Framed by blooming dogwood trees and twinkling lights, Urgie’s Cheesesteaks — nestled in the heart of a downtown Harrisonburg neighborhood — exudes a relaxed and charming atmosphere. Steven and Tom Urglavitch, brothers from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, are bringing a taste of their hometown to the Shenandoah Valley through one of the city’s most iconic dishes: the Philadelphia cheesesteak.
The Urglavitch brothers have been cooking cheesesteaks since they were in elementary school. While they discussed plans to open a business for over 10 years, nothing came from the idea until Feb. 2017 when Steven convinced Tom to move from Philadelphia to the Valley.
Steven has been living in Harrisonburg for over 13 years and realized he wanted to add something new to the community — even if that meant having to sacrifice his previous career.
“I was a corporate vice president and a typical disgruntled, low-end senior management guy who just felt unsatisfied for years at a great job,” Steven said. “Being the co-owner of Urgie’s is definitely the most challenging and the most rewarding position I’ve ever had in my life.”
When Urgie’s sold out of its cheesesteaks almost every day at the Harrisonburg Farmers Market, Steven knew he had made the right decision. After realizing that business was booming, he and Tom began renting the space they’re currently in and will officially own it next month. After opening its doors in Jan. 2018, the restaurant has already received a massive response from the community.
“We average about 400 cheesesteaks a week,” Steven said. “We’re growing at a rate of 35% and we’re still reaching out to new customers.”
Urgie’s Cheesesteaks has over 1000 followers on Instagram and 900 likes on Facebook. Their social media campaigns have been extremely beneficial, bringing in customers like Meghan Schaeffer, who heard about the restaurant through Facebook.
“I love a cheesesteak and have been on the hunt for the perfect one since I moved here in 2013,” Schaeffer said. “Urgie’s is a fantastic addition to the local food scene.”
Urgie’s is the only cheesesteak restaurant in the area and the Urglavitchs hope to expand further. By July 1, Steven hopes to have a full bar inside, as well as more outside seating. He also wants to broaden Urgie’s delivery range so their food will be able to reach more JMU students.
“JMU’s important to us,” Steve said. “We want to work with the JMU community and its athletics and we hope to bring our food to campus.”
Richard Hanley, Jr., a JMU alumnus (’10) and Harrisonburg resident, appreciates the Philadelphia culture Urgie’s brings to the community. Claiming that Steven and Tom are “doing the Lord’s work” with their selection of cheesesteaks, Hanley is excited about the restaurant’s future plans.
“What Urgie’s brings is really quite simple,” Hanley said. “[It’s] a casual atmosphere for sports fans to grab a beer and unbelievably delicious cheesesteak sandwiches.”
The most important part of any restaurant is its cuisine. Currently, Urgie’s offers five variations of sandwiches: the steak sandwich, the cheesesteak, the hat trick, pizza steak and the crosby. Each one is unique, but all are served on an Amoroso roll — a stamp of authenticity for any genuine Philadelphia cheesesteak.
The hat trick sandwich is made with Cheez Whiz, provolone and American cheese, as well as peppers, mushrooms and onions upon request. This sandwich is what a cheese-lover’s dreams are made of. The cheeses melt over the thin steak and the width of the bun; the peppers, mushrooms and onions offer a zesty, savory flavor profile that coincides with the steak’s sizzle.
“We knew our model would be about good food,” Steven said. “We worked on our cheesesteak recipe for about two months and we came up with what we think is a pretty solid, authentic offering.”
Urgie’s Cheesesteaks is committed to providing the accurate Philadelphia experience, attracting Pennsylvania natives and Philadelphia sports fans. After they expand their bar and seating areas, Steven and Tom have promised that “every single Philadelphia sporting event is going to be on at all times.” Once they become more established, they hope to attend more charity events and start giving back to the community.
Even if someone hasn’t visited the City of Brotherly Love, the owners of Urgie’s Cheesesteaks are able to make customers feel like part of the family.
“We want to be that neighborhood corner bar in the city,” Steve said. “Everyone’s got a good sandwich, but it’s all about service and people have to feel comfortable when they’re here.”
Contact Brooke Imperial at email@example.com. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.