Food Snob Chronicles — The Philadelphia Cheese Steak

There are a few things in life that are well worth the momentary spike in cholesterol.  Here in east Texas, those things consist of chicken-fried steaks, chips and salsa and Pittsburg hot links. Where you live, that guilty pleasure could be anything from a huge slice of New York-style Pizza to a deep-fried hot dog topped with addictive relish.

If you live in the city of brotherly love, your go-to pleasure is the steak sandwich. Particularly, the cheese steak.

The Philly steak sandwich goes back about 80 years, when brothers Pat and Harry Olivieri started hawking the bullet-shaped fare alongside hot dogs and other portable chow. The early version consisted of basically of griddled beef and onions that were placed inside a thin-yet-fluffy roll. In the 1940s the brothers opened the world’s first Philadelphia steak sandwich shop on the corner of East Passyunk Avenue and South 9th Street.  Pat’s King of Steaks remains open on that corner 24 hours a day.

Did you know?  The cheese steak sandwich wasn’t really born until the 1960s, not long after Kraft introduced Cheez Whiz to the world. Pat’s, according to most accounts, was also the first purveyor of steak sandwiches slathered with Kraft’s new concoction.  By the 1970s, cheese steak sandwich shops dotted the landscape, including Geno’s, which sits across from Pat’s. In addition to ‘Whiz’ sandwiches (as they’re referred to locally), steak sandwich shops use American cheese and provolone. Peppers, mushrooms and pizza sauce also became popular along the way.

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Philadelphia Cheese Steak

Behold the Philadelphia Cheese Steak — the real reason this is the city of brotherly love.

Behold the Philadelphia Cheese Steak — the real reason this is the city of brotherly love.

Philadelphia Cheese Steak
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: American
Serves: 8
  • 3 lbs - Chuck roast
  • 2 cups - Milk for marinating (optional)
  • 2 TB - Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 TB - Kosher salt
  • 2 - Large onions, diced
  • 2 - Sweet (bell) peppers, sliced thinly
  • 2 TB - Vegetable oil
  • 8 thick slices - American cheese
  • 4 - Baguettes (about 8 inches)
Prepare the meat
  1. Remove large pieces of fat and save for another use. Slice meat against the grain as thinly as possible (about the same width as a U.S. Half Dollar). This is easier to do when the roast is about ¾ frozen. If using the optional milk marinade (and you really should), place the meat slices in a bowl and add milk. Cover and refrigerate for at least 5-6 hours. Otherwise, get cooking.
Prepare the bread
  1. Baguettes need to be slightly crispy on the outside and somewhat fluffy on the inside. About 10 minutes in a 375F oven accomplishes this.
  2. Slice warmed baguettes lengthwise, but not all the way through (à la a hot dog roll).
Make the filling
  1. In a large skillet, preheat oil on medium high (or 375F on a griddle).
  2. Add onions and peppers. Stir to coat with oil.
  3. Cook onions and peppers until starting to brown, about 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add meat (drained of milk, if marinated) to hot pan/griddle and cook mixture until meat is about done, about 2 minutes.
  5. Lay cheese slices across meat/onion/pepper mixture and with a spatula, chop and mix to combine.
  6. Place one-fourth of filling in each sliced warm baguette. Slice each sandwich in half.
  7. Serve with fries or potato chips.
  8. Enjoy. (And make certain you have your cholesterol medicine on hand.)



  1. I so agree with you about the chicken fried steak, pizza, etc., and your cheesesteaks look like straight up food hookers right now. You always make me hungry, Adam!

  2. Funny you should mention the Philly Cheese Steak Adam. Have you ever been reading in bed at night, you know just a random fiction thriller & one of the characters stops for something to eat…like a Philly Cheese Steak, and then you’re lying there at 11:00 pm and instead of drifting off to sleep, you start obsessing about needing a Philly Cheese Steak?
    Well I just finished that book last night & here you are this morning talking about Philly Cheese Steaks. My brainwaves must have been thinking Philly Cheese Steak all the way to Texas which is pretty amazing when you think about it – that’s a long way.

    • adamjholland says:

      Actually, Diane, the book I read myself to sleep with last night talked of Lone Star beer and pretzels. Needless to say, I had an odd breakfast craving. 😉

      • Well Adam, sometimes you just have to go with what you’re body’s telling you.

        • adamjholland says:

          …but most of the time, not. Well, maybe so. My body has been telling me for about five years that fried foods are out. It’s sad, but I tend to abide.

  3. These look sinfully good! Bring on the cholesterol – these philly cheese steak sandwiches are so worth it!

    And I had no idea about the cheez whiz and it’s big role in this sandwich – craziness! Great job, Adam! 🙂

  4. Still haven’t had a true, blue cheesesteak, which means it’s time for a trip to Philly. And I will not run away from the spray can cheese!

    • adamjholland says:

      Me either. Truth is though, one of the best cheese steak sandwiches I’ve ever had was at a WaWa in Manahawkin, NJ. (That place just knows good bread!) I also remember getting a cheese steak in Washington, D.C. from a roach coach near the Museum of American History (parked right on Constitution Ave.) Delicious — and really no different than the stuff at Pat’s. On top of that, most places are much more polite than the folks at Pat’s.

  5. You have been on a major roll! Or between it! My daughter lives in Philly and cheesesteak is her middle name. Somehow she is a size 2. I guess I know how to raise’em!

    • adamjholland says:

      I don’t know much about women’s sizes, but I imagine 2 to be quite small (as in the size of my right leg). Not only do you raise’em, people who can eat like that and remain small are just flat-out lucky!

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