WEST KINGSTON, RI – Hungry for one of the best cheesesteaks you will ever eat? Then forget about Philly, and head straight to Tilly. Inside this little spot in West Kingston, Rhode Island, Tilly’s Cheesesteaks is sizzling up some the best steak sandwiches in New England.
Owners Jonathan Beres and David Lewis share a passion for great cheesesteaks, but the ones they found around the Ocean State weren’t that great.
“I think the first meal I had after I got off the plane in Rhode Island was a steak and cheese,” Jonathan recalled, “and it was one of the worst steak and cheese I ever had in my life.”
So he decided to do it better and opened Tilly’s Cheesesteaks, where the atmosphere is funky and fun, and the ingredients are the best you can get.
“Tilly’s is a high quality cheesesteak joint. We only use Creekstone Certified Angus beef. We get bread delivered from The Bronx daily. We only use Cabot cheddar. We make all of our cheddar queso in house.”
The classic sandwich here is known as the Tilly’s Philly, featuring gooey melted cheese and caramelized onions.
“We sell thousands of those. Sweet onions, salty beef, a little black pepper, soft bread, crunchy on the outside, and then just tons of cheese,” Jonathan described. “We have people come in here that are from Philly and say, ‘I lived in Philly for 40 years and that’s the best cheesesteak I’ve ever had.’”
At almost a foot long, this is one hearty hoagie. But if you’re looking to feed a crowd and make quite an impression, just call ahead to order The Big Tilly.
“We offer the Big Tilly’s for our catering parties and they’re essentially three foot subs that our bakery bakes for us. We put cheese on the bottom. We put about 65 ounces of our prime beef and cheese on the top. We try to maximize the cheesiness. Bread, cheese, meat, more cheese.”
For customers looking for something a bit different, there are more adventurous cheesesteaks on the menu, like the PB & J, filled with pork belly, jalapeno queso, tomato, pickled onions, and cilantro; or the Butcher’s Cut loaded with beef, mushroom, blue cheese queso, sweet caramelized onions, and crispy onion strings.
“It is completely different,” Jonathan said. “It can be funky, savory, a little bit sweet because of the onions, and then crunchy on the top with the fried onion strings that we make in house.”
You can even order a cheesesteak without the roll, like the Spicy Fajita cheesesteak served over tortilla chips, or the Anchor served atop fluffy fry bread.
“You’ve got to think of a big, pillowy, savory fried dough, covered in our house brined chicken, Buffalo sauce, lettuce, tomato, scallion, blue cheese crumble, and our blue cheese cream cheese spread. It just seems to be this decadent dish, but it’s also really light at the same time,” Jonathan described.
If you prefer a burger, Tilly’s does a great job with those too, but you had better like bacon.
“The bacon is actually ground into the meat, and we grind that meat daily. To every four ounces of beef, there’s an ounce of bacon. It’s smoky, delicious, juicy.”
On the side, forget about fries and try some Jojo’s.
“They’re essentially deep fried crispy potatoes,” Jonathan explained. “We take our local Maine potatoes and we dredge them like fried chicken in a fried chicken batter. They’re absolutely crunchy, soft, pillowy, delicious.”
Other snacks include ultra-crunchy house fried pork rinds, hearty Texas Caviar Salsa with black-eyed peas and avocado, and hot Jalapeño queso with fresh tortilla chips seasoned with secret spices.
“We make our own Tilly spice. The spice has about 30 different ingredients, everything from tomato powder to Mexican oregano, and they’re essentially the healthiest Dorito you can eat.”
Few folks make it to dessert at Tilly’s, which is a shame, because the milkshakes are great; the double stuffed Whoopie Pies are even better; and the Sopapillas are simply sensational.
“We deep fry those to order, toss them in our Mexican cinnamon and sugar, and serve them with vanilla whipped cream,” described Jonathan. “You dip it into the cream and you bite into the crunchy layer, and then you get to the middle soft pillowy area.”
While the stuff they serve at Tilly’s may not be health food, it is good food, made from the best ingredients, by a guy who just loves cheesesteaks.
“I’ve been cooking for about 20 years,” Jonathan said. “I’ve always loved sandwiches, and I’ve just always wanted to have a spot where people could come in and get quality food that they didn’t feel bad about eating. Even if it was an oozy Philly Cheesesteak.”
You can find at 3711 Kingstown Road in West Kingston, Rhode Island, and online at tillyscheesesteaks.com.
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