Meaty and cheesy with just enough bread to soak up the savory overload, cheesesteaks don’t miss when it comes to satisfaction. But the sandwich does lack one thing: shareability.
If you’ve tried to split one among more than two people, you’re familiar with the problem. Cutting it into portions makes each piece a mess waiting to happen, with high chances the meat won’t make it to your mouth — whether or not you do the Philly lean. Swapping the roll around also isn’t that appealing, considering the wet, drippiness of the eating end.
Philly Pretzel Factory to the rescue. New on the locally-based chain’s menu is a snack that combines two of Philadelphia’s signature foods in a portable, shareable bite.
Called mini cheesesteaks, the 1½-inch diameter pretzel shperes have a soft exterior packed to the hilt with frizzled beef and cheese. Introduced on Nov. 11, the new item is now available across all 170-plus locations, the company says.
We got our hands on an early batch — and the Billy Penn/WHYY/PlanPhilly newsroom consensus is the little balls of umami are pretty much winners.
“I’d eat them anywhere, they’re great,” was the unabashed rave from afternoon radio host Dave Heller. Having scarfed down no less than eight during the course of the taste-testing, this writer concurs.
“Perfect for a tailgate,” offered South Jersey reporter Nick Pugliese.
Like regular cheesesteaks, the pretzel bites best eaten warm, something that can be achieved with a quick 10 seconds in the microwave. (Just make sure they’re not too hot before biting in, so you don’t burn the roof of your mouth.)
However, “they’re also good cold,” confirmed web producer Emily Scott, a sentiment echoed by reporter Ximena Conde and others who didn’t feel like making a two-minute walk to the kitchen before popping them in their mouths.
One quibble that surfaced multiple times was too much rock salt on the surface. That’s easily mitigated with a few brushes of the finger, a familiar move for many Philadelphians.
Are they the perfect hangover cure? There was some disagreement on that front, with reporters Jake Blumgart (“they’d make me feel sick”) and Peter Crimmins (“definitely hangover food”) taking opposite sides of the fence.
Caveat: these aren’t about to replace your favorite cheesesteak. The meat and cheese interior was frequently referred to as “mushy.”
And the Sriracha mustard developed to go along with the snack was not a favorite — “It overpowers the cheesesteak,” Pugliese said — so you might want to opt for marinara or cheese sauce instead. (Pro tip: avoid the honey mustard dip if you don’t want a calorie bomb.)
But when you’re looking for a party snack or something to share, this is a solid new option.
Philly Pretzel Factory sells the bites for around $4 per four-pack, and they’re usually available at stores starting around 11 a.m. You can also order catering trays starting at $40 for two dozen.