Philly Cheesesteak

The Philly Cheesesteak is more than just a sandwich; it’s a culinary icon of Philadelphia. This section explains what a Philly Cheesesteak is and why it holds such an iconic status.

What is a Philly Cheesesteak?

A Philly Cheesesteak is a sandwich made with thinly sliced rib-eye steak, melted cheese, and often onions, on a long, crusty roll. Cheese options include Cheez Whiz, Provolone, or American cheese. The steak cooks quickly on a flat top, making it tender and flavorful. The mix of ingredients creates a rich, satisfying sandwich.

Why Philly Cheesesteak is Iconic

The Philly Cheesesteak has become a cultural icon for several reasons. It represents Philadelphia, acting as a culinary ambassador for the city. Its simple, accessible nature has made it famous; it’s a flavorful fast food enjoyed by everyone. The cheesesteak has appeared in numerous TV shows, movies, and travelogues, promoting it as a part of American culinary heritage. Whether from a fancy restaurant or a street vendor, the Philly Cheesesteak symbolizes comfort food at its best.

History of Philly Cheesesteak

The Philly Cheesesteak is not just a staple of Philadelphia cuisine; it is a dish steeped in history. This section delves into the origins of the sandwich and its evolution over the years, showcasing how it has become a beloved icon.

Origins of the Sandwich

The creation of the Philly Cheesesteak dates back to the 1930s. It was serendipitously invented by Pat Olivieri, a hot dog vendor in South Philadelphia. One day, Pat decided to grill some beef from the butcher and tucked it into an Italian roll instead of a hot dog bun. A taxi driver noticed the aroma, tried the sandwich, and loved it. Word spread quickly among cabbies and soon, Pat’s makeshift meal became a popular request. Recognizing the potential, Pat opened Pat’s King of Steaks on 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue, which still operates to this day.

Evolution Over the Years

The Philly Cheesesteak continued to evolve from its initial version. Initially, the sandwich did not include cheese; it was a later addition. Legend has it that in the 1940s, a manager at Pat’s King of Steaks, Joe Lorenza, added cheese to the steak, thus creating the modern cheesesteak. Cheese Whiz, another popular choice, was introduced to the cheesesteak in the 1950s after its invention by Kraft Foods.

As the years passed, variations of the cheesesteak began to appear. Different types of cheese like American and provolone became common choices. Ingredients such as mushrooms, peppers, and even pizza sauce were added to cater to diverse tastes. The sandwich became a canvas for innovation, reflecting the changing palates and preferences of Philadelphians and visitors alike.

The Philly Cheesesteak has also seen geographic and cultural expansion. What started as a local delight in Philadelphia has spread across the United States and beyond, with many restaurants attempting to replicate the authentic Philly experience. Despite variations, the core elements of thinly sliced steak and melty cheese remain central to the sandwich’s identity.

The ongoing popularity of the Philly Cheesesteak is a testament to its enduring appeal. From its accidental invention to its status as a global phenomenon, the cheesesteak remains a symbol of Philadelphia’s ingenuity and culinary tradition.

Philly Cheesesteak

How to Make a Philly Cheesesteak

Crafting the perfect Philly Cheesesteak at home involves simplicity and quality ingredients. This section covers the essential components needed and provides a detailed step-by-step cooking guide to recreate this iconic sandwich.

Ingredients Needed

To make an authentic Philly Cheesesteak, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Rib-eye steak: Thinly sliced or chopped for quick cooking.
  • Cheese: Options include Cheez Whiz, Provolone, or American cheese. Cheez Whiz is the most traditional.
  • Italian roll: A long, crusty roll that’s soft inside.
  • Onions: Typically, yellow onions are thinly sliced and sautéed until caramelized.
  • Optional toppings: Depending on your taste, you might add mushrooms, bell peppers, or hot peppers.
  • Condiments: Some people like ketchup or mayonnaise on their cheesesteak.

These ingredients ensure that the flavors are balanced and true to the Philly style.

Step-by-Step Cooking Guide

Here’s how to assemble a Philly Cheesesteak:

  1. Prepare the Ingredients:
    • Freeze the rib-eye steak slightly to make it easier to slice thinly.
    • Slice the onions and any other vegetables you plan to use.
  2. Cook the Meat:
    • Heat a griddle or large frying pan over medium-high heat.
    • Add a bit of oil and lay the steak slices flat on the griddle. Let them brown on one side, then flip and brown the other side. Use a spatula to chop the meat into smaller pieces as it cooks.
    • If using onions or other vegetables, push the steak to one side of the griddle and add the vegetables to the other side. Cook until they are soft and caramelized, then mix together with the meat.
  3. Add the Cheese:
    • Lower the heat to medium. Spread the meat and vegetable mixture out on the griddle to form an even layer.
    • Lay slices of Provolone or American cheese over the meat, or drizzle with Cheez Whiz. Allow the cheese to melt, then stir it through the meat.
  4. Assemble the Sandwich:
    • Slice the Italian roll open but not all the way through, so it hinges on one side.
    • Use a spatula to scoop up the cheesy meat mixture and stuff it into the roll.
    • If desired, add condiments like ketchup or mayonnaise.
  5. Serve Hot:
    • The Philly Cheesesteak is best enjoyed fresh and hot right off the griddle.

