Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Philly Bilmos

Philly Bilmos is located in the Fisher's Landing Marketplace at SE 164th and McGillivray in Vancouver, Washington. Michael Bitter opened this spot in December 2000, and this place has garnered tons of positive reviews since.

Plain and simple, I love cheesesteaks. I consider it among my top three foods on which I lose all sense of willpower. I read so many reviews from people that are either from Philly or have gone there, all exclaiming how authentic this place really is. Considering Philly Bilmos gets a fresh shipment of Amoroso rolls each week, you really can't get much more authentic than that. Sandwiches are either 8 inches or 16 inches.

In-house menu
Takeout Menu
And the other side
But while the Amoroso rolls are the great foundation of a cheesesteak joint, Philly Bilmos runs the gamut of mouth-watering options. Aside from the traditional and "loaded" options, you'll find numerous hot subs (i.e., meatball subs, roast pork, chicken parmesan, etc.); cold subs (Italian, homemade chicken salad, Genoa salami and provolone, etc.); and pastas (baked ziti, chicken parmesan, linguine, etc.). They even roll in various Tastykake products.

Regarding those cheesesteaks and subs, there's roughly six ounces of meat in the 8" sub, 12 oz. in the 16" version. It's $4 more for 6 oz. of additional steak.

The Roast Pork sandwich ($7.25 for 8") comes on their garlic bread. Yup, an Amoroso garlic bread. Holy kickassballs. Yeah, I made up a word and I love it. Brown mustard or sweet BBQ sauce? Add both! Onions? Damn straight.

8-inch Roast Pork sandwich
(Philly Bilmos)
Soaking up all that pork awesomeness
Here's the cross-section!
This was flat out one of the best roast pork sandwiches I've ever had. Amazing juicy, flavorful pork that had been sliced ultra-thin, saturated with added meaty juices the pork produced. The mild provolone melted wonderfully. I'm a huge fan of the sweet-tangy brown mustard-BBQ sauce combo. Even after all that, the Amoroso roll held strong and seemed to bask in some porky juice love.

The Steamed Pastrami and Swiss ($7.95 for 8") is another huge winner with brown mustard, pickles, and sauerkraut. One of my friends (a huge pastrami fan) also had this and instantly fell in love with his sandwich. The juicy pastrami is sliced extremely thin, just falling apart in your mouth.

Pastrami and Swiss
(Philly Bilmos)
You can really see the awesome pastrami on this half!
Last, but not least, the Loaded Cheesesteak ($8.25 for 8") was among the best I've ever had. Soft Amoroso bread, ultra-thin slices of steak, gooey cheese, mushrooms, and peppers. Woulda likely powered through two whole ones (32 inches) just because it's that good. Bad panda, no willpower....

Loaded Cheesesteak
(Philly Bilmos)
Opening it up!
Love that sea of cheesesteak!
The medium chili-cheese fries (~$3.75) features thin, slightly crispy potatoes; perfectly fried up here. All-meat homemade chili has small ground beef chunks and is a bit on the runny side, making it the perfect condiment for fries and hot dogs. The cheese is basically the thick Cheez Whiz (not Kraft, but still real cheese). And damn, these were incredible chili-cheese fries. Dangerously addicting. The bold flavors from the chili just make this one pop.

Chili-Cheese Fries
(medium size)
Closeup of chili and cheese
Philly Bilmo's has an all-beef natural skin casing hot dog ($2.25), and you can choose up to three toppings. Choose from chili, diced white onions, sauerkraut, relish, pushcart red onions, ketchup, and mustard (yellow, brown, or spicy).Add cheese for 40 cents more. I'd just ask to put everything on there.

I saw a large jug of their stuffed pickled cherry peppers ($1.35), each with prosciutto and aged provolone inside. Probably marinated in vinegar. I ate one, and I enjoyed the tangy crunch of the pepper. Not spicy at all. Feels like the ratio could be more balanced with more prosciutto. It's a fairly thick cube of cheese in there.

Stuffed Cherry Pepper
(Philly Bilmos)
Thick block of cheese inside!
Love dill pickles? They got jumbo ones for $1.25. They sell their 12 oz. homemade oil and vinegar for $6.

While I've been to several cheesesteak spots in the Pacific NW, there are two aspects that make this an elite place. First is their homemade mango honey habanero hot sauce -- and you can take home one of their 5 oz. bottles for $5. A bit of sweetness from the mango and honey, with the spicy aspects of the habanero shining through. Delicious. I slathered it all over my loaded cheesesteak for pure spicy panda bliss.

Delicious Mango Honey Habanero sauce!
The owner may not be that much into food challenges, but his willingness to let someone craft a quantity challenge a couple years ago became the second big draw for me. As you might expect, it's not really advertised, but there are pictures on the business Facebook page. "Rocky's Challenge" is two 16 oz. Loaded Bilmo cheesesteaks, double meat, double cheese, mozzarella sticks, and fries. Basically about three pounds of meat and over eight pounds total. 90 minutes to finish. I asked if there was a prize, and it's probably a free meal (valued at $40 to $50) and a free shirt.

While I don't have the capacity (or wallet) for 8+ pounds of food, I'd like to create my own smaller spicy challenge that seems more doable for the average Joe or Jane.

Philly Bilmos really wowed me from the get-go. KGW's Drew Carney raved about this place, and now I'm raving about it. And after the move to Washington, this place is very close by. The panda's stomach is not safe. 9.25/10

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