Best Philly Cheesesteak to Try

Best Philly Cheesesteak to Try

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Updated on February 26, 2024

The Philly cheesesteak, a culinary icon born in the heart of Philadelphia, is more than just a sandwich. It’s a cultural phenomenon, a source of civic pride, and a delicious symbol of American ingenuity. With its simple yet satisfying combination of thinly sliced ribeye steak, melted cheese, and a crusty Italian roll, the cheesesteak has captivated taste buds and sparked heated debates for generations.

The Philly Cheesesteak is a delicious and iconic American sandwich that combines simple ingredients with bold flavours. It’s a must-try for any food lover and a testament to the creativity and passion of Philadelphia’s culinary scene.


Humble Beginnings

The exact origins of the Philly cheesesteak remain shrouded in delicious mystery. While some credit brothers Pat and Harry Olivieri with its invention in the 1930s, others trace its roots back to earlier food vendors who experimented with similar concoctions. Regardless of its precise origin story, the cheesesteak quickly gained popularity among Philadelphia’s working class, becoming a staple lunch and late-night snack.

Making the Perfect Philly Cheesesteak: A Step-by-Step Guide

The Philly cheesesteak, a culinary masterpiece, is deceptively simple in its ingredients yet requires precision in preparation. To achieve that perfect balance of flavours and textures, follow these steps:


  • 1 pound ribeye steak, thinly sliced against the grain
  • 1 hoagie roll, crusty and long
  • 1/2 cup provolone cheese, thinly sliced (or Cheez Whiz)
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: 1/2 cup thinly sliced onions, sauteed until translucent


  1. Prep the steak: Slice the ribeye steak thinly against the grain. Aim for pieces about 1/8 inch thick and 1-2 inches long. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  2. Toast the roll: Slice the hoagie roll in half lengthwise and lightly toast it until crisp on the inside but slightly soft on the outside. You can use a toaster oven, grill pan, or even a microwave on low power.
  3. Cook the steak: Heat olive oil in a large skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Add the sliced steak and cook for about 1-2 minutes per side or until desired doneness. Do not overcrowd the pan cook in batches if necessary.
  4. Add the onions (optional): If using onions, add them to the pan after the steak has cooked for about 30 seconds. Saute until translucent and slightly softened.
  5. Assemble the cheesesteak: Place the cooked steak and onions (if using) on the bottom half of the toasted roll. Top with the provolone cheese (or Cheez Whiz) and cover with the top half of the roll.
  6. Melt the cheese: Place the assembled cheesesteak back in the pan or under a broiler for a few seconds, just until the cheese melts and becomes gooey.
  7. Serve immediately: Enjoy your delicious Philly cheesesteak hot and fresh!

Tips for Perfection

  • Use the freshest ingredients possible for the best flavour.
  • Slice the steak thinly against the grain for a tender and melty texture.
  • Do not overcook the steak, and it should be cooked to medium rare for optimal juiciness.
  • Use a crusty hoagie roll that can hold up to the fillings without getting soggy.
  • Choose your cheese preference – provolone for a classic flavour or Cheez Whiz for a nostalgic touch.
  • Keep it simple with just the essential ingredients, or add some sauteed onions or peppers for extra flavour.
  • Customise it to your liking! The Philly cheesesteak is a versatile sandwich that can be adapted to your personal preferences.
  • Most importantly, enjoy the process and savour the delicious outcome!

With these steps and tips, you can create a restaurant-worthy Philly cheesesteak in the comfort of your own home. So grab your ingredients and get ready for a taste of Philadelphia’s culinary heritage.

The Anatomy of a Classic

Philly Cheesesteak
close up of rustic philly cheese steak sandwich

The essence of the Philly cheesesteak lies in its simplicity. The star of the show is undoubtedly the thinly sliced ribeye steak, chosen for its rich flavour and perfect balance of tender meat and slight chewiness. The cheese, traditionally provolone, adds a creamy counterpoint to the savoury steak, while the sturdy Italian roll provides the perfect vessel to hold everything together.

