The Philly Cheesesteak

As you know, we love food and we love trying new things when we go places. So on our weekend visit to Philadelphia to see a couple of good friends, we decided we absolutely had to try a Philly Cheesesteak to continue our trend of eating regional specialties.

What Is A Philly Cheesesteak?

According to Wikipedia, the Philly Cheesesteak is:

The meat traditionally used is thinly sliced rib-eye or top round, although other cuts of beef are also used. On a lightly oiled griddle at medium temperature, the steak slices are quickly browned and then scrambled into smaller pieces with a flat spatula. Slices of cheese are then placed over the meat, letting it melt, and then the roll is placed on top of the cheese. The mixture is then scooped up with a spatula, pressed into the roll, and cut in half.

Common additions include sautéed onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, mayonnaise, hot sauce, salt, pepper and ketchup.

In Philadelphia, most cheesesteak places use Amoroso or Vilotti-Pisanelli rolls.

Provolone, American cheese, and Cheez Whiz are the most commonly used cheeses

In fewer words, a Philly cheesesteak is a big roll, grilled meat and onions, and cheese. Additional toppings are available.

Ordering A Philly Cheesesteak

This was actually Scott’s second time having a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich. The first time he made what must have been a grave mistake judging by the icy glare he received from the guy manning the grill. He ordered it with provolone instead of Cheez Whiz. It seems that while American and Provolone cheeses are on the menu, a real Philly is ordered with Cheez Whiz.

For those of you, like us, that prefer real cheese to pseudo-cheese, suck it up and get an authentic Philly with the Whiz. It won’t hurt you just this once.

So, how exactly do you order one of these things? The authentic places make it easy. We can’t really say it any better than eHow, so here’s their key step for getting the perfect cheesesteak without making it obvious that you ain’t from around these parts:

Skip the friendly greeting at the window and don’t expect one. Your Philly cheesesteak order should consist of exactly three words. The first word is a number, indicating how many cheesesteaks you want. So, if you want one, the first word is “One.” The second word indicates the type of cheese you want on your sandwich. The third and final word is either “with” or “without,” indicating your preference for fried onion. So, an order for the most authentic Philly cheesesteak would simply be, “One, whiz, with.” That’s it.

If you want a drink or fries to go with your Philly, you’ll have to move to the next window. The first window is for the sandwich only.

Where Can I Get A Philly?

There are probably as many places to get a Philly in Philly as there are Philadelphians in Philly…or somewhere close. It seems that every restaurant, every corner store, and half of the people with street carts have some version of a Philly. Hell, you can even go to Arby’s and get a Philly.

For starters, don’t go to Arby’s to get your Philly. For the real deal, you have to go to the two places that started it all: Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks.

We opted for Pat’s, the place that invented the sandwich way back in 1930. Had we been a little more hungry, we’d have done as our hosts suggested and snagged a Philly from both Pat’s and Geno’s to try both. This is quite easy since they’re across the street from each other at 9th St and Passyunk Ave.

Be prepared for long lines. We arrived mid-day on a Sunday (Mother’s Day, actually) and were greeted to a line that stretched out beyond the confines of the actual queuing area of Pat’s. It was a good 15 people deep. But don’t worry, that ordering process above turns this whole shebang into a line that moves at breakneck speed.

So…Is It Good?

Is it good? Yeah, of course. A sandwich doesn’t become this popular and well-known without being good. The meat is super thin and tender, perfectly cooked. The onions are, frankly, just awesome. The bread was nice and soft on the inside, absorbing all of the delicious juices from the meat and onions, with a nice, crusty outside.

And the Cheez Whiz was…well, it was Cheez Whiz. We’re glad to say we’ve had the authentic Philly experience, but we’re never going to be fans of fake cheese. Next time, we’ll face down the wrath of the man at the grill and get it with Provolone or American.

Who serves your favorite Philly?