In my quest for the top Philadelphia cheesesteak in the San Diego area, I knew Philly Franks would be high on my list. We have been going here for years and know they do it right. This was the place I picked to visit the Friday before the Philadelphia Eagles played in the Super Bowl.
Philly Franks is located in a fairly sad looking strip mall way up in San Marcos. This is 35 miles from downtown San Diego, so unless you are in North County, you probably will not be coming here. However, it is not too far from Legoland and the Safari Park (although it is not that close either).
The restaurant is crammed with Philadelphia memorabilia. This includes Polaroid pictures of customers from the Philadelphia area. One of my favorite things they have is a list of “22 Ways to Tell You Are From Philadelphia.” I like number 7 which is: “you know who Jim O’Brien is and how he died.” Jim O’Brien was a TV celebrity and weatherman who died in a tragic parachuting accident. I definitely remember it, but this was way back in 1983. Curious to whether younger generations of Philly people remember him.
The basic cheesesteak at Philly Franks comes with a choice of American, Whiz or Provolone and costs $9.25. Onions come by default, but of course you can ask to leave them off. Adding sweet or hot peppers to a steak will bring the price to $10.15. A pizza steak is $9.65 (it adds marinara). At first, I thought this was on the expensive side of cheesesteak places. However, after visiting a few other places I realized $9 to $12 is pretty much the going price. Add a side of fries ($3.75) and a drink ($2.25) and it comes to $16, which is a little hefty. Often you can find coupons here.
Price aside, this is one of the best cheesesteaks around. The provolone cheese is well mixed in with the meat. Many places simply throw the cheese on top. A big problem with many cheesesteaks is bland meat. The meat at Philly Franks is also well seasoned. The sandwiches are also quite large, I believe 11 inches. There is a pickle and pepperoncini bar, although as mentioned hot cherry peppers are extra.
Like most places in San Diego, Philly Franks serves its sandwiches on Amoroso rolls. As discussed in our article on cheesesteaks this is not necessarily a premium Philadelphia option. Amoroso is a Philadelphia bakery that focuses on shipping rolls to places outside Philadelphia.
Philly Franks also serves hoagies, and chicken cheesesteaks (I have never tried one of those). There are many Philadelphia favorites including Wise and Herr potato chips, Franks soda, birch beer and Tastykake treats. They have Italian water ice from Esposito’s (which I have never tried). They have the very popular fries loaded with cheese and steak. This popular item is something I have never personally tried.
Overall Philly Franks is a top contender for best cheesesteak in the area. If you are closer to downtown San Diego I would recommend some other places, but, until we try the Cheesesteak Grill in Oceanside, Philly Franks is hands down the winner for North County San Diego. For more information on our search for the top cheesesteaks in San Diego go here.