In a town where you can’t go a block without a whiff of Wiz and onions, throwing your hat into the already saturated cheesesteak market is a bold move. But Cleavers’ co-owners Electra and Dimitri Poulimenos and Sav and Ted Bouikidis certainly aren’t shy.
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“We are trying to reinvent the cheesesteak,” explains Electra sitting in the upstairs dining room of her shiny new 18th Street spot. The Poulimenos siblings come from a family meat manufacturing business and the Bouikidis brothers own a trio of pizzerias in and around the city. As longtime family friends their plan to open a cheesesteak shop had been in the works for a while. But with it’s floor to ceiling butchery-inspired murals, warm wood tables and selection of 80 plus beers, Cleavers miles away from your workaday steak stop.
Sourcing rolls from Abruzzi Bakery in Southwest Philadelphia and ribeye steaks from the Poulimenos’ family biz, the quality here hits high marks. Instead of mincing the sliced ribeye to oblivion the cooks at Cleavers are using a technique that they’re calling shaking, a griddle top method that breaks the steak down into irregular pieces. “We wanted big and small pieces so you can really taste the meat and really have that delicious flavor that comes out of it,” Electra says.
Another innovation gracing Cleavers’ menu is their bowls, a nod to a very Philly-specific brand of health conciseness. Order one of them and you can get all of the good stuff that goes into your cheesesteak, chicken cutlet or chicken bacon and ranch sandwich minus the bread.
With a full liquor license the folks at Cleavers are having a little fun with their drinks menu, offering both boozy floats made with Not Your Father’s Root Beer along with spiked milkshakes all made with a custom churned ice cream made just for the shop.
Carb conscious bowls and adult floats might be new territory for Philly cheesesteak shops but Cleavers unique brand of table service might be the showstopper. Instead of having guests bring their trays of steaks and fries from the street level counter to the upstairs dining room they’ve installed an open-air dumbwaiter system that brings orders up to the second floor and into the hands of a food runner who will walk it to guests’ tables.
“Everything here is custom,” Sav Bouikidis laughs visibly proud of his new endeavor. “Our steak is custom, are cutlets are custom, our ice cream is custom, our lift is custom, just for us!”