Cleavers, one of Philadelphia’s newest cheesesteak shops, is only two years old, but has already had more cheesesteak experience than your average youngster. Cheesesteak is a family affair at Cleavers. Run by brother and sister co-owners, Electra and Dimitri Poulimenos, Cleavers is the second act of a family that has been in the business of for 30-plus years. “My family owned a manufacturing company that produced customized cheesesteaks for clients,” said Electra Poulimenos. “Dimitri and I grew up with this.”
Food editors swoon over the delights of a good cheesesteak, including the good people at Bon Appétit, but to make a cheesesteak that stands out from the countless versions that surround their shop in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square, Cleavers owners looked closely at every component of their sandwiches. They work with Conshohocken Italian Bakery for their sub (not hoagie) rolls, “so they are soft inside and have a little crunch on the outside,” said Poulimenos. Cheez Whiz is the traditional topping for a Philadelphia cheesesteak but at Cleavers, real cheese options like mozzarella and provolone are also available.
To stand out in a crowded Philadelphia catering scene, Cleavers developed a unique “chop” for their grass-fed only meat. Though they start with certified USDA rib eye, they customize their meat into what Poulimenos calls a “shake.” “We chose a very specific thickness so that when we put the steak on the grill, the pieces break away and are not too thick or too thin,” said Poulimenos, who notes that this preparation gives the steak more of a bite, a toothsomeness not found in cheesesteaks that are sliced, minced, or finely chopped. Also, Cleavers cooks the steak with the other sandwich ingredients. “Everything is infused into the meat,” said Poulimenos.
Ribeye steak sandwiches are the go-to order here, as at most Philly cheesesteak shops, and Poulimenos says her top orders by far are the Block, with sharp provolone, fried onions and Portobello mushrooms and the Effin’ Hot with American cheese, cherry pepper relish and sriracha aioli. Named for their dad who designed the sandwich, Papa’s Favorite Steak is made with fried onions, pizza sauce, and enough mozzarella to bubble up and toast a bit under the broiler.
Chicken sandwiches are another popular option with the CBR – chicken balsamic, thick cut bacon, and mozzarella – vying with the Chicken Italiano (made with sautéed spinach, peppers, and sharp provolone) and BBQ Chicken (with barbecue sauce and onion rings) as the top sellers. Unlike the competition, Cleavers offers Philadelphia catering customers and in-store guests three vegetarian options with the Portobello Cheesesteak as the most popular. Any sandwich is customizable and enough customers requested a no bread option, that the siblings named the gluten-free option the Naked. Yes, it is all the fillings of your sandwich choice served in a bowl without the bread. Trendy, paleo (ask to hold the cheese) and gluten-free – the Naked works for all kinds of eaters.
Rounding out Cleavers menu are sides of fries, including steak cut and waffle cut and meaty toppings like steak, chicken and bacon, and salads, including a classic Steakhouse Salad with blue cheese dressing.
Poulimenos knows there’s nothing worse than a cheesesteak that arrives on a soggy bun. So Cleavers selected a catering box with a unique character – the inside does not trap moisture “so it doesn’t sweat while it gets to you,” says Poulimenos. Your catered cheesesteak will arrive just as if you ordered it at the restaurant. Cleavers requires one hour advance notice for most orders and delivering the food on time and fresh is one of its singular attributes.