A sandwich of beef and molten cheese on a length of robust Italian bread once was a specialty unique to Philadelphia, but now Philly cheese steaks are universal. The classic way to prepare the meat is to griddle-cook very thin slices of steak and leave them fairly intact, folding them into the roll separately from sauteed onions (which are virtually de rigueur). The second method is to hack up the beef as it sizzles. This technique allows the onions to be blended in with the beef on the griddle. Some restaurants even stir cheese to the beef-onion mix, but it is more typical to apply the cheese after the meat is in the bread. When it was invented in 1930 at Pat’s in the Italian Market, the original version was simply steak on a roll, without any cheese. The presumption is that the essence of a cheese steak is not the cheese, but the right combination of beef and bread. However make no mistake: cheese now is essential. While most cheese steak connoisseurs are fairly liberal in allowing provolone, Cheese Whiz, or even American, ordering any other cheese is a faux pas. In 2003, when Senator John Kerry was campaigning to win the Democrat party nomination for President, he tried to show he was an ordinary guy when he visited Pat’s in Philadelphia and asked for a cheese steak … with Swiss cheese. Sacrilege! Craig LaBan, food critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, said flat-out, “It will doom his candidacy in Philadelphia,” explaining that to get Swiss cheese on a steak in Philly was “an alternative lifestyle.”

Restaurants With This Dish

Big Daddy’s Grill


Tony’s Lunch


Frog and The Hen


Sub sandwich balances sweet roast pork and bitter greens
John’s Roast Pork


Ridgecrest Coffee Bar


Mayfield Diner



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