Why West Philly? Well, that’s where Anthony “Big Tony” Blaylock is from. He graduated from Temple University, which explains the college memorabilia at some of his mini-chain’s locations, and got experience in the restaurant business by working at local rival chain Fred’s before opening his own cheesesteak shop. Big Tony’s imports bread loaves from Philadelphia, because nothing made locally can match the unique, soft-but-firm texture of the breads into which this restaurant piles sliced steak and veggies. The menu is huge, and each day has its own specials, but look out for No. 8, with sautéed onions and mushrooms, and No. 15, which adds mushrooms, onions, banana peppers and slices of jalapeño. The meat is saucy, but never greasy, and we also appreciate the pandemic safety measures taken at each restaurant, including curbside pickup at some locations.
Top pick: The fried sides, including “toothpicks” and “hockey pucks” (fried straight-sliced onions and peppers, and fried jalapeño coins, respectively), are spot-on.
Fun fact: The enormous menu also includes burgers and a hot pastrami hoagie.