My roommate decided to visit me at home in Philadelphia. It was frigid, and every day we ate sandwiches. My goal: that he would leave with a fuller stomach, significantly closer to heart disease, his face slick with oil.
The first cheesesteak is the deepest. My roommate is a restrained type. He eats a brownie with knife and fork. He listens to more vigorous Mozart when he feels excited. He’s learning German.
We’re sitting at a ketchup and sweat- speckled counter, and the waitress sets down a plastic basket with my roommate’s order. My roommate’s inner beast is unleashed, and he falls silent until he slurps up the last hearty wisp of fried provolone.
We happen upon Paesano’s. The sandwich is delightfully overstuffed. We’re out driving. I’m showing my roommate the city, which means showing my roommate miles upon miles of brick row homes and men pushing shopping carts full of copper wiring. I’m like any good parent, though, and leave a treat for the end. Little Baby’s Ice Cream, a pretentious joint staffed by the hipster bearderati that serves fla- vors based on Belgian cookie spreads and corner store hot sauce. The combination of Italian bread and gentrifying waffle cone is a bit much, and we settle back into the car, speechless.
THE RIB STAND
The Rib Stand is a buoy of Amish stability in the frothing sea of Reading Terminal Market, an expan- sive farmer’s market and food court in the heart of downtown Philadelphia. We consume more meat, this time in the form of boneless rib sandwiches. Grease runs down our faces, and we’re seated next to a crazy man playing lounge tunes on a keyboard for anyone forced to listen. We don’t mind. We reach methodically and maniacally for napkins and wipe hot sauce into our skin as exfoliant.
When we head back into the streets, we blink from the brightness and from the fresh, foodless air. My roommate licks his fingers once more.
“I think I like Philly.” Success.