When we were waiting for our carryout order, Fat Larry himself walked right in the front door.
So there really is a "Fat Larry." He's Larry Davidov, the owner. A Philadelphia native, Davidov is serious about bringing authentic Philly cheese steaks to Baltimore. He's starting in Federal Hill at the old Corks space, though you'd never recognize it.
Now, the kitchen and ordering counter are up front. Further back, there's an eat-in dining room, which would make a decent hangout at 2 a.m., when everyone is feeling lively.
His cheese steaks are excellent. The rolls, which Davidov brings in from Philadelphia, are toasted to order, and the steaks are seasoned and freshly chopped. We ordered ours with the "whiz," a processed yellow cheese synonymous with Philadelphia cheese steak, for the sake of authenticity, but you can order it with American or provolone cheese, too.
Tuesday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., you can get an 8-inch sub and a 20-ounce fountain soda for $6.99. There are, in addition to the cheese steaks, chicken cheese steaks, hoagies and hot sandwiches like meatball parmigiana, Italian sausage and even a Taylor pork roll with cheese, the pride of New Jersey. If you find a friend to split a big order of seasoned fries ($3.50), you can keep lunch under 10 bucks. The fries, salty and crispy, are worth it.
You can order your cheese steak "WIT" or "WIT OUT," which is how Philadelphians let the sandwich maker know if they want fried onions. Or at least they do at the tourist spots, which have made a fetish out of rudeness.
Fat Larry's isn't a rude place, but it's not cheerful. In the middle of the afternoon, it was bordering on gloomy. And in a few months, the front windows have become cluttered with hand-written signs, which is what happens at gloomy places.
Your cheese steak is great, Fat Larry. Let the sunshine in.
Where: 1026 S. Charles St., Federal Hill
Contact: 443-759-7302, fatlarrys.net
Hours: Open daily for lunch and dinner
Lunch entrees: $6.99-$12.99