ST. NICK VS. SAINTS

Ea­gles fever sweeps across Delco; bars, restau­rants, fans set for big day

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Peg DeGrassa pde­[email protected]­tu­ry­media.com Ed­i­tor of Town Talk, News & Press of Delaware County

NEW OR­LEANS >> Who dat Delco guy sell­ing Philly cheese steaks in Nawl­ins?

When the Philadel­phia Ea­gles take on the New Or­leans Saints Sun­day in an NFC Di­vi­sional Round play­off game, not all of the over­the-top cheer­ing for the Birds will be com­ing place from peo­ple in the tri-state area view­ing the ac­tion on TV, and from fans lucky enough to be watch­ing the game live at Mercedes-Benz Su­per­dome in New Or­leans. Four four miles away, over at Lib­erty Cheeses­teaks, 5039 Fr­eret Street, in the heart of New Or­leans, Philly fans likely will be hold­ing their own in hol­ler­ing “EA-G-L-E-S” as loud as any­one else, while en­joy­ing watch­ing the de­fend­ing Su­per Bowl cham­pi­ons give it their best against the Saints.

It’s no sur­prise that Ea­gles fans seek out Lib­erty Cheeses­teaks as a per­fect spot in the midst of Saints ter­ri­tory to bleed green with fel­low fans. The restau­rant is co-owned and op­er­ated by for­mer Delaware County res­i­dent Mike Casey, a na­tive of Drexel Hill and a self-pro­claimed life­long Ea­gles fan.

“I grew up watch­ing and root­ing for the Ea­gles with my dad and grand­pop, for as long as I can re­mem­ber,” Casey shared fondly. “That’s all my dad and I still talk about ev­ery time we’re in a con­ver­sa­tion!”

Casey went to St. Dorothy’s grade school and grad­u­ated from St. Joseph Prepara­tory School, Class of 2002. His par­ents, Joe and Nancy Casey, and grand­mother Claire John­son still live in the Drexel Hill sec­tion of Up­per Darby. While away study­ing at Tu­lane Univer­sity, Casey met Joe Seremet and the col­lege room­mates quickly be­came best friends. After grad­u­a­tion, Casey launched a ca­reer in teach­ing in New Or­leans, while Seremet, a Con­necti­cut na­tive, be­gan a ca­reer in fi­nance.

They of­ten talked about start­ing a restau­rant in The Big Easy that would fea­ture qual­ity cheeses­teaks, subs and maybe a few other Philly fa­vorites. Casey would bring cheeses­teaks from back home to share with his col­lege bud­dies and they were al­ways a hit. While at Tu­lane, both friends quickly re­al­ized that the one thing miss­ing from the New Or­leans food ex­pe­ri­ence was a proper cheeses­teak. Seremet’s fam­ily owned a restau­rant so he al­ready knew the ins and outs of op­er­at­ing one. How­ever, it would be a short while be­fore they would trans­form their dream into re­al­ity.

Dur­ing the young men’s se­nior year, Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina hit and in­ter­rupted their col­lege ed­u­ca­tion. After re­turn­ing home to Delco for a bit, Casey re­turned to New Or­leans after Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina to fin­ish his se­nior year and then give a hand with the city’s re­build­ing ef­fort. It was dur­ing the re­con­struc­tion pe­riod, Casey said, that he be­gan to feel a strong pull to re­main in the South. He taught a few years at a school in the Ninth Ward of New Or­leans, and then moved back up north.

When he made a trip to New Or­leans in Fe­bru­ary of 2011 so that he could stand as Best Man in Seremet’s wed­ding, Casey said that he clearly felt the de­sire to move back to New Or­leans. The friends also de­cided that the time had come to open the long-dis­cussed cheeses­teak restau­rant, mod­eled after the

Philly legacy, but ca­ter­ing to the New Or­leans foodie. The friends agreed on the im­por­tance of the food ex­pe­ri­ence in daily life and wanted to share their back­ground in good food with oth­ers. To­gether with Seremet’s wife, Alisha, they opened up Lib­erty Cheeses­teaks NOLA un­der the sim­ple premise: the best foods are al­ways sec­ond to the peo­ple you share them with. They cou­pled a high-qual­ity menu with a friendly at­mos­phere.

“I took a huge leap of faith, giv­ing up life with my fam­ily in Delco to move back to New Or­leans to make the dream a re­al­ity,” the res­tau­ra­teur stated.

Both the leap and the move in 2012 proved ben­e­fi­cial. Now en­gaged to fi­ancée Natalie Beasley, Casey is also the face of his and the Seremets’ suc­cess­ful restau­rant that of­fers authen­tic Philadel­phia-style cheeses­teaks and subs.

“After count­less days of pro­to­typ­ing and per­fect­ing, we bought to New Or­leans the best cheeses­teak, bar none,” Casey says proudly.

