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Taste of Philly in Crystal River, Florida

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Sub Shoppe serves up Goliath sandwiches, tasty kakes and gourmet sodas

By Julianne Munn

If you’re looking for fancy, then Taste of Philly Sub Shoppe might not be your dining destination. But if you’re looking for whopper-size Philly cheesesteak subs, this is it.

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The little bright yellow building at 630 N.E. Second Ave., off U.S. 19 in Crystal River, is one of the busiest sub spots in Citrus County. And though cheesesteaks star on the menu, they are by no means the only items.

Linda Downey, the owner-operater, said she started the business six years ago this month as a single mother of six with a lot of hope and hands-on help from her children.

Previous restaurant experience for the Massachusetts native included work for 13 years in the Oxford Diner in the Massachusetts town of the same name, she said.

With old-fashioned Yankee work ethic and plenty of determination, Downey has managed to corner a huge segment of the sandwich trade six days a week at the tiny shop.

On any given day around noon, folks are lined up at Taste of Philly for bags of carry-out specialties such as the Goliath cheesesteak (lettuce, tomato, fried onions, peppers, pickles, hot peppers, mushrooms, mayo, mustard, ketchup, pizza and steak sauce, extra cheese and hot sauce) at $8.95.

But if that sounds like more than the normal person can eat, you may also get a regular 12-inch cheesesteak for $7.95, a “Wussie” 7-inch for $5.50, a Boston bomb with fried onions, mushrooms, peppers, salami and cheese for $5.99 and a Capone’s Very Own with chopped ground chuck with peppers, onions, mushrooms, bacon and choice of cheese for $8.25.

Patrons always have a choice of cheese, Provolone or American, and the subs are made with authentic Amoroso rolls straight from Philadelphia.

Rolls are not the only imports from the City of Brotherly Love. You can also find tasty kakes at $1.25 each, Hank’s gourmet sodas such as vanilla cream, black cherry, orange cream and birch beer on tap and Utz potato chips.

All the above items are available in quantity should a customer wish to take home more than they can consume at the shop.

Downey said she moved to Citrus County about 17 years ago and worked a variety of jobs before taking on the existing sub shop.

She recently visited the country of Dubai for a first visit with her 2-year-old granddaughter, Evelyn, calling it an amazing experience. Her daughter, Danielle, is married to Massimo Falsini, who is executive chef for the famous Ferrari Italian car manufacturing family in Dubai.

Son Paul works with his mother full time at the shop. Her two sons, Christopher and Michael, are in the U.S. Navy, and her children, Brittany and Adam, also help out with the business.

Though the menu advises you can “eat in or take out,” be warned the tiny diner provides only limited seating, with two tables and about half a dozen seats at a counter, plus two picnic tables outside.

“Home of the only 3/4 pound of meat sandwich in town!” is the boast on the menu and indeed, the sandwiches are gargantuan. There are also Xtreme fries, onion rings, cheese fries, 1/4-pound hot dogs, house salad, grilled cheese, burgers and BLT’s.

Downey, a tiny friendly lady with a bright smile, makes each customer feel very special and is likely a factor in drawing customers who return day after day.

Taste of Philly Sub Shoppe is the sort of home town place where regulars meet to swap stories, sample sandwiches and, for displaced Pennsylvanians, feel like they are home again.

Taste of Philly Sub Shoppe on 630 N.E. Second Ave. is open from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. It is closed Sundays.

For take out, call ahead at (352) 795-7805. Cash only for the good eats.

Following are several family recipes shared by Linda Downy:

HOMEMADE TASTY KAKES
* 4 eggs, beaten until thick

Add:
* 2 cups sugar
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* Pinch salt
* 1 cup scalded milk with 2 teaspoons butter

Pour into greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Spread with peanut butter right out of the oven. Cool. Melt large milk chocolate bar and spread over cake.

ICE CREAM CRUNCH
* 1 cup coconut
* 1/2 cup nuts
* 1 stick melted butter
* 1 cup brown sugar
* 3 cups Rice Krispies
* 1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream, softened

Mix and bake in a 9-by-13-inch pan at 300 degrees for 20 minutes, stirring every five minutes. Remove half of the mixture from pan and spread the remaining half evenly. Cool. Spread with softened ice cream and sprinkle with remaining half of mix. Place in freezer until hardened. Absolutely delicious!

CHICKEN STEW WITH CORN AND LIMA BEANS
* 1 3 1/2-pound chicken, cut up
* 1/4 cup flour
* 1/4 cup vegetable oil
* 1 cup chopped onion
* 1 cup diced green pepper
* 1 clove minced garlic
* 1 (38 ounce) can tomatoes
* 6 small ears of corn on the cob
* 1 (10 ounce) package dry lima beans
* 1 can pitted ripe black olives

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place flour in bag; add chicken and shake to coat. Reserve remaining flour.

Brown chicken in oil. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add onion, green pepper and garlic. Sauté until soft. Blend in reserved flour. Stir in tomatoes. Bring to a boil.

Place chicken in casserole dish; add corn. Cover with the sauce. Cover casserole and bake 40 minutes. Add lima beans and bake 20 more minutes. Add olives, stirring into casserole to heat.

Julianne Munn can be reached at jmunn2@tampabay.rr.com.