Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Artifact: Cheesesteak

Photograph of a cheesesteak on a paper wrapper, with a cup of ketchup and a cup of peppers beside it.

(Photograph by J. Varney for Visit Philadelphia)

Thin bits of frizzled beef served on a locally-made Italian roll, usually topped with fried onions and Cheez Whiz drawn from the can with a paint stirrer, a cheesesteak is a sandwich unlike any John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792), might have encountered. Cheesesteaks originated in 1930 as simply steak sandwiches, the cheese part coming later. The undisputed creators, Harry Olivieri and his brother Pat, ran a hot dog stand in South Philadelphia. One day, weary of eating their own dogs for lunch, they grilled some sliced beef with onions instead. — Text by Dianna Marder

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