Despite nearly missing our connection in Denver, our second flight flew by uneventfully, and the plane pulled into the gate right on time in Philadelphia. Without any checked bags, Dad and I breezed through the airport and hopped onto a Budget shuttle to pick up our rental car. But a few slow-as-a-snail customers beat us there, and the shoulder straps of my 200-pound backpack dug into my shoulders as we waited.
An hour later, after navigating through thick traffic, we started circling… circling… circling downtown streets, desperately trying to locate the hotel. We passed by the same Dunkin’ Donuts and Burger King four times before Dad pulled over to ask a young man for help. He directed us in one more circle—crazy one-way streets!—to get the the parking garage. When we clambered up the hidden steps (yes, hidden!), the hostess greeted us warmly, handed us room keys, and bid us goodnight.
Fat chance… It was 11 pm and I was starving!
We decided to dine at the lounge on the top floor, which only offered entrées with shrimp (I’m allergic), crab (still allergic), and two non-seafood flatbreads. Lured in by the promise of goat cheese, we picked the roasted tomato one and completely polished it off before the waitress came back to check on us. (Don’t ever get between us and our goat cheese!)
The next day, after a long, slightly navigationally-challenged run around the Philadelphia Museum of Art (and most of the surrounding area), I met dad back at the hotel room. With growling stomachs, we stopped a bellhop to ask for a recommendation for a good, authentic Philly cheesesteak shop nearby. Turned out he was doing a baseball tour too, and he was up to 104 parks. 104!! (And we thought our 22 was impressive.)
We hustled off up the street toward the Liberty Bell and detoured down 12th for the Reading Terminal Market. I took a wrong turn inside, leading us in a humongous circle, until we finally reached Carmen’s.
The cooks worked quickly, deftly slicing the steaks, layering on cheese, and sliding the mounds into long bread rolls. The cashier handed out playing cards instead of numbers—we got the Queen of Hearts—and shoppers bustled by while the line grew longer.
As it was my first time ever trying a Philly cheesesteak, I let Dad do the ordering: provolone, hot peppers, regular roll. He waited while I watched the cooks, snapped photos, and received a recommendation for ballpark food at Camden Yards (for our game the following day). And with that, we wandered outside with our sandwich in tow to find a table.
One word: YUM. I’m usually not the biggest meat-and-cheese sandwich fan—I prefer a few more greens on mine!—but I ate that one as fast as I could without setting my mouth on fire. (Those peppers were hot!) That tender meat… That gooey cheese… That soft bread… It might be the only meal I ever order when I go back to Philadelphia!
We went on to see the Liberty Bell, Ben Franklin’s home (well, where it used to be anyway), and the Phillies game, but the memory of that cheesesteak really stuck with me. I knew I couldn’t authentically recreate it for you—not like the addictive airport oatmeal raisin cookie!—so I did the next best thing I could think of.
I combined our two Philadelphia meals!
That’s right, I made a Philly Cheesesteak Flatbread! With tender meat, melted provolone, and a thin whole wheat crust, this flatbread will definitely knock your socks off, just like the original sandwich did to me. And that’s pretty much guaranteed—even my picky eater devoured 3 whole slices!