Tag Archives: Cheesesteak

The Best Damn Philly Cheesesteak You’ll Ever Eat – Cheesesteak History

When I started planning to open a food cart a number of years ago, I knew I wanted to do a Philly Cheesesteak. Philadelphia Cheesesteak History is here. I had eaten a number of good cheesesteaks since moving to the Portland area but had never really satisfied the craving I had for the flavors that I had grown up with. Maybe it’s the water, as some had suggested, the bread, ingredients traveling across the country…whatever the case, I just couldn’t quite hit the flavor profiles I loved the most. Cheesesteak purest will tell you that mine is not traditional…this is somewhat true (more on that later).

According to WhatsCookingAmerica.net, if you are more than an hour outside of Philly you can’t get a true Philly Cheesesteak. Evidently, VisitPhilly.com agrees saying, “Often imitated around the world, the cheesesteak is rarely duplicated successfully outside of Philadelphia.” So, if this is true, what constitutes the iconic, traditional Philly Cheesesteak? Well, that’s where things get a little complicated because the “original” Philly Cheesesteak, wasn’t a CHEESEsteak at all. The very first [cheese] steak was created in 1930 by Pat Olivieri and his brother Harry and consisted of thinly sliced ribeye steak, “frizzled” (fried) on a flattop with onions and served on a hot dog bun. But let’s back up a for a minute.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Italian population in the United States had some MAJOR growth due to political issues in Italy during that time. Immigrants from Italy, like many others, traveled away from Ellis Island in search of a place to settle and find a bit of the American Dream as well as other immigrants that might be from their particular region or country of origin. Many of these Italian immigrants landed not all that far from Ellis Island, in Philadelphia. Most choosing South Philly. In this area, hardworking laborers needed quick meals and the community responded with tons of push-cart style food carts that sold cheap food to laborers.

One such pushcart was owned by a local named Pat Olivieri and his brother Harry. Pat and his brother had set up shop on the corner of 9th & Passyunk selling hot dogs and fish cakes in the 1930s. As the story goes (all iconic regional foods have their own story), one day in 1933, Pat was bored of eating hot dogs and fish cakes and told his brother to run down to the local butcher and bring back some beef they could cook up quick for lunch. Harry obliged and returned with some thinly-sliced ribeye, Pat proceeded to cook it up on the flattop (“frizzle”) with some onions , and crammed it into a bun. The original Philly steak sandwich is born. Notice though…no cheese.

As the story continues, it was on that same day, a regular customer, a cab driver, happened by the cart and was enticed by the smell of the beef and onions and asked for this new menu item for himself. After taking a few bites he informed the brothers that they should forget about the fish cakes and serve these instead. He then proceeded to tell all of the other cabbies about this new sandwich….and a legend was born.

BUT WAIT!! Where’s the cheese!!?? Just hold your horses…we’re getting there.

By 1940, Pat and Harry had saved enough money to turn their cart into a brick-and-mortar restaurant on the same corner (Pat’s King of Steaks).

The original version of Pat’s sandwich in their new brick-and-mortar restaurant was the thin-sliced beef and onions, now being served on a crusty Italian roll from a nearby bakery (a step up from the hot dog buns of the pushcart version). Legend says that Pat’s went decades without ever serving their steak sandwiches with cheese and some of Philly’s oldest sandwich vendors signs still read “steak shop” instead of “cheesesteak.” GAH….BUT WHERE’S THE CHEESE???

Ok…ok…the cheese…phew, this is tough one. The question asked to me most often at the cart – which is more traditional/authentic. The idea of which cheese in a cheesesteak is most traditional or the “original” is MUCH debated. A number of stories surround this and it is the topic of much debate and even more family feuds. Your loyalty to one steak shop over another in Philly usually decides your cheese preference and, unless you move from the Philly area to other parts of the country, you are never to be seen eating anything else. It is a matter of pride.

So, one story goes that Joe Lorenzo, an employee at Pat’s in the 40s, used to put provolone cheese on his personal sandwiches when he would eat them…thus inventing the cheesesteak as we know it today making provolone the “traditional” way to eat a cheesesteak. A second version is that Joe used Cheez Whiz not provolone which means cheese wasn’t introduced until the 50s when Whiz was created by Kraft (1952) and thus making whiz the traditional A third version goes that it was a steak sandwich until the 60s when, Joey Vento opened Geno’s Steaks directly across the street from Pat’s with an almost identical menu except he offered the option of adding cheese (this story originated by Joey himself…soooo…ya’ know…). Whether you believe Joey Vento’s story or Joe Lorenzo’s story, it is pretty clear that traditional…well, it’s left open to interpretation. These days though, in Philly, you can get provolone, whiz, or American cheese, a hoagie version (add lettuce, tomato and mayo), or the pizza version (add Italian pizza sauce) and a long list of various other toppings and condiments. There has also been the invent of other styles, for instance, the chicken cheesesteak which was introduced in the 80s by Bill Schultz. Or the veggie option introduced in 2004 by the vegan and vegetarian conscious Vegadelphia.

