Testing, Testing: Early Word on the Cheesesteak Pretzel

Is Philly Pretzel Factory's new creation culinary genius or culinary disaster?

Behold, the cheesesteak pretzel. You can try one for yourself for free today, Monday May 24th, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at most Philly Pretzel Factory locations as part of the company’s big PR push to introduce the new product. But the Philly Mag team got a sneak preview of the unholy (or is it brilliant?) union of two Philly food traditions last week. We also spoke with Philly Pretzel Factory owner Dan DiZio to get some answers to our burning cheesesteak pretzel questions like: do you eat it with  ketchup or mustard? Here’s what the we thought of the new hybrid (which is surprisingly less caloric than we expected).

We wanted to like it — why wouldn’t we? — but during the tasting, here in the Restaurant Club War Room, one word came up repeatedly:  “bland.” Also, “Hot Pocket.” All 10 tasters wanted to know why there wasn’t any salt on the pretzel. DiZio says the during the product testing phase, which has been going on for roughly two years, they tried it with salt and tasters said the salt interfered with the taste of the steak, the cut of which DiZio won’t reveal, other than to say it is “lean seasoned beef.” So no salt.

Nearly everyone was disappointed with the meager quantity of cheese — a blend of American and mozzarella — and wanted the cheese to have a stronger flavor. Also, why no Whiz? DiZio says this is just the first of many stuffed pretzel varieties that the company plans to roll out, so there is likely a Whiz version in the offing, though he wouldn’t confirm.

Overall, the tasting panel wasn’t particularly taken with this mash-up of Philly flavors. It scored an average of 3 on a scale of 1 to 10. Here were some of the comments:

“Good portion size. Clean and not messy to eat.”
“Good for eating on the go or while driving.”
“A guilty pleasure snack or something to eat quick before a night of drinking.”

“Too bland”
“Rather bland, pretzel is gummy”
“Needs salt”
“Has almost no flavor”
“Not salty enough”
“Needs sharper cheese”
“Where’s the cheese?!”

Do you think your fellow Philadelphians will eat this?
“Absolutely not, though it could be popular outside of the region.”
“No. Not pretzely enough. No cheese. Weird.”
“Not really — not disgusting enough, sloppy enough, salty enough.”
“No. A good theory — two Philly favorites — not executed well.”

As for the ketchup or mustard question, Di Zio says so far, eaters have “overwhelmingly” chosen ketchup. Guess that means this is more a cheesesteak than a pretzel?

Have you tried the cheesesteak pretzel? Do you agree with our assessment? Let us know in the comments.