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El Cajon’s Tastiest Hidden Secret

You may have driven down Ballentyne Street, and just before reaching Main Street, your nose picked up a mouthwatering aroma that was vaguely familiar.  You probably drove on, wondering “what was that?”  The source of that enticing aroma is El Cajon’s tastiest hidden secret; Philly Steak Subs at 312 Ballentyne Street (behind the court house), just south of Park Avenue).  They are the only shop in downtown El Cajon offering authentic Philly Steak Subs.


Philly Steak Subs opened in the early 70′s as B.J. Munchies, and quickly built up a large following. Down the line the name changed to Philly Steak Subs. In 2002, Elias Totah, who had 45 years of experience in the restaurant business, purchased the shop. After he retired, his son, Ronnie, who has over 20 years of catering, food service and restaurant management experience, took over. He added a deli counter, increased the sandwich portion size, added fresh salsa to the menu, and added more space. Elias is now “retired,” but still comes into the shop for a few hours almost every day. The Totah family has been active in the food service business in San Diego for many years, and were actively involved in the legalizing of lunch trucks in San Diego in 1984.


Philly cheese steak subs are the “star” item on the menu, but we offer a variety of both hot and cold sandwiches ranging in price from $3.50 to $8.25, with extras available at a nominal cost. The Philly steak sub is the best sandwich you’ve ever worn! The sandwich is so packed full of delicious ingredients that it’s almost impossible not to end up with some of them on the front of your shirt. The menu includes 7 hot and 11 cold sandwiches, as well as side dishes. Their sandwiches are not for the faint of heart!


The shop is intimate, with pub-style seating inside and tables outside. The kitchen/cooking area is right in front of the shop and you can watch your sandwich being prepared. In addition to the dine-in and take-out options, Philly Steak Subs also does catering and special event parties.


Ronnie Totah is definitely a people person. “My favorite thing about my business is my customers,” he says. “We meet so many people from all over, not just El Cajon.” He believes in old fashioned friendliness and the fact that a smile goes a long way. He especially wants to “thank the customers who have supported us during the economic downturn.” He likes being in Downtown El Cajon and the improvements that have been made in the area and the events, such as Concerts on the Green, the Cajon Classic Cruise and the Mother Goose Parade. He also appreciates the El Cajon Community Development Corporation for “filling me in on what’s going on in Downtown El Cajon and friendly, helpful staff.”

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