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Buster's lost a
Trial versus
The Cheesesteak Shop

366 Columbus Avenue/Vallejo, SF
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Pretrial hearing at Spec's


I don't think any of us had illusions about Buster's stacking up to The Cheesesteak Shop. But their brazen "Better Than Philly" claim got our attention, so we gave it a shot.

And it ain't bad. The large cheesesteak ($6.75) was very hot, temperature-wise, which was a little strange. But I enjoyed that about it, because I like burning my mouth off. And the thing was loaded with black pepper, another thing I'll always forgive. My cheese fries were pretty good -- I wouldn't throw them out the window of a moving car. But frankly, coming on the heels of the spectacular 15-dog Suriya, this meal was a little...boring. That's more tribute to Suriya than knock on Buster's.

The dining area is very cramped. A few stools and a tiny counter. So, I'd recommend Buster's in two situations:
1. You want something for the walk to Market Street to catch a bus that never comes after a night at the taverns in North Beach (Buster's is open till 3 AM on Friday and Saturday).
2. You want something quick and cheap to take to Washington Square Park on a sunny weekend afternoon.



They tell you it's the "Home of the 'Better Than Philly' Cheesesteaks." That may be true, but the cheesesteak is not better than others you can get around this town. I would call it a good cheesesteak at Buster's. I had the bacon cheesesteak and it had it going on with the meat, the bacon, and the onions. The roll/bun was okay but verging on just a little too hard for my liking. The cheesesteak didn't come with peppers automatically, so be sure to ask for those hot/sweet delicacies, if you so desire. My side of chili cheese fries was tasty. The cheese was excellent -- all gooey, creamy melty processed cheese goodness. The chili was okay but nothing spectacular.

Other items on the menu include Italian sandwiches. The chicken parmigiano sounds interesting...burgers, hot dogs, onion rings and such. The service was fast and friendly at Buster's but the seating is limited. I wouldn't go so far as to suggest you make the trek to North Beach for this cheesesteak, but if you're in the neighborhood, stop on in. It would be perfect for an after-bar-hours snack. They are open late, until 3 AM on weekends and 1 AM on weekdays.



Better than Philly? But not bad. A fairly honest cheesesteak for a fairly decent price. Two sizes, which is good, costing you $5.25 or $6.75 for the standard sandwich. I chose the bacon cheesesteak myself (large) which ran $7.25. And that's a lot of artery clogging goodness, I can assure you. If I was to complain, which I really hate to do, I would say the meat was overspiced. Too much salt and pepper. But that could just be an overzealous steak chef. I also have to point out that their bun is NOT the proper torpedo roll that you get in Philadelphia or The Cheesesteak Shop. A little too hard and not long and tapered. Oh well.

I will give them credit for having a choice of cheeses. You got your cheddar, your provolone, and your white American cheese. No Cheez Whiz, though. I chose the white American, as I believe that is the authentic cheesesteak cheese. Perhaps someone like Midwest Ted will write in to correct me.

I also got a regular garlic fries, which were a bit steep at $2.25. I mean, we're talking a handful of potatoes and garlic here. But they were good, crispy and swimming in garlic. Can't go wrong there.

I won't be rushing back to Buster's, but I might saunter in after a late night in North Beach. Then again, I might not.






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