Ask anyone who isn’t from Philadelphia what the quintessential Philadelphia sandwich is, and they’ll probably tell you it’s the cheesesteak without even missing a beat. But if you pose that question to someone who’s actually from Philadelphia, their response will probably come with some hesitation. Because while everybody goes on about cheesesteaks, many Philadelphians will tell you that cheesesteaks take a backseat to the real classic Philly sandwich: the roast pork.
Thin-sliced roast pork with sharp provolone and broccoli rabe, to be exact. Nearly every cheesesteak shop in Philly sells them, and DiNic’s, a sandwich stall in Reading Terminal Market, has become legendary almost exclusively because their version is so good.
No offense to Philly cheesesteaks, but they’re not the picture of perfection. Most contain tough, gray, fatty meat that’s been left steaming on the griddle for too long, bogged down with way too much gloopy cheese and pallid chunks of raw onion. It’s nothing but richness; a balanced sandwich this ain’t. A roast pork, on the other hand, contains a mound of juicy, thin-sliced, falling apart pork that’s been resting in a tub of its own juices, complemented by some slices of sharp aged provolone (made slightly melty by the hot pork) and slightly bitter, garlicky, tender chopped broccoli rabe. It’s not just a well-balanced sandwich, it’s a perfect sandwich.
So the next time you visit Philadelphia, don’t go seeking out one of the tourist trap cheesesteak shops. Go to DiNics, John’s Roast Pork, or any of the other venerable shops specializing in this sublime sandwich, and be ready to never look at a cheesesteak the same way again.