The Cuisine Scene
John's Philly Steak Restaurant
matter how much I enjoy a nice dinner with all the trimmings, sometimes
I crave a good, old-fashioned hamburger. And the absolute best are
burgers cooked outside on a backyard grill. No matter what seasonings I
add to the meat or the variety of toppings I pile on the bun, no
hamburger thatís been cooked in a skillet at home or even on a regular
grill has that wonderful flavor that flame cooking adds.
For most of us,
the only problem is waiting for outdoor weather and making sure you
have briquettes and fuel. Then you hope the weather cooperates by not
raining or sending gales of wind. Sometimes it just doesnít seem worth
the trouble if you only want to cook one or two hamburgers, so you fry
the burgers in your skillet or head for the nearest fast-food place.
Some advertise flame-broiled burgers, but in actuality, most have been
zapped in a microwave. The ones fried on an indoor grill may taste a
little better, but they still don't have that special flame flavor.
Sometimes they've been sitting under heat lamps so long that by the
time you get them, theyíre drier than last monthís turkey.
So whatís a
person to do? Every once in a while, Iím lured to a new place by a
flier showing the photo of a huge burger with the meat overlapping the
bun and fresh vegetables piled so high it makes me wonder if I can even
take a bite. But when I go there and order the thing, itís flatter than
a fritter and the silver-dollar-sized meat patty is hidden inside the
Itís enough for a burger lover to go on a crying jag.
Well, someone whoís been in the restaurant business for over thirty years has come to the rescue.
John Lefakis and
his wife Debbie, of Johnís Philly Steak on Yucaipa Boulevard, served a
cheeseburger that almost made me swoon. Not only was it a
quarter-pounder with melted cheese, fresh lettuce, tomato, and homemade
dressing, but it had that wonderful flame-cooked flavor.
John and Debbie
believe in quality, and they use two different grills in their
restaurant. They sizzle the trimmed smoked beef for their pastrami
sandwiches on the regular grill, but when they prepare hamburgers,
cheeseburgers, broiled chicken, and rib eye steaks, they cook them over
a flame grill for that outdoor flavor. Thereís just nothing quite like
And they donít skimp on the buns. Large sesame buns for the
burgers, and French rolls for the Philly steak and pastrami sandwiches.
Quality also applies to his crew. Heís very proud of them, and most
have been with him for several years.
(John, Debbie & crew)
Greece, John arrived in the United States in 1977 and believed in
working hard to provide a better life for his family. By 1983, he went
into partnership with his cousin in Pomona to buy a restaurant, then
over the next few years gradually moved east to own or manage other
restaurants in the Inland Empire. In 1988, attracted by Yucaipaís open
space and family atmosphere, he bought Jimís Whatta Steak on Yucaipa
Boulevard. There, he attracted new customers as well as former ones by
preparing fresh food and making everything from scratch. In 2002, he
moved to his present location so he could offer his customers a seating
area with plenty of comfortable booths. Now they have room to display
favorite clippings about the local law enforcement who are some of
their best customers.
John and Debbie
served several dishes for me to try, including a fabulous cheeseburger
and fries, a pastrami and a Philly steak sandwich, and a sample of
their fried vegetables. Their Philly steak sandwich, made with top
quality beef, is trimmed, sliced thin and stacked on a French roll. It
comes in a 4Ē, 8Ē, or the large 13Ē sandwich with your choice of plain
beef, or with onions, mushrooms, peppers, or cheese, or a combination
Each item is
prepared after itís ordered to make sure it tastes fresh. How his food
tastes is important to John, and he and Debbie go to great length to
ensure their food is good. Their vegetable sides of fried zucchini,
onion rings, and fried mushrooms are cut each day, no frozen vegetables
for them. Then theyíre dipped in batter John also makes from scratch.
He makes the accompanying ranch dressing the old way with real
buttermilk. When frying, he uses vegetable oil, which he changes
several times each week.
I was privileged
to see his prep areas and even his stainless walk-in cooler where he
stores meat and vegetables, all delivered several times each week. His
ground beef for his burgers is 95% lean, and, he features his
quarter-pound hamburger with fries as a daily special for $3.30, a few
cents more for cheese. And the cheese is the best, melted and gooey.
Some of his other sandwiches include gyro, tuna melts, fish, chicken, hot dogs, corn dogs and BLTs with or without avocado.
Dinners include cod, shrimp, chicken and chicken strips.
Since they open
at seven in the morning each day, they have an entire breakfast menu
with egg dishes, omelets, pancakes and breakfast burritos.
No matter how
good the rest of their food, Iíll be back for another of their
wonderful cheeseburgers. It would be great at any prices, but at under
four dollars for the burger and fries, it canít be beat.
JOHN'S PHILLY STEAK RESTAURANT
34215 Yucaipa Blvd
7am-9pm 6 day per week