Customisation and Controversy

While the basic framework of the cheesesteak remains constant, room exists for individual preferences and passionate debate. To “wit” or “witout” onions? Provolone or Cheez Whiz? These are questions that have divided families and sparked heated discussions for decades. And let’s not forget the debate over the proper way to chop the steak: the classic “chopped” style or the more modern “shredded” approach.

Exploring the Landscape

Philadelphia boasts a vibrant cheesesteak scene, with iconic establishments like Pat’s & Geno’s drawing crowds from around the world. But venturing beyond the tourist traps reveals a world of hidden gems, each offering its unique take on the classic sandwich. From the juicy steaks at Dalessandro’s to the retro charm of Joe’s Steaks & Soda Shop, each bite is a passion that fuel the city’s culinary identity.

A Culinary Legacy

The Philly cheesesteak has transcended its humble beginnings to become a national treasure enjoyed by people from all walks of life. Its simple formula has inspired countless variations across the country, each adding a unique twist to the classic. Yet, it is the spirit of Philadelphia – its bold flavours, passionate debates, and unwavering dedication to tradition – that truly defines the cheesesteak and cements its place in culinary history.

So, whether you’re a seasoned cheesesteak aficionado or a first-time visitor, take a bite, savour the flavour, and immerse yourself in the world of this iconic sandwich. You’ll soon discover why the Philly cheesesteak is more than just a meal; it’s an experience.

The Quest for the Best Philly Cheesesteak: A Guide for the Discerning Eater

The Philly cheesesteak, a legendary American sandwich, holds a special place in the hearts of Philadelphians and foodies worldwide. Its simplicity – thinly sliced ribeye steak, melted cheese, and a crusty roll – masks a depth of flavour that has sparked countless debates about which establishment reigns supreme.

Philly Cheesesteak
Ma about to eat a philly steak cheese sandwich

But fear not, intrepid cheesesteak seeker! This guide provides you with the knowledge and perspective to navigate the vast landscape of cheesesteak options and discover your personal favourite.

The Essential Elements

Steak: Ribeye is the undisputed king of cheesesteaks, offering the perfect balance of tenderness and flavour. Look for cuts with good marbling for optimal juiciness.

Cheese: Provolone is the traditional choice, providing a mild, creamy counterpoint to the savoury steak. However, the adventurous can explore options like American, Cheez Whiz, or even Cooper Sharp.

Roll: A freshly baked hoagie roll, crusty on the outside and soft on the inside, is essential for holding the delicious filling. Avoid over-toasted or soggy rolls that compromise the sandwich’s integrity.

Bread: A crusty Italian roll, long and sturdy, forms the foundation of the sandwich. It needs to be strong enough to hold the fillings without becoming soggy.

Optional Additions: While the basic ingredients are enough for a delicious cheesesteak, additional toppings like sauteed onions, peppers, mushrooms, or even ketchup are popular choices.

Style: The classic style involves chopping the steak into thin pieces. However, some modern variations shred the meat for a different texture.

Customisation: The beauty of the Philly Cheesesteak is its ability to be customised. You can choose your preferred toppings, cheese, and even the level of steak “doneness” to create your perfect sandwich.

Cultural Significance: The Philly Cheesesteak is more than just a sandwich; it’s a cultural icon in Philadelphia. It represents the city’s working-class roots, its passionate spirit, and its unwavering dedication to tradition.

The Finishing Touches: While some prefer their cheesesteak “wit” (with fried onions), others enjoy the addition of peppers, mushrooms, or even ketchup. Ultimately, it’s a matter of personal preference.

Where to Find the Best Philly Cheesesteak

Philadelphia boasts a vibrant cheesesteak scene, with legendary establishments like Pat’s & Geno’s. However, venturing beyond the tourist traps reveals a world of hidden gems, each offering its unique interpretation of this classic sandwich.

The Classics

  • Pat’s & Geno’s: These Italian Market rivals are considered the cheesesteak’s birthplace. While the lines can be long and the environment chaotic, the experience is undeniably authentic.
  • Dalessandro’s: A local favourite in Roxborough, Dalessandro’s offers a classic cheesesteak with generous portions and a loyal following.
  • Joe’s Steaks & Soda Shop: This South Philly institution boasts a retro atmosphere and a cheesesteak that’s both juicy and flavorful.

