John's Roast Pork is a working person's eatery, open only Monday through Friday for breakfast and for lunch, then closing. The shipyards personnel who were its original clientele in 1930 all used to go home for dinner. Heavy industry no longer dominates the neighborhood, which has become a Monopoly board of big box stores, strip malls, and discount warehouses that dwarf the little sandwich shop and its patio picnic tables. (There is no indoor dining; but heat lamps and shutters are set up for cold weather.)
John's roast pork is one of Philadelphia's culinary treasures, made from "Pop Pop's original recipe," cooked and boned on premises. The slices of pale, sweet meat are shockingly tender, forked from a drippy trough and piled into a superb Carangi Bakery seeded roll, then preferably supplemented by clumps of spinach sautéed in olive oil with plenty of garlic. While the tonic shot of spinach is a welcome addition, I would recommend forgoing optional cheese toppings which, in my opinion, only detract from the essential piggy richness of the pork itself.
John's cheese steak, which is ordered from a separate station at the walk-up counter, also is one of the city's best. John Bucci, whose family started the place, explains why he thinks the steaks are so good. "When you order one, there is nothing on the grill. We start clean," he says. "Onions are not pre-cooked; every steak is made for the person who orders it. I am a cheese fanatic. We put five slices on every sandwich, eight if you order extra." There is so much meat in a John's sandwich that the server tears out some of the roll's soft insides to make room for it. The onions are sweet, the beef juicy, the cheese abundant, the roll fresh: is there a better formula for cheese steak perfection?
"A crown jewel of Philadelphia's sandwich culture: John's roast pork topped with garlicky sauteed spinach."
"While the name of the place is 'John's Roast Pork,' the beef-heavy cheese steak is no second-class sandwich. No, it is not pretty; but each ingredient is exemplary and the roll is one of Philly's best."
"Street food at its finest. John's couldn't be more humble and informal; and yet the sandwiches you get at this little joint are magnificent."
"Any doubt as to what's the specialty of the house at John's Roast Pork? While common at restaurants throughout the South, signs showing happy pigs are a rarity in the Northeast."