Cheez Biz

Jeff “Stretch” Rumaner, a Philadelphia native, is proud of the cheesesteaks he serves at Grinders (see Dining Review. But that particular chopped-steak concoction has long suffered a mixed reception from Kansas City diners, who generally prefer burgers and barbecue to the signature sandwich from the City of Brotherly Love. A cheesesteak shop in Westport didn’t last long, nor did the Cheezsteak Company at 8017 State Line Road (although the locations in Independence, Lee’s Summit and Overland Park are still around).

But there are still Philly-style cheesesteaks in that strip mall at 8017 State Line: the Chartroose Caboose version. Brothers Todd and Troy LaPorte took over the space this month for their third local sandwich-and-frozen-custard operation. The LaPortes bought the 24-year-old, original Chartroose Caboose in Overland Park — located in the tasteful Hooters Plaza at 10638 Metcalf — in 1990 and opened a second venue in Lenexa last summer. “We’d like to take it national,” Todd says. He adds that, although there used to be Chartroose Cabooses in other cities, he doesn’t think there are anymore. The chain (named for a long-forgotten 1960 film starring Slim Pickens and country vocalist Molly Bee) started in Lincoln, Nebraska, but apparently had chugged its way out of business by the 1990s.

The LaPorte brothers bill their cheesesteak as “Kansas City’s only authentic hot Philadelphia Steak Sandwich,” but some native Philadelphians, such as my friend Jacquie, question that broad claim. “They put spices on their beef,” Jacquie gripes of the LaPortes’ creations. “And instead of the traditional provolone or Cheez Whiz, they only use Swiss or American cheese.”

“That’s because those are the cheeses that work best with our seasonings,” Todd explains.

Chartroose Caboose does serve something sort of resembling hot Cheez Whiz out of an electric heater with a spigot (it’s a shiny, less vibrantly orange “cheese sauce”), but that’s for the french fries, not the sandwiches.

Other offerings at this shop include the basic Pennsylvania sandwich, made with beef, cheese and onions; adventurous eaters can go over to a tiny condiment bar and load up the Italian roll with pickled peppers, dill slices, shredded lettuce, raw onion or the creamy white substance in plastic packets. Called “Tiger Sauce,” it’s flavored with horseradish and God only knows what else.

I don’t know how authentic the Chartroose Caboose Philly cheesesteak sandwich is, but I like Stretch’s version better. Jacquie, meanwhile, prefers the Philly sandwich at Jersey Boyz Deli and Subs (various locations). But no Tiger Sauce, please.

Categories: Food & Drink