The Hidden Gems

  • Angelo’s Pizzeria: This South Philly pizza joint serves up an unexpected gem – a cheesesteak packed with flavour and personality.
  • Woodrow’s Sandwich Shop: A newcomer to the scene, Woodrow’s has quickly gained recognition for its high-quality ingredients and expertly crafted cheesesteaks.
  • Chubby’s Steaks: This off-the-beaten-path spot in North Philadelphia offers a thick-cut cheesesteak with a unique and delicious flavour profile.

Beyond the City

While Philadelphia undoubtedly boasts the best cheesesteaks, several establishments outside the city limits deserve mention:

Philly Cheesesteak
Philly beef steak cheese sandwich on white
  • Sonny’s Famous Steaks: With multiple locations throughout the region, Sonny’s offers a consistently delicious cheesesteak that’s faithful to the Philly tradition.
  • Mike’s BBQ: This Reading Terminal Market staple is known for its award-winning cheesesteak, featuring a unique blend of spices and savoury flavours.
  • Campo’s: This family-owned restaurant in South Jersey serves up a classic cheesesteak with a generous helping of steak and melty cheese.

Your Ultimate Cheesesteak Experience

Ultimately, the best cheesesteak is the one that satisfies your individual cravings. Don’t be afraid to explore different establishments, experiment with toppings, and discover what makes your perfect Philly cheesesteak experience.

Here are some tips to enhance your cheesesteak journey:

  • Order your steak “wit” or “witout” onions.
  • Specify your cheese preference.
  • Ask for it “chopped fine” for a more traditional texture.
  • Enjoy fresh, never frozen, ingredients.
  • Pair it with a classic beverage like a hoagie roll and a cold beer.

Beyond the Bite: Delving Deeper into the Philly Cheesesteak

The Philly cheesesteak is more than just a delicious sandwich; it’s a cultural icon woven into the fabric of Philadelphia. Here’s a glimpse into its rich history, unique variations, and fiery debates:

Historical Tidbits

  • While the exact origin remains debated, the 1930s saw the rise of the cheesesteak, often attributed to Pat and Harry Olivieri, who served chopped steak on a roll at their hot dog stand.
  • The introduction of cheese in the 1940s, attributed to Pat’s King of Steaks manager “Cocky Joe” Lorenza, marked a pivotal moment in the cheesesteak’s evolution.
  • The post-war period saw the cheesesteak’s popularity explode, becoming a staple lunch and late-night treat for Philadelphians.

Variations and Debates

  • To “wit” or “witout”? This age-old debate centres on whether to include onions (wit) or not (witout). Both have passionate supporters, highlighting the personal preferences that contribute to the cheesesteak’s charm.
  • Cheese wars: Provolone reigns supreme as the traditional cheese, but Cheez Whiz holds a special place in many hearts, offering a nostalgic and creamy alternative.
  • Chopped or shredded? This debate revolves around the steak’s texture. The classic “chopped” style delivers a meaty bite, while the modern “shredded” approach offers a smoother texture.
  • Beyond the basics: While the classic cheesesteak reigns supreme, variations include adding peppers, mushrooms, ketchup, or even sauces like hot pepper relish, reflecting individual tastes and the city’s diverse culinary scene.

Cultural Significance

  • The cheesesteak embodies Philadelphia’s working-class roots, representing the city’s grit and resilience.
  • It’s a source of civic pride, uniting Philadelphians and generating friendly competition among rival cheesesteak shops.
  • It has transcended its local origins to become a national icon, enjoyed and celebrated across the United States.

Experiencing the Cheesesteak

  • A visit to Philadelphia wouldn’t be complete without trying the iconic cheesesteak. Explore legendary establishments like Pat’s & Geno’s or venture beyond the tourist traps to discover hidden gems offering unique interpretations.
  • Don’t be afraid to customise your cheesesteak to your liking. Experiment with different toppings and cheeses to discover your perfect combination.
  • Engage in the friendly debates about “wit” vs “witout,” provolone vs Cheez Whiz, and chopped vs shredded – it’s all part of the fun and cultural experience.

The Philly cheesesteak is more than just a sandwich; it’s a story, a tradition, and a taste of Philadelphia’s unique spirit. So take a bite, savour the flavour, and immerse yourself in the world of this beloved culinary icon.

