The great American cheesesteak can be summed up by its delicious components – a fresh roll, thinly sliced beef, grilled onions or mushrooms, and of course, cheese. No cheesesteak would be complete without Provolone, American or the classic staple, Cheese Whiz. But did you know that this was not always the case?
The Cheesesteak's mythic history began in 1930, when Pat Olivieri and his brother Harry founded a small hot dog stand in South Philadelphia. One day Pat and Harry decided to try something different and crafted a steak sandwich with onions. As the story goes a cab driver, a frequent visitor of the stand, stopped by and, intrigued by Pat and Harry's creation, ordered one himself. As luck would have it the cabbie enjoyed his meal so much that the brothers added it to the menu, and so the Philly Steak sandwich was born.
In 1940 the brothers expanded the business and opened Pat's King of Steaks at 1237 East Passyunk Avenue. In 1966, Joe Vento opened his own sandwich shop down the block at 1219 9th Street, and thus began the now famous cheesesteak rivalry.
According to Pat's King of Steaks, longtime employee Joe Lorenzo first added cheese to the cheesesteak 22 years after the creation of the first steak sandwich in order to try something new.
However, Geno's insists that they are the true creators of the tasty cheesesteak sandwich. To this day celebrities, politicians, tourists and locals flock to both locations to experience the sandwich.
Restaurants around the country now recreate the world famous Philly cheesesteak, and one can even order it with turkey, ham, chicken, emu, or meatless.
While the great cheesesteak debate between Pat's and Geno's remains to this day, and while the true creator of the cheesesteak is still shrouded in mystery, no one can deny their delicious contribution to the world of sandwiches and Philly hometown pride.
So the next time you bite into a delicious Philly Cheesesteak, offer a word of thanks to Pat's, Geno's and the cabbie who started it all.