By following these steps, you can create a delicious Philly Cheesesteak that rivals those found in Philadelphia’s best sandwich shops. Enjoy the savory flavors of this classic American sandwich in your own kitchen.

Variations of Philly Cheesesteak

The classic Philly Cheesesteak has inspired a host of variations, adapting to regional tastes and culinary creativity. This section explores some of the most popular regional twists and innovative takes on the traditional cheesesteak recipe.

Regional Variations

Across different parts of the United States, the Philly Cheesesteak has been customized to suit local palates:

  • California Cheesesteak: Often includes the addition of bell peppers, pepper jack cheese, and sometimes even avocado or a splash of hot sauce to cater to the local love for spicy and fresh flavors.
  • New York Style: In New York, the cheesesteak might come with a more gourmet touch, such as the use of artisanal cheeses or a ciabatta roll, reflecting the city’s cosmopolitan tastes.
  • Southern Cheesesteak: Down south, variations might include a barbecue twist, where the steak is marinated in barbecue sauce, and the sandwich is topped with coleslaw, blending traditional southern flavors with the Philly classic.

Each region adds its own signature to this iconic sandwich, making it a versatile and continually evolving dish.

Popular Innovations

Chefs and food enthusiasts have also introduced several innovative takes on the Philly Cheesesteak, pushing the boundaries of what can be done with this simple sandwich:

  • Cheesesteak Egg Rolls: A popular appetizer at many bars and restaurants, these egg rolls stuff the traditional cheesesteak ingredients into a crispy fried wrapper.
  • Pizza Cheesesteak: Combining two beloved foods, this variation includes pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese, sometimes topped with pepperoni, for a pizza-like experience in a sandwich.
  • Vegan Cheesesteak: Catering to the plant-based community, vegan cheesesteaks use seitan, tempeh, or other meat substitutes, along with vegan cheese, to recreate the cheesesteak experience without any animal products.

These variations demonstrate the adaptability and broad appeal of the Philly Cheesesteak, ensuring it remains a favorite not only in Philadelphia but across the country and beyond. Whether sticking to tradition or experimenting with new ingredients, there’s a version of the cheesesteak for everyone.

Top Places to Get a Philly Cheesesteak in Philadelphia

Philadelphia is the birthplace of the cheesesteak, and no visit to the city is complete without sampling this iconic sandwich. This section highlights the top spots to enjoy a Philly Cheesesteak, from the legendary establishments to the lesser-known hidden gems.

Famous Eateries

Several Philly cheesesteak joints have gained national fame for their delicious and authentic sandwiches. Here are some must-visit places:

  • Pat’s King of Steaks: Often credited with inventing the cheesesteak, Pat’s has been serving up these delicious sandwiches since the 1930s. Located at the intersection of 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue, it’s a historic spot that’s popular with both locals and tourists.
  • Geno’s Steaks: Directly across from Pat’s, Geno’s is another heavyweight in the cheesesteak world, known for its neon-lit facade and 24/7 service. Their cheesesteaks come with thinly sliced beef and a choice of cheeses, including the traditional Cheez Whiz.
  • Jim’s Steaks South St.: A staple on South Street since 1976, Jim’s is famed for its grilled onions and quality meat. The line can be long, but the wait is a testament to the quality of their cheesesteaks.
  • Tony Luke’s: Located in South Philly, Tony Luke’s offers a slightly different take on the cheesesteak, with a focus on fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Their sandwiches are beloved by those looking for a slightly « gourmet » cheesesteak experience.

Hidden Gems

Beyond the well-known eateries, several lesser-known spots offer exceptional cheesesteaks worth seeking out:

  • John’s Roast Pork: While famous for its roast pork sandwiches, John’s also serves one of the best cheesesteaks in town, featuring sharp provolone and sautéed onions, all on a fresh sesame seed roll.
  • Dalessandro’s Steaks and Hoagies: A bit off the beaten path in the Roxborough neighborhood, Dalessandro’s is a favorite among locals. Their cheesesteaks are chopped finely and mixed with onions and cheese, creating a perfect meld of flavors.
  • Ishkabibble’s Eatery: Since 1979, Ishkabibble’s on South Street has been a go-to for cheesesteaks and their famous « Gremlin, » a half-lemonade, half-grape juice beverage. Their cheesesteaks come with a choice of white American or provolone cheese, offering a slightly different texture and flavor.

