I think I could feel my heart actually shudder for a moment as the cook at Nick's Submarines scooped out a blob of butter and plopped it onto some onions beginning to heat up on the grill.
Next to the pile of onions simmered a big pile of thinly sliced beef, which she battered into submission with an 18-inch-long chopper. Before long she layered on the cheese - the bright yellow kind, not the familiar provolone - and, finally, yet another heart-stopping cheese steak had come to life from Nick's grill.
For something like 60 years, Nick's Submarines has been feeding the hungry in Pigtown - Washington Village, if you must.
I had arrived at Nick's on a recent chilly afternoon to buy lunch for the hardworking staff of the nonprofit Neighborhood Design Center, whose office is a couple of blocks from Nick's.
Outside, Nick's Formstone facade features a spiffy, red-and-white checkerboard design and a big red awning. Looking up Washington Boulevard, you can see Oriole Park beckoning in the distance.
Inside, the long grill faces out to a narrow area for customers. The old tin ceiling has been painted over about a thousand times but retains a faded charm. Equally faded newspaper clippings recount the efforts of Nick's original owner, Nick Spiro, to care for his developmentally disabled daughter.
As for the menu, look elsewhere for such niceties as soup, salad or wraps; this is all about the grill and the deep-fat fryer.
The cheese steak ($4.75 for a "junior" and don't call it a "half") turned out to be a good-sized and perfectly adequate creation, although I'm still not sure about the yellow cheese. A ham-and-egg junior sub ($4.75) came with several thin slices of fried ham and a couple of fried eggs, smothered in cheese, all of it served on a fresh roll given a crunchy coating on the grill.
French fries ($1.20) were soggy - a familiar carryout problem - but onion rings ($1.95) were crispy and yummy.
The small cheeseburger cost a mere $1.40 and was indeed small but acceptable. And a junior meatball-and-cheese sub ($4.25) was messy and reassuringly familiar.
The bad news came when we left the fried-meat family. A fish sandwich ($4.50) had plenty of batter but hardly a trace of the sea. As for dessert, Nick's does not have any.
Service was adept and friendly. Parking is at meters, which seem easy enough to find.
Waiting area: **
Where: 813 Washington Blvd., Washington Village
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday; closed Sunday
Prices: Subs, burgers, platters and pizza, $1.20 to $17.50; no credit cards
Outstanding: ****; Good: ***; Fair or uneven: **; Poor:*