Stop us if you have heard this story…
“In West Philadelphia born and raised…
on the playground was where I spent most of my days”
It’s not THAT story.
It’s the story of a man who makes a ‘Wich out of Water that makes your mouth water.
Now, back to the Fresh Prince, oops, we mean Derrick Hayes. He also grew up in West Philadelphia, and attended Overbrook High.
The same school where Wilt Chamberlain made a name for himself (when he was not playing pick-up ball at local playgrounds).
Derrick was a basketball player too, but he didn’t quite have the height of ‘Wilt the Stilt’.
And, after visiting Derrick at his restaurant we should all be happy he ended up in the kitchen not the court.
A Search for Cheesesteak Authenticity
When Derrick first came to Georgia, he was disappointed after trying a “Philly” cheesesteak at a local restaurant. His first reaction?
That’s not authentic.
Authenticity (and family) has fueled Derrick’s drive to create the best Philly Cheesesteak outside Philly. It’s his passion for this mission that sustained him through a series of personal and professional hardships he calls the “3-4 years of hell” that led to the eventual opening Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks in Atlanta, Georgia.
His drive – and gratitude for the support he has received on his journey – is what makes him such a positive force in (and outside) the kitchen. His philosophy is to keep working to make things better and better, while bringing all people together.
Count us in as one of his supporters.
Bringing People Together
People come from all over Georgia – an hour drive is not unheard of – to visit Derrick. And, they come from all over America including North Carolina, Illinois to visit Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks (the restaurant name is in tribute to his father).
The restaurant is attached to a gas station. Something Dave says may turn off some guests, but once they taste his food people don’t seem to mind too much.
Upon entering the restaurant, everything is an homage to Philly.
From the (limited) décor with red and white checkered walls and tablecloths, to sports team banners and jerseys, to the food itself. Derrick’s smiling face and friendly demeanor immediately makes you feel like family.
Originally opened as “Dave’s Philly Water Ice” the restaurant’s menu has evolved to focus on broader Philly favorites. First, adding the classic Cheesesteak, then Cheesesteak Egg Rolls and, recently, Philly Pretzels.
Big Dave’s Philly Cheesesteak – The Star of the Show
Now, let’s talk about what we came for – Big Dave’s Philly Cheesesteak.
A classic, almost perfect sandwich that Derrick serves up to 300-400 times each day.
They serve up a 10” Cheesesteak on a slightly crusty, yet deliciously soft Amoroso Roll. Derrick imports the rolls from the bakery in Philadelphia several times a week.
The steak is cooked with a homemade, secret seasoning that Derrick perfected after learning to cook from his grandfather and years of practice.
While guests are free to customize their Cheesesteak, Dave’s Way is by far the most popular menu item. It comes with three types of cheese – Provolone, American and Cheez Whiz (the lower salt version, of course). This puts the Great Cheese Debate to rest. Dave’s Way also includes two types of peppers and mushrooms.
The thinly-slicked steak is flavorful and very tender. During cooking the fat literally melts into the steak. This bastes the meat on the cooktop and helps boost the flavor.
Trust us, in each bite all the flavors melt together magically.
Dave’s Way Cheesesteak is certainly the star of the show.
While Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks got its start in a gas station, we have no doubt that Derrick Hayes will end up in a castle.