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Lefty’s Cheesesteak (Portage)

October 4, 2021

  • 6156 S. Westnedge Avenue
  • Portage, MI 49002
  • (269) 743-2800
  • Website
  • Menu

What’s a cheesesteak?  Oh, there are opinions on what a true cheesesteak is.  That’s a conversation I don’t weigh in to because honestly, I don’t know.  

You wanna talk Chicago pizza?  Or Italian beefs (seriously, don’t get me started)?  Those are topics I will argue as passionately as people from Philadelphia argue about cheesesteaks.  

Lucky for us, a couple of cheesesteak places just opened in the Kalamazoo area so we can start forming our own opinions.  

Lefty’s Cheesesteak has opened two locations in the Kalamazoo area.  One of them took over the former Moe’s Southwest Grill on Stadium Drive (don’t worry, I’ll get there soon).  The other opened in the Southland Mall in Portage.  This location opened first and took over an old Jimmy Johns shop sandwiched between Blaze Pizza and Noodles & Co.

Friday was a fairly slow day at work. I decided I’d go check out this new (to West Michigan) sandwich shop.

Lefty’s Cheesesteak is a Detroit creation. The original restaurant was established in a Detroit suburb. Since then, they’ve opened more than 40 stores in three states. The two in Kalamazoo are the only ones on this side the state. The next closest would be in Jackson.

This store was an old Jimmy John’s so there’s not a lot of room inside. I stopped in on a Friday afternoon just after the lunch rush and the place was packed.

There’s an order counter where you order at one end and pick up you meal at the other. The menu board hangs behind the counter and it’s full of cheesesteak combinations, burgers, wings, coneys, corned beef sandwiches and more. They had both registers going so once I figured out what I wanted, I stepped up to the counter to put it in.

There’s not a lot of room to wait and orders were coming out pretty slow. There’s a row of tables along the opposite wall but that’s it. No one was actually dining in but all of the chairs were being used as people were waiting for their food.

All of the food is made to order in a small kitchen right behind the order counter. The grill was working as fast as they could to keep up with orders. There was one person bagging up orders as they came out and that’s where the hold up was. Another person saw the back up and stepped in to help and cleared orders out pretty quickly after that.

I ordered a full Grim Reapers hoagie and an order of fries. I grabbed the bag once my name was called and headed back to the office. The bill for my sandwich and fries (no drink) was just over $17. You can go cheaper with a half sandwich and if the size of mine is the standard, a half sandwich will be more than plenty. They’re filled pretty full.

I started in on the fries as soon as I got back as I was still contemplating exactly how to pick up the sandwich. The fries are nothing special. I saw the fry guy open up a back and dump frozen fries in to the fryer. There are options to top the fries (cheese fries, chili cheese fries, cajun fries) and that’s a better option if you’re going for flavor. The fries are basic that probably taste better dipped in ketchup. If that’s what you want, you’re in luck.

The hoagie that I ordered was pretty massive. The soft roll is filled with rib eye steak, grilled onions, Carolina Reaper Cheese, spicy cherry peppers, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. My turnoff to cheesesteaks is the onions. I love the idea of tender meat and liquid cheese in a tasty bun but the onions are…bleh. I asked if they could leave the onions off knowing they’re all cooked together on the grill and she said yeah. That made this sandwich 100x better. The meat was so tender and those spicy cherry peppers lived up to their name. I really could have done without the mayo but you really couldn’t tell it was there. The peppers were spicy enough they blocked out most other flavors.

There is so much more I want to try from Lefty’s and I’m sure I’ll get plenty of chances with the Kalamazoo location being close to my home.

I really enjoyed the sandwich. The size of it makes for a meal on it’s own. I know people (including myself) complain about chains but this is a Michigan chain and it brings something unique. Up until now, Paulie’s Cheesesteak in Portage has really been the only place doing cheesesteaks and how often do you actually go to the mall to eat in the food court? I think Lefty’s will be a welcome addition and so far, the lines at the Portage location seem to indicate people are excited for this take on a sandwich.

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