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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - If you have been to the ballpark to watch the Phillies, chances are you are familiar with a certain sandwich stand behind section 139 and the escalators to the second level. It is home to one of the ballpark’s most popular sandwiches, The Schmitter.
It truly is a ballpark favorite but its origin is not South Philadelphia but in a Chestnut Hill tavern that has been serving the area for close to 90 years.
Rose McNally opened up McNally’s Quick Lunch in 1921 on Germantown Avenue. It was intended to feed trolley operators, including Rose’s husband. After a few years it moved across the street and is still there to this day as McNally’s Tavern. Today, a few generations later, Rose’s great-granddaughters, Anne and Meg run the place and continue to serve some of the old time favorites including The Schmitter.
For those not familiar, The Schmitter is a steak sandwich but not a cheesesteak.
“We use a little bit of a higher grade of beef, almost like our roast beef,” explained Anne McNally, “Cheese, fried onions, tomatoes, salami. The salami is cooked salami, not Genoa. And our sauce, we call it Schmitter sauce.”
McNally says everything is grilled and melted together at the tavern. In terms of the sauce, its recipe is not top secret like it used to be. A Jenkintown company cooks it up for the ballpark, but McNally says they still make their Schmitter sauce in-house at the Chestnut Hill location.
The Schmitter was born from Anne’s father in the mid 60s, years before Phils great Mike Schmidt played in the big leagues. That disproves the common myth that the sandwich was named after the legendary slugger. It was actually named after a popular Philadelphia-brewed beer.
You can hear Tim Jimenez’s interview with Anne McNally in this CBS Philly “Philly Scene” podcast…
“To correct history, we want you to know that it was named after Schmidt’s Beer. Dennis, who was a friend of my dad’s, worked in the ER at Chestnut Hill Hospital, and drank Schmidt’s Beer (at the tavern). He would order the same sandwich (often) and that’s how it finally got its name.” McNally said.
The big question is which version of the Schmitter is better; the one at the ballpark or the original in Chestnut Hill?
“I have a nephew who said, ‘I had the best Schmitter ever at the ballpark,’” McNally said. “Some people who’ve had Schmitters here say, ‘I don’t think I’d order one at the ballpark because I’m not sure it’s going to be the same.”
McNally explains the big difference is volume. They have the time and staff to cook each sandwich individually at the tavern, but at the ballpark, due to the large number of orders, they have to put the sandwich together differently.
“Here (at the tavern) when we’re making a Schmitter, the onions, the tomatoes and the salami are all combined together and cooked kind of like a sandwich, where it’s flipped,” McNally explained. “But at the ballpark, it’s more putting it together once everything is cooked. So those flavors are there.”
Anne says you will have to decide yourself. That is a challenge that many will probably not mind taking.
Reported by Tim Jimenez, KYW Newsradio