Simple fare hides the smarts of the sly cat behind two local businesses

ALLIE KATZIf an authentic Philly Cheese Steak is the goal, look no further than Allie Katz on Walton Way Extension.

Owner Bryan Birmingham is a native of metro Philadelphia and has some strong opinions on the right way to make the city’s famous sandwich. According to him, there is only one right way.

“A Philly Cheese Streak, all it is is meat, cheese and grease,” he said with fervor. But the method of cooking gives it the taste and texture loved far and wide. We won’t reveal Birmingham’s secret, but we will say that if you put any cheese except Provolone on it, he might cry.

In fact, he stopped once at a roadside stand in Tampa, Fla., that advertised the authenticity of the cheese steaks. But he walked away with a broken heart after being asked about condiments and toppings.

“There’s no mayonnaise on a cheese steak. There’s no lettuce. If you want to get all hoity-toity, you can add mushrooms or sautéed onions and peppers. You see people putting on lettuce and mayo and you just want to slap them,” he laughed.

But Birmingham won’t slap you if you slip into his new restaurant (just don’t ask for mayo in your cheese steak), Allie Katz Bar & Grille. It’s the second location for him, an extension of his original, three-year-old Allie Katz bar.

Open just a few months, the new restaurant has already established a loyal following of cheese steak eaters who unfailingly order a side of Birmingham’s double-battered Guinness onion rings. The location in the Walton Way Extension shopping center that also houses Omni Health & Fitness is just around the corner from the madhouse that is Augusta Exchange — close enough to shop and see a movie, and far away enough to avoid the crowds afterwards.

“The first one’s doing pretty good,” Birmingham said, dryly, of his successful first bar. “But you only got two ways to go: You either expand or contract. I’d rather keep getting bigger.”

And bigger it is, at four times the size of his current location. They offer what Birmingham calls “pub grub,” along with salads and wraps for the workout warriors. But he’s committed to quality and authenticity, even for his food that isn’t fine dining.

And he wants to make it a gathering place for people. That’s the reason the restaurant hosts a poker league three nights a week, keeps their prices as low as possible — draft beers are $1 with tax — and doesn’t offer live music. That means patrons hang out, play games, keep some money in their pockets and can afford to come back because there’s never a cover charge to get in.

“I hate when I’m going out somewhere to spend money and I have to spend money to get in to spend money,” he laughed.

In that way, he’s built his brand on reasonable prices and a community atmosphere. His philosophy is simple: People come to bars to drink, relax and play. And when they do, they want to leave with a little cash in their pockets.

“I just give people as much as I can for the money,” he said.

Allie Katz Bar & Grill
369 Walton Way Ext.

Allie Katz Bar
202 Hudson Trace


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