Maybe you like American cheese. Perhaps you prefer provolone. Or, quite possibly, you eat so much Whiz that it basically flows through your veins.

In the end, what kind of cheese you choose doesn’t matter. To be honest, neither does whether you go for onions or enjoy it without.

When it comes to a cheesesteak, there are three factors that really make a difference: The meat, the cooking style and the bread. Tweaking these variables — eye round or sirloin? Chopped or slab? Aversa or Liscio’s? — leads to hundreds of distinct renditions of the lunch and late-night fave.

Any aficionado (read: any carnivorous Philadelphian) knows that’s not hyperbole. Cheesesteaks from one place can be vastly different from another’s — to the point where they inspire fierce loyalties and spirited rivalries over the issue of a simple sandwich.

So here’s what we are determined to find out, once and for all: Who makes the ultimate expression of Philly’s iconic sandwich?

Put another way: If you had to pick just one cheesesteak to represent the city, which would it be?

Narrowing down the choices wasn’t easy, but we gave it our best shot. We split the city into four geographical quadrants, picked seven great or famous options from each, and left the last slot open for your suggestions. Last week, dozens of you sent in your picks, and we pulled the most popular ones to fill out our Round 1 bracket:

  • South Philly — Gooey Looie’s
  • Center City — Oscar’s Tavern
  • North/Northeast — Slack’s Hoagie Shack
  • West/Northwest — Larry’s Steaks

And now, we begin the battle in earnest. Cast your votes in each race below, then tell your friends to jump on it too. Be sure to check back next week to find out who made it into the Sweet Sixteen and vote in Round 2 to keep moving your favorites forward on the road to cheesesteak champ.

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Danya Henninger is director and editor of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation — including the membership program. She is a former food...