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If you’ve ever been to Philadelphia, chances are you’ve heard all about the city’s most famous sandwich the Philly cheesesteak. But what exactly sets it apart from a regular cheese steak? While the two may sound similar, there are some key differences that make the Philly cheesesteak a uniquely delicious experience.

Firstly, it’s important to note that a Philly cheesesteak is a type of cheese steak, but not all cheese steaks are Philly cheesesteaks. Confused yet? Don’t worry we’re about to clear it all up.

Key Takeaways:

  • The difference between a cheese steak and a Philly cheesesteak lies in the unique combination of ingredients that make up the latter.
  • The Philly cheesesteak is an iconic sandwich that originated in Philadelphia and is made with thinly sliced steak, melted cheese, and a soft roll.
  • The authenticity of a Philly cheesesteak is highly debated, with some arguing that certain ingredients or preparation methods are necessary for it to truly be considered the real deal.

What Makes a Philly Cheesesteak?

When it comes to iconic sandwiches, the Philly cheesesteak ranks high on the list. But what exactly makes a Philly cheesesteak so famous? Let’s break it down.

The essential components of a Philly cheesesteak include thinly sliced beef, typically ribeye or top round, melted cheese, and a long, crusty roll. The cheese of choice is typically Cheez Whiz, provolone, or American, but other options are available, depending on the establishment.

The bread used for a Philly cheesesteak is a crucial component. The roll should be long, with a crusty exterior and a soft, chewy interior. It’s often lightly toasted and buttered before being piled high with meat and cheese.

While the core ingredients of a Philly cheesesteak are pretty straightforward, the way they are put together can vary quite a bit. Some establishments add onions, peppers, and mushrooms to their sandwiches, while others keep it simple with just meat and cheese.

So, where can you find the best Philly cheesesteak in Philadelphia? That’s a matter of personal opinion, as each establishment has its own take on this iconic sandwich. Some popular options include Pat’s King of Steaks, Geno’s Steaks, and Jim’s Steaks.

At Pat’s King of Steaks, the original Philly cheesesteak joint, the sandwich comes with thinly sliced beef, a choice of cheese, and grilled onions. Geno’s Steaks offers a similar sandwich, with the added option of peppers and mushrooms, while Jim’s Steaks is known for its generously sized sandwiches and a wide variety of toppings.

The History of the Philly Cheesesteak

The Philly cheesesteak has become an iconic Philadelphia sandwich that has gained popularity all over the world. However, the origin of this delicious sandwich is unclear and has been the subject of much debate over the years. According to some historical accounts, the cheesesteak was first created in the early 20th century by Pat and Harry Olivieri, who were hot dog vendors in South Philadelphia. Legend has it that one day, Pat decided to grill some beef and onions and put the meat on an Italian roll, which attracted the attention of a passing cab driver. The driver asked for the same sandwich and it soon became a hot item among the taxi drivers in the area.

As its popularity grew, the cheesesteak gained a reputation as a working-class food, and it wasn’t until the 1960s that it made its way into mainstream culture. One of the most famous cheesesteak joints in Philadelphia, Pat’s King of Steaks, claims to be the creator of the original cheesesteak sandwich. However, other establishments in the city also lay claim to this iconic dish.

Regardless of its origins, there’s no denying the impact that the Philly cheesesteak has had on American cuisine. It has become a cultural symbol of Philadelphia and a must-try for visitors to the city. With its combination of thinly sliced beef, melted cheese, and soft roll, the Philly cheesesteak has earned its place in the history of American sandwiches.

Traditional Cheesesteak Recipe

Are you craving an authentic Philly cheesesteak but can’t make it to the City of Brotherly Love? Fear not we have a traditional cheesesteak recipe that will transport your taste buds straight to the heart of Philadelphia.