Which brings us back to my “traditional” version of the Philly Cheesesteak. My meat is Italian seasoned and slow roasted, but not frizzled because I never liked how it dried the meat out. My veggies are sauteed and I liked the addition of green bell peppers when I was back east. I used to love to add mushrooms to mine when I was younger because they were always sauteed in butter and garlic (unfortunately, I’m allergic to mushrooms so I had to forego the actual mushrooms) and that garlicky deliciousness would end up running down my arms to my elbows as I ate. Later, I ate at a place that served theirs with mayo like on the hoagie style sandwiches and I thought that added creaminess was something that my sandwiches had always been missing. So, when I opened City Slickers, I decided to combine all of the things I loved about the cheesesteaks I had eaten over the years into one delicious sandwich. Some may feel this is not traditional. I’m okay with that because ultimately, I’ll likely never sell my meat frizzled with onions on a hot dog bun.

So, next time you are feeling like a “traditional” Philly steak sandwich, remember…there really isn’t such a thing unless it’s frizzled ribeye and onions on a hot dog bun. Everything else is open to interpretation and your personal preferences….at least until someone finds the true story behind the cheese. Feel free to order mine to your liking as well, otherwise, you’ll get my liking – steak, cheese, onions, peppers and garlic aioli.

As a side note, it should be mentioned that in Philly it isn’t a “Philly” cheesesteak…it’s just a cheesesteak or a steak sandwich or a hoagie. Also, when you order, there is a entire mode of delivery you must become accustomed to. Once mastered, it rolls off the tongue easily enough but first-timers can become flustered and end up being forced to the back of the line. Learn the lingo and practice before going to a joint in Philly…you’ll thank me later.

PS: Over the years, it has become normal to reverse Steps 1 and 2 below (ie: American wit, or Whiz wit-out vs. Wit Whiz). Either way is acceptable and will produce the sandwich you are looking for.

10 things you have to do before you can say you have visited Philadelphia

1. Visit Fairmount Park.

Fairmount Park

Fairmount Park of Philadelphia is a 9,200-section of land stop immersing a decent bit of Northwest Philadelphia. What makes it really exceptional is that it’s the biggest urban park on the planet. There are golf courses, play areas, rose greenery enclosures, show ampitheatres and considerably more.

Fairmount Park, Philadelphia’s first park, occupies 2,052 acres (830 ha) adjacent to the banks of the Schuylkill River. Since 2010, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation divides the original park into East and West Fairmount parks. The original domain of Fairmount Park consisted of three areas: “South Park” or the South Garden immediately below the Fairmount Water Works extending to the Callowhill Street Bridge; “Old Park,” which encompassed the former estates of Lemon Hill and Sedgeley; and West Park, the area including the Philadelphia Zoo and the Centennial Exposition grounds. The South Garden predated the establishment of the Park Commission in 1867, while Lemon Hill and Sedgeley were added in 1855–56. After the Civil War, work progressed on acquiring and laying out West Park. In the 1870s, the Fairmount Park Commission expropriated properties along the Wissahickon Creek to extend Fairmount Park. The Schuylkill River Trail is a modern paved multi-use trail by Kelly Drive in the East Park.

Historic Houses

Mount Pleasant, built in 1762–65 for a Scottish ship captain named John Macpherson, is administered by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Art Museum also administers Cedar Grove Mansion, a house built in 1748–50 in what later became the Frankford neighborhood of the city. Cedar Grove was relocated to the park in 1926–1928.

Other historic houses in the park, listed by year of construction, include Boelson Cottage(1678–84), The Lilacs (c. 1711), Letitia Street House (c. 1713), Ridgeland Mansion (1719), Belmont Mansion (1745), The Cliffs (1753; ruins since a fire in 1986), Woodford Mansion (1756), Hatfield House (1760), Randolph House (c. 1767; renamed Laurel Hill Mansion in 1976), Strawberry Mansion (c. 1783–89), The Solitude (1784–85; located within the zoo), Sweetbriar Mansion (1797), Ormiston Mansion (1798), Lemon Hill Mansion (1800), Chamounix Mansion (1802), Rockland Mansion (c. 1810), and the Ohio House which was built for the Centennial Exposition of 1876.

