Invented in Philadelphia in the 1930s, the cheesesteak is one of the most iconic foods in the city, alongside soft pretzels and hoagies. The traditional cheesesteak features grilled beef that can be sliced, chopped or folded, topped with melted cheese and stuffed into a long Amoroso roll. Cheese variations are American, provolone and the ubiquitous Cheez Whiz, and other toppings include sautéed onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, hot sauce, salt, pepper and ketchup, although purists stand by the simple combination of meat and cheese. It’s no surprise that you can find this tasty sandwich all over the city, so we’ve rounded up our favorite spots that serve up the traditional cheesesteak as well as more unique versions.
John’s Roast Pork
Often cited as one of the city’s top cheesesteak spots, John’s Roast Pork is just a small shack nestled in a nondescript shopping plaza, but don’t let its humble locale fool you. John’s received a James Beard Award for America’s Classics in 2006 and was named one of the best 22 sandwiches in the United States by Details magazine. The crusty, seeded Italian bread roll sets John’s apart from most other cheesesteak places in Philadelphia, where you’ll most likely nosh on a soft, steamed Amoroso roll, and you won’t find Cheez Whiz here – John’s only offers American or provolone.
Where: 14 Snyder Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19148
Located just across the river in Camden, N.J., Donkey’s Place is a former speakeasy that opened in 1947 by Olympic boxer Leon “Donkey” Lucas. Donkey’s serves their sandwiches on a round poppy seeded Kaiser roll, which is fairly unique amongst cheesesteak purveyors, and the slabs of meat are thick and folded over rather than sliced or chopped, resulting in a substantial sandwich that bites back. Make sure to order yours with grilled onions, and if you want to spice things up a bit, choose from hot pepper relish, banana peppers and marinated dried chilies.
Where: 1223 Haddon Ave., Camden, NJ 08103
If you just can’t fathom eating a sandwich without some form of vegetable on it, head to Cosmi’s Deli and try their tasty cheesesteak hoagie. Cosmi’s starts their sandwich with a delicious half loaf of crusty Italian bread, which is topped with finely shredded iceberg lettuce and bright red, meaty tomatoes. The grilled meat is chopped and topped with gooey Cheez Whiz, making it one of the most traditional cheesesteaks in the city.
Where: 1501 S. 8th St., Philadelphia, PA 19147
Sammy Chon’s K-Town BBQ
This next offering is anything but traditional. Tucked into a strip mall in nearby Cherry Hill, N.J., Sammy Chon’s K-Town BBQ is a tiny, family-run Korean barbecue joint that serves a super unique Korean take on the cheesesteak. Called a Koagie, this fusion sandwich features a locally made, soft seeded roll stuffed with thin sliced beef bulgogi, topped with a sweet sesame slaw and a side of spicy marinated cucumbers. You won’t find another sandwich like it in the Philadelphia area.
Where: 404 Marlton Pike E., Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
The name says it all. If you’re looking for a “sloppy style” cheesesteak, Gooey Looie’s is the place for you. You’ll find some of the biggest cheesesteaks in the city at this tiny South Philly convenience store. Gooey Looie’s features a soft hoagie roll stuffed with nearly a pound and a half of chopped steak, onions and melted American cheese. Pro tip: purchase a few extra hoagie rolls and construct sandwiches from the extra meat that comes on the large cheesesteak and you’ll have a meal that will last you for days.
Where: 231 McClellan St., Philadelphia, PA 19148
Photo credit: iStockphoto/dirkr
Do you have an idea for a topic you’d like to learn more about?