Toobers Chips, Dips and Cheese Steak
California is the land that made fusion a phenomenon, the state that blessed this world with the pastrami burrito, orange-chicken pizza and teriyaki soda. Add to this illustrious list the nacho cheese steak at Toober's Chips, Dips and Cheese Steak, a U-boat of a sub, parts Philadelphia and East Los Angeles. Toober's bro-ish cooks sauté thin, carne asada-esque beef slices with sugary brown onions and plop the cross-pollinated results into a crevasse of seed-speckled bread. After meat, the deluge—a stream of boiling nacho cheese ladled upon the meat, the goo's bold Cheddar snap acting as a sort of edible baptismal water announcing the birth of a Brave New Sandwich.
The nacho cheese steak is the Liberty Hall of Toober's, a clean-kept Huntington Beach hoagie haven that, in a moral world, would exist on the beachfront rather than the asphalt river that is central Beach Boulevard. The menu appears in pastel colors on four chalkboards hanging from a high-ceilinged wall. The final board offers no specials, but rather a brusque admonition: "Okay, you've procrastinated long enough. Please, order something. Have a good day."
The Toober's people have a point: deciding what to eat shouldn't take more than a glance—the only options are seven sandwiches and three salads. But, paradoxically, you'll find yourself deliberating longer and longer the more you patronize the place. Will it be the aforementioned nacho cheese steak, the single-greatest argument for miscegenation since Vasconcellos' beatification of la raza cósmica? How about a tuna salad—lumpy fish scoops exhibiting the proper pungency, sweet pickles thankfully saltier than normal? Or a Philly cheese steak that tastes as if it arrived warm from the dearly departed Veterans Stadium?
Adding to your delay is consideration of Toober's eponymous chips and dips, slices of an era before preservatives. They're shaved on the premises from massive potatoes, lightly fried so the skin is crisp while the chip's thin-as-tissue body is nearly translucent and salted just enough to accentuate the tuber's earthy charm. Be warned: a half-order is equivalent to a sack of Ruffles; I didn't dare ask how many taters constitute a full deal. Toober's prepares the chips rather quickly, so the real mental effort involved is choosing among the nine dips—thick bacon and cheese, honey mustard (too sweet for me), or a creamy horseradish relish with a punch that could sober up a wino? The pick is yours—but make it quick, damn it.
Toober's Chips, Dips and Cheese Steaks, 19092 Beach Blvd., Ste. T, Huntington Beach, (714) 968-2299.
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