Here in Philly, cheesesteaks are a civic icon, a tourist draw and a cultural obsession. Often imitated around the world, the cheesesteak is rarely duplicated successfully outside of Philadelphia.
Everyone agrees that the cheesesteak, the celebrated Philadelphia sandwich invented by Pat Olivieri in 1930, should be made with chopped beef and melted cheese. But opinions are strong when it comes to personal preferences about the degree to which said beef is chopped, the type of cheese to be melted, the bread used to make the sandwich, etc.
Those who prefer thinly sliced and finely chopped beef on a light roll often cite Roxborough’s Dalessandro’s as cheesesteak perfection. Others who prefer more coarsely chopped beef topped with gooey Cheez Whiz swear by Pat’s on Passyunk Avenue.
And still others refuse to even consider that a finer sandwich could exist than the thick, extra-cheesy steak sandwich from John’s Roast Pork in South Philadelphia.
The good news is that wherever you decide to go while you’re in town, you’ll definitely be experiencing an authentic Philly Cheesesteak. And no matter if it’s your first or your 101st, each bite is always worth savoring.
HOW TO ORDER A PHILLY CHEESESTEAK
When ordering a cheesesteak, the idea is to let the cashier know a.) that you would like a cheesesteak, b.) what type of cheese you want (American, Provolone or Cheez Whiz), and c.) whether or not you want fried onions. And you have to be as concise as possible while doing so.
Locals have become so adept at this practice that they basically have it down to three words: saying “one whiz with” to the person behind the counter means that you would like one cheesesteak topped with Cheez Whiz and fried onions.
Where to find them:
Pat’s King of Steaks
Pat’s claim to fame is that its founder, Pat Olivieri, invented the steak sandwich in 1930. Since then, Pat’s has grown from a little stand at the southern end of South Philly’s Italian Market to one of the most famous cheesesteak shops in the world, albeit still in the same location (and still the only location).
Geno’s has been slinging its famous cheesesteaks from the same location here for more than forty years now and has never been more popular. Like Pat’s, Geno’s is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week so you can visit whenever you get the urge.
South Street’s eclectic mix of people makes for an excellent customer base for Jim’s Steaks, South Street’s premier cheesesteak shop. The crowds can often mean a bit of a wait before you actually get to taste one of Jim’s fine cheesesteak sandwiches, as the line at Jim’s on weekends can stretch out the front door and around the corner onto Fourth Street.
Not exactly a cheesesteak but something better. A favorite at McNally’s Tavern in Chestnut Hill for more than 40 years, The Schmitter® is packed with sliced beef, extra cheese, fried onions, tomato, grilled salami and special sauce all onto a flash-broiled Kaiser roll
Tony Luke’s in South Philly
More than just your typical Philadelphia cheesesteak joint, Tony Luke’s redefined the Philly sandwich experience with specialty favorites like the roast pork Italian and chicken cutlet. The cheesesteak was not on the menu originally; the city’s love for cheesesteak prompted the Luke’s to make their own version which has stayed a best seller since the addition to the menu in mid 1992. Tony Luke’s menu now includes chicken cheesesteaks, seasoned french fries, hamburgers and more.