New Addition to Deep-Fried Treats: Cheesesteak

In Baltimore, local pizza joint Hot Tomatoes offers a heart-clogging specialty: deep fried cheesesteaks.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Okay, and how about letting adults eat what they want? Here we go, the other end of the dining spectrum. Trans-fats or no trans-fats? Mary Rose Madden of member station WYPR Baltimore says some people cannot resist a nutritional splurge.

MARY ROSE MADDEN: Baltimore's South Point is not for angels. It's a neighborhood with more biker bars and dance clubs than classy restaurants.

(Soundbite of restaurant)

MADDEN: Out of all the pizza joints in South Point, only one can claim to have invented the deep fried cheesesteak. That's right. Just when you thought it couldn't get any better, someone deep fried the cheesesteak. The creator of the sub and owner of Hot Tomatoes is Mark Sabin(ph).

Mr. MARK SABIN (Owner, Hot Tomatoes): People go through phases. I have all these people that when they get on a kick with them, they'll be in every night for a week. Then I won't see them for like a month.

MADDEN: Are you worried about them?

Mr. SABIN: No. They're around. I see them, but they'll, they'll stay off it for a while.

MADDEN: Sabin is a Boston native who came to Baltimore with a dream. He always wanted to own a pizza place, and when he turned 40 he made it happen here. Soon after, he found a way to make his dream sub. The idea has severely caught on.

Mr. SABIN: I had one guy around the corner that would buy four or five because he'd say, well, you know, what if he's not making them for a night? You know, I've got to have them in the fridge just in case.

MADDEN: For a kitchen, Hot Tomatoes has just the essentials for a pizza joint. Four deep thin slate ovens and a deep fryer. The only menu is hidden in the back.

Mr. SABIN: How you doing, Rick?

RICK: Three slices of cheese.

Mr. SABIN: No problem.

MADDEN: But the cheesesteak isn't even on the menu. It's just something you hear about. On this Friday night in South Point, some people have called in their fried cheesesteak orders earlier in the week, while others have just discovered...

Mr. WHITNEY WEBER: Deep fried cheesesteak? Is it good?

MADDEN: After a few minutes, Whitney Weber's sub arrives.

Mr. WEBER: You know, it's probably more food than I should be eating. And it's - I assume it's way more saturated fat. But it tastes so good, I'm heartily impressed.

MADDEN: Weber's a regular at Hot Tomatoes. He hangs around the pizza shop all the time. But he'd never seen the greasy sub. They're like South Point's best kept secret.

Mr. SABIN: That's 2.25. Not a problem, dude. Enjoy your sandwich.

MADDEN: In between taking orders, Thaddeus Mack, Sabin's top employee, stirs up ten pounds of shaved steak.

Mr. THADDEUS MACK: It's almost there, almost fully cut.

Mr. SABIN: Enough over here?

Mr. MACK: Drain all the grease down to one side of the pan. Empty that into a container, then you make cheesesteaks.

MADDEN: When it's ready, Mack scoops up the greasy meat along with cheese and onions and lays it on the pizza dough. He rolls it up and drops the bundles into hot oil.

(Soundbite of oil bubbling)

MADDEN: Though Hot Tomatoes uses oils without trans-fats, owner Mark Sabin says when it comes to the deep fried cheesesteak, people know they're eating something they probably shouldn't.

Mr. SABIN: They know exactly that it's bad for you. You know you should be eating a salad. But you want a cheesesteak.

MADDEN: Maybe it's a good thing they don't make them every night. For NPR News, I'm Mary Rose Madden in South Point, Baltimore.

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