The Philly cheesesteak, a culinary journey through the heart of Philadelphia, offers more than just a satisfying meal. It’s a window into the city’s history, culture, and passionate spirit. With its humble beginnings, fierce debates, and endless variations, the cheesesteak embodies the vibrant spirit of Philadelphia itself.

As you savour the perfect balance of tender steak, gooey cheese, and a crusty roll, remember that each bite tells a story. It’s a story of working-class ingenuity, unwavering tradition, and the unique flavours that have captured hearts and sparked conversations for generations.

History and Folklore

  • The Great Cheesesteak Debate: While the Olivieri brothers are often credited with inventing the cheesesteak, others claim it evolved gradually from earlier versions. This historical debate adds to the mystique and intrigue surrounding the sandwich.
  • Cheesesteak Lore: Stories like the one about “Cocky Joe” Lorenza adding cheese in the 1940s contribute to the cheesesteak’s rich history and add a layer of folklore to its origins.
  • Evolution and Variations: Over time, the cheesesteak has evolved to include variations beyond the classic “wit” or “witout” options. Today, you can find cheesesteaks with a variety of toppings, cheeses, and even different cuts of steak.

Local Favorites and Hidden Gems

  • Beyond the Classics: While Pat’s & Geno’s are famous, plenty of other establishments offer delicious and unique takes on the cheesesteak. Exploring local favourites like Dalessandro’s, Joe’s Steaks & Soda Shop, or Chubby’s Steaks can be a rewarding experience.
  • Neighbourhood Gems: Each Philadelphia neighbourhood boasts its own hidden cheesesteak gems, often passed down through generations. This can lead you to some truly authentic and unforgettable cheesesteak experiences.

Cultural Impact and Beyond

  • Pop Culture Phenomenon: The Philly cheesesteak has made appearances in movies, TV shows, and even music as a symbol of American food culture.
  • Global Appeal: The cheesesteak’s popularity has extended far beyond Philadelphia, with restaurants and variations appearing around the world. This global appeal demonstrates the sandwich’s universal appeal and ability to transcend cultural boundaries.

The Future of the Cheesesteak

  • Innovation and Experimentation: While the classic cheesesteak holds a special place in many hearts, new and innovative interpretations continue to emerge. This constant evolution ensures the cheesesteak remains relevant and exciting for future generations.
  • Protecting the Legacy: Organisations like the Cheesesteak Association of Philadelphia work to preserve the cheesesteak’s tradition and integrity while embracing innovation and change.
  • A Culinary Treasure: The Philly Cheesesteak stands as a testament to the power of simple ingredients, passion, and cultural heritage. It’s a culinary treasure that continues to delight and inspire, ensuring its legacy remains strong for years to come.

Additional Resources

  • Reading Terminal Market: Home to several popular cheesesteak stalls and a great place to experience the vibrant food scene of Philadelphia.
  • Cheesesteak Association of Philadelphia: This organisation provides information about the history and culture of the cheesesteak.
  • Philadelphia Magazine’s “Best Cheesesteaks” list: A helpful guide for visitors seeking the best cheesesteak experiences in Philadelphia.

Whether you’re a lifelong Philly cheesesteak aficionado or a curious newcomer, the Philly cheesesteak has something to offer everyone. With its rich history, diverse variations, and passionate community, this iconic sandwich is more than just a meal; it’s an experience that captures the heart and soul of Philadelphia. So next time you have the opportunity, take a bite and discover the magic for yourself.


Whether you’re a seasoned cheesesteak aficionado or a first-time visitor, embrace the experience. Explore the city’s diverse cheesesteak landscape, from legendary establishments to hidden gems, each offering a piece of Philadelphia’s culinary heritage. Customise your sandwich, participate in the friendly debates, and share your love for this iconic dish.

The Philly cheesesteak is a testament to the power of simple ingredients, passion, and the enduring spirit of a city. So, take a bite, close your eyes, and let the flavours transport you to the heart of Philadelphia. You’ll soon understand why the Philly cheesesteak is more than just a sandwich; it’s an experience that stays with you long after the last bite.

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