Dale Goin, 63, right, and his wife, Sally Rock, 68, take an order from regular customer Louis Kennedy of Denver on Wednesday at the corner of 16th Street and Cleveland Place. (Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post)
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Jacob Witzburt wondered for two months what happened to Philadelphia Filly, the cheesesteak vendor on the 16th Street Mall where he got lunch almost every day.
The sandwich stand had suddenly vanished.
But Wednesday, he looked down from his office window and saw that the perky stainless-steel cart was back.
"I was pretty excited," he said. "It's really hard to find a good cheesesteak here."
Philadelphia Filly regulars are happy — and so is Dale Goin — who runs the business with his wife, Sally Rock. After spending the winter recuperating from liver transplant surgery, Goin's ready to work.
"It's a miracle," said Rock, of her husband's return to health after battling liver cancer.
They're also ready to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their business, which Rock started in 1983 when she brought the fabled cheesesteak to Denver. She got rave reviews, with a Denver Post food critic writing that her cheesesteaks were better than those of Pat and Harry Olivieri, the Italian-American brothers who invented the Philadelphia cheesesteak in 1933.
Rock, 68, handles the cooking, and Goin, 63, is the cart's front man, taking orders and chitchatting with customers on the concrete triangle at 16th Street and Cleveland Place.
Philadelphia Filly has been on the mall since 1996, and its clientele is fiercely loyal.
"I understand you've been supporting our health-care system," joked Louis Kennedy, vice president of finance and administration at the Downtown Denver Partnership. He'd spied the food cart's blue-and-yellow sign from his office a few blocks away and walked over for a hot sandwich on a cold, windy day. "How are you doing?"
Eric Wilson sampled Philadelphia Filly for the first time Wednesday. He works nearby at the offices of the Colorado Supreme Court and loves to eat a variety of ethnic foods.
Walking back to work, foiled-wrapped sandwich in hand, he anticipated lunch-hour happiness.
"Any time you can cut meat with a spatula," he said after watching Rock at the grill, "it's really tender."
Colleen O'Connor: 303-954-1083, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/coconnordp