When news surfaced about the Cheesesteak Pretzel, there was really no doubt we had to cover it. This is a Philadelphia-based sandwich blog after all, and a sandwich-like creation capturing and combining the essence of two of Philly’s most iconic foods is a completely undeniable force. The Cheesesteak Pretzel is the creation of the Philly (Soft) Pretzel Factory (PPF). A franchised company that began with humble beginnings in Northeast Philadelphia just 12 years ago, but today has well over 100 stores that stretch the length of the east coast from upper New York down to Georgia.
I met with Marty Ferrill, VP of Operations at the corporate headquarters in Mayfair and he gave me a bit of insight to the company’s origins and its owners Dan DiZio and Len Lehman. DiZio and Lehman started the first Philly Soft Pretzel Factory on Frankford Ave., in the base of the building where headquarters is currently located. The business model was simple back then, their intention was to provide fresh baked pretzels for delivery like other companies at the time. The walk-in availability of pretzels in a retail environment that has become their mainstay was only a secondary consideration. Though, after the first full day and consistently long lines of people waiting for their fresh baked, hand-twisted pretzels, the business model had to adapt.
The first franchise didn’t actually open up until 2004. The business prior to then focused on the products and the overall company vision while pushing forward with the established vision of fresh pretzels available just about any time of day. From 2004 onward however, the company experienced exponential growth until about two years ago when they decided to once again focus on products and the company itself. That’s about the time when PPF started experimenting with various sandwich-like creations. For lack of a better comparison, they’re essentially Hot Pocket-like. The notable difference would be the fact that PPF uses the same exact pretzel recipe we’ve all come to love and enjoy.
Billed as “As Philly As It Gets” the Cheesesteak Pretzel was the clear winner after trial runs of other less successful/interesting sandwich varieties (turkey and cheese, ham and cheese). The Cheesesteak Pretzel debuted on May 17, with a free giveaway day on May 24. Thousands were given out among the 100+ locations, with over 800 alone in under 3 hours at the corporate store. The novelty of the item is surely enough to entice people to try the item, but its existence as a decent lunch offering will probably get folks to try it again and again.
As stated, it starts out using the exact pretzel recipe, though unsalted. And within, it contains some lightly seasoned beef and American cheese. The total product weighs in at 5.5oz and makes for a great lunch meal. It’d be easy to eat two and still be under what some cheesesteak shops have for their portions. Nutrition-wise they stand at a decent, approximate 340 calories and 8 grams of fat per Cheesesteak Pretzel. The cheesesteak pretzels are available now at every PPF and priced between $3-$3.50 each, though many stores have a 2 for $5 special. We’d recommend adding some ketchup to the inside of the cheesesteak pretzel, but we wouldn’t mind a squirt of mustard on the outside as well.
After the initial success of the Cheesesteak Pretzel, PPF is on its way to considering other stuffed pretzel varieties and even the potential for breakfast-sandwich inspired ones. With an entry into quick, satisfying sandwich-like offerings such as this one, PPF has proven itself to be a capable contender in quick and affordable lunch bites.