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Travel is not recommended right now, which means, among many other more serious things, that people all over the country are not getting a chance to eat real cheesesteaks.
There’s a host of Philly expat chefs who’ve popped up elsewhere with arguably decent versions — those joints even experienced a nationwide sales surge after the Eagles won the Super Bowl. But for the most part, other cities just can’t seem to grasp how cheesesteaks work.
Social media provides plenty of proof. Philly residents are relentless when it comes to dragging abominations that sully one of our city’s OG signature foods.
Let’s break down the latest example.
This…thing…was originally posted on Instagram by Hometown Heroes in West Islip, N.Y. The Long Island sandwich shop’s 13k followers were pretty impressed by the pic, judging from the comments.
When it was cross-posted to Twitter by First We Feast — an N.Y.-based, nationally admired food and culture blog with more than 250k followers — the truth quickly emerged.
“Delete this now,” wrote one Philadelphian.
“If that is on the menu you should leave,” noted another.
“Where is the picture of a real cheesesteak?” added a third.
Dozens and dozens of negatory GIF responses followed, including dismissive headshakes by Questlove and Danny DeVito, Gordon Ramsey throwing things, finger wagging by Dikembe Mutombo, Joel Embiid batting something out of his face, Spider-Man sending a bad guy to the shame corner and Gritty describing the tweet as trash.
One of the comments noted that the Hometown Heroes post was “a nice steak sandwich, but not a cheesesteak.” That in itself is debatable — since the melted cheese looks like plastic — but could potentially be valid.
What about the pic keeps it from representing a cheesesteak Philly would be proud of, or at least accept?
Item 1: the bread. Philadelphia has plenty of variations on a good cheesesteak roll, from the seeded editions used at Angelo’s or John’s Roast Pork to the classic Amoroso that’s a staple at corner stores. All of them are rounded with a nicely-browned crust, with structure necessary to keep the meat-and-cheese bomb together.
The version employed by the New York shop looks like an elongated hot dog roll that would fall apart at first bite. Also, it’s toasted, negating the crucial opportunity for the interior contents to meld with the bread.
Next, and most obvious, that cheese. While every Philadelphian has their fave (Whiz, provolone, etc.) American is a perfectly good option. The critical part is how it melds with the beef, creating an otherworldly flavor and texture experience. Not be plastered along the sides and top of the sandwich.
Which brings up the next misstep, a very common one: those green bell peppers.
While not exactly canon, some kinds of peppers are used on cheesesteaks in Philadelphia. Pepper hash is a classic Philly condiment, and chomping a pickled cherry pepper on the side is a great way to cut the sandwich’s heaviness. Want a spicy take with long hots on top? No one will look twice.
When personal taste does call for bell peppers — many Philly joints offer them — just make sure they’re mixed in with the meat. How are you supposed to inhale the thing with those elongated strips of vegetable striped along the top?
If you’re now craving cheesesteaks and are not in Philadelphia, we apologize. Several spots do offer nationwide delivery. If you’ve got the craving and are in the city, send us a pic of your favorite. They may not be pretty, but they sure taste good.