On Sunday night, rapper Olubowale Victor Akintimehin — better known as Wale — posed an inquiry that got Philly in a tizzy: who sells salmon cheesesteaks in the city?
Many people jumped in to share their favorites, although a few others were quick to negate the whole concept.
There’s a certain school of thought that a proper cheesesteak is made with beef and nothing but — that anything else (chicken, seitan, pork belly, salmon) doesn’t deserve the official “cheesesteak” moniker, even if it does taste great griddled with cheese and stuffed in a hoagie roll.
But the way Philadelphians feel about salmon cheesesteaks — and whether they’re used to seeing the option on menus — may have to do with which neighborhoods they choose to hang out.
“It’s a real thing! It has a lot of popularity in urban communities, like in North, Southwest and West,” said chef Kurt Evans, “but I haven’t seen anything hit Center City-wise.”
Evans used to run Route 23 Cafe in North Philly, where he says the previous owner created the dish in 2014 as an approach to whole animal cookery.
They’d get whole fish deliveries, Evans explained, and after the fillets were used — for salmon stir fries, blackened salmon and grits, salmon BLTs, salmon wraps, salmon alfredo — there were always leftover bits of fish. So one day the chef cubed them up, sauteed them with onions, topped them with a gooey Bechamel sauce and put everything in a long roll. The sandwich was an immediate hit.
Per many of the replies on Wale’s Twitter thread, salmon cheesesteaks have become popular among the city’s Muslim population, who turn to the pescatarian creation for a cheesesteak fix they can be sure is halal.
In a 2013 article on First We Feast, native Philadelphian Meek Mill was interviewed about his favorite hometown bites and dished that his go-to salmon cheesesteak spot was the now-defunct Reddy’s. Per Chef Corey of Hunting Park’s The Stand, he’s been serving up the maritime remix since at least 2010.
As Twitter debated the issue, Wale took things one step further and declared Philly’s food scene generally top notch — saying it was “tied with New Orleans for the food.”
So in the end, the origins of a dish don’t really matter, when all you care about is trying one. Don’t worry Wale, we got you.
Where to get salmon cheesesteaks in Philly
6053 Ogontz Ave.
Ingredients: Grilled salmon chopped with peppers, onions, broccoli and spicy mayo.
Bonus: Try the upgraded Seafood Cheesesteak, which includes crabmeat and shrimp.
Various locations (Bustleton Ave., City Line Ave., Chelton Ave.)
3630 N 17th St.
Bonus: You can snag a bucket of beer here, the perfect accompaniment to a seafood cheesesteak (or any cheesesteak, really).
1621 Orthodox St.
4700 Baltimore Ave.
Ingredients: “The Rule Breaker Cheesesteak” can be made with fresh flounder, tilapia or salmon (for an extra buck), and comes with shrimp and mixed vegetables to “break all the rules of hunger.”
Bonus: Deli cooks here sometimes experiment with their salmon cheesesteak recipe, throwing in elements like creamy alfredo sauce and broccoli.
7200 Devon St.
Ingredients: This is one of the pricier iterations. It’s also oddly called the “Salmon Cheesesteak Surf ‘N Turf” in spite of being turfless — but it does have five golden fried jumbo shrimp and homemade tartar sauce on a toasted roll. The splurge might be worth it.
428 W Olney Ave.
4102 Germantown Ave.
Ingredients: As chef Kurt Evans mentioned earlier, his marine cheesesteaks include sauteed chunks of salmon, onions, red peppers and spinach, drizzled — or more like swimming — in Béchamel (white) sauce. Per Evans’s Insta followers, it’s “the 8th wonder of the world.”
Cost: $8 for a cheesesteak platter that comes with fries and a soda.
601 Jamestown Ave.
4441 Germantown Ave.
Cost: $10 (or you can add cheese for $0.50 more).
1641 W Hunting Park Ave.
Bonus: You can wild out and get the Salmon Cheese fries to go along with your salmon cheesesteak for $14.
1844 W Hunting Park Ave.