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned local, these spots provide a taste of the best cheesesteaks Philadelphia has to offer, from the famous icons to the hidden gems where many Philadelphians swear by their cheesesteaks.


How to Order a Philly Cheesesteak Like a Local

Ordering a Philly Cheesesteak in Philadelphia is almost a rite of passage. To blend in and get the most authentic experience, it’s essential to know the local ordering etiquette and the unique lingo associated with it.

Ordering Etiquette

When you step up to the counter to order a Philly Cheesesteak, be ready. The lines can be long, and locals are quick with their orders. Here’s how to keep things moving smoothly:

  • Know what you want before it’s your turn. The menu is usually simple, and choices are limited to type of cheese and with or without onions.
  • Have your money ready. Many places are cash-only and appreciate quick transactions.
  • Stand firm. Be clear and concise with your order. Hesitation can throw off the rhythm of the service.

Following these steps not only helps maintain the flow but also earns you a nod of approval from the locals and the staff.

Local Lingo

Ordering a cheesesteak in Philly comes with its own language. Here’s a quick guide to sounding like a local:

  • « Whiz Wit »: This order means you want a cheesesteak with Cheez Whiz and onions.
  • « Whiz Without »: This means you want a cheesesteak with Cheez Whiz but no onions.
  • « Provolone Wit »: A cheesesteak with Provolone cheese and onions.
  • « American Without »: A cheesesteak with American cheese and no onions.

Using this lingo will not only speed up your order but also show that you know your way around a Philly Cheesesteak. By following these local practices, you’ll enjoy a genuine Philly experience, complete with the flavors and customs that make the city’s food scene truly unique.

Philly Cheesesteak

The Cultural Impact of Philly Cheesesteak

The Philly Cheesesteak is more than just a regional specialty; it has left a significant mark on American culture and beyond. This section explores its influence in pop culture and its global reach.

In Pop Culture

Philly Cheesesteak has permeated pop culture in various ways. It has been featured in numerous films, TV shows, and books, often used to highlight Philadelphia’s vibrant culture or as a symbol of the city’s blue-collar spirit. Celebrities and chefs alike praise the sandwich, and it’s a common sight at sporting events and music festivals, embodying Philadelphia’s identity.

Global Influence

Globally, the Philly Cheesesteak has inspired countless variations and has been embraced in cities worldwide. International chefs have adapted the cheesesteak to local tastes, incorporating ingredients that cater to regional preferences while still keeping the essence of the original. This global adoption underscores its versatility and broad appeal, marking it as a truly international dish.


This section addresses some of the most common questions people have about Philly Cheesesteaks, providing concise answers to enhance understanding and appreciation of this iconic sandwich.

Common Questions about Philly Cheesesteak

  • What cheese goes on a traditional Philly cheesesteak? The traditional choices are Cheez Whiz, Provolone, or American cheese, with Cheez Whiz being the most iconic option.
  • Can you get a Philly cheesesteak outside of Philadelphia? Yes, while the most authentic versions are found in Philadelphia, many restaurants worldwide offer variations of the Philly Cheesesteak, some adhering closely to the original recipe and others adapting it to local tastes.

Recommended External Links

Here are some external links related to the Philly Cheesesteak:

    1. List of Steak Dishes – Wikipedia
      • This link provides an overview of various steak dishes, including regional favorites and global variations, offering context on how the Philly Cheesesteak fits into broader culinary traditions.
    2. Prawn Cocktail, Steak and Black Forest Gateau – Wikipedia
      • This page details a classic trio of British cuisine, useful for understanding the cultural significance and pairing of steak dishes in Western culinary history.
    3. Steak and Kidney Pie – Wikipedia
      • Explore this traditional British dish to see another culinary use of steak in a popular regional recipe, offering a comparative perspective to the American Philly Cheesesteak.


In conclusion, the Philly Cheesesteak is more than a local Philadelphia dish; it’s a key part of American culinary culture. Created in the early 20th century, it blends frizzled beef, melted cheese, and onions in a hoagie roll. This sandwich epitomizes the rich flavors typical of American fast food. Its widespread popularity has spurred many variations both in the U.S. and internationally, making it a flexible and lasting favorite. Enjoyed in its classic form with Cheez Whiz or in new versions with various meats and cheeses, the Philly Cheesesteak remains deeply cherished. As it continues to influence eateries worldwide, it stands as a tribute to the enduring appeal of simple, tasty ingredients

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