Still celebrating their hallowed team’s Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots, brothers Steve and Tommy Urglavitch make it clear with the hanging banners at their new location at 245 Water Street that Philadelphia is deeply rooted in their new business, Urgie’s Cheesesteaks. Growing up just outside of Philadelphia in Levittown, PA the Urglavitch’s experienced all that the City of Brotherly Love had to offer. This included the world-renowned cheesesteaks that Urgie’s will readily serve up in Downtown Harrisonburg as part of the ever-growing culinary district that continues to impress residents, tourists, and entrepreneurs seeking to start their own businesses.
“The growth that's happening here is what led us to Harrisonburg," says Steve Urglavitch. “That, and Harrisonburg is friendly,” he continues. His brother agrees “Everyone here is so accommodating, and just so awesome to work with,” Tommy says, referencing not just those they have already dealt with for permits and licenses, but fellow business owners the brothers have met since starting Urgies.
“I’ve never seen a place where competing businesses support each other so well,” says Tommy. Before opening the location behind Urban Exchange, adjacent to Wharton Aldhizer and Weaver, Urgie’s tested the market to see how receptive people were to their product by setting up at the Harrisonburg Farmer’s Market. “People really wanted to watch us make their food in front of them,” says Steve. “We were like, ‘don’t you want to go see the apple guy or do some shopping while we make it? And people just wanted to watch us prepare it,” Urglavitch says with a chuckle.
Tim Brady of Pale Fire Brewing was one of their first customers. “He bit into his sandwich, and his eyes kind of lit up. He introduced himself, gave us a card, and told us about an upcoming JMU game that he’d love to have us be a part of at Pale Fire,” says Urglavitch. Setting up at the brewery helped them get their name out there.
Urgie’s is a nickname that the brothers, along with every other male in their family, has been called throughout their life. “I was Urgie. Now we’ve got a thirteen-year-old running around Virginia answering to the same name,” says Tommy in reference to his nephew (Steve’s son), who has grown up here since Steve and his wife relocated back to Virginia where she grew up. Although Steve has been living here for the last decade or so, Tommy had resided in Philly, working the restaurant and nightclub scene before being convinced to move to the Valley by his brother. “We knew we wanted to do this, and had talked about it for a couple years,” Tommy says as he prepares a mouthwatering sandwich he offered me, complete with everything a true cheesesteak from Philly consists of.
The sandwich is called the Hat Trick - not surprisingly since the Urgies are a hockey family, which is a dead giveaway with The Crosby Cheesesteak directly below mine on the menu. The Hat Trick is appropriately named because it incorporates three cheeses (American, Provolone, and Wiz) and three veggies - peppers, onions, and mushrooms. Unlike many cheesesteaks, the meat used at Urgie’s is hand-cut, with nearly all the fat being removed before cooking. The beef used is from steaks aged a minimum of 21 days, and is Certified Angus beef using Sirloin steaks rather than Ribeye, which allows for more flavor to be infused at lower temperatures on the grill. Whenever possible, local meats and veggies are used. However, many of their products are authentic to Philadelphia, including Wiz cheese which they use to cook into the bread; rolls from Amoroso in Philadelphia and Griffin’s hot sauce, who the Urglaavitch’s know, and who makes it in his garage of all places. I tried the lethal injection sauce, which added a heat element but didn’t overpower the flavors infused into the meat with the brother’s specialty spice seasoning.
Currently they are operating under a temporary permit, as an outdoor establishment on Water Street. However, they have big plans to add a building that will allow them to serve alcohol and expand their offerings in the near future. The cheesesteak will remain the signature item on the menu, but the brothers plan to add other sides inspired by their hometown of Philly. They hope to complete the project later this summer.
Urgie’s is currently open Wednesday & Thursdays, 11am-10pm; Fridays & Saturdays, 11am-11pm; and Sundays, 11am-7pm. They offer special discounts to Urban Exchange tenants, and first responder, military, and veteran discounts on Thursdays Stop by and see them for an Authentic Philly Cheesesteak, and try the only Cheesesteak in the Burg with Wiz! You’ll be glad you did.
Written by Derek Blyer. Derek is a Public Relations major and an active volunteer with HDR. In his spare time, he enjoys the outdoors, family and friends, writing, great food, and being able to help others.
Photos courtesy of Urgie's Cheesesteaks