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The Cheesesteak Defense

By Wyatt Earp | August 26, 2011

This is a genuine Philadelphia cheesesteak – from Geno’s, of course. It’s a very special sandwich that most of us here will protect with our very lives. It’s common for a patron stand up, grip the roll and say, “This is my cheesesteak! There are many like it, but this one is mine!”

So, it’s understandable when our eyes bleed after seeing a breach of cheesesteak etiquette. John Kerry became infamous for this by asking for Swiss cheese on his sandwich. It’s also why I was so thankful he lost the 2004 election. Anyone who orders a Swiss cheesesteak cannot effectively lead the country.

The reason I bring all of this up is because Code Monkey told me Chuck Z. likes “veggies” on his cheesesteak . . . and ketchup.


I am ignorant of a lot of things – and Lord knows I am not a smart man – but I’ve lived in this city all my life. I know my cheesteaks, and I know them better than you. Code Monkey can back up that claim. So, as a public service message to my out-of-town readers, here are some helpful tips for ordering an authentic Philly cheesesteak . . . and not looking like a tourist/yokel.

First of all, when you order a cheesesteak, the “cheese” in question should almost automatically be Cheez Whiz. Yes, I realize in most cases Cheez Whiz is borderline radioactive, but on a steak it is heaven in a sammich. American cheese is a fine substitute, and while some folks like provolone, I would consider that a faux pas.

Second, during the Dark Ages, some jerkass invented the “cheesesteak hoagie.” It’s a cheesesteak topped with lettuce, tomatoes, and onions, and usually a smear of mayonnaise. Mrs. Earp likes this abomination, but I let it slide for the sake of family unity. That being said, a cheesesteak hoagie is a violation. The only veggies that are acceptable on a cheesesteak are onions and hot peppers. No lettuce, no tomatoes, and no freakin’ pickles!!! Ordering these items at Geno’s will get you brutally beaten – and rightfully so.

And finally, if you’re new to the cheesesteak, a word of advice: Do not look inside the sandwich. It’s like looking into the Ark of the Covenant. If you’re not pure of heart, your face will melt off. You don’t know what’s inside that roll, and you don’t want to know. Just sit down, eat the steaky goodness, and be on your way.

Now obviously, some people will violate these rules for the sake of personal taste or a similar mental illness. I’ve heard about people who put mustard on their cheesesteak, or smother it in A-1 Steak Sauce. Hey, what you do in the privacy of your own home is your business. I don’t want to know about it.

Now pass the Whiz.

Topics: Philly | 27 Comments »

27 Responses to “The Cheesesteak Defense”

  1. John D Says:
    August 26th, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    I think I gained 5 pounds just reading this post. And I’m supposed to be on a diet.

  2. Wyatt Earp Says:
    August 26th, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    John D – Great, now I have to put up a post about running.

  3. John D Says:
    August 26th, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    Just don’t do one very day, my knees can’t handle the strain of reading running posts too often.

  4. RT Says:
    August 26th, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    I love fried onions and mushrooms on mine. Since I am in Jersey, we don’t do whiz-we do American; however, if I were to have one in Philly, I’d do whiz wit. My mom puts mustard on hers. I shake my head and say, “ewwww” every time.

  5. Sally Anne Says:
    August 26th, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Man, I may have just thrown up a little. Cheez Whiz?! I’ve just removed having a “real” Philly cheesesteak from my list of things to do in my lifetime. That’s just vile. I’ve eaten some nasty food prepared by dubious characters in unpleasant locations, but I will not eat Cheez Whiz. It’s like the bastard brother of MRE cheese pouches. Yech!

  6. Randal Graves Says:
    August 26th, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    American with, bitches! Nothing else compares. Whiz is gay.

    Cheesesteak hoagies are allowed but they can only be from non-real cheesesteak places, like a pizza joint.

  7. BlackOrchid Says:
    August 26th, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    I have to agree with Randal here.

    Why torture yourself with Whiz?

    and definitely WITH

  8. BlackOrchid Says:
    August 26th, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    lol but I’m a vegetarian! I haven’t had one in eons, and that was only really drunk at 3am

  9. BlackOrchid Says:
    August 26th, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    btw walking from U of P to Pat’s at 3am is highly recommended

  10. Bob G. Says:
    August 26th, 2011 at 2:05 pm


    An EPIC post, Boss!

    “…Like looking into the Ark of the Covenant”…LMAO.

    Perfect analogy!

    And in defense of the cheesesteak-hoagie (and Mrs. Earp), there used to be a small joint behind the old Korvettes down off of Welsh Rd, that DID make a damn fine one.
    It certainly was NOT Geno’s (or even Pat’s) but washed down with a Heineken…hey, it wasn’t bad at all.

    And I do like Provolone or American on mine…

    A place called Jean’s (Rowland & Ryan aves) used to make a PEPPERONI Pizza steak, and THAT bugger was DAMN GOOD!

    Still, nothing beats the pride of S. Philly – Geno’s!


    Great post and comments…now I’m in withdrawal AGAIN…!

    Roll safe out there.

  11. Uncle Ray Says:
    August 26th, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    Hey Wyatt. You known I’ve been around Philly a bit longer than you. I’ve eaten quite a few cheesesteaks over the years. Geno’s (God bless Joey Vento) had always been my favorite, until I had one from Steve’s Prince of Steaks. No matter, as everyone has different tastes. But your readers should know the appropriate way to order this delicacy without pissing off the restaurant staff. If you want the real deal (cheese whiz) with fried onions or without fried onions, ya gotta shout out “Whiz wit!” or Whiz widdout!” ( in North Jersey it is my understanding that they say “Wit” and “Wit not”) Now go out and enjoy an artery clogger!

  12. Mario Mirarchi Says:
    August 26th, 2011 at 2:41 pm


    God bless you for posting this. Here in the DC area, they put lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise on everything, including the “steak and cheese”. For the longest time I thought it was only me who felt it an abomination that anyone would put that cr on a sandwich.

  13. Veeshir Says:
    August 26th, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    No lettuce, no tomatoes, and no freakin’ pickles!!!

    Don’t buy one outside Philly then.

    I’ll occasionally forget to say, “No lettuce, no tomatoes, no pickles no mayo” and get that crap on my sandwich.

    Not sure if it’s against the law in Philly, but I do usually get hot peppers (often the pepper relish stuff) on my philly cheesesteak. But I put hot peppers on everything.

    VA in particular screws up all food from north and northeast of there. I never realized how hard it is to make a feaking sub.

  14. C/A Says:
    August 26th, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    And Chuck Z is a tanker to beat it all. Damn.

    Wyatt – I have to endorse your review of these rules. You are indeed a purist. Unfortunately like all such things variