Devotees will argue without end about the subject: very thinly sliced ribeye steak, grilled with traditional (provolone, Cooper white) or non-traditional cheese or “wit” Cheez Whiz, and onions. Whatever else the diner wants on it is up to him or her. It all is spatula-ed into a hoagie (not sub, hero or grinder) roll, which, in Philadelphia is not quite as crusty as what you’d find in New York, and a little chewy.
The maker of these things in Titusville is Main Street Philly Cheesesteaks, which is located in a wonderful old building a half block from downtown. It is bright, colorful and cheerful, with tasteful art photos of Philadelphia landmarks and traditions on the walls, as well as an actual mummer’s costume under glass; long, narrow tables that bear the restaurant’s logo and the words of the business’s founder, Paul Burnell. Paul, a relatively young man beloved in the North Brevard community, died late last year. His restaurant does him justice.
Coolers offer a variety of beverages, like bottles of Boylan sodas, including birch beer, which earned MSP a star straightaway. Dad knew the Boylans, fellow Paterson Irish, but Main Street gets the star because the soda is so good, and the people on Main Street know how Pennsylvanians love their birch beer.
You order at the counter, and you do have some choices, like salads, wings, 12 “square” sandwiches, cheese dogs, chicken cheesesteaks, Philly roast pork and, naturally, cheesesteaks, the latter four, $8.99 or $10.99. You can get traditional or non-traditional toppings, house-made or other sauces and choose from seven cheeses. Another point to MSP: The friendly, helpful people there know how to spell “(Cheez) Whiz.”
Because the roast pork sandwich, another Philadelphia tradition, was unavailable, I went with the chicken Philly with provolone, which had a ton of beautifully seasoned white meat — don’t you hate it when “chicken” is interpreted as “bland?” — and quality cheese. The rest of the family ordered cheesesteaks, naturally. One had sharp cheese, the others, Whiz; they all wanted onions and mushrooms, and they all pronounced the add-ons excellent; perfectly grilled. They were.
The guts of those sandwiches were on-point for texture and flavor, and there was a LOT of it. Some cheese was cut in with the meat and each sandwich was slathered with it, meaty, gooey wonderfulness
The bread was by Amoroso’s, which provides hoagie rolls to so many steakeries, and time was when you had to get it at the airport. Now it is delivered by provisions companies. But something should be remembered about it: The hearth-baked Amoroso’s bread and rolls you get in Philadelphia are not the same as the ones you can buy in a plastic bag at Walmart, or that may come on the truck. If you like soft, slightly fluffy rolls, Main Street Philly is your place.
We ordered two sides: sidewinder fries ($2.99) and onion rings, and they alone were worth the trip. I generally despise anything but fresh, straight-cut French fries, but these crisp morsels somehow retained the flavor of the potatoes from which they were derived, and the onion rings ($3.99), which were sprinkled with a little parmesan, were non-greasy terrific.
So that’s that. Look, Philly cheesesteaks do have certain standards, but being things of beauty, what makes them great is in the eye of the beholder. I’d have preferred a slightly crustier, chewier bread, but that’s me. Give Main Street Philly a chance and make up your own mind.
You did well, Paul.
PS: My cheesesteaks of choice are served at a little joint that was or is near the University of Pennsylvania, the name of which I cannot remember, or at John’s Roast Pork, never at Pat’s or Geno’s. So there.
Main Street Philly Cheesesteaks
Three and a half stars
Address: 106 Main St., Titusville, and 6693 U.S. 1, Port St. John
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
Call: 321-848-0102 (PSJ) and 321-567-2435
Other: Children’s menu; beer and wine served.
About our reviews
Restaurants are rated on a five-star system by FLORIDA TODAY’s reviewer. The reviews are the opinion of the reviewer and take into account quality of the restaurant’s food, ambiance and service. Ratings reflect the quality of what a diner can reasonably expect to find. To receive a rating of less than three stars, a restaurant must be tried twice and prove unimpressive on each visit. Each reviewer visit is unannounced and paid for by FLORIDA TODAY