November 2012

GEE WHIZ! Philly's Boasts Best SANDWICHES In Town...Period

Author: David Tobias | Photographer: Photography by Anne

We’re off to see the whiz

The wonderful, wonderful whiz…

At Philly’s, located in the Fountain Center on New Orleans Road, this whiz is a unique, tasty, cheesy, homemade concoction that goes on Philly’s traditional Philly Cheesesteak. It’s not out of a can or jar; it’s not processed, and it has no trademark or logo. In fact, to take some of the glamour out of it, not to mention the fun, it is actually a frugal treatment of leftover, high-end, hand-sliced cheese that doesn’t go to waste. And boy is it yummy.

It is a key ingredient in only one sandwich on Philly’s menu, “The Old School,” which is a traditional Philly Cheesesteak. But it’s just so much fun to say, you can hardly stand it and you can also add it to other sandwiches on the menu if you want. But the whiz seems to makes Philly’s traditional Philly what it is: a delicious, true-to-the-genre Philly Cheesesteak that anyone from Philadelphia would be proud to eat.

At first blush you’d think it strange that Philly’s co-owner, Michael Kadar is from Pittsburgh. But there’s history here, and sometimes when a restaurant like Philly’s has been a fixture and a favorite of visitors and locals, regional differences can be forgiven and forgotten. Besides, Kadar and Thomas Svihlik, (who hails from Indiana and Ohio), have only been the restaurant’s owners since 2010.

Philly’s was founded 20-some years ago by Richard Fay, who was from Philadelphia. Aha, now that makes more sense. A couple of ownership generations after Fay, the restaurant concept remains the same, including most of the menu items and the bold claim: “The Island’s Best Sandwiches…Period.” Kadar says no one has questioned that claim. Since it’s painted prominently on the restaurant walls and printed in large print on the menu, and since Kadar is a pretty imposing guy at a stout six-foot-two, it’s probably not worth contesting.

Perhaps the most endearing legacy from the Fay days is a menu that’s simply pun fun. Dozens of sandwiches have names that clearly took some effort to create—or maybe it was just an afternoon with friends influenced by adult beverages. For example, two pita wraps, listed one after another on the menu, are the “Tina Tuna” and the “Lana Tuna.” You have to think about it. Several hoagie sandwiches pretty much say creatively what they are: the “Hammy Davis, Jr.” (ham, turkey, Swiss, cranberry and mayo) and the “Ya Can’t Tuna Fish” (tuna and American cheese). Again you might have to think about it. In the chicken category there’s the “Fog Horn” (chicken breast & cheese topped with bacon). Remember a certain blustery cartoon leghorn?

Kadar and Svihlik inherited all of this wit and playfulness even though they’re perhaps a bit more serious about the business of running a restaurant. Having a conversation with either Kadar or Svihlik, even in the waning minutes of a mid-week lunch hour is tough, because both are customer service vigilant, scanning a thinning crowd for those about to leave and watching the door for those arriving late. They believe greeting regulars by name and welcoming newcomers with sincerity and enthusiasm is a critical piece that sets their restaurant apart.

Owners, Michael Kadar, Thomas Svihlik and Kristen Svihlik

Kadar and Svihlik have been friends since they met during Hilton Head Hyatt/Marriott days and have talked of owning a restaurant together for quite some time. They finally had their chance in 2010, when previous owner Mike Weaver decided to close a second Philly’s in Pineland Station and sell the one that remained.

Kadar was first in and then reached out to Svihlik. Both decided there are few things much better than working side-by-side in a business with best friends.

“I love working with Michael and I love working for myself, building something that we both believe in,” Svihlik said. “It’s great to get up in the morning looking forward to going to work.”

Svihlik’s wife Kristen is also a part of the business as the soup and dessert specialist—all homemade. It’s another piece that sets Philly’s apart from the more recognized chains, in addition to insanely generous portions. You can specifically thank Kadar for that. “I eat the food here, and I’m a big guy,” he said. “Skimping on anything is not what we do.”

Involvement in the community, however, is something both Svihlik and Kadar do in a big way. Both are active in Hilton Head Island Youth Theatre productions, Svihlik onstage and Kadar working tech behind the scenes. In addition, Kadar works with Shannon Tanner to set up his shows at Shelter Cove and even combined programs with a Kids Eat Free (with paying adult) feature in the restaurant.

According to Kadar, it’s all part of being a family business with ties to the island—serving regular customers they know and visitors they just don’t know yet.

P.S. Try the whiz.

Phillies Café and Deli is located at 55 New Orleans Road #102. For more ifnormation, call 843 785-9966 or visit online at

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