A Steak and Cheese is NOT a Cheesesteak by Brian Piaquadio

Enjoy reading this amusing cheesesteak assessment. My friend shares his thoughts on cheesesteaks across the U.S.  Thank you Brian, for allowing me to share your story!

One thing I learned quickly leaving Southeastern Pennsylvania, when I joined the Marines, is that I was leaving the home of the cheesesteak.  These sandwiches, are a staple growing up in and around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My favorite style of cheesesteak is the “Weber”. This sandwich consists of a cheesesteak with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise.

Traveling from place to place, I could still watch my Eagles and Phillies on TV but I hadn’t realized that I could no longer buy an authentic cheesesteak.

My first experience was while in Los Angeles, California. While dining out, I saw a menu item called a, “Philly Steak and Cheese.”  Excitedly, I ordered it in a hurry. When it arrived it wasn’t served on Amoroso bread and it was not marinated or chopped. The phony had no tomato-based sauce.  To make matters worse, the cheese was not American or Cheese Whiz but dare I say, cheddar cheese. It failed the last and final test – There was no dripping grease on my plate. Lying in front of me was the most pathetic excuse of cheesesteakness I had ever seen.   It couldn’t have even passed for a Weber. Nope, it was covered with a solid piece of lettuce, not the shredded kind used when preparing the real deal. Another tell-tale sign of this counterfeit was that the bun was cut in half.  To me, this was sacrilege!

Since that first time, of being duped, I’ve been across this country, and occasionally I will get sucked into some advertisement, stating that the eater makes, “Authentic Philly Cheesesteaks”.  After succumbing to my curiosity, I consistently find their claims to be fraudulent.  In North Carolina there is one with brown gravy and mushrooms, Ewwww.  In Tennessee, I actually was served one with green peppers. The owner convincing assured me – “That is the way they make ‘em up in Philly.’’ Even though I told him that was not the case, he did not want to listen. Just for the record, no, Steakums are not cheesesteaks either. My spellcheck is even trying to tell me I have spelled it wrong! Cheesesteak is one word not two. Doesn’t anyone get it? John Kerry didn’t get it, for he asked for one with Swiss cheese and was met with laughs while visiting Philadelphia during the 2004 election. Maybe that is why he didn’t get elected.

Everyone in Pennsylvania has their favorite cheesesteak place, mine is Frank’s just north of Philadelphia in Quakertown, Pennsylvania. I have been going in there since I was nine.  Back then I couldn’t even see over the restaurant’s’ red brick and slate counter-top. Thirty years later I am still going to Frank’s every chance I get.

The Italian voices of the owners have given way to their Spanish-speaking Guatemalan employees but, the food still tastes the same. From the outside, it’s nothing special to look at, and the inside would never make the grade for a restaurant guide.  We as Pennsylvanian’s come here for the cheesesteaks and to us the atmosphere is home. I live in Maryland now and close enough to make that three-hour trip for my cheesesteak cravings.

If you want a cheesesteak, you gotta go to Philadelphia or the Philly suburbs, you simply cannot get it anywhere else. Going anywhere else for a cheesesteak is like going to Taco Bell for Mexican food.

A few establishments like Pat’s and Geno’s have become famous places for tourists to visit and get a taste of Philadelphia.

The History of the First Cheesesteak:

During the 1930s Italian immigrants Harry and Pat Olivieri sold hot dogs and sandwiches on the streets of Philadelphia.Tired of hotdogs everyday for lunch, Pat told Harry to go to the store and buy some beef.  When he returned they chopped up the steak and grilled it with some onions. The brothers piled it on rolls and were about to dig in when a cab driver smelled the meat and onions and demanded one of the sandwiches. The cab driver asked how much and Pat never got to eat his. He didn’t know what to charge the cabby so he sold it for a nickel.  The cab driver said, “Hey… forget about those hotdogs, you should sell these.” It was not until 20 years later that cheese was added to the sandwich by a longtime employee Joe Lorenzo, who was tired of the same old sandwich. http://www.patskingofsteaks.com/history.html

Considered by most as anti-health food, the cheesesteak is a staple of most Philadelphians diet.

The inventor of the cheesesteak Pat Olivieri (right) Posing with Tony Bennett. Pat would go on to open “Pat’s           
King of Steaks”, a Philadelphia landmark.

(Photo courtesy of Pat’s Kind of Steaks

Let’s see what the other reviewers are saying. (Courtesy of Trip Adviser.)

FRANKS- “Best Cheesesteaks in the Universe!” – 5-stars

I have been eating Franks cheesesteaks for 41 years. Frank and Ale knew my father who was on the police force at the time. We could not wait for my father to arrive home with dinner. Franks cheesesteaks with fried unions, sauce, and hot peppers. A large plain pizza. Before I cold drive, I would walk there from Quakertown high school. While attending PSU, we would take road trips back to Quakertown to pick up cheesesteaks. I just called my wife and asked my her to pick me up one on her way back from Allentown. I frequent Pats, Joes and have tried all the others. Hands down, FRANKS makes the best cheesesteaks. Never change.

“Best Pizza and Cheese Steaks north of Philly” 5-stars

30 years, always the best pizza, steak sandwiches made with real sliced beef not processed garbage. Not much for sitting down, just a few tables but awesome take out. Can’t eat cheese steaks anywhere else in the area, and the pizza and pasta is very, very good

“Incomparable steak sandwiches and the best Pizza in Quakertown” 5-stars

We have been patronizing Franks for over 25 years and have never been disappointed. The Pizza seem to be a multi cheese blend with a medium thin crust baked to perfection on every occasion. As stated previously, there are only a few tables so it is not much of a dining experience so take-out is the main option. The steak sandwich is second to none and we have tried most of the big Philadelphia name establishments. Just had the Stromboli on our last visit and that too was excellent. Quick service and John always remembers his customers.

About the Author:

Brian Piaquadio is a graphic designer and freelance writer living in La Plata,             Maryland. Even though he holds a graduate degree in publication design, his personal passion is Civil War history.

The father of five children, is an avid motocross racer, and War between the States aficionado. Regardless of how mundane, he enjoys writing about his personal experiences growing up in Pennsylvania and of the times he spent serving in the Marine Corps. Brian is presently working on his first book about black code laws before, during and after the Civil War.

I wish you all the best in your writings Brian and thank you again for the informative article!

Yet one last review….

“The Very Best Cheesesteaks in the History of the World. ” 5-stars

I’ve been to all the big name cheesesteak eateries in Philly and to lesser known suburbia establishments to get my fill, of my favorite sandwich. Franks serves  the,”Rolls Royce” of steaks. Tender, thin slices of savory, rich ribeye and onions thoughtfully, are encapsulated in lengthy Italian roll.  Perfect cheesesteaks + friendly service = My number one pick. – C.J.