Ask any native Philadelphian and they’ll tell you that cheesesteaks are a serious matter. You can’t just use any beef and cheese in this sandwich, after all.
But just because it’s not called a “Savvy” cheesesteak doesn’t mean local restaurants can skimp on the flavor. Betty Bombers brings the Philly fave to the SAV in a big way.
“I’ve been saying for years we’ve got the best cheesesteak in town,” owner Seth Musler says proudly.
Before opening Betty Bombers with Patrick Zimmerman in 2012, Musler traveled to Philly for a cheesesteak tasting, where he tasted nine cheesesteaks in three days.
“I decided what I liked and what I didn’t, and I kinda built it from there,” he says. “I figured it was a good fit for our team and our clientele. I wanted to do one right.”
The key to a Betty’s cheesesteak is in the details.
“Anyone can get a beef, onions and cheese,” Musler says. “Our hoagie roll we use was specifically chosen for cheesesteaks. We use a real cheese sauce, we use real butter on the buns, we use a seasoning mixture using high quality spices. These things make a difference.”
(I tried one—you know, for science—and can personally attest that this is an excellent cheesesteak. The cheese sauce has a great kick to it, and the meat is thinly cut but still soft. Even as a fair-weather cheesesteak fan, I am definitely here for this.)
Musler and Zimmerman both started out as fine dining chefs before they opened Betty Bombers—and its sister, Butterhead Greens—so the methods they learned run deep in the restaurant.
“We try to apply some of those techniques to this style of food,” Musler says. “When we’re training our new folks in the kitchen, we tell them it’s important to get a good sear on the beef, it’s important to cook things properly and the way we think they should.”
The cheesesteak is the perfect fit for the menu, which offers an inspired selection of “everyman food” that seems picked straight out of 1940s-era kitchens.
Musler and Zimmerman opened Betty’s after seeing the location—the space nestled behind the Legion was perfect for a World War II-era diner.
“The location created the theme,” Musler recalls. “This place has a lot of historical significance to that time. The Mighty Eighth was created in this building, our landlords are a bunch of military guys—we liked the idea.”
Part of Betty’s immense charm is the counter girls, who wear pinup-style red bandanas and vintage clothes. Musler says the style was on the rise when they were dreaming up the place.
“I think the interest was there before we were,” he says. “The Rosie the Riveter fashion thing was already a thing; we were kind of peripherally aware of it already.” —Rachael Flora
Runner-up: Screamin’ Mimi’s