Philly’s Signature Sandwiches: Cheesesteaks, Hoagies & Roast Pork

A History & Love Story Between A Proud City & Its Delicious Inventions

Philly’s Signature Sandwiches: Cheesesteaks, Hoagies & Roast PorkHere in Philly, cheesesteaks, hoagies and roast pork sandwiches are civic icons, tourist draws, cultural obsessions—and, most importantly, beloved meals. A visit to the city would be incomplete without a dive into the distinct, no-forks-required specialties that make this “America’s Best Sandwich City,” as Saveur magazine recently declared. Here’s the lowdown on the holy trio of between-bread Philadelphia:

What Is It?
A cheesesteak—always one word!—consists of a long, crusty roll filled with thin-sliced, freshly sautéed ribeye beef and melted cheese. The art of cheesesteak preparation lies in the balance of flavors, textures and what is often referred to as the “drip” factor. For many fans, the definitive “cheese” of choice is Cheez Whiz®, but American and provolone have long established themselves as accepted alternatives. Other common toppings include sautéed onions, cooked mushrooms, ketchup, and hot or sweet peppers.

The History
The origin of the cheesesteak dates back to 1930, when during one fateful lunch hour, South Philly hot dog vendor Pat Olivieri slapped some beef from the butcher on his grill. A cabbie driving by sniffed something delicious, leaned out his window and requested his own. It didn’t take long for news of the creation to spread—taxi drivers came to Olivieri demanding their own steak sandwiches. Soon after, the vendor opened a permanent shop on 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue, Pat’s King of Steaks, to sell his invention to the masses. Pat’s grills now sizzle 24 hours a day. So do those of Geno’s Steaks, the rival across the street that opened in 1966, whose late owner claims to have first added cheese to the sandwich. For more than half a century, Pat’s and Geno’s have waged a (mostly) friendly competition, with visitors often ordering from both shops to see which they deem the winner.

Where To Eat One
Nearly every pizza or sandwich shop on any corner of every neighborhood in the city serves up the workaday delicacy. Here are a few notable spots in Center City and beyond, but first a lesson on ordering. Those who crave a cheesesteak must first consider two critical questions: What kind of cheese? Onions or no onions? Those who want Cheez Whiz and onions, ask for a “Whiz Wit.” Those who want provolone without onions, ask for a “Provolone Witout.”

Philly’s Signature Sandwiches: Cheesesteaks, Hoagies & Roast Pork
Everyone agrees that the cheesesteak, invented by Pat Olivieri in 1930, requires thinly sliced beef and a crusty roll, but the choice between provolone, American and Cheez Whiz is a matter of great debate, as is the best place to eat the famed sandwich. Pictured on the left is a steak topped with Cheez Whiz and onions—known as a “Whiz Wit” to locals—from Tony Luke’s in South Philly. Pictured on right, Campo’s has been serving up top-rated Philly cheesesteaks and hoagies to the hungry masses in Philadelphia’s Historic District for nearly 60 years.

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