Who says you have to go to Philadelphia to have a great Philly sandwich.
Pepperjax Grill claims to have “America’s Best Philly.”
The Omaha-based company isn’t far off. Lisa and I have had philly sandwiches in Philadelphia. The most I remember is the cheese whiz on the sandwich.
I know Geno’s in Philly is a popular local and tourist destination for the sandwich. But, I think Pepperjax in Omaha can challenge anyone’s best philly sandwich.
Gary Rohwer opened the first Pepperjax in Omaha in 2002. This came after he spent three years developing the “perfect” meat for phillies. He developed and patented the vertical method of cutting the meat. This allows for optimal cooking.
Rohwer owned another philly sandwich chain, “Chartoose Caboose.” He was disappointed in the quality of the meat offered for Phillies. So, he sold the company, and soon afterward started working on improving the quality of meat.
Once he was satisfied with the new meat style, he opened the Pepperjax brand. The first location opened in a shopping center in the Millard suburb of Omaha.
Each location has a gallery of local historical photographs. We checked out a couple of the spots in Omaha, where we saw photos of the Old Omaha Stockyards, Rosenblatt Stadium, Peony Park. Being the sports fan I am, I loved the photos of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig visiting Father Flanagan at Boys Town, Bob Boozer from Omaha Tech High School playing with the Chicago Bulls in the NBA, and a young Gale Sayers winning the outstanding player award at the high school Shrine Bowl long before he flashed greatness in the NFL.
Our first visit to Pepperjax was in August of 2002. We had closed on buying our house. We had bought it from Lisa’s grandparents’ estate, so her dad was the executor. He suggested having lunch there after the bank. He and Lisa’s stepmom had eaten there soon after the store had opened.
The food was delicious! We men each had double meat on our sandwiches.
Pepperjax prides itself on the hearth-baked bread it uses. A Philadelphia company actually bakes the bread and delivers it to each restaurant. The hearth baking allows for a harder crust and soft interior. The hearth roll is tasty.
The ordering process is simple. Once you enter the restaurant, you go to the counter and place your order – philly, salad, wrap or rice bowl. All items are really good, but the steak philly remains our favorite.
The philly consists of the meat – chicken or steak – and Swiss American cheese. You can add toppings during the cooking – onions, green peppers, jalapenos and/or mushroom. They are sautéed. We usually add diced tomatoes after the sandwich is cooked.
They have pretty good fries as a side. Or, you can try the new chips and queso. We tried this on a recent visit. The chips and the spicy queso were quite good.
Pepperjax has a sauce bar that its management is proud of. We didn’t realize the sauces that are available to add to your philly. There is an Asian sauce that was a bit tasty. Lisa was all gung ho after trying the mushroom gravy (which is actually a sauce). It has a couple more worth checking out, as well.
Other condiments we both like are the original sauce (which resembles Heinz 57 sauce taste-wise) and BBQ sauce. The BBQ sauce is good for dipping French fries in.
One of the things that helps Pepperjax stand out is its customer service. A staff member will stop by your table and ask how the meal was. They also offer to clear your table once you are done eating. They never make it seem like they are trying to get you to leave then.
The Pepperjax chain has enjoyed success fairly quickly. Opening in 2002, it’s now up to 17 restaurants in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri. The company plans to aggressively pursue expansion in 2014, with up to 15 new locations around the region.
If you’re not in the mood for dining out, you can pick upPepperjax meat and seasonings at various grocery stores. Pepperjax Grill at Home products appear to be decent offerings. You can pick up a couple packs of meat and a container of seasoning, and feed a decent-sized family at a reasonable price.
So, if you are in the mood for a flavorful philly sandwich meal, you don’t have to fly to Philadelphia. Just jump in your car and drive to the nearest Pepperjax for a great philly sandwich.