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The History of Cheese Steak
(Philly Cheese Steak)


Why are we even writing about this?... a simple combination of beef and cheese on a long roll or bun..with or without onions ?

Obviously it is the quality and technique that has made this almost hundred year old sandwich a sensation, that has folks standing in long lines in Philadelphia's original spot where this simple creation started and was turned into art and and copied all over the world.



The Cheese Steak , I have to be careful because to some one from Philadelphia, you don’t ever preface a cheese steak with Philly or Philadelphia. However outside of the state it is usually refered to as Philadelphia or Philly Cheese Steak.

The culture of Philadelphia is strong. Many in South Philadelphia have an accent, and would say Jeez-take for cheese steak.
Sylvester Stallone immortalized this accent in his movie Rocky. Learn more about this South Philadelphian accent called ...Fluffyan.

.The cheesesteak was developed in the early 20th century "by combining frizzled beef, onions, and cheese in a small loaf of bread," according to a 1987 exhibition catalog published by the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

This is according to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania....


Carolyn Wyman wrote a complete book on the subject called
The Great Philly Cheesesteak Book about this great sandwich which includes much more than just recipes, she visited over 50 Cheese Steak restaurants in Philadelphia.
she writes,

A Philly cheesesteak, as Wyman explains, "is not just bread, meat and cheese coming together."

It's a Philadelphia cultural icon - a subject of love and loyalty, politics and pride, history and hubris. It's brought families together (the Campos, whose kids work with their parents in the Old City sandwich shop) and torn them apart (the Olivieris, who founded Pat's King of Steaks and whose cousin owns Rick's in the Bellevue's food court and who have traded lawsuits).

How did it get started ?

The Philly Cheese Steak is an American Dream story of two brothers, and a sandwich that started by chance and evolved, including a feud!

story and pictures courtesy of Pat's King of Steaks and Ricks Steaks

Pasquali "Pat" Olivieri

It started in a Hot Dog Stand, creating a Steak Sandwich no cheese yet

Pasquali "Pat" Olivieri opened a Hot Dog Stand in South Philadelphia called "Light Lunch" In 1930 he was 25 years old. In 1932 he sent his younger brother Harry to get some steak at the butchers, he wanted to try something different for lunch. He fried the steak up on his hot dog grill and slapped it on an Italian roll and the steak sandwich is born.

Harry Olivieri

Just as he went to take a bite, a cab driver who ate a hot dog everyday asked what he had there. Pat said that it was his lunch. The cabbie insisted that Pat make him one. "Hey.....forget 'bout those hot dogs, you should sell these.

It wasn't till 1949 that an employee "Cocky Joe" Lorenzo tried adding cheese to the steak, and the idea took off and The Cheese Steak was born.

The Original Pat's Restaurant , in Philadelphia

This is Pat's Steaks that is still at the original 1930 location of the Hot Dog stand
in South Philadelphia at the corner of 9th Street, Wharton and Passyunk Avenue near the famous
Italian Market


Rick's Steaks, who is the Grandson of Pat, who says he does it the way that the Original Pat cooked his steak'




Cheez Whiz - Original Cheese Dip - 15 Oz Jar

In 1952 when " Cheeze Whiz" a canned cheese sauce topping was created it became a popular topping for the cheese steak.

Cheese steak became so popular that other restaurants in Philadelphia put their own version on their menu.


The components of a Cheese Steak:
A proper cheese steak consists of thin sliced steak fried and place on an oval or long roll with melted cheese, sometimes grilled onions and sometimes spicy or sweet pepper rings. On some menus you may get sautéed bell peppers and or mushrooms. The big difference that the Olivieri's have is on the way the steak is cooked. Pat's chops the meat up and Rick's keeps them as a slice.

This is from Pat's Steaks and is chopped


As you can see here Rick has full very thin slices.

The Beef:
Thin sliced Rib eye steak is the first choice, but you may use sirloin, or round steak. Chuck steak or other tough meats not recommended.

The Bun:
The bun of choice is usually an 8 inch hearth baked Italian long Roll.
Crispy on the outside and soft and tender on the inside.
Many Philadelphians will tell you that they look for a particular bun from the Amoroso Bakery, that has been in the same city for around 80 years, endearing itself to the public by delivering twice daily fresh bread.



The Cheese:
At the best Cheese Steak restaurants you will get a choice of
American Cheese ,
Cheese Whiz or
Sliced Provolone.



The Cheese Whiz is applied on top after the sandwich is assembled

a spatula puts a small swipe on it, not too much.

Here is how Pat's puts the Provolone on the bun. It looks as if he lays the cheese in the bun and then puts the meat on top .


The onions are chopped and caramelized. also grilled mushrooms and peppers are an option.



Watch the video and see how the Cheese Steak is made






Visit Philly

Storm Nation Blogspot

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The Great Philly Cheesesteak Book




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More Links and Recipes

Here is a food history book I recommend


 The Great Philly Cheesesteak Book

This lady Carolyn Wyman writes not just about the 50 different cheese steak restaurants she visited but all the culture that surrounds this interesting dish.


Tony Luke's Pronto Beef Cheesesteak

It is amazing that you can actually order Cheese Steaks from Philly online. Thaw and heat. They actually get good reviews!  


Amoroso Hoagie Rolls

This is if you want to have a real authentic Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich party this is a must.


Magic Bullet

Magic Bullet MBR-1701 17-Piece Express Mixing Set



Twenty-Four Do It Yourself Philadelphia Cheese Steaks


  • This is our most popular package with real "Cheese Steak Lovers".
  • Keep the makings in your freezer and cook one up whenever you get the urge.
  • Package includes genuine New Yorker white American cheese.
  • Amoroso Rolls, the heart of a true Philly Cheese Steak
  • Prep time is less than ten minutes



Philadelphia Then and Now (Then & Now)  



Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Signature 7-Piece Knife Set with Block  





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Last updated August 9, 2017