In Search of Great Fries – Steak Escape

Susan says…

As part of my ongoing research to find the five best fries in Charleston, I made a stop at Steak Escape.  The first day we attempted to eat here, we had to abandon the mission due to lack of available parking.  On our second try we had better luck.  Wow – that is a small parking lot.

I can remember coming to this location “back in the day” when I was a University of Charleston student and a Taco Bell sat here.  I used to drive here in my 1984 Buick La Sabre with fifteen of my closest friends seated comfortably in the Barge Car’s velour backseat.  It was that big.  Thank goodness for the diagonal pull-in parking spots because there was no way I was going to successfully park this mother on a city street.  Even before my fond memories of coming to Taco Bell at 2 in the morning after a night at Drink or Drown at the Edge, I would come here with my Grandparents.  Growing up, I lived in Buckhannon and greatly enjoyed spending a week or two with my “City Grandparents” here in Charleston.  It was during those times that I fell in love with this city.  We went to Charleston Charlies games on occasion, and beforehand would come to this, then Taco Bell.  They thought it was amusing to buy me as many tacos as I could eat.  Little or no limitation on the quantity of tacos or ice cream that I am allowed to consume – now that’s the mark of wonderful grandparents.

Enough reminiscing – today it is a Steak Escape.  Before the invention of Penn Station, this is where one would come if one wanted a hot, grilled sandwich made right before your very eyes.  Personally, I prefer Penn Station because they do a better job with the bread.  But the fries are a close call.

Today I selected the Hambrosia – Ham, pineapple, and Swiss cheese.  As you might expect it was a cross between a hot ham & cheese and a Hawaiian pizza.  The inside of the sandwich was really yummy.  The mix of the salty ham and the sweet pineapple makes a superb combination.  The bread, however, was a dud.  They didn’t do a thing with it.  You have a hot grill, why not slap some butter on that bread and lay it face-down on the grill for a minute???  Penn Station runs theirs through some type of toaster conveyer belt to crisp the bread.  But there’s no need to get that fancy, spending some time on the grill would do wonders for the soft, colorless, room-temperature bun.  Colorless is good when buying a diamond, bad when talking about a great sandwich bun.

On the other hand, the fries had the perfect golden-brown color.  I love the fries here.  I could eat, literally, an entire 5-gallon bucket of these fries.  Of course I would need a jug of Heinz ketchup to dip them into, but I could definitely pull off that stunt.  They are fresh-cut fries cooked in peanut oil.  I got a hearty portion of fries in the “small” cup.  I always immediately dump them out on the paper the sandwich is wrapped in and sprinkle additional salt.  Then I line up 2 or 3 tiny paper cups of ketchup around the edge.  I don’t think I spoke a word to my fellow diners as I savored those fries after finishing the Hambrosia.  Hot, salty, brown, crispy outside, potato-y inside… everything a french fry aspires to be.  These fries will totally be in the Top Five.   Just looking at the picture again makes my mouth water.

Pricewise, Steak Escape and Penn Station are about the same.  Today I used a Dine a Mate coupon so my tab less than normal.  The service was adequate – but what service do you really get?  No one delivers your food, no one obtains drink refills, and you have to bus your own table.  Just like most other sandwich joints.

The one thing holding Steak Escape back from getting a higher rating from me is the lackluster bread.  Oh, and the tables are very crowded together in the dining room.  It’s kind of hard to maneuver through there.  But if you want some great fries, I highly recommend it – go with the large.

THREE FORKS

Steak Escape
3700 MacCorkle Avenue SE
Charleston, WV 25304
304-925-9001
Steak Escape on Urbanspoon

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18 responses to “In Search of Great Fries – Steak Escape

  1. When I lived in Charleston, I seemingly always had the misfortune of getting a glob of very soggy fries in one lump. I never got the kind of fries you describe. 🙂 Don’t get me wrong, with the proper amount of Heinz, the glob’s still tasty …

  2. That is a drawback of fresh cut fries and the cup container. Murad’s and Chris’ serve their fries in a basket and don’t suffer from that issue.

  3. Yeah, I’ve always found the fries at Steak Escape to be soggy too. It’s been a while since I’ve had them, but I remember Penn Station’s fries being really good.

    Of course, I’m partial to trying to make the perfect fries at home. It takes a while, but it’s worth it if you achieve french fry perfection (or near-perfection).