To get the true taste of “home,” Casey says he im­ports rolls from Lis­cio’s in New Jer­sey and his beef from Con­shohocken to make sure that his cheeses­teaks, ‘wit’ or ‘wit-out’ whiz, pro­volone or Amer­i­can cheese, mea­sure up to the “real deal” sand­wiches that he grew up with and en­joyed from places like Da­lessan­dro’s in Roxbor­ough and the for­mer Z’s Deli on State Road in Up­per Darby. Ev­ery time he vis­its his fam­ily in the Philadel­phia area, he takes a cheeses­teak taste test tour. Even if his visit is only for two days, he said, he’ll stop by for a quick bite at about 10 pop­u­lar sand­wich shops, in­clud­ing Tony Luke’s, Primo’s, Nick’s, Jim’s and oth­ers.

“I want to make sure that I’m stay­ing on top of it all,” Casey laughs. “I have to make sure that my best is as best as the rest!”

In the age of so­cial me­dia, Casey says that he doesn’t need to ad­ver­tise to at­tract those who have roots in the Philadel­phia area, hun­gry for a taste of home. Tris­tate res­i­dents and for­mer res­i­dents just seem to find Lib­erty Cheeses­teaks, he claimed. At times, he says that cus­tomers have waited six hours to get into his leg­endary cheeses­teak haven.

“Lib­erty Cheeses­teaks didn’t start out to be the un­of­fi­cial Ea­gles restau­rant/ bar of New Or­leans,” Casey said proudly. “It just sort of hap­pened.”

The crew at Lib­erty Cheeses­teaks NOLA has been busy all week, gear­ing up for Sun­day and the highly an­tic­i­pated show­down with the Saints. The restau­rant staff is ex­pect­ing a huge crowd and all six TV sets will be set to the game. Noth­ing re­ally new there. Casey said the tele­vi­sions at Lib­erty are al­ways set to Philly sports. He’s also get­ting ready with 45 cases of Penn­syl­va­nia’s Yuengling beer, a few kegs and lots of fresh rolls for the cheeses­teaks and hoa­gies. Casey said that he thinks the restau­rant sells more Yuengling beer than any other es­tab­lish­ment in the state of Louisiana. Last year, when the Ea­gles played in the Su­per Bowl, Lib­erty Cheeses­teaks was so packed, that the restau­rant crew had to take out the fur­ni­ture to make room for the fans.

“We sell Yuengling for only $2 a bot­tle dur­ing the games, so peo­ple also come for our cheap beers,” Casey chuck­led.

Casey said that he has turned many south­ern­ers into Philadel­phia Ea­gles fans.

“I am mak­ing Ea­gles fans, one by one, as I go,” he said good-na­turedly.

When asked if he con­sid­ered go­ing to the game, since the Su­per­dome is only a five-minute drive from the restau­rant, Casey, who pre­dicts an Ea­gles win Sun­day, quickly an­swered.

“No way, I would much rather be here with my peo­ple,” he said. “You’d be sur­prised at how many Philly trans­plants are down here. It’s the same cast of char­ac­ters as back home, and let me tell you – they are char­ac­ters! Be­ing at the restau­rant is like be­ing at a tail­gate party for four hours – it’s al­ways a lot of fun and this Sun­day will be amaz­ing!”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TOS DFM PHOTO IL­LUS­TRA­TION - MARK W. LOCHER

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

The Delaware County fam­ily of New Or­leans restau­rant owner Michael Casey is pic­tured on a re­cent visit to Michael’s Lib­erty Cheeses­teaks restau­rant. Above, is Michael’s sis­ter, Jen­nie Alessan­droni and his par­ents, Nancy and Joe Casey. Al­though sep­a­rated by miles, Michael will join his fam­ily long dis­tance on Sun­day to root for the Birds.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Lib­erty Cheeses­teaks is at 5039 Fr­eret Street, in the heart of New Or­leans. Co-owned by for­mer Delaware County res­i­dent Michael Casey, the restau­rant has be­come an “un­of­fi­cial” gath­er­ing spot for Ea­gles fans down in The Big Easy.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Lib­erty Cheeses­teaks NOLA part­ners Joe Seremet, left, and Michael Casey are pic­tured dur­ing the con­struc­tion of their restau­rant. The best friends and busi­ness part­ners met while room­mates at Tu­lane Univer­sity. They opened the restau­rant to give vis­i­tors and res­i­dents of New Or­leans a taste of Philly foods. Lib­erty Cheeses­teaks is pre­par­ing for a record crowd on Sun­day when the Philadel­phia Ea­gles take on the Saints at Mercedes-Benz Su­per­dome in their home­town of New Or­leans.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

The own­ers of Lib­erty Cheeses­teaks, left to right, Joe Seremet, Michael Casey, and Alisha Seremet, be­lieve that a for­mula of high qual­ity, authen­tic food at de­cent prices and a friendly, wel­com­ing at­mos­phere will keep cus­tomers re­turn­ing again and again.

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