Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Visit to The White House... Subs That Is

Some people celebrate their 40th birthday with elaborate parties featuring guests from all over the country. Some people take trips to exotic locales. Others get together with family and friends to toast their four decades on this Earth.

Me? I drive three hours to grab a cheesesteak and see Joan Jett.

It's fair to say that I loves me some cheesesteaks. That should be readily apparent from the myriad mentions, articles and reviews that pop up in this blog, the THG website, Yahoo group and print edition. Growing up in the Philly area, not loving cheesesteaks wasn't an option and though I was a picky eater I wasn't crazy.

So, when some of the finest cheesesteak minds in the world informed me that a great steak was just three hours up in the road in Atlantic City, I had to investigate further. I'm a purist when it comes to a Philly Cheesesteak (or PCS) and normally would poo-poo such talk, but these were people who take their PCS seriously, so I knew it was time to listen up and listen good.

Luckily, my PCS mania and love for Joan Jett happened to coincide perfectly with the female Chuck Berry and her band The Blackhearts headlining a gig at the House of Blues in support of her excellent new disc, 'Sinner.'

A quick call to Smile Hon editor WP Tandy ensured some companionship for the event and he even employed the services of the legendary Nemetz as an added bonus.

When the Saturday after Turkey Day rolled around I hopped in the car, cranked up the Underground Garage on Sirius and headed north to AC. Tandy and Nemetz had a day's head start on me and would be meeting at the Showboat Casino, home to the evening's show.

After suppressing the urge to play a little roulette before our trek I met up with Tandy and Nemetz and we headed to White House Subs. I think Nemetz thought me a tad daft for wanting to trek into unknwon parts of AC to try a cheesesteak, but he was game. Hell, we had six hours to kill before the show, so why not?

As we headed off the boardwalk and into the seamier parts of town we stopped and asked a parking attendant how to get to the 800 block of Arctic Avenue (I'd left the exact address in my car but knew the rough location).

"Why do you want to go there," he quizzed, eyeing us up and down with a concerned mix of curiousity and mistrust.

"White House Subs," I replied and watched his demeanor change quickly.

"Oh, White House Subs. Well, there's two ways you can go, let me just think of the best way."

"Is there more than one," Nemetz interjected.

"Only one White House Subs in the whole world" he gruffly replied and proceeded to tell us how to get there, taking us through the scenic but less dangerous parts of town. With a serial killer on the loose in AC and the area's rougher patches not known for their hospitality I thanked him for his assistance and we soldiered on.

After passing through the more, less and non-gentrified sections of town we arrived at our destination... the only White House Subs in the whole world.

Founded by Anthony Basile in October 1946 after he returned home from the war in the Pacific, White House has been serving a menu featuring subs, cheesesteaks, hamburgers and, well, that's about it for the last 60 years.

At 4 PM on a Saturday afternoon White House Subs wasn't lacking for customers. Almost every booth was full and the take out line was a good 15 people deep. I took a number and after some confusion about whether we were eating in or taking out I took my place in line and surveyed the menu board.

While I love a good Italian hoagie (available here with Cappacolla, Genoa Salami and Provolone) I'd really made the trip for a cheesesteak, offered in regular, cheesesteak and pepper steak varieties made with 91.1% USDA Choice Lean Top Round Steak which is cut fresh daily.

My number was finally called and I stepped up to the long counter that separates the kitchen from the customers. I gave my order – half cheesesteak hoagie, lettuce, tomato, fried onions, a little sauce – and watched as my sandwich was prepared just for me.

Like Steve's Prince of Steaks, the meat doesn't hit the grill until you've placed your order which pays off in a juicy, tender sandwich that's custom made to your liking. Each customer is waited on by their own individual chef who mans your order from placement to pickup.

After receiving my sandwich we hoofed it back to the boardwalk where I plopped myself on a seaside bench and opened up the bag. The brief walk had done its job and the heat and cheese (provolone of course) had wilted the lettuce and become one with all the ingredients.

Though Dallesandro's and Steve's remain my favorites, White House is a strong contender in the Philly Cheesesteak wars and is well worth a visit next time you're in the area. Can't wait to get back and try one of their hoagies!

White House Sub Shop
Corner of Mississippi & Arctic Aves.
Atlantic City, NJ
Call ahead for pickup

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