  4. I love Steak Escape’s fries and sandwiches. Too bad you have to sell a kidney to afford to eat there….

  5. You can help avoid the soggy fry trap by dumping them out of the cup ASAP. I agree with Dan that the confines of the cup and the steam of the fries causes this problem. (See my review on the Bluegrass fries.)

    The problem with Penn Station’s fries is that we usually feel we are getting ripped off. We feel we get less if we stay in because they put some on our tray and we think we’d get more if we asked for them in the cup. We have thought about performing a scientific experiment by ordering one in a cup and taking the other the way they come with the sandwich and then measuring to see who got more. I guess it says something for your fries if people are worried that someone else got 3 more morsels than they did!

  6. demosthenes.or.locke

    Sabatino Brothers at Southridge has excellent hand cut fries and the sandwiches are better than steak escape or penn station, in my opinion. Its also local. I think you guys gave it 3 forks too, but I prefer it to either steak escape or penn station.

  7. Steak sandwich to steak sandwich Sabatino Brothers is better, but that is not the criteria here. Overall they are similar. I prefer to go to a local non chain, but it is very likely the Steak Escape franchise is WV owned, too. Not everyone can make it up to Southridge for lunch. SB could be a four in my book, but counter service was lack luster of 3 of 3 visits.

  8. Is Steak Escape is out of Columbus….

    Now some calorie information on these fries….

    12oz cup 498 calories
    16oz cup 651 calories
    25oz cup 919 calories
    32oz cup 996 calories

    Now the increas in calories, from the 25oz to the 32oz is very small but from 16 to 25 well makes you wonder.

    As for the best fries – homemade.

  9. So they’ve put the Hambrosia back on the menu (obviously, I don’t eat there that often)? There for a while it was gone when they revamped their whole menu. The Hambrosia is my favorite especially with banana peppers to add a little zing to the sweet/salty combo.

  10. First of all: thanks a lot, Ron, for listing the calories. Haven’t you ever heard the phrase: “ignorance is bliss”? Well whoever said that was talking about the calorie-count of french fries.

    Secondly to LAL: I thought about adding banana peppers but was afraid it would turn out to be a mistake. Next time, I’ll go for it based on your recommendation.

    I TASTED a sandwich today that you would probably like – Jamaican jerk pork /pineapple/ham on baguette at Bridge Road Bistro. Look for my upcoming review. Unfortunately, I ordered something else. Another case of Food Regret.

  11. If you are a fan of banana peppers, then you will love them on the Hambrosia. I also love Hawaiian pizzas and add bp’s (or jalepenos if the place has them) to them too. MMMMM

    I’ve never been to Bridge Road Bistro, but it sounds really good and that sandwich sounds like it’d be right up my alley.

  12. I lurve Bridge Road Bistro, yet I’ve never eaten lunch there, only dinner. It’s not exactly in the neighborhood of where I eat lunch, though I guess I could try to go on a Saturday. Just thinking aloud…carry on.

  13. Corporate Steak Escape is out of Columbus.

    Did your research uncover if the WV Stores are corporate or a franchise that is WV owned?

  14. WV stores are franchised by a very good operator.

  15. Wow! Great article. I have been thinking about eating at the McDonalds in Dunbar. Would you please review it so I will know if it is worth my time to eat there.

  16. Dann-

    well-written sarcastic comment. keep ’em coming!

  17. The Steak Escapes in Charleston/Huntington are franchised by the same owner of Sabatino’s (which at this point has closed) Steak Escapes in Logan and Beckely are a different franchisees. The store discussed here is actually a joint venture between the local franchisee and the corporate office. It’s operated by the office in Columbus. I ran this business for 7 years and now work for the corporate office. Real fresh cut fries are hard to do perfect but we strive to get it just right every time.

  18. I’ve been eating Steak Escape since about 1990 and their fries were my favorite before Penn Station came to town. Steak Escape’s are a close second and still much better than what you get from fast food restaurants… I also prefer them to many sit-down places like Applebee’s, Friday’s, etc. Penn Station’s seem to be crispier right out of the fryer. I don’t literally eat them when they’re 400 degrees – I usually order take out from both places – and Penn Station’s seem to stay crisp in the cup (and bag) longer. Maybe this is because they cook them longer? I’m pretty sure both places cook them to order. Whatever the reason, Steak Escape’s are often a little soggy by the time I start eating them, which is usually in the car on the way home.
    For the bread, I respectfully disagree and say that Steak Escape’s is great. It’s light and chewy and complements the sandwich well.

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