Carl’s Cheesesteak is a Greasy Mess (And I Mean That in the Best Possible Way)

The other day, I was standing in the tiny sandwich shop that is Carl’s Steaks, when I happened to look up at their wall of accolades and spotted the words “grease bomb” in one of the posted articles. With oil gushing out of every bite of the cheesesteak (with whiz) that I was devouring at the time, it was hard to disagree. But unlike health conscious (or squemish) doves, who may find negativity in any kind of “bomb”, when it comes to food, I’m more of a hawk. To me you add the word bomb to any kind of food, and it’s going to be good. Add it to the word “grease” and you’ve got a nuclear weapon of deliciousness.

There has been much talk of “Philly” Cheesesteaks on this site, and Carl’s on 3rd Ave. btw. 34+35th always comes up when the topic is raised. Feisty Foodie mentioned it in March of 2007, when I posted about the steak and cheese at City 75 (51st btw. 5+6th) and two commenters brought it up when I wrote about Magdy’s Philly Cheese Steak Cart 8 months later (Park & 46th). Even one commenter listed it as his 2nd favorite meat in Midtown, on the Shameless Carnivore’s profile. This is no hidden jem (apparently it was named “2007′s Best Sandwich in NYC by AOL City Guide, and is also available at Yankee Stadium), and yet I still hadn’t made the journey to this cheesesteak mecca (probably due to the fact that it was about as far away from my office on 48th & 6th that you could possibly get, and still be in Midtown Lunch’ing boundaries.) That finally changed this past week.

“Grease bomb” porn, in all its glory, after the jump…

While the two places mentioned above only have regular sliced cheese, Carl’s immediately gets cred points for having “cheez whiz”, the only true cheese topping of what is traditionally referred to as a Philly Cheesesteak. It gets poured underneath the mixture of well chopped steak and onions that have been sweated down on Carl’s large flat top griddle (“sweated” being the code word for “cooked in a way that allows it to become soaked in grease”). I was worried at first, but if you eat it fresh, the roll holds up pretty well to the oil assault, and made it to the very end of the sandwich. I can’t speak to whether or not it will survive delivery or the walk back to the office.

For those who have not been converted to the glories of whiz, Carl’s also offers provolone cheese, american cheese and the “pizza steak”, which mixes provolone with marinara sauce. All the sandwiches are $6 to $6.75 leaving you plenty of room under the Midtown Lunch price cap for that order of fries ($2.25).

Of course anything that can be referred to as a “grease bomb” is going to have its negatives, and there are a few at Carl’s. It is super greasy (obviously), and despite claiming that the sandwiches are “made to order”, that really only refers to the assembly. In order to account for heavy volume, large quantities of the steak and onion mixture are cooked in advance, and if you are unlucky enough to be there when they “refill” the griddle from their big plastic bucket o’ cooked steak, it’s not the prettiest sight in the world. There’s also not a lot of seats, and you may have to stand at the counter, or take your food to go if the place is busy.

All that aside, I haven’t found a better cheesesteak within the boundaries of Midtown Lunch’ing- so if the sound of a “grease bomb” appeals to the hawk in you, Carl’s is your new favorite place.


  • It’s super greasy
  • A real Philly Cheesesteak (or at least, as close as you’re going to get in New York City)
  • Cheese Whiz! (But they also have provolone for the haters)
  • At $6.50 it’s pretty cheap for Midtown
  • (I don’t believe in Delivery, but if you do…) they offer delivery as far West as 7th Av


  • It’s super greasy
  • There aren’t enough places to sit
  • The bread may not hold up well on the walk back to the office
  • During peak lunch hours, they don’t cook the steak up fresh (even though the sandwich is “assembled” to order)
  • Did I mention it’s greasy?

Carl’s Steaks, 507 3rd Ave. (btw. 34+35th), 212-696-5336


  • A solid sandwich, but i recommend checking out Woggies on Greenwich. I haven’t been there in about a year, but i preferred it to Carl’s at that time. I will admit that Carl’s bread is better (and whiz is whiz …).

  • Carl’s is alright but I found the quality, size and authenticity of Shorty’s (the old Tony Lukes) on 9th and 41st to be not only superior, but closer… But let us remember that cheesesteak opinions are like sphincters – everybody’s got one.

  • Yeah, both Shorty’s and Philly Slim’s have been mentioned by commenters before as well, but those are both on 9th Ave. which is *technically* out of Midtown Lunch’ing range… (although I’ll probably cave and write about them eventually too! any excuse for a cheesesteak…)

  • i was wondering when you were gonna get around to carl’s. it’s a solid cheesesteak, especially for being in new york and some coworkers and i make special trips there every other week.
    im sure we will drop dead in sometime next year, but at least we’ll be happy.

  • nice. i didn’t think carl’s was within the midtown lunch boundaries. it’s about time you made it over there, zach. i love carl’s. definitely the best cheesesteak i’ve had in nyc. sadly, i haven’t had it in almost 2 years since a friend of mine that was in delivery range moved to an outer borough.

  • i grew up on actual philly cheesesteaks and carl’s has been fairly reliable up here whenever i get a hankerin’ for some meat and whiz. but you really gotta anticipate and prepare for those stomach cramps and grease reflux. i’ve seen write-ups about 99 miles to philly too, but i’ve never tried it. will def. make my way down to shorty’s soon!

  • 99 Miles to Philly is a tiny bit better than Carls’ cheesesteaks cause of the softer bread but when it comes to fries I definately loveeee Carls’ crunchy fries more. I’m not that into waffle fries like the one’s at 99 Miles to Philly. But it’s kinda out of the midtown area range, at 3rd ave between 12th and 13th.

  • Sometimes when I’m cranky at work late at night, I’ll order Carl’s and then leave the remnants in my boss’s desk overnight. To address your concern, Zach, the bread generally does hold up, and I’m all the way up at 56th.

  • Mumm I’ll have to check this place out, looks like the perfect hangover cure! I’ve been on a cheesesteak kick recently, but I only have recs for Brooklyn joints, alas.

  • Carl’s is excellent – best cheesesteak I have had in the city by far. Bread is nice, soft, and fresh. Cheese and meat come together nicely on the roll. Have had steaks at Pats and Genos in Philly to comp so have a decent comparison. Also have been to Larry’s in Lower Marion?? PA – home of the Belly Filler – biggest cheesesteak on the planet. That place is legit – not well known but worth the trip if you are in the Philly area.

    Was not impressed with Shortys after ordering once at work. Maybe I got a bad sando – maybe delivery compromised the integrity of the sandwich. I will have to go to Shorty’s and try it again.

    Have not been to Woogies or 99 Miles to Philly but must try them at somepoint. Any other notable cheesesteak places in NYC worth the time?

  • My suggestion with Carl’s, especially if you don’t believe in delivery like Zach, is order in your pick-up. Cause it can get quite busy with lots of big orders there which means you could wait a bit for your order to be made. By that point the smell of cheesesteak will have soaked deeply into your clothes for the rest of the day.

  • Doc Chuck and I LOVE to eat at Carl’s, especially when the steak is “fresh from the bucket”. Even the hamster likes a nibble or two.

  • @wayne Time: April 30, 2008, 12:17 pm

    You said: “opinions are like sphincters – everybody’s got one”.

    An understatement indeed!

    According to Wiki: “There are over 40 different sphincters in the human body”.

    You should use the word “assholes” if that’s what you meant, considering that even the more polite and medically correct term “anus” contains two sphincters, between which you did not distinguish.

    Otherwise we could get confused with the upper esophageal sphincter, the pyloric sphincter, or, god forbid, the sphincter of Oddi, among many others. And that alone could ruin a good cheesesteak argument over Gino’s or Pat’s, no?

    Finally, if, after reading this, you think that I’m just an asshole with too much time on his hands you may be right, but in polite company I choose to refer to myself as a sphincter with too much time on my hands. And I mean that in the best possible way.

  • Liz,

    Remove your drool bib, let Mr Wiggles out and meet me in the sauna!

    I’ll bring a bag of Carl’s.

  • Chucky chucky chucky your moto……..I sphincter therefore i am?

    There’s never a bucket of shit handy for chucky when I need one.

  • i’ve had carl’s delivered. bc the sandwich is ‘moist’it causes the bread to become soggy. if you don’t mind soggy that is fine but i like fresh dry bread. definitely a good sandwich though.

  • Shortys is my favorite I have had carls, shortys and 99 miles to philly and I still think Shortys is the best. Also there fries are so good!

  • I haven’t said it in a while, but I’m reminded why Rudy is my favorite.

  • cheese whiz is not necessary for a philly cheesesteak. go down to philly and see how many people actually put on cheese whiz. a lot of people, i included, from down there put on american cheese or provolone. it’s all preference, but cheese whiz is just too cheesy and nasty.

  • That’s a delicious looking pic and I don’t even eat beef. I wonder if their chicken cheese steak is worth trying.

Leave a Reply

You must log in or register to post a comment.