Sedgeley Mansion was built in 1799 on Lemon Hill, then abandoned and later demolished after being acquired through eminent domain by the city in 1857. The Sedgeley property also included a servant’s cottage constructed of stone which still exists. The cottage was designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe and is presently known as the Sedgeley Porter’s House.

2. Eat a Cheesesteak.

Eat a Cheesesteak

This current one’s an easy decision. No different urban areas are as connected to a specific dish as Philadelphia is to the Cheesesteak. There are a lot of alternatives past the visitor goals of Pat’s and Geno’s. My undisputed top choices are Tony Luke’s, John’s Roast Pork or Mama’s Pizzeria. Know in front of your requesting time whether you’re getting cheddar pro or provolone, and on the off chance that you need it mind’ or mind’ out onions, or they may send you to the back of the line.

3. Stroll along the Schuykill River Trail.

Stroll along the Schuykill River Trail

The Schuylkill River is a fundamental life vein for the city, quite a long time ago bringing it trade yet now for the most part uniting individuals. With a long trail that parallels the stream, wonderful structures en route, boat shelters that the college group groups call home, you can go for a run, a long bicycle ride, or a relaxed walk. Spend sufficiently long here and the entire city may cruise you by.

4. Visit Independence Mall.

Philadelphia was our country’s first capital, home to the marking of the announcement of freedom, and significantly more. It’s the place the entire thing started. While Philly occupants, for example, myself frequently overlook it’s there, make sure to visit Independence Mall. To comprehend where we have arrived, it’s fundamental to know where we started.

5. Go Down The Shore.

On the late spring ends of the week, Philadelphia appears to purge out as its inhabitants empty this urban rise of ozone harming substances for the cool winds of the Jersey Shore. In Philly-talk, you’re never going “to the shoreline.” You’re going “down the shore” (notwithstanding when you’re actually driving northwards to arrive). The water is just a hour away, making day trips amazingly reasonable, regardless of whether you go for a couple of hours.

6. Visit the Italian Market.

Italian Market

Ninth Street amongst Christian and Wharton is home to the Italian Market, two long city obstructs that make a case for the distinction of being the most established open air advertise in America. Complete your shopping for food create and angle merchants, or visit the butcher and cheddar shops. Leave space for amazing italian sandwiches or get a portion of the wealthiest Buffalo Mozzarella around. Spare considerably more space for a pastry coffee or a cannoli. Or then again go a totally extraordinary way with a later deluge of the city’s best Taquerias. The Italian Market is the best of what Philly brings to the table.

7. Visit the Reading Terminal Market.

Reading Terminal Market

Like the Italian Market, yet greater and inside. Appreciate a delectable pork sandwich, local ice cream, get produce, purchase chocolate, presents for friends and family back home, thus considerably more. Tourists get their snacks one next to the other downtown office laborers, as the market is located just a few steps from City Hall. Reading Terminal is the core of the city, an essential part of visiting the city of brotherly love.

8. Wander into the areas.

The greater part of what I have specified so far should be possible inside a couple mile range of downtown center city. With an ever increasing number of individuals remaining in the city very much into their adulthood, there’s a lot of awesome food, drink and entertainment to be had in the city’s residential neighborhoods. Eat BBQ in Fishtown, go small scale playing golf in Kensington, eat rich baklava in West Philadelphia, have the spiciest Chinese food this side of Szechuan in Manayunk, or world fame Indonesian in South Philly. Beyond the food, there are music settings everywhere throughout the city, with additionally flying up each year. You can have an outstanding time in Philadelphia while never leaving Center City-however you would be missing out.

9. Drink locally.

Philadelphia is an affordable and inexpensive city in which to begin a minor investment venture. It’s likewise a city that affections to soak up. Those two things together have made a blast for Philadelphia’s local beer and refinery scene. Sly Fox, Yards, Philadelphia Brewing Company and Manayunk Brewing are only a portion of the neighborhood bottling works serving up scrumptious pints which you might not discover back in the place where you grew up. In case you’re not a lager individual, Stateside, Rowhouse and New Liberty are only a portion of the neighborhood refineries represent considerable authority in hard spirits. While going to, there’s extremely no need a drink that wasn’t made some place in the region.

10. Visit the Art Museum.

Visit the Art MuseumSet toward the finish of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and sitting above the city horizon, the Philadelphia Art Museum is something other than a historical center. It’s a focal point of city life. Also being a perfect tribute to European design. Lastly also, the delightful craftsmanship inside. In the event that you grope for it, you may even take a stab at running up the means. Neighboring exhibition halls like the Barnes Foundation and Franklin Institute are additionally alternatives, and on the off chance that you have minimal ones then a short drive will get you to the intelligent play area known as the Please Touch Museum: an absolute necessity do.