It’s not unusual to get mustard on a cheesesteak, Philly shop owners say

Tobias Harris sparked the latest edition of the city’s eternal sandwich debate.

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Danya Henninger / Billy Penn
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Sixers forward Tobias Harris admitted to liking mustard on his cheesesteaks this week, and got the online thrashing he obviously expected. But Philly shop owners say adding the spicy condiment is more common than you might think.

“Quite a few people get mustard on their steaks,” said Steve Kotridis, owner of Dalessandro’s Steaks in Roxborough, where Harris actually once spent a day behind the grill.

“Fairly often,” said Barry McGuinn of Barry’s Steaks & Hoagies, located a few blocks down Ridge Avenue, about customers adding or requesting mustard. “It’s not uncommon.”

Disagreement came loud and clear from John Bucci Jr., of John’s Roast Pork on Snyder Avenue. “NO ONE from Philly puts mustard on a cheesesteak,” said the second-gen sandwich maker.

Like a mound of glossy fried onions waiting on the grill, there’s seemingly no end to the potential cheesesteak debates Philadelphians are ready to engage in.

This latest started with a TikTok video. In a blatant (and somewhat successful) move to redirect conversation away from Ben Simmons drama, Sixers social media folks posed a question to a few Philly NBA players as they made their way into training camp: “How do you like your cheesesteak?”

76ers rookie Jaden Springer played it safe, giving “plain with cheese” as his answer. “B-Ball” Paul Reed kept it cryptic with “fully loaded.” Tyrese Maxey didn’t hold back, singing the praises of “mayonnaise, salt and pepper, ketchup, fried onions.” Veteran guard Danny Green called himself a “simple guy” and went with “little ketchup, little mayo.”

Then came Harris. A native of Long Island, N.Y., the 29-year-old has played pro ball all over the country, from Milwaukee to Orlando to Detroit to L.A. But he’s been in Philadelphia more than two years, long enough to have internalized how the fan base reacts.

Which is why he knew he was stirring the pot when he shouted out his preference.

“Don’t kill the messenger,” Harris said, “but I do like…[hesitates]…some MUSTARD on my cheesesteak.” He walks away mic drop style, then comes back to the camera to add: “Yeah, I said it.”

Sports blogger commentary rained down like Whiz glopping from a spreader stick. “What in the actual heck is this about, Tobias?” wrote Barstool Sports. “Is that even a thing? It’s very clear that Tobias is not a Philly guy,” opined Crossing Broad. Folks at The Liberty Line were more definitive: “In no situation ever, should there be mustard on a cheesesteak.”

Many social media commenters, however, were ready to back Harris up, saying they’d gotten mustard on their steaks since they were kids.

Proof? It’s in the ordering data. At Jim’s Steaks on South Street, where a line almost always stretches around the corner, owner Ken Silver has a hard stance that there is no “right way” to order a cheesesteak, and no one should tell anyone else what is or isn’t an acceptable condiment.

According to inventory records, though, the shop orders plenty of mustard. Not as much as ketchup, which outpaces it 10 to 1, but enough to be noticeable. “I actually thought it would’ve been more,” Silver said.

McGuinn of Barry’s Steaks enjoys mustard himself, describing his personal favorite order as “cheesesteak, fried onions, mustard…and tomato on occasion.”

Same for the founder of Dalessandro’s, added Guinn, who started out at the neighboring shop and maintained a friendship over the years. “Bill Dalessandro always liked a steak with fried onions, mustard and ketchup — no cheese.”

Most shops do carry mustard. Even John’s Roast Pork, because it goes well with the namesake sandwich, owner Bucci Jr. said. So while Harris may have backtracked a bit, if you’re looking for something new, it’s out there for the trying.

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