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Anatomy of a Philly cheesesteak

Food, Things to Do — By abbygordon on April 14, 2010 at 1:26 am
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Philly cheesesteak...Look at that fresh Amoroso roll!

Philadelphians know that it’s nearly impossible to find a real Philly cheesesteak anywhere outside of Philadelphia or south Jersey.  Lots of places claim to have authentic Philly cheesesteaks, but they rarely get it right.  So what makes a Philly cheesesteak so special?  Let’s break it down:

1) Very thinly sliced steak, usually rib-eye or top round.  The slices are paper thin, so that, when cooked, they can be piled onto the roll almost like cold cuts.  They’re not lean cuts, not anything you’d want to eat rare, but rather greasy piles of meat.  If it’s not greasy, it’s not a Philly cheesesteak.

Not a Philly cheesesteak -- too much on top, and the meat looks too seasoned

2) Provolone, lightly layered on the bread before the meat is put on there, so the sandwich has just a slight cheesy taste and texture.

You can also do cheese whiz, which adds a different flavor, but the point is that this is not a fancy cheese layered on heavily or melted atop the sandwich.  It blends in with the meat and bread into one delicious gooey mess.

3) An Amoroso roll.  It’s nothing fancy — not a French baguette, not an airy ciabatta roll — but simply the best fluffy fresh long white roll you’ve ever tasted.  And it’s got just enough substance to it to hold its own with meat and cheese dripping from it.

Optional: Fried onions, mushrooms, and/or hot peppers, ideally cooked with the meat on a big flat griddle.  Most cheesesteak places have a large griddle that’s consistently occupied by a pile of cooking meat, a pile of finished meat waiting to be put on a roll, and a pile of cooking onions whose delicious juices can be blended into the cooked meat in an instant.

For some of the best Philly cheesesteaks, try Pat’s (where cheesesteaks were allegedly invented), Geno’s, or Jim’s.

    3 Comments

  • Marc says:

    As a long-time native, I must also recommend Ishkabibble’s (South Street btw 3rd & 4th), Tony Luke’s (Oregon Ave west of Columbus Blvd), and even a lot of “hole in the wall” restaurants and lunch carts make fantastic steak sandwiches!

    As far as the composition of the cheesesteak, Abby hits the nail on the head. It’s making me want one (and I don’t eat red meat!!)

  • Craig says:

    If you are looking for an “authentic” Philly cheesesteak in CA, there are a few places that do a decent job. Look for a place that stocks Tastykakes. These are the ones that know what they’re doing.
    In San Francisco, I recommend Phat Philly (http://phat-philly.com/home/). They have a California version, of course, but I haven’t been brave enough to try it.

  • abbygordon says:

    Mmm, Tastykakes! Another Philadelphia classic. Here are some links to the recommended places: Ishkabibbles on South Street; Tony Luke’s.

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