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Albert Virs, Serafina Jahries and Mark Stoner at Cheesesteak Grill in Oceanside. Photo by David Boylan
ColumnsLick the Plate

Lick the Plate: Get your Philly fix at Cheesesteak Grill

First off, I must apologize to those of you native to Philadelphia for the blatant misuse of the word Philly for the sake of a catchy headline. I realized that to call it a Philly is a sure sign of a tourist or someone simply uneducated on this beautiful concoction, and that those in the know simply call it a cheesesteak. The use of Philly Cheesesteak together, while not encouraged, is tolerated. My point is, cheesesteak is what they are called and when you go to the Cheesesteak Grill in Oceanside, ordering it that way should gain you a nod of approval from the staff.

One more thing before I get into the meat of this column, so to speak. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I’ve never been a fan of diets. I’ve found that my calories in/calories out mantra combined with regular exercise and around 70% of those calories in being healthy with the balance left for indulging has served me well. The Cheesesteak Grill definitely fits into that 30% indulging part of my life and in fact has earned a permanent spot there. 

That came to mind as I was scanning their menu and did not see a salad or anything resembling one on it. I posed the question to owner Mark Stoner and he replied, “We don’t have many salad eaters at the grill, but we have quite a few ‘no bread, eaters. For them we added ‘The Cheesesteak Bowl’ that has become popular very quickly. It comes with steak or chicken, any vegetables (lettuce, tomato, peppers, mushrooms, onions) with your choice of cheese.”

So there you go, come to this joint hungry and leave your guilt trip and food restrictions at home … except for you gluten-free folks but honestly, a key element of the cheesesteak is the bread so, well, I’m just going to leave it at that.

Let’s talk cheesesteak and what makes a great one. A killer cheesesteak comes together with freshly cut rib-eye steak on a toasted Italian roll with a little crunch to it “wit” or “witout” grilled onions as they say. There are three cheese choices, white American, Provolone or Cheese Whiz and plain with no cheese is accepted as well. This is how hard-core Philly folks like their cheesesteaks and it’s really quite simple, meat, cheese and onions.

At The Cheesesteak Grill all of their meat is fresh. Rib eye rolls are cut every morning. The chicken breast is cut daily as any cheesesteak is available with that as well — for whoever would be ordering that way. I mean really, not sure orders a chicken cheesesteak?  They have fresh Italian rolls delivered daily and the roll plays a huge part in a solid cheesesteak. Many cheesesteak shops on the West Coast, for the sake of “authenticity” use a frozen Italian roll shipped from Philadelphia and stored in cold storage by the big food delivery companies and sold to shops. According to owner Mark Stoner they were experiencing a lot of problems with the frozen bread starting to crumble and lose flavor due to the extended storage. Mark found a local San Diego bread source for fresh local delivery and I’m with him on that call. What good is authenticity if freshness and texture are compromised? They offer up 14 varieties of cheesesteaks so there is something for everyone but honestly, if I’m hitting this place up I’m keeping it simple.

On my second visit Mark strongly suggested his signature burger, the “Stoner Burger” as they call it.  Let’s just say this monster along with just about anything on the menu would really hit the spot after indulging in some of the now legal weed that tends to produce such munchies. I mean really, I’m not hitting the local vegan joint with that kind of appetite. 

Anyway, the Stoner Burger is made with fresh ground brisket and short rib, bacon, beer battered onion rings, house-made Sriracha mayo, grilled onions, American cheese, lettuce and tomato. And as Mark says “you gotta be hungry to chow this down.” I would agree with that and this is a very good burger.

I also tried the bacon cheese fries that again, would have been perfect later in the day but weighed a bit heavy for lunch. Next time I’m splitting that order to avoid the food coma. Other menu items of note include a selection of East Coast-styled hoagies and a grilled pastrami and a Ruben.

Mark was born in San Diego and lived most of his life here, although he spent some time in northern New Jersey and fell in love with East Coast food. He grew up with an Italian grandmother that immigrated to New York and after becoming a teacher moved to San Diego who loved loved to cook. He spent a fair amount of time as a young boy cooking with her in the kitchen. 

As a kid Mark’s mom would take him to her job at the restaurant she worked at in El Cajon where the chef would sometimes put him to work in the kitchen washing dishes and prepping. He has enjoyed being in the kitchen ever since.

So, there you have it folks, when it’s time to indulge, put The Cheesesteak Grill on your list of places to get on that!

Find them at 1771 Oceanside Boulevard in Oceanside or

1 comment

Zalle Strom February 22, 2020 at 2:46 pm

Whiz Wit!

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