The Jalen Special at FoodChasers' Kitchen in Elkins Park comes with mayo, Cooper Sharp, and fried onions (Zachary Moser for Billy Penn)

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It’s best to call ahead at FoodChasers’ Kitchen. Even a table for one can take close to an hour for walk-ins at the Elkins Park restaurant. 

That’s what Jalen Hurts’ agent reportedly did, dialing up the spot in advance of the Eagles’ NFC Championship game to prep them for a post-win visit from the MVP-caliber quarterback, who has his own cheesesteak on the menu.

Located just north of Philadelphia on Montgomery Avenue, the restaurant is owned by twin sisters Maya and Kala Johnstone, who were both formerly principals in the Philly School District. Their restaurant generated some buzz when it opened in late 2021, as the women transitioned their successful pandemic catering business into a brick-and-mortar operation.

But things really took off after Hurts visited in July 2022. The QB stepped behind the grill for a Pepsi commercial — and the popularity of the Black-owned business soared.

During the shoot last summer, the Johnstones introduced Hurts to the beauty of a real cheesesteak, and he devised a signature take on the sandwich.

Naturally, we had to try it.

FoodChasers’ Kitchen sits on the corner of a triangle-shaped block. The resultant interior layout is a small, three-sided room that seats around 30 people. On the wall are blown-up food photos from the @foodchasers Instagram — the sisters were early influencers on the platform, and their travel and food account has more than 100k followers, while @foodchasers_restaurant sits at a respectable 14k. 

FoodChasers’ Kitchen at 7852 Mongtomery Ave. in Elkins Park (Zachary Moser for Billy Penn)

As tough as a table may be to snag, FoodChasers’ Kitchen has removed almost every other aspect that necessitates waiting. Following a fast-casual format, diners order and pay at the register, grab a number, and head back to the dining room to await the food. 

The Jalen Special consists of seasoned steak, fried onions, Cooper Sharp cheese, and mayonnaise. They were out of the customer favorite “Uptown Fries,” so we settled for the regular, seasoned version. 

Be prepared for big portions; nearly every customer there asked for a doggie bag before leaving. Cut in half, the Jalen Special ($14.75) barely fit on the long white plate it was served on. 

Some connoisseurs resist adding mayo to a hot sandwich, but Hurts of course has the right — and it works. It ends up tasting like a second type of cheese, and gives each bite a delicious tang, while keeping the steak drippings from soaking too far into the bread, which is as soft as any you’ll find wrapping a cheesesteak.

The steak itself is finely chopped and generously stacked, but not to a fault: the FoodChasers’ chefs don’t make the well-intentioned mistake of overstuffing their sandwiches so half the filling is on your plate before you can even take a bite. The pieces that do fall away need a spoon rather than a fork to scoop up, the meat is diced so thinly. 

If you want to add ketchup — or better yet, Louisiana Hot Sauce with Jalen Hurts’ face on the label — just wander over to the middle of the room and grab a bottle, along with salt and pepper. 

The fries might have benefitted from being smothered in mozzarella (that’s what the “Uptown” version has) but they were still still delicious, each thick slice of potato fully dusted with the reddish paprika-like coating. 

With an atmosphere as welcoming and congenial as a sit-down restaurant, you might find yourself waiting for the check to arrive after you finish your meal — until you remember you already paid at the start.

If there’s one knock on paying in advance it’s that when you see the server bring a bowl of golden fried catfish atop a helping of grits to the table next to you, you can’t lean back and order another round.

FoodChasers’ Kitchen is owned by twin sisters Maya and Kala Johnstone (Zachary Moser for Billy Penn)