Ingredient Amount
Beef ribeye or top round 1 pound, thinly sliced
Hoagie roll 4, split and lightly toasted
White American cheese 8 slices
Yellow onion 1 medium, thinly sliced
Canola oil 2 tablespoons
Salt To taste
Black pepper To taste
Ketchup Optional
Hot peppers Optional


  1. Heat the canola oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are caramelized and soft, about 10 minutes.
  3. Push the onions to one side of the skillet and add the sliced beef to the other side.
  4. Cook the beef until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  5. Stir the beef and onions together and season with salt and black pepper to taste.
  6. Place 2 slices of white American cheese on top of the beef and onion mixture and cover the skillet to melt the cheese.
  7. Divide the cheesesteak mixture evenly among the 4 toasted hoagie rolls.
  8. Add ketchup and hot peppers, if desired, and serve immediately.

There you have it – a classic and delicious Philly cheesesteak recipe that you can enjoy from the comfort of your own home.

The Difference Between a Cheese Steak and a Philly Cheesesteak

While the terms “cheese steak” and “Philly cheesesteak” are often used interchangeably, there are some key differences between the two.

A cheese steak typically consists of thinly sliced beef and melted cheese, served on a hoagie roll. The beef can be cooked in a variety of ways, such as grilling or frying, and can be topped with onions, peppers, or mushrooms.

On the other hand, a Philly cheesesteak is a specific type of cheese steak that originated in Philadelphia. It consists of thinly sliced beef, melted cheese (typically Cheez Whiz, American, or provolone), and sautéed onions, all served on a long, crusty roll.

While both sandwiches are delicious, the key difference lies in the ingredients and preparation. A Philly cheesesteak is a specific type of cheese steak that adheres to a certain set of guidelines, while a cheese steak can vary in composition and preparation depending on where you go.

Regional Variations

One of the reasons for the confusion between the two terms is that there are many regional variations of the cheese steak. For example, in the Midwest, a cheese steak may be served with Swiss cheese and mushrooms, while in Texas, it may be served with jalapeños and salsa.

These variations often incorporate local ingredients and flavors, resulting in unique interpretations of the classic sandwich. However, it’s important to note that these regional variations are not necessarily authentic Philly cheesesteaks.

So, next time you’re craving a delicious cheese steak sandwich, be sure to know the difference between a cheese steak and a Philly cheesesteak and explore all the delicious variations the world has to offer.

Cheese Steak Variations

The cheese steak has become a beloved sandwich across the United States, inspiring many creative variations and adaptations. From regional twists to international fusions, there is no shortage of ways to enjoy this classic sandwich.

Regional Variations

Within the United States, different regions have put their own spin on the cheese steak, resulting in various flavorful variations. For example, in New York City, a cheese steak is often served with sautéed onions, peppers, and mushrooms, while in New England, it may be topped with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese.

In the west coast, specifically California, cheese steak enthusiasts have created a plant-based version, substituting meat with chopped portobello mushrooms or seitan and using vegan cheese or cashew sauce.

International Variations

Outside of the United States, the cheese steak has also been adapted in many different ways. In Canada, the “Montreal-style” cheese steak is served on French bread with a variety of toppings, including coleslaw, mustard, and pickles. In South Korea, the sandwich is modified with bulgogi beef and spicy gochujang sauce, adding a uniquely Korean flavor.

Vegan and Vegetarian Variations

With the rise of veganism and vegetarianism, there has been an increasing demand for plant-based versions of the cheese steak. Many restaurants and food trucks now offer vegan and vegetarian cheese steaks made with ingredients such as seitan, tempeh, and tofu, and topped with vegan cheese and mayo.

Regardless of whether you prefer the classic Philly cheesesteak or enjoy experimenting with different flavors, the cheese steak world offers something for everyone.

Fusion Cheesesteaks

As the cheesesteak has gained popularity across the country, creative chefs and foodies alike have experimented with new ingredients and flavors, resulting in the rise of fusion cheesesteaks. These exciting variations bring together the classic elements of a Philly cheesesteak with unique culinary traditions from around the world.

One popular fusion cheesesteak is the Korean-style cheesesteak, which adds spicy kimchi and sweet barbecue sauce to the traditional sandwich. Another popular variation is the pizza cheesesteak, which blends the flavors of Italian pizza with tender steak, gooey cheese, and sautéed onions.

