The cheesesteak is one of those perfect foods. There’s something about the combination of griddled thin-sliced steak, melted processed cheese, diced onions, and a soft Italian roll that hits us on a level that only the most decadent meals do. Philadelphia is of course synonymous with this legendary sandwich, but there are exemplary versions to be found both inside and outside the City of Brotherly Love.
A cheesesteak is more than just a sandwich, and it has a lot more variations that you might realize. While the vast majority of cheesesteaks are made with thin-sliced rib-eye, some use top round and other cuts, and one popular shop will even let you upgrade to filet mignon tips. As for cheese, canned Cheez Whiz is the most popular option, but you can also usually get American, provolone, and occasionally mozzarella and other cheeses. The only vegetable that graces most cheesesteaks is diced onion, but peppers, mushrooms, and even lettuce and tomato are occasionally present (even though we don't recommend it). Pizza steak, with mozzarella and marinara sauce, is another common option. For today's purposes, however, we're judging these restaurants on the classic cheesesteak: a soft roll, thin-sliced beef, cheese, and onions.
While there’s still some debate about who actually invented the cheesesteak, legend has it that brothers Pat and Harry Oliveri created a sandwich made with chopped steak and grilled onions for their Philadelphia hot dog stand in the early 1930s. Pat went on to open an eponymous shop selling the famous sandwich (which originally had no cheese), and when a manager named Joe Lorenza added provolone to it one day it caught on like wildfire.
Even though they’re most associated with their city of origin, nowadays cheesesteaks can be found at hundreds, if not thousands, of restaurants across the country. A great Philly cheesesteak needs to be on a soft Italian roll, the cheese needs to be completely melted and well-incorporated in the sandwich, and while the meat should be thin, it shouldn’t be dry. Thankfully, plenty of restaurants across the country are hitting the nail on the head. Click here to learn where to find the best traditional Philly-style cheesesteaks in the country — both inside and outside of Philadelphia.