteak. I just ate there last week and tried the 9th & Passyunk, Jersey's version of Whiz Wit, and instantly reminded me of Pat's in Philly. The bread, onions, and cheese were spot it. I'll keep coming back
  • variaty
    You could eat at Jersey's Cafe everyday and no eat the same think twice. Never get bored with the menu and it is all great food. Love the homemade soups.
  • Maybe

    Well, some few places in Indianapolis can get somewhat close on the taste of the meat,
    BUT, no place has come anywhere near the correct texture or taste with the roll !
    We always thought it had something to do with the water from the Delaware river.
    Maybe we're in for a surprise at this location....

    PS: I would hate to be the one to tell Pat (wit or witout) that somebody is putting bananas on a Philly cheese steak !!
    Are youse talkin' ta me?
  • fraud
    As soon as you mentioned Geno's you lost all credibility. When it comes to good philly cheese steaks Geno's ranks at the bottom of the list. Don't get fooled by advertising. Go for the original "Pat's steaks, Jim's, Tony Lukes or a hundred other steak joints that are better

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