Post Content

Messy turnover at Al’s Steak House sees resignation from former owner’s son and longtime grill cook

For the first time in more than 50 years, a member of the Severson family is not making Philly cheesesteak sub sandwiches at Al’s Steak House in Del Ray.

Nelson Rodriguez says it’s regrettable that Bo Severson, the son of former owner John Severson, and cook Mark Williams didn’t work out. It was only a month ago that Rodriguez took over at the Del Ray institution, and at the time he said he was going to keep the old hands to ensure that the cheese steak tradition continues.

“I was sad to let those guys go,” Rodriguez told ALXnow. “But you gotta do what you gotta do.”

Dorothy and James Breeding bought the restaurant from the Severson family in 2016 after John Severson died in 2015. A day after buying it, Al’s burned down, and then eventually reopened in 2017 after the community helped raise $20,000 toward the effort. Dorothy Breeding put the restaurant back on the market after her husband died last year.

Rodriguez says Severson, who lives in Dale City, was a no-show on more than one occasion, and that Williams had a hard time taking direction from his wife, Mabel Rodriguez, who Williams says insisted that the subs not be made with so much meat.

Severson and Williams say that the owners have been cutting corners with the Philly cheesesteak subs, using less meat, and also less expensive meat.

“For me, I like less meat,” Mabel Rodriguez told ALXnow. “It’s expensive. Right now everything is very expensive.”

Severson, 54, started working at Al’s when he was 19 years old. He quit a couple weeks ago after his hours were cut to part-time, he said, and has been living off funds from the restaurant’s sale to the Breeding family.

“For many, many years it was my home away from home,” Severson said of the restaurant. “Now I have kind of an empty feeling. It’s like an ongoing funeral. It’s like Al’s was such a part of our lives for so long and now it’s taken away from me. It’s all I know, all I’ve done my whole life, basically.”

On a busy Friday or Saturday, Al’s will sell hundreds of the sandwiches. A blowup of a Washington Post article praising the excellence of Severson’s Philly cheesesteak subs still graces a wall of the restaurant.

“This is the best steak-and-cheese in Alexandria, period,” said Cameron Scates, who has been coming to Al’s for more than 20 years.

(Updated 8:45 p.m.) Severson said Mabel Rodriguez criticized the way he and Williams made the subs, that there was too much meat on them.

“I would just make a steak-and-cheese, and I’d say that’s the right amount of meat on it,” Severson said. “She’d be like, ‘No, that’s too much,’ and I’d say, ‘No, it’s not too much,’ because people are spending almost $20 for a large steak-and-cheese. You can’t just change the chemistry on a good steak-and-cheese and not think people are going to notice.”

He continued, “I never messed up on steak-and-cheese. I can make one blindfolded.”

Williams, who worked at Al’s for five years, said he quit recently after being screamed at by management for not making a sandwich correctly.

“I always put love into everything that I do,” Williams said. “I’m a Christian. So, I don’t want to put negative energy into my work.”

Nelson Rodriguez, who also owns the Pan Am Family Restaurant in Vienna, says that nothing will change at Al’s, especially the portions. He also says that he recently made a deal with Sysco for pre-cut ribeye meat, which is less expensive.

“The steak-and-cheese sandwich is the same as it has always been,” he said. “We want to open another cheesesteak restaurant in Arlington sometime next year. It’s a very good business, cheesesteak subs, and I have a broker looking for locations.”

Recent Stories

There are a number of ways to volunteer in Alexandria this fall. Art lovers can get their fix by volunteering as gallery guides at the Torpedo Factory Art Center, and…

Dog care facility District Dogs is seeking a permit to open in Alexandria. District Dogs is filing for an amendment to the development special use permit to add an animal…

The Birchmere’s (3701 Mt Vernon Avenue) annual Halloween event Raven’s Night is scheduled to return next month, along with a slew of other musical acts. Raven’s Night is returning for…

Discover how to prepare your home before selling without overspending in Ask McEnearney.

Are you tired of going to the gym? It might be the crowds, the locker room, waiting on equipment or the time it takes to commute to the gym.

Having a personal trainer come to your home will keep you accountable, save you time and allow you to workout in the comfort of your own home.

Skip the hassle of the gym and try our in-home personal training service.

Our services are reasonably priced, convenient, effective and are risk free.

Read More

Submit your own Community Post here.

At Nova Fencing Club, the beginner fencing classes are designed for students of all levels – including students who have never fenced before.

If you’re looking for a fun physical activity that improves your fitness, critical thinking and rapid decision making skills then come join us!

There’s no better time than now to give us a try – and take part in one of the fastest growing sports. Our highly educated, professional coaching staff includes Virginia’s only Maitre d’Armes, a member of USA Fencing’s coaching team, former members of the USA National Team, and our Head Coach, who has produced national champions.

Register for either our Youth Beginner Fencing Classes (7-12) or our Teen & Adult Beginner Fencing Classes (13 to Adult) and become a part of the club that champions call home.

Submit your own Community Post here.

Think BIG! About the Future of Movement

Join the City of Alexandria and Arlington County’s Initiative to Rethink Energy at our first ever electric vehicle (EV) and sustainable technologies showcase! Get inspired by seeing a variety of electric cars, scooters, bikes, motorcycles, police cars, buses, trucks and

Between Home and the Front: Book Talk and Signing

Join the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum on Zoom or in person at the museum for a special book talk with the curators behind Between Home and the Front: Civil War Letters of the Walters Family. A book signing will be

×

Subscribe to our mailing list