Want to get into an all out brawl when spending a night in Philadelphia? Tell them your favorite Philly cheesesteak spot. People in Philly are very passionate about their iconic sandwiches. While all Philly cheesesteak sandwiches have steak, peppers, cheese and Italian rolls, there isn’t just one way to make them. Some have thinly shaved beef, some sliced beef, some chunks of beef. The Italian rolls are all different, some soft so you can easily bite into them, some harder and crackly like a French baguette. While most places choose to use cheese wiz, others use American or provolone cheese. Philly locals treat an insult or snub of their favorite cheesesteak seller akin to an insult to their mother.
I love a good sensationalized history behind an iconic food. The two most well known sellers of cheesesteaks are right across the street from each other. While Pat’s is credited with being the first to sell the sandwiches, Geno’s is just as popular. Think two stores practically next door to each other both selling plus a whole extra storefront just to all their cheesesteak swag (shirts, mugs etc.) to tourists. While those are the two most well known, there are plenty of other spots around the city that are popular among locals. I have heard great things about both Tony Luke’s and John’s Roast Pork.
The last time I was in Philly I went with my friend to Pat’s. Right before we stepped up to the counter he asked me “ok you know how to order right?” and in a moment of panic I responded “No!” terrified that it would be some sort of Seinfeld “soup nazi” experience. He informed me that the proper way to order is “wiz wit” meaning a cheesesteak with cheese wiz (yes, you read that correctly) and with the addition of flash fried onions. When I got up to the window I felt in the know, except for the fact that I was unaware that it was cash only…
3 pounds boneless ribeye
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 medium red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons canola oil
12 slices American cheese
6 slices Provolone
6 (10-inch) Italian rolls, split in half lengthwise
Add the ribeyes to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and freeze for an hour; this will make it easier to thinly slice the beef. Once chilled, remove the steak from the freezer and thinly slice across the grain. Season the beef with salt and pepper. Divide into 8-ounce portions and set aside.
Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat through. Add the onions and peppers, sautéing until the onions are tender and slightly browned and the peppers are slightly charred, about 12 minutes. Toss with the vinegar, remove from the heat and set aside.
Heat a griddle or medium cast iron skillet over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of the canola oil and heat through. Working in batches, add 2 portions of the steak (1-pound) to the griddle and cook, moving around with a spatula until almost cooked through, but still partially pink, about 3 minutes. Make the meat into a rectangular mound and top with about 1/3 cup of the onion and pepper mixture. Top with 3 slices of the cheese, alternating the American and Provolone, and let cook, undisturbed until the cheese has melted into the meat, about 3 minutes.
Use a spatula to scoop the meat mixture onto the cut rolls. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.