The only reason why our quest for a decent, relatively authentic cheesesteak began at a chain restaurant was convenience. I needed to run a few errands near Webster Groves, and I knew there was a Lenny's Sub Shop on Big Bend.
Still, it makes a certain sense: Since St. Louis isn't known for cheesesteaks, maybe some out-of-town know-how is necessary. Lenny's may not seem a likely candidate -- it was founded in Bartlett, Tennessee, in 1998 -- but according to their official biograpy, Len and Shelia Moore first started selling sandwiches in Wildwood, New Jersey. That's a lot closer to Philly than St. Louis is.
Lenny's moved into our area only recently. This was my first visit. Nothing fancy: booths, the sandwich-assembly line, a soda fountain. Sadly, you can't really see the grill from the dining room.
I ordered a "regular" cheesesteak ($5.75). A large cheesesteak is $9.25. (The regular is seven and a half inches long, a large 15 inches.) For $1.75 more, I added a bag of Lenny's-brand salt-and-vinegar chips and a fountain soda.
The wait was reasonable -- maybe five minutes. The sandwich was straightforward: meat, onions and cheese. According to Lenny's Wikipedia entry, the cheese is a blend of swiss and American. I couldn't really tell for sure, but it had that generic tang of processed cheese.
Cheese Whiz, it was not.
There was a decent amount of beef on the unremarkable bread -- but when it comes to cheesesteaks, "decent amount" ain't a compliment. The bread was somewhat sodden with grease, but not in imminent danger of meltdown. Again, not a compliment.
The meat was just OK. The cut was decent, but the flavor didn't quite stand up to the cheese and onions.
The Lenny's cheesesteak is serviceable, but I'm still hungry for more. On a scale of 0 to 5, I rate it:
The quest continues.