Beginning at the intersection of Ninth and Passyunk — i.e., Cheesesteak Vegas — and climbing north to Christian Street, there is a microcosm of the city’s sandwich possibilities: late-night steaks from glowing Pat’s (1237 E. Passyunk Ave., 215-468-1546, patskingofsteaks.com) and Geno’s (1219 S. Ninth St., 215-389-0659, genosteaks.com), veal and tripe with chiles from the window of George’s (900 S. Ninth St., 215-592-8363), the new-school Italian-American imaginings of Paesano’s (1017 S. Ninth St., 215-440-0371, paesanosphillystyle.com). But it’s in the Mexican-accented corridor of Ninth between Federal and Washington where a magical sandwich synergy is happening.
On a stroll past Fiesta Acapulco (1122 S. Ninth St., 215-551-0850, open daily 10 a.m.-10 p.m.), a window sign advertised an only-in-the-Italian-Market, Phil-exican mashup cheesesteak burrito. Given the possibilities for greatness (see: the cheesesteak spring rolls at Circles Thai or Sammy Chon’s bulgogi hoagie), this was something that needed to be sampled. Six dollars gets you an oversized flour tortilla filled with juicy-beefy, thin-sliced rib eye, threads of griddled onion and the right ratio of oozy American. Cooked frozen fries are on board with plastic ramekins of tart crema and smooth guac, a duo of condiments that help out the nothing-special fries. Complementary fresh fried tortilla chips serve as an app with a bowl of salsa verde that does double duty as both dip and a bright drizzle of heat for your steak.
Cheesesteak talk has the tendency to spark controversy around these parts, and this one is sure to cause eye-rolling, but the combo is kind of perfect. California-to-Philly expats will be pleasantly reminded of the California burrito, a snugly wrapped specimen of carne asada, salsa, guacamole, cheese, sour cream and French fries. In other words, bicoastal late-night eating at its finest.
Here’s to hoping that this is only the first of Mexican-Italian Market hybrids to imerge. Roast pork and broccoli rabe-stuffed tamales. slices of pizza topped with cojita and chorizo, grilled mortadella tortas and porky carnitas hoagies topped with long hots all seem like viable Ninth Street crossover candidates.