Cheesesteak History For National Cheesesteak Day - The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures Cheesesteak History For National Cheesesteak Day
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Gourmet Cheesesteak & Cheesesteak History For National Cheesesteak Day

[1] Cheddar is a cheesesteak staple, but some people prefer provolone. Here’s the recipe from Life In The Lofthouse (photo © Life In The Lofthouse).

[2] According to Tony Lukes’s, a venerable Philadelphia emporium, American cheese is the most popular (photo © Tony Luke’s | Visit Philly).

Korean Cheesesteak
[3] Make cheesesteak with an international flair, like this Korean-fusion version with bulgogi beef, hot chiles and sriracha on a baguette. Here’s the recipe (photo © California Milk Advisory Board).

Vegan Cheesesteak
[4] A vegan “cheesesteak” made with grilled vegetables. Here’s the recipe from Sweet CS Designs (photo © Sweet CS Designs).


March 24th is National Cheesesteak Day, celebrating the fourth-most influential hallmark of Philadelphia—after the Declaration of Independence, the Liberty Bell and Ben Franklin. (Some might re-order this to put cheesesteak first.)

What is cheesesteak? It’s not a piece of cheese slapped onto a steak, like a cheeseburger. Rather, it’s a chopped fantasy of flavors that many Philadelphians revere as their favorite fast food.

Cheesesteak (photo #1) is made of thin slices of grilled steak, covered with melted cheese and served on a long roll. Traditionally, it includes grilled peppers and onions or hot cherry peppers.

It has been personalized with different ingredient options at different cheesesteak emporia.

And it’s become a fusion food, like the Korean bulgogi-hot chile cheesesteak in photo #4. Or embrace onto other ideas, like vegan “cheesesteak” (photo #5) or Buffalo chicken cheese “steak.”

When the grill comes out for the season, consider a DIY cheesesteak party. It’s fun to build your own (blue cheese, anyone?) and see what others have created.

You can make it a gourmet cheesesteak party with better steak, better cheese, better bread and toppings (e.g. caramelized onions).

The Basics

  • Sliced steak (grilled flank steak; also chicken if there are non-beef eaters)
  • Bread: Italian rolls (also the best long roll you can find, e.g. baguette, whole wheat hoagie rolls, Italian rolls, etc.)
  • baguette, French, Hero/hoagie, Italian,

  • Cheese (cheddar or American is standard [not to mention Cheez Whiz], but also consider asiago, blue, goat, gruyère, provolone, etc.
  • Sautéed or grilled green bell peppers and onions – or –
  • Caramelized onions and separately sautéed green peppers and mushrooms

  • Classic marinade: olive oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, dried basil, dried parsley, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and black pepper. Optional: hot sauce and sliced fresh garlic.
  • Classic fresh herb marinade: olive oil, red-wine vinegar, fresh oregano (finely chopped), fresh thyme, granulated onion or onion powder, minced fresh garlic cloves, Worcestershire sauce, salt, black pepper
  • French marinade: olive oil, wine, wine vinegar, tarragon, garlic, a bit of salt and pepper
  • Italian marinade: olive oil, wine, wine vinegar, lemon juice, vinegar, chile flakes, oregano, garlic, a bit of salt and pepper

  • Grilled vegetables as a vegetarian/vegan options (photo #3)
  • Green salad for the bread-averse (and anyone else who wants a salad)

  • Dijon or grainy mustard
  • Giardiniera, a pickled Italian relish.
  • Chopped raw onions
  • Hot sauce
  • Marinara sauce
  • Pickled jalapeños
  • Worcestershire sauce
    Creative Options

  • Buffalo chicken hoagie: chicken, buffalo sauce and fried onions.
  • Cheesesteak hoagie, cheesesteak plus hoagie dressings (lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise).
  • International variations, like the Korean cheesesteak in photo #4.


    According to, Philadelphia’s official tourism site, the cheesesteak in the 1930s by Pat Olivieri.

    Olivieri was a hot dog vendor in South Philly. One day, he expanded his menu by adding some sliced beef to the grill. A cab driver was lured by the aroma of grilling meat, and ordered a steak sandwich, which he received on an Italian roll.

    By the next day, the buzz about the sandwich had spread among cabbies; locals were attracted to it; and shortly Olivieri opened a shop on 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue, called Pat’s King of Steaks, to sell his steak sandwich.

    But it was still not a cheesesteak!

    According to nephew Frank Olivieri Jr., the cheese was added in the 1940s by an otherwise unspectacular employee named Joe Lorenza, who added slices of provolone to the sandwich [source].

    Eventually, he added cheese to the recipe.

    In 1966 a rival shop across the street: Geno’s. While Geno’s was not the first to add cheese to the sandwich it is credited with creating the Whiz, using Cheez Wiz instead of sliced cheese. (Frankly, we prefer something more refined, like gruyère.)

    The friendly rivalry wages on decade after decade, as do the arguments among customers as to whose cheesesteak is better.

    Word spread rapidly through the cabbie rumor mill, and drivers from all over the city soon visited Olivieri for steak sandwiches. Olivieri eventually opened up Pat’s King of Steaks on 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue. manager Joe Lorenza, according to Philadelphia Magazine.

    By the way, if you’re in town, both Pat’s and Geno’s are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Other cheesesteak vendors have popped up developed their own loyal clientele.


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