Shortly after the world was graced with the presence of Gritty, food homages to the new Flyers mascot-slash-personification of the Philly attitude began popping up around town.
You can now lay your hands on Gritty ice cream sandwiches, Gritty donuts, Gritty cupcakes, Gritty mac ‘n’ cheese, Gritty soup, Gritty water ice, Gritty beer and more. This being Philadelphia, however, the most representative entries into this new pantheon of edible fandom are the ones that come between bread.
Of the three notable sandwich specials out there — each appropriately tinged with orange — which one is the best? Which produces the “Ewwww, really? Oh actually, YUM” response that embodies the mascot’s terror-turned-adoration effect?
Only one way to find out: A Gritty sandwich showdown.
That’s right, we’re getting our hands dirty — and you’re invited to join. At 11:30 a.m on Saturday, Oct. 20, a panel of judges will gather at the University City location of City Tap House to determine for all time which tribute to Philadelphia’s new titian titan stands above.
Folks who come out to cheer their favorite gritwich over brunch will be treated to free samples of the sandwiches in question, plus $4 beers from Victory Brewing.
Who are the contenders? We’ll run them down in the order they showed up on the scene.
First to pay respects to Philly’s favorite monster was Michael Strauss of Mike’s BBQ in South Philly.
His offering (somewhat unimaginatively called “The Gritty,” c’mon Mike we know you’re creative) sees house-smoked brisket turned into a cheesesteak with fried onions and Cooper Sharp whiz-like sauce. On top of that are piled lettuce, tomatoes, special sauce and potato sticks, all packed into a seeded roll.
“At first sight you’re thinking WTF,” Strauss wrote of the offering on Instagram, “then you start to warm to the craziness.”
He’s got an excellent point about Philly’s initial reaction to this Frankensteinian combination, which is basically a cheesesteak hoagie — already a point of controversy in these parts — with fried potatoes inside the bun, aka something common in Pittsburgh, one of our biggest hockey rivals.
Joe’s Steaks doesn’t have to try very hard to get on the Gritty wavelength. It’s iconic — the Tacony shop on Torresdale Avenue has been considered a top cheesesteak destination for decades — but it’s also not afraid of to try new things.
Since Joe’s Fishtown outpost opened a few years back, management has added vegan and gluten-free menu items and late-night hours, resulting in the cult of Joe’s welcoming a whole new crowd.
And in time for the Flyers opening night, they announced they were “Gettin’ Gritty Wit It” with a new cheesesteak — this one with Whiz, raw onions, fries and Cheetos inside the roll.
“It’s disgustingly delicious,” Joe’s wrote on Instagram, and they’ve got an excellent point. French fries inside a sandwich is one thing, but Cheetos? Between the orange powder goatee and the raw-onion dragon breath, this creation is a monster in its own right.
City Tap House
The third entry comes courtesy of Saturday’s host. City Tap House, a concept that’s somehow found a magic sweet spot between craft beer destination and sports bar, is the largest of all the contending restaurants, with a full kitchen and multiple chefs on staff.
So it makes sense that their offering (also called “The Gritty”) is the most complex of the three. Another thing that sets it apart: it’s not a cheesesteak.
Instead, scrapple is the main ingredient, here buttressed by tater tot hash, peppers and two fried eggs inside a soft Italian roll. The orange-ness — and feistiness — of the namesake is represented by the Herr’s Red Hot potato chips, served on the side. A portion of proceeds from the sandwich’s sale benefits the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation.
Also elevating this special: it comes with booze. Specifically, with a pounder of Victory’s Hip Czech Lager, a special edition brew created for hockey season.
So, which one will it be? Who will be able to lay claim to the Grittiest sandwich of them all?
In addition to a person from Billy Penn and Victory, Saturday’s judging panel will include a representative from Snider Hockey. There’s also the potential for a Flyers alumnus to join — as well as the possibility that Gritty himself will show up.
Now, we’re not guaranteeing the Medusa-maned mascot will make an appearance, but he has definitely been invited. And we know he loves attention, so the fact that NBC10 will be showcasing the showdown on TV might actually get him on board.
Either way, Gritty, be happy knowing that this weekend, we’ll be eating our hearts out in your honor.