[Eat It]: And Die...

The steak & cheese that will end your life - By Christopher St Cavish, Jun 18, 09

Eat It is a regular feature that cuts to the core of a given restaurant's menu, highlighting a specialty, favorite, or otherwise good thing to eat.

Among the safely bland landscape of Tony Roma's, there's a very real, very fatal threat. On one of the back pages of the menu, past the American BBQ rib chain's signature Blue Ridge Smokies, Red Hots, and Carolina Honeys, beyond the "Create Your Own Steak Combos!" lies the unassuming Beef Cheddar Grille Sandwich, waiting to ambush your heart.

I went yesterday to confront this sucker, this "sandwich", on the recommendation of someone who should know. Someone who owns a sandwich shop, makes real good sandwiches, and speaks proudly and knowingly on the subject of the handheld lunch. "I always ask them to take off the tomatoes, and put extra onions, and, oh, add sauce to it. It's got this creamy, 1000-Island-ish hot sauce on it. Yeah, make sure you get the extra onions. It's the best sandwich in town." Someone with intimate knowledge of the Beef Cheddar Grille, gleaned from many, many encounters. Someone who, by the laws of health and the virture of nature and the cumulative knowledge of the entire history of the medical profession, should not still be alive.

The Beef Cheddar Grille is not a sandwich. It's a heart attack -- a delicious, guilty, fatty, challenging, indulgent, spontaneous heart attack. Two light pieces of ciabatta cradle onion rings, beef, cheese, and mayonnaise. It's a stack of deep-fried onion rings, greasy beef, industrial Cheddar cheese, a faintly spicy mayonnaise, and thick slices of tomatoes. The tomatoes don't feel right. They're healthy intruders, apologetic concession ostensibly added at the last-minute. It's an ONION RING AND BEEF sandwich. Otherwise, it's good.

The menu deceptively highlights the weight of the thing (186 grams) without suggesting that it might also be an accurate estimation of the fat content. The BCG should come with health insurance -- it's 108rmb, for chrissakes -- not French fries. At the very least, it deserves a warning label. Maybe something like the cartoon chilies used to indicate the hot dishes on a menu. A drawing of a red heart wrapped in bacon might be appropriate. Instead, it gets this:

"Tender roast beef sliced thin and piled high on a ciabatta bun with Cheddar cheese, tomato, crisp onions and BBQ mayonnaise (186g)"

Given all of that, why would anyone eat one of these? Because once you remove the tomatoes, it's delicious. Halfway through the thing, when your stomach starts resenting you and you can feel your heart being enveloped in a cocoon of institutional cheese, there's a moment of reflection. "I can't possibly eat another half of this," you'll say to yourself. "I fear it's killing me immediately. But, on the other hand, it is delicious and if I decline the rest of this sandwich, the odds that I'll be hit by a car while crossing Xikang Lu probably rise dramatically. No, I will continue to enjoy the moment, cholesterol, hardened arteries, and long-term health consequences be damned. Oh, look. French fries! I love French fries!"

There's one cheat: the Beef Cheddar Grille Sandwich is part of Tony Roma's lunch specials. Whatfs 108rmb after 4pm, not including a 30rmb can of Coke, is 68rmb from 11am-4pm as part of a lunch set that includes a drink and soup. And while The Romafs murderous sandwich might be available until 10pm (10.30pm on Friday and Saturday), emergency health care at Parkway Health, just across Shanghai Centerfs plaza, only goes until 7pm (5pm on Friday and Saturday). Consider it.

Tony Romafs, 1/F, Shanghai Center, 1376 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Xikang Lu.

Jos Stickley

Jun 18, 09

Beautifully written, CStC. But I'm still not eating one of those things!


Jun 19, 09

This is probably the best review Tony Romas has received in the history of Tony Romas. Your passion for this sandwhich is inspiring. Respect.


Jul 03, 09

Holy crap that looks good. Especially now City Deli have taken their steak and cheese baguette off the menu (the worse thing to happen there since their "half pickle" policy). At least they still have the turkey and avacado though eh?


Jul 06, 09

This is a very good deal, the Ciabatta is crispy and the meat is tender and juicy, the French Fries are not the best, but well, for 68RMB the deal is really good tasty greasy food, lovely, I hope I will survive the second one.
Please sign in or register to comment

Jul 22nd, 09

[Eat It:] Sea Grapes

Izakaya oddities - by Christopher St Cavish

Jun 30th, 09

[Eat It]:
Toriyasu's Yakitori

Worshipping at chicken temple - by Christopher St Cavish

May 22nd, 09

[Eat It]: Tonkatsu

Pork and more... on Jiaozhou Lu - by Christopher St Cavish

  • James Fallows farewells China: Telling tales from a complex behemoth
  • Shanghai gets surreal - Salvador Dali style
  • Coffee round-up: Where to go for that cup of Joe?
  • Interviews with Linkin Park, Fatman Scoop, Mochipet

SmartShanghai presents:
Hassle free ticket purchasing and delivery for Shanghai's cultural and concert events.
More of SmartTicket here »

Hot selling:

September 5 - 12


Andrew Lloyd Webberfs Cats returns to Shanghai in all its radiant brilliance. Sure to be the musical theatre event of the season, this run of Cats is eight shows only!

Details & prices »

August 15

Linkin Park

Nu metal supergroup Linkin Park returns to Shanghai for their second China tour. What to expect? THE HITS.

Details & prices »