Map all locationsAuthentic Philly Cheesesteaks
Authentic Philly Cheesesteaks
Here in Philadelphia, 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. So what is an authentic cheesesteak and where did it come from? Here’s the lowdown on this region’s favorite sandwich.
What Is a Cheesesteak?
A cheesesteak is a long, crusty roll filled with thinly sliced sautéed ribeye beef and melted cheese. Generally, the cheese of choice is Cheez Whiz, but American and provolone are common substitutions. The art of cheesesteak preparation lies in the balance of flavors, textures and what is often referred to as the “drip” factor. Other toppings may include fried onions, sautéed mushrooms, ketchup and hot or sweet peppers.
Some sandwich shops also offer a cheesesteak hoagie, a hybrid version that combines the cheesesteak with cold hoagie dressings like lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. Cheesesteaks are fast, portable and readily available at steak shops, delis, food trucks, pizzerias and even some high-end restaurants throughout the region.
Everyone agrees that the cheesesteak, the celebrated Philadelphia sandwich invented by Pat Olivieri in 1930, should be made with chopped beef and melted cheese. The degree to which said beef is chopped and the type of cheese to be melted, however, is where there remains plenty of debate among cheesesteak aficionados.
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, 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 [denoted by the “one”] with Cheez Whiz as your choice of cheese [denoted by the “whiz”] and with fried onions [denoted by the “with”].
Similarly, saying “one provolone without” would secure you a single cheesesteak [one] made with provolone cheese [provolone] and without fried onions [without].
Ok. Got it? Now go ahead and test out your ordering prowess for real.
The cheesesteak made its official debut in 1930. Pat Olivieri was a South Philadelphia hot dog vendor who one day decided to put some beef from the butcher on his grill. A taxicab driver noticed the alluring aroma and asked for his own steak sandwich. The next day, as the story goes, rumor of the delicious lunch had spread, and cabbies around the city came to Olivieri demanding steak sandwiches. Soon after, Olivieri opened up a shop on 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue, Pat’s King of Steaks, to sell his new creation. Eventually, according to legend, he added cheese to the recipe. Today, Pat’s grills are sizzling 24 hours a day, as are Geno’s, the rival shop across the street. For 40 years, the two shops have waged a friendly competition to win the title of best cheesesteak in town, with Geno’s founder, Joe Vento, claiming it was he, not Olivieri, who first added cheese to the cheesesteak.
Where to Go
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 Wiz 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.
Oh, the choices. 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.
Philly Cheesesteaks Gallery
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Philly Cheesesteaks Map
Check out our guide to the Best Cheesesteaks in Philadelphia complete with a map of how to find them.
Philadelphia’s Sandwich Hall of Fame
Nothing speaks to Philadelphia’s love of great food more than our appreciation of an amazing sandwich. From the world-famous Philly cheesesteak to its less famous, but equally delicious brother, the hoagie, to the third juggernaut in Philly’s sandwich triumvirate, the roast pork sandwich, Philadelphia loves genuinely incredible sandwiches. We know them. We love them. We eat them. It’s what we do. This Sandwich Hall of Fame is our ode to Philadelphia’s greatest sandwiches.
The original and still among the best
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).
Cheesesteaks worth the wait
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.
One half of South Philadelphia’s famous cheesesteak corner
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.
The late-night cheesesteak shop in Philly’s Old City neighborhood
What Pat’s, Geno’s and Tony Luke’s are to South Philly, Sonny’s Famous Steaks is to bar-filled Old City. Open until 3:00 a.m. on weekends, Sonny’s serves up cheesesteaks of all sorts, rib-eye burgers, cheese fries and onion rings to partyers who need to fuel up before going down for the night.View More
America’s oldest farmers’ market
Established in 1892 at 12th and Arch Streets, Reading Terminal is the nation’s oldest continuously operating farmers’ market. Today, this indoor foodie paradise is a one-stop shop for everything from local produce and meats to artisanal cheeses and incredibly delicious desserts and baked goods. It’s also home to the “best sandwich in America.”View More
Streetside steaks, fries and “Gremlins”
Quick service is the hallmark of this long-running South Street walkup window, considered the innovator of the chicken cheesesteak. Don’t forget the jalapeno-covered Spanish fries on the side and a Gremlin (half grape, half lemonade) to wash it all down.View More
Day-long celebration of city’s signature sandwich at Lincoln Financial Field
Fall 2016View More
Philadelphia is finally hosting its first festival devoted entirely to the cheesesteak in October 2015. Held outside Lincoln Financial Field, the home of the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cheesesteak Festival will celebrate the city’s signature sandwich.
The original and still among the best
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).View More
Offering authentic cheesesteaks in North Philadelphia
Located near the campus of Temple University, Sumo Steaks serves up authentic Philly cheesesteaks made with quality ingredients.View More
Another classic, must-visit cheesesteak establishment in South Philadelphia
Philip’s Steaks is another 24-hour cheesesteak joint on Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia – like Pat’s and Geno’s above – it’s just a little more out of the way than those two. But that off-the-beaten-path vibe gives Philip’s Steaks more cred if you’re looking to find a really great cheesesteak that not everyone has tried before.View More
Another member of Philly’s cheesesteak royalty.
Steve’s Prince of Steaks has been a cheesesteak institution in Northeast Philadelphia for more than three decades and now that they’ve opened a location in downtown Philadelphia, more and more happy customers are becoming “loyal subjects” of the Prince…, as the slogan on Steve’s t-shirt happily declares. And for good reason: the cheesesteaks at Steve’s are legit.View More
Classic Philly cheesesteaks and hoagies on the South Philadelphia waterfront.
Visit Shank’s Original for a highly reputed cheesesteak and an old-school South Philly experience transplanted to the waterfront. The tradition of Shank’s dates back to 1962 when Shank’s and Evelyn’s (“Shank’s”) opened its doors to the Italian Market near 10th and Catherine Streets. In 2009, Shank’s closed it’s original location and opened a new location on Columbus Boulevard. The new location is right at the base of Pier 40 on the Delaware River.View More
Excellent cheesesteaks in the city’s northwestern ridge.
Dalessandro’s has been serving delicious — if sinfully greasy — cheesesteaks from their corner locale for as long as anybody can remember. Legend has it that the grillmasters at Delassandro’s season their sizable flattoped grill with fat before adding the meat.View More
Old-school Philly cheesesteaks
A campus stalwart for more than 20 years, Abner’s enjoys such lasting popularity that it actually ships its real-deal steaks to former University City students and residents throughout the country. They also offer pizza, stromboli, sandwiches and more until the wee hours of the morning.View More
Seriously stuffed hoagies and cheesesteaks await in an unassuming, no-frills shop within the gated Pennsport Mall. Gigantic creations with enough deli meat and cheese to cover many more normal-sized sandwiches have kept locals full and content for years.View More
A corner deli in South Philly executing excellent cheesesteaks, hoagies, roast pork and more
Award-winning and independently owned for decades, Cosmi’s serves some of the best hoagies, cheesesteaks and roast pork sandwiches in Philadelphia.View More
On a roll
Two brothers anchor this Whiz-topped newcomer off Spring Garden, a welcome addition to a part of town surprisingly lacking in cheesesteak options.View More
Awesome hot dogs from an unassuming corner spot on Washington Avenue
A self-proclaimed “mini-diner,” Moe’s has expanded its menu from 14 hot dog and sausage options to sandwiches, fish, salads and breakfast fare. Don’t worry — they still serve the original treats, many topped with homemade condiments.View More