The first thing you need to know, according to Sparrow’s co-owner Geno Sparrow, is that most Philly Cheesesteaks you see around town are not the real deal.
“Whenever I see a cheesesteak on a menu, I’ll order it,” he says. “And most of the time I’m like ‘Man, what is this?' They've got the cheese all wrong. This bread doesn’t taste right.”
See Philly Cheesesteaks are a bit of a religion in the States. Every bar in Philadelphia has its own take on the 1920s sandwich (some use Amoroso-style rolls, others experiment with different beef cuts, and there’s even one place that pumps out Cheesesteak Kaiser buns) but at the end of the day they’re all legit. Melbourne is a long, long way from Philly, and there aren’t many places here that do a PROPER Cheesesteak. In fact we can only think of the one: Sparrow’s. Described as "The second best thing I've ever had in my mouth" by a local tradie (who shall remain anonymous) these things are officially ridiculous.
Sparrow’s started a few years ago, running the kitchen at The Catfish in Fitzroy and pumping out gnarly cheesesteaks and hoagies to a growing horde of cheddar-hungry fans. A food truck followed, and they became a regular at Welcome to Thornbury. Now they’ve opened their very first bricks and mortar store on St Kilda Rd—Melbourne’s only dedicated Philly Cheesesteak outlet. And man are they dedicated. The cheese is imported from the States. The steak is A-Grade scotch fillet. The bread recipe is based on a single roll that Sparrow and co-owner Sammy Lynch managed to smuggle into the country (seriously—they took it ‘round to all the bakers in town until they found someone who could replicate it).
Sparrow's menu is like an NFL all-star team: there are heroes all over the ground. But if you’re looking for tips, you can’t go past the Deluxe Bourbon & Bacon (grilled beef, cheese, onions bacon and a good lug of Contraband bourbon sauce) or the Chicken Man (grilled dark meat, provolone cheese, onions, mushroom, sweet peppers and white wine Napoli sauce). Vegos and vegans are in luck too: there’s a pulled jackfruit hoagie and smoked organic tofu on the menu (the tofu is cooked on a separate part of the grill). Carnivores, do yourself a favour and throw in a $10 basket of chicken wings for good measure. Sparrow’s is available in-store, via the food truck or on UberEATS. And keep your eyes peeled: there's a new venue opening up soon in the inner East (that's all we're allowed to say).
Image credit: Griffin Simm