Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Mr. Nice Guy's Hot Box

This article was originally published in seveneightfive magazine in August 2015.

I’ve found the perfect hangover food: a Philly from Mr. Nice Guy’s Hot Box in Oakland. After a night
out, this sandwich is what my stomach needs to recover quickly for the next day ahead.

A small, hole-in-the-wall at 2601 NE Sardou Avenue, Mr. Nice Guy’s Hot Box is just that, a little hot box. There are two large booths and one smaller one along one wall, and the ordering counter and kitchen on the other wall. That’s about it and I love it. Another local favorite.

I’ve only tried the Philly Guy once before and I got one measly bite. This time, I got the entire thing to myself, and that’s the only way to do it, I don’t like sharing. It comes with a bag of chips, but chips are chips, am I right? The sandwich is on a hoagie-style bun and overflowing with beef, peppers, onions, mushrooms and white cheese sauce. Just looking at it as the waitress brought it over I began salivating and I heard my tummy rumble. It was love at first sight, (ok second sight, but I still loved it the first time!) 
The cheesesteak is served with a fork, but I like getting my hands dirty so I threw aside the fork and ate it the way a sandwich is supposed to be enjoyed -- with my hands. The cheese melted down my fingers, but that didn’t stop me and added to the experience. I think by the end it was even running down my face. There are plenty of napkins for later, so I just dug in. The cheese melts throughout the sandwich and coats the meat and the veggies, but there’s enough that some stays on top, too. It’s ooey, gooey and messy but that’s part of the fun.

I must note that I normally order items like this without peppers or onions. The first time I tried a bite, the friend’s sandwich had both of those ingredients on it, and I found I didn’t mind them. I feel like, a true Philly Cheesesteak has to have peppers and onions on it, so I went ahead and ordered it the way it’s meant to be. The peppers were cooked just to the point where they are still tender but not crunchy, so that really helped. The flavor of the sauteed green peppers, onions and mushrooms complimented the sandwich and I was appreciative that I left them on.

After a night of drinking and eating greasy food, the Philly Guy is there to comfort you. It’s not greasy but it has lots of meat and cheese, all stuffed into a soft bun. And if a Philly isn’t something that suits your fancy, breakfast is served until 11 a.m. and they have all kinds of pulled pork and barbecue items on the menu. I have to say, though, I’ll probably stay faithful to the Philly Guy every time.