Hot Chef: Joe Groh talks about the controversial name change

Joe's Steak + Soda Shop is going steady after its name change. (Photo Credit: Tood Trice) Joe Groh owns the recently renamed Joe’s Steak + Soda Shop.
Credit: Todd Trice

You may recognize his name as owner and head chef of the sandwich spot formerly known as Chink’s. Thanks to a little rebranding, it’s now Joe Groh’s name lit up outside. According to Groh, regulars who’d been frequenting Chink’s for decades swore never to return once it was renamed Joe’s Steaks + Soda Shop, claiming that he gave in to the “PC Police.” And they may have been true to their word — business was down immediately following the change. But the chef is confident that this Northeast Philly cheesesteak staple isn’t going away.

Back in August you guys had an eat-in where customers were showing up to support the name change. Were you surprised by the turnout?
It was phenomenal, I was very happy. We’ve made new regular customers from those two weeks. Then there were others who said they couldn’t make it to the eat-in but came later to introduce themselves.

Since then, how’s business been? There was a hit in sales over the summer, right?
We’ve had a lot of people upset with the name change, yes. They don’t understand why I did it, but they’re not in my shoes. They think I bent to the PC Police. I bust my ass every single day to put out a good product, and for some to say that I’m a sellout – well, it hurts. But business has been steady.

You guys just introduced cheesesteak kits. What are those?
I’m really, really excited about these because now you can order from us, construct it yourself and have a party. It’s based around football season, but we plan to keep it around all year. We provide cooked meat or chicken, put it in a sealed container, with condiments on the side. We supply the rolls and any cheese you might want. I would prefer that every person I make a sandwich for would eat it here, but I expect this to really take off.

So the idea is people can have a bunch of cheesesteaks at home and watch the Eagles game. Are you an at-home watcher, or do you go to a bar to watch football?
Oh, at home, for sure. I like to sit at home where I’ve got Direct TV. I used to go to the games and tailgate and make cheesesteaks for everyone.

Do you have a favorite ingredient to cook with?
Well, we cook the mushrooms in light Italian dressing here because it keeps them nice and moist. Does that count?

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