Philly Cheesesteaks Ranked: From Most Philly to Most Blasphemous
Like any dish with a bit of history behind it, the original philly cheesesteak sandwich—thinly sliced beefsteak, onions, and cheese on a hoagie—has spawned many offshoots. But which is the best philly cheesesteak? It’s hard enough to agree upon which version is even the “original,” let alone which is the best. But with a few napkins and a little ingenuity, we did what we could.
The Original Philly Cheesesteak with Cheez Whiz
Ladies and gentlemen, this is what a real cheesesteak looks like.
Look. This one is obviously the best philly cheesesteak. We could build a bunch of phony suspense and wait till the end to tell you, but let’s not play games. Cheez Whiz reigns king.
But in declaring the Cheez Whiz steak the best, we have to address a longstanding controversy. Now, cheesesteaks were invented in the 1930s, but Cheez Whiz wasn’t introduced until the 1950s. So how can it truly claim the crown? Simple: because the people have spoken (democracy exists even in the Cheesesteak kingdom).
Famed South Philly cheesesteak hub Pat’s King of Steaks reports Cheez Whiz as the cheese of choice for the majority of its customers. And Pat’s, in fact, is named for Pat Oliveri, the inventor of the original cheesesteak, and is run by his nephew.
Here’s the kicker. When Pat first created his legendary steak sandwich, it had no cheese at all. And although American cheese and provolone were used on the sandwich before the invention of Cheez Whiz, it’s the Whiz that remains the most popular choice.
If we showed you a real chicken cheesesteak, you might become ravenously hungry. This stock photo of a chicken sandwich should give you just a little bit of an appetite while you read.
Swapping your steak for chicken is a reasonable, non-blasphemous thing to do. Nothing wrong with cutting back on red meat. However, we would be remiss if we didn’t make one important caveat. Cheez Whiz should be reserved for steak only. When switching to chicken, it’s important to choose American cheese. Or at least, that’s the advice that Tony Luke, Jr., of Tony Luke’s, gave to Philly.com, and we are going to defer to his wisdom on this one.
The Original Philly Cheesesteak with Provolone
A respectable alternative to its fun, Cheez Whiz-laden brother. The Dennis Quaid of sandwiches, if you will.
Okay. Maybe we were a little harsh on provolone cheesesteak before. The truth is, many die-hard cheesesteak aficionados swear by provolone. In fact, the owner of popular South Philly spot Geno’s claims never to have even tried Cheez Whiz on his steak, opting for provolone every time.
So this sandwich is okay. But Groupon believes in democracy, and the people’s choice—the Cheez Whiz steak—beats out the provolone steak preferred by a small group of elites any day.
This barely qualifies as a real cheesesteak… So why do you think we would validate it with a real picture?
There are some wise guys out there who think they can improve upon perfection. Bless them for trying. But the phenomenon known as the pizza steak—a twist on the philly with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and possibly peppers and mushrooms—is treading on very thin ice. And since a cheesesteak is supposed to be nice and hot, it should never be near ice at all, not even metaphorically.
Because our love of pizza knows no bounds, we can accept that some people want to eat this sandwich. But if you choose to order one, just be aware that you are testing the limits of what constitutes a cheesesteak.
Is this a picture of a vegan cheesesteak? It’s hard to tell, because this monstrosity has nothing to do with real cheesesteaks.
Is a broken umbrella really an umbrella if it doesn’t protect you from the rain? Is a cheesesteak really a cheesesteak if it has no steak or cheese? This is blasphemy pure and simple. We are talking about a sandwich with seitan or mushrooms and soy-based “cheese.”
Sure, that’s a sandwich of some sort. Maybe even a delicious one. But it’s not a cheesesteak. Labeling it so is a disgrace to Pat Oliveri and his sacred and wonderful invention, and true cheesesteak lovers will not stand for it, not now, not ever.
Before joining our editors, Charles Austin was a Daily Show intern. Charles eats Iams® ProActive Health™ Adult Original cat food to maintain his active lifestyle.