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What Lefty’s Cheesesteaks gets right

It’s not local, and it’s not Lefty’s Chicago. But it is ribeye…

A simple, yet effective cheesesteak from newcomer Lefty's Cheesesteaks
A simple, yet effective cheesesteak from newcomer Lefty's Cheesesteaks

All things being equal, I’m going to choose the local restaurant over the out-of-town chain — especially when a clash of brands or menu items are involved. But that doesn’t mean I can’t give a new, out-of-town eatery a fair shake. Or even admit I like it.

Of course, my first response rolling up to the new Gaslamp counter shop, Lefty’s Cheesesteaks was a bit protectionist. We already have a Lefty’s, I thought. And Lefty’s Chicago Pizzeria — whether the North Park or Mission Hills location — happens to be a longtime personal favorite. So, step off, fake Lefty’s.

Place

Lefty's Cheesesteaks

528 Fifth Ave, San Diego

Granted, our Lefty’s celebrates all things Chicago, from pizza to Italian beef, and this new place is marketed around Philadelphia sandwiches. Then, Lefty’s Cheesesteaks isn’t even from Philly: the chain launched out of suburban Detroit, and by far most of its locations have stuck to Michigan. However, it has recently expanded to areas in and around Houston and Los Angeles. And now, downtown San Diego.

In a location that used to belong to Burger Lounge, a San Diego-based burger chain.

That hurts a bit, considering burgers are a big part of this new Lefty’s menu, and that of our Chicago Lefty’s. Even with regard to cheesesteaks, San Diego is only three years removed from getting a new regional favorite cheesesteak spot of our own: Calozzi’s Cheesesteaks in Pacific Beach. Calozzi’s. remains true to the Philly concept and, more importantly, offers fantastic tasting sandwiches.

A new shop in the former Burger Lounge location at 528 Fifth Avenue

So, how am I supposed to go about liking a cheesesteak competing, burger chain replacing, Lefty’s name usurping interloper?

Well, I suppose it starts with grilled ribeye. That provides the basis for the shop’s beef cheesesteaks, beginning with the standard, which features grilled onions and a blend of Swiss and American cheeses ($9.79 for an 8-inch, $13.79 for a 12-inch).

Lefty’s fills its choice of roll with a generous portion of grilled steak, with just about every bit of the sliced and chopped meat coasted with a thin layer of melted cheese. However much the “Shop Local” voice in my head insists I shouldn’t like it, I do. Even a sacrilegious version of this cheesesteak, adulterated not only with nacho cheese, but with crumbles of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos thrown across the top, proves to be an outstanding cheesesteak.

Cheesesteak is the latest food we've seen dressed with Flamin' Hot Cheetos.

Yes, the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto’s trend has made it onto cheesesteaks. And Lefty’s repeatedly shows a willingness to throw a few cheesesteak curveballs. The chicken steaks and chicken hoagies are pretty standard, but most Philly purist spots aren’t about to five a popcorn chicken sandwich the cheesesteak treatment while smothering it in Buffalo sauce and ranch dressing. Or with coleslaw and BBQ sauce.

Lefty’s is willing to throw in with the escalating heat battle of Nashville hot chicken restaurants, offering a Grim Reaper hoagie that features Carolina Reaper cheese and this sauce it makes out of hot cherry peppers.

Look, I’m not suggesting anyone scrap their plans to eat at Lefty’s Chicago, or pass Calozzi’s on the way out of Pacific Beach in favor of a new, out-of-state chain showing up on our turf. But if you happen to already be downtown, and in need of hot food, right now Lefty’s Cheesesteaks might be the best 10 bucks you can spend in the Gaslamp.

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A simple, yet effective cheesesteak from newcomer Lefty's Cheesesteaks
A simple, yet effective cheesesteak from newcomer Lefty's Cheesesteaks

All things being equal, I’m going to choose the local restaurant over the out-of-town chain — especially when a clash of brands or menu items are involved. But that doesn’t mean I can’t give a new, out-of-town eatery a fair shake. Or even admit I like it.

Of course, my first response rolling up to the new Gaslamp counter shop, Lefty’s Cheesesteaks was a bit protectionist. We already have a Lefty’s, I thought. And Lefty’s Chicago Pizzeria — whether the North Park or Mission Hills location — happens to be a longtime personal favorite. So, step off, fake Lefty’s.

Place

Lefty's Cheesesteaks

528 Fifth Ave, San Diego

Granted, our Lefty’s celebrates all things Chicago, from pizza to Italian beef, and this new place is marketed around Philadelphia sandwiches. Then, Lefty’s Cheesesteaks isn’t even from Philly: the chain launched out of suburban Detroit, and by far most of its locations have stuck to Michigan. However, it has recently expanded to areas in and around Houston and Los Angeles. And now, downtown San Diego.

In a location that used to belong to Burger Lounge, a San Diego-based burger chain.

That hurts a bit, considering burgers are a big part of this new Lefty’s menu, and that of our Chicago Lefty’s. Even with regard to cheesesteaks, San Diego is only three years removed from getting a new regional favorite cheesesteak spot of our own: Calozzi’s Cheesesteaks in Pacific Beach. Calozzi’s. remains true to the Philly concept and, more importantly, offers fantastic tasting sandwiches.

A new shop in the former Burger Lounge location at 528 Fifth Avenue

So, how am I supposed to go about liking a cheesesteak competing, burger chain replacing, Lefty’s name usurping interloper?

Well, I suppose it starts with grilled ribeye. That provides the basis for the shop’s beef cheesesteaks, beginning with the standard, which features grilled onions and a blend of Swiss and American cheeses ($9.79 for an 8-inch, $13.79 for a 12-inch).

Lefty’s fills its choice of roll with a generous portion of grilled steak, with just about every bit of the sliced and chopped meat coasted with a thin layer of melted cheese. However much the “Shop Local” voice in my head insists I shouldn’t like it, I do. Even a sacrilegious version of this cheesesteak, adulterated not only with nacho cheese, but with crumbles of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos thrown across the top, proves to be an outstanding cheesesteak.

Cheesesteak is the latest food we've seen dressed with Flamin' Hot Cheetos.

Yes, the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto’s trend has made it onto cheesesteaks. And Lefty’s repeatedly shows a willingness to throw a few cheesesteak curveballs. The chicken steaks and chicken hoagies are pretty standard, but most Philly purist spots aren’t about to five a popcorn chicken sandwich the cheesesteak treatment while smothering it in Buffalo sauce and ranch dressing. Or with coleslaw and BBQ sauce.

Lefty’s is willing to throw in with the escalating heat battle of Nashville hot chicken restaurants, offering a Grim Reaper hoagie that features Carolina Reaper cheese and this sauce it makes out of hot cherry peppers.

Look, I’m not suggesting anyone scrap their plans to eat at Lefty’s Chicago, or pass Calozzi’s on the way out of Pacific Beach in favor of a new, out-of-state chain showing up on our turf. But if you happen to already be downtown, and in need of hot food, right now Lefty’s Cheesesteaks might be the best 10 bucks you can spend in the Gaslamp.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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