Wednesday 21 May 2008

Polished Surface Can't Hide Grimy Undercurrents at Famous Phil's Toilets

Famous Phil's Cheesesteaks
7542 University Blvd.
Winter Park, FL USA

Where is it?

From the entrance, head to the back wall of the place, keeping the eatery's mammoth flat-top grill to your right. At the end, with the back wall in front of you, you'll see the fountain drink station and a hallway opening to the right of it (essentially in the middle of the back wall). Head down there to find the toilets -- passing several Philly-inspired posters along the way (like one of Rocky Balboa, etc.)

What's it like?

Orlando isn't exactly a haven for cheesesteak lovers -- and why should it be, given that it isn't Philadelphia. But when it comes to those greasy good and gooey sandwiches, few places in town do it better than Phil's. Not that people here have many other options, outside of Philly Connection (a competitor chain), various sub shops (who never quite get it right), Kappy's in Maitland (which has a great take on the cheesesteak but some horrific toilets) and the Fillin' Station (who makes a decent cheesesteak but makes a far superior hamburger), but Phil's is still one of your best options for satisfying a cheesesteak craving in O-Town.

Of course, having said that, the issue with Phil's is that its product is inconsistent. I've gone in and had wonderful sandwiches there, ones that rival the ones I've had in Philly, and I've gone in and had terrible sandwiches there (as well as a couple of so-so meals too). If they could keep it consistent, I'd be there more regularly, that's for sure.

Phil's itself looks like any other strip-mall fast food sandwich chain restaurant on the inside, with a narrow design that fits the elongated shape of the space and plenty of booths, as well as a couple of flat-screen TVs hanging on the walls. The catch here is that the decor consists primarily of Philadelphia-based items, like wallpaper showing certain landmarks and listing specific locations and pictures of various sites and stars from the region (like the aforementioned Rocky Balboa).

The toilet, at least upon first impression, is a roomy one-bagger that looks like another standard fast food joint bathroom (like Chick-Fil-A or Jack in the Box), only the color scheme here is a bit surreal, with tropical blue tile and bright green-painted drywall covering the walls and beige tile covering the floor.

As said, it's very spacious, but in a width-wise manner instead of a lengthy manner (as experienced recently at Golden Krust). When you walk in, you must go immediately right to head to the toilet and urinal (both white porcelain). The sink is at the opposite end of the room, and the the trash can and towel dispenser in the front corner. There are no wall decorations, just the tile and the fixtures.

It looks very clean upon first impression, however closer inspection reveals some well-built-up grime and wear and tear. Most noticeable are the many cracks in the grout here, especially behind the sink. Also, the toilets upon my visit were not flushed, and I had to dispose of the leavings in both the urinal and toilet before commencing with my visit. (Seeing that the place wasn't that busy, I assumed this was from the employees? Ick! Then again.... well, read on further for that.) Tile is chipped in places here and there, particularly in the corners and on the floor.

Also, the toilet paper holder, which accommodates two rolls at a time, was empty, and when coupled with the leavings found in the toilet, I wondered if the perp's actions were based in rudeness or were done because he was forced out because of necessity. Hmm....

Marks out of 10:

6. All in all, not bad, but could still use a good sprucing up.

Comments to the Management:

Need to re-grout the interior and fix the cracked tiles. Also, give the place a good scrubbing over. Finally, consider policing it a bit more regularly to ensure supplies are always available and it remains as clean as possible for future visitors.

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