Florida Keys natives are called “conchs,” but after seven years, transplants are permitted to call themselves “freshwater conchs.” It’s a fun custom, one that could work in Orlando (if natives had a cutesy nickname) as many people who settle here were raised elsewhere. Case in point: 2009 UCF grads Jim Guerino – hometown: Chicago – and Philadelphian Carey Sobel. A commonality between the cities? They’re big sandwich towns.
The kitchen and order window at Chi Phi (pronounced "Shy-Fy"). — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
“The cheesesteak is to a Philadelphian as the Italian beef sandwich is to a Chicagoan,” Sobel explains.
And so Philly and Chi transplants – or anyone looking for city-centric eats on a sinfully soggy roll – are welcome to taste how their new venture, Chi Phi, measures up. Along with cheesesteaks (recommended “Wiz wit’”) and Italian beef, diners will find Chicago-style dogs and sausage and another Philly fave, the roast pork (with provolone and broccoli rabe). Packers fans get a nod, too; cheese curds are an offered side item. “Yeah, they’re from Wisconsin,” Guerino acknowledges, “but they’ve migrated into Illinois, too.”
Chi & Phi: partners Jim Guerino and Carey Sobel. — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
Notably, Chi Phi’s home is inside another newcomer to downtown: The Basement, a bar in which Sobel is also a partner. “We felt the laid-back style of Chi Phi fit perfectly with the Basement,” which he describes as a “Prohibition era-style neighborhood pub … a great bar with strong drinks.”
Customers can sit on either side. Order, pay, get a number and the server shows up with food cooked-to-order. Chi Phi is open for the business-crowd lunch and will be adding a window for sidewalk orders. And the bar crowd? That’s a no-brainer. They plan on serving well into the wee hours on weekends, filling the bellies of revelers in need of soak-up grub.
A taste of two cities: roast pork and Italian beef with hot and sweet peppers on the side. — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
Locals can look for entertainment and sports events before long, with discounts for Chicago or Philadelphia team wins. And when the cities face off? “There will be some type of party, I can promise you that.”