Philly To Go Ordering Out ... Of City, State, Country

Posted: April 07, 1999

The things that Philadelphians take for granted.

Imagine you're a college student strolling across campus at the University of Miami or UCLA and a bone-shaking craving for a Chocolate Junior or a Butterscotch Krimpet overtakes you.

More than ever, your mouth is watering for a Tastykake, because, of course, "no one bakes a cake as tasty as a Tastykake."

But then it hits you like an anvil in your gut, and you realize that you're not on Broad Street anymore.

Same gut feeling when you get a jones for cheesesteak. Which is not to say that finding a cheesesteak in another state is impossible. No, we're talking quality here. Whether it holds up to the Philly standard is another issue altogether.

And if you're down in Texas and get a taste for a soft pretzel, forget it.

Many folks here in the city think that munching on a Peanut Butter Kandy Kake or soft pretzel is a God-given right, but the rest of the country is denied the simple pleasure of running to the corner store and picking up their favorite snacks.

Doesn't have to be the case, though.

You can send the real thing to far-away loved ones. Several local businesses that specialize in Philly food - Tastykakes, soft pretzels, cheesesteaks and hoagies - mail them to any destination in the United States.

Savas Gerasimidis, of Savas Pizzeria, has been making great food for 20 years on the corner of 16th and Spring Garden streets. He ships cheesesteaks and hoagies to distant locations and throws in Tastykakes and soft pretzels.

"I ship cheesesteaks to Seattle, Oklahoma, Florida, even Puerto Rico," he said. Most of Gerasimidis' out-of-state customers get turned on to him while visiting Philly. Many hotel desks refer tourists to him.

"Believe it or not, when they go home, they call and say, `I was the guy who called about a week ago from Four Seasons or Embassy Suites' and they send me the money, usually for about four or five cheesesteaks.

"A guy stopped by here in a taxi one day on his way to the airport to go to Florida and he wanted five cheesesteaks."

Of course, assembly is required.

"I cook the meat and instead of putting it on the roll I put it in an aluminum tray and then I put everything inside the box. If you put it separate it keeps the rolls from getting soggy," he said.

Thanks to additional UPS costs, a $5 hoagie will end up costing $20-$25 for overnight service. But, hey, that's why you send it to loved ones.

Michael J. Smith, 23, a Mount Airy native working in Illinois as a sales representative, misses the real Philly cheesesteak.

"We do have cheesesteaks in Chicago, but it's not the same," he said. "They put a piece of sirloin on a piece of bread . . .. And we don't have chicken cheesesteaks, at least not real ones. I've been fiending for a pretzel and water ice for a long time, too. I usually just go to the 7-Eleven and get a Slurpee and call it a day."

Jim's Steaks, located at 4th and South streets and 62nd and Callowhill, is also in on the shipping action. Abner Silver, co-owner of the 4th Street location, said the popular restaurant has sent hoagies and cheesesteaks all over the country.

"The secret is to get it fresh off the grill with all fresh ingredients and top-of-the-line products. Most bread across the country is frozen; we get it fresh every day, sometimes twice a day," he said. "We send out two or three packages a week. Some people order two, some people order 20."

Thanks to the special mail-order service, Tastykake is doing 10 times as much mail-order business as it was nine years ago, according to a company spokesperson.

The bulk of Tastykake's 30,000 annual private orders come in November and December, and around other biggies such as Valentine's Day, Easter, Mother's Day, and Father's Day.

By dialing 800-33-TASTY or 800-64-TASTY, you can send a tasty snack to someone you love. (More than 80 percent of Tastykake's business is done in its home territory of Philadelphia and surrounding areas. The treats are actually sold in all 50 states but only in certain supermarkets.)

Many college students are thrilled to know that their favorite childhood snacks are so easily accessible. Former Simon Gratz track star Leatrice "Moochie" Shaw, now at the University of Miami, says heads turn when she whips out a Tastykake.

"My aunt sent me some down here and a lot of the football players were asking me what they were and telling me how good they were and asking me where do you get them from," she said. "I miss Tastykakes . . .because they're good snacks. My favorites are the Jelly Krimpets and Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes."

The Center City Pretzel Company at 8th Street and Washington Avenue has a package especially for relocated Philadelphians or college students.

The "little bit of Philly" comes with 10 soft pretzels, gourmet mustard and salt in a gold package for $19.95, plus shipping and handling (www.littlebitofphilly.com).

"You can't get them no other place. Go outside Philadelphia and the pretzels are not South Philadelphia pretzels," said Denise Difabrizio, a company spokeswoman.

Local corporations frequently send out-of-state clients and executives a sample of the low-fat snack, according to the company's brochure.

Retired teacher John Hubbard had to do without his Philly favorites since relocating to Georgia a few years back.

"Mostly the people down here who eat pretzels are transplants," he said from his home in Albany, 175 miles south of Atlanta. "They're not usually people who are from here. As a result most of the people who have grown up eating hoagies and pretzels know the difference. They don't compare."

One thing for sure, he said, is that he will stock up on all his Philly favorites when he returns for the Penn Relays at the end of the month.

* Send e-mail to frisbym@phillynews.com

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