Koreatown is full of surprises. One night on my way home from work on 6th street, I saw a bright sign with one word glowing forth “Whiz.” Just Whiz. No explanation or details given. So I decided to pullover and investigate. It turns out Whiz is a new Philly cheesesteak/burger joint run by Wes Leiberher from South Philly, who used to whip up batches of cheesesteaks for those savvy enough to request them at Beer Belly, and now has his own storefront. The shop itself is tiny. About the size of a walk in closet, there is barely enough room to order, but the staff is friendly and hip hop blares from the speakers. Black metal benches are arranged artfully outside, but most of the patrons eat in the parking lot balancing their sandwiches on their cars.
The menu is a testament to Food that is Bad for You. It is gorgeous. Things that make your heart swell with joy and dread at the same time. Things like cheesesteaks, fried chicken, burgers, bacon sandwiches, cold Italian hoagies, wings, and fries festoon the menu. I decided to try their signature sandwich Whiz Wit, a Philly cheesesteak on an Amoroso’s roll with grilled onions and house made cheese whiz. That’s right. They make their own whiz. I couldn’t think of anything more ridiculous. Why would you make your own whiz? That’s like making your own Twinkies. The whole point of whiz is that it’s wholly unnatural and unidentifiable. Turns out, everyone should be making their own whiz. (Man, that sounds disgusting.)
I always considered the Philly Cheesesteak to be the dirty older cousin of the more traditional Cheeseburger. The kind that has served time in jail for assault and could get you a fake ID. I don’t know why. Something about the visuals. You look at a cheeseburger and sometimes there’s a lettuce leaf or a slice of tomato or a mushroom. Something that reassures you that this is, in fact, a good idea, like a boyfriend who knows enough to hide his tattoos with a long sleeved shirt when visiting your parents. Nothing about a Philly cheesesteak looks like a good idea. It is the biker gang boyfriend dressed in a leather vest and chaps. It’s a testament to bad living. A foot long length of sliced “frizzled” beef with grilled onions and artificial cheese. This bad boy will get you in trouble with your digestion, which is why you love them SO MUCH. My God, just the way the grease glistens makes your weak in the knees.
Strangely enough, after sampling the Whiz Wit and their signature burger the P Dub, I preferred the burger. Blasphemy, I know. Why? I’m blaming it on the fried shallots or perhaps the house made Sriracha Thousand Island Dressing or perhaps the fried egg on top. I like my sandwich with nuance, I guess. The P Dub is made on a brioche bun with sliced American and Tillamook cheddar, spicy dressing, sweet shallots, and a little cilantro. You can add bacon and a fried egg for a buck extra, a move I highly recommend. It is a lovely greasy mess, which requires two hands to hold on to. At seven bucks a pop, it’s an incredibly reasonable deal.
But that’s not why I’m going back to Whiz. Nope. This has all been a ruse. I apologize. The reason I will circle the block endlessly, singing Whiz’s praises in iambic pentameter, is simple. The fries, dudes. The fries. Not just any fries either. The Sriracha Beast fries, named for the guttural moan that is emitted after your first bite. The Beast contains hot salty fries covered in spicy Sriracha Island dressing, creamy Whiz, and sweet grilled onions. It covers all the bases: salty, sweet, spicy, and greasy. My God, if I drowned in a vat of these things I would die a happy woman. They would find me covered in cheese with a big grin on my face. In fact if the world ended tomorrow, I would make a beeline over there and order seven rounds. You can feel your heart clogging with every bite, but can’t seem to bring yourself to stop. Truth be told, I might do that tonight. So if you find yourself in Koreatown and you want to indulge in some truly guilty pleasures, Whiz has the goods to satisfy your darkest desires.
- Molly Bergen