Vegetarian and vegan fusion cheesesteaks are also gaining popularity, with options like the tofu cheesesteak or the portobello mushroom cheesesteak. These variations replace the traditional meat with alternative protein sources while still maintaining the classic cheese and bread components of a cheesesteak.

Overall, fusion cheesesteaks provide a fun and exciting twist on the classic Philly sandwich, and are definitely worth trying for adventurous eaters.

Iconic Cheesesteak Joints in Philadelphia

When it comes to finding the best Philly cheesesteak, look no further than the iconic cheesesteak joints in Philadelphia. These establishments have been serving up mouth-watering sandwiches for decades, and have become institutions in their own right.

One of the most famous spots is Pat’s King of Steaks, which has been operating in South Philadelphia since 1930. Here, you can enjoy a classic Philly cheesesteak made with thinly sliced steak, melted cheese, and your choice of toppings.

Another popular spot is Geno’s Steaks, which is located just across the street from Pat’s. Geno’s has been serving up their own take on the Philly cheesesteak since 1966, and is known for their signature “Whiz wit” (a cheesesteak with Cheese Whiz and onions).

If you’re in the mood for something a little different, head to Jim’s Steaks in West Philadelphia. This establishment serves up a range of cheesesteak variations, including a pizza steak and a pepperoni steak, as well as a vegetarian-friendly option made with mushrooms, peppers, and onions.

For a taste of history, visit John’s Roast Pork in South Philadelphia. This family-owned establishment has been around since 1930 and is known for their roast pork sandwiches, but they also serve up a mean Philly cheesesteak.

Finally, if you’re in the mood for a cheesesteak with a view, head to Dalessandro’s Steaks in Roxborough. This establishment has been around since 1960 and is known for their generous portions and scenic location in the heart of Wissahickon Valley Park.

No matter which of these iconic cheesesteak joints you visit, you’re sure to experience a true taste of Philadelphia and its famous sandwich.

Tips for Ordering and Enjoying a Cheesesteak

Ordering and enjoying a cheesesteak is an art in itself. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of this iconic sandwich:

  • Know what you want: Before getting in line, decide what type of cheese, toppings, and bread you prefer. This will save you time and ensure you get exactly what you crave.
  • Speak the lingo: If you want to sound like a Philly local, be sure to order your cheesesteak “Whiz wit” (meaning with cheese whiz and onions) or “Whiz without” (meaning with cheese whiz but no onions). Other common topping options include American or provolone cheese, mushrooms, peppers, and hot sauce.
  • Choose your bread wisely: The bread is just as important as the filling when it comes to a cheesesteak. Choose between a hoagie roll or a round roll (also called a “kaiser” or “seeded” roll) depending on your preference for softness or crustiness.
  • Be patient: Cheesesteak joints can get crowded, especially during peak hours. Be prepared to wait in line and take your time enjoying your meal.
  • Go local: If you want to experience the best Philly has to offer, skip the chain restaurants and head to one of the iconic cheesesteak joints in the city. Some fan favorites include Pat’s King of Steaks, Geno’s Steaks, and Jim’s Steaks.
  • Use two hands: A fully loaded cheesesteak can be messy, so be sure to use both hands to hold it together.

Following these tips will help you achieve the full, authentic cheesesteak experience. Whether you’re a Philly native or a first-time visitor, savoring a delicious cheesesteak is a must-do activity in the city of brotherly love!


In conclusion, the difference between a cheese steak and a Philly cheesesteak may seem trivial, but to the people of Philadelphia, it is a matter of pride and tradition. The essential components of a Philly cheesesteak are the thinly sliced beef, the melted cheese, and the soft roll that holds it all together. However, the variations and adaptations of this iconic sandwich are endless, making it a beloved dish for locals and visitors alike.

Whether you decide to try out a traditional recipe or a fusion variation, be sure to visit one of the iconic cheesesteak joints in Philadelphia to truly experience the authentic taste and history of this sandwich. Remember to follow the tips and etiquette for ordering and enjoying a cheesesteak to ensure the best possible experience.

So go ahead and satisfy your craving for a cheesesteak! With so many options to choose from, this sandwich is sure to delight your taste buds and leave you feeling satisfied.

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