by Ian McNulty
Everyone in New Orleans knows that some roast beef on any old French bread does not make a proper roast beef po-boy, and in the same way steak and cheese slapped together doesn’t necessarily make a cheesesteak. That's why the proprietors of the new Liberty Cheesesteaks take some laborious but - as they see it - crucial steps to source and prepare cheesesteaks in a way Philadelphians would recognize as true to form.
Mike Casey and Joe Seremet will formally open Liberty Cheesesteaks this Saturday, March 9, after an extended run of trial openings during the weeks prior. They join the Freret Street restaurant row, taking over the glorified shed that was the original home of Dat Dog, and they bring one more highly-specialized option for casual eats to the strip.
“I wanted to model it after the neighborhood cheesesteak shops I grew up with,” says Casey, a native of Philadelphia who came to New Orleans for college. “We didn’t just Google this stuff on how to make a cheesesteak. We’re purists.”
There’s a certain blend and fat ratio for the steak, and a certain way it should be chopped on the griddle. And then there’s the bread. Liberty uses soft, pliant Italian loaves that have “twice the weight of French bread but only half the strength,” Casey says.
The menu gets right to the point: there are cheesesteaks, fries, grilled cheese for the kids and soft drinks. The cheesesteak options follow a few generally accepted derivations from the standard. There’s a pizza steak with mozzarella and marinara, for instance, and a chicken steak. A big question for aficionados concerns the cheese. Will it be American, provolone or Cheez Wiz? All have their adherents in Philly, where partisanship runs high.
“Back home, cheesesteak preferences can estrange families, they’ll set father against son,” says Casey.
Liberty Cheesesteaks does throw a few bones to locals. You can spice up the fries with a very hot dose of crab boil seasoning shaken over the top, for instance, and along with the traditional toppings of crushed pepper and garlic there’s a Sriracha and mayonnaise option.
“That’s to ease the transition for New Orleans people with their mayo,” Casey explains.
Liberty Cheesesteaks is open for limited hours this week leading to the grand opening on Saturday, after which it will serve lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday, with late-night hours a possibility in the future.
5031 Freret St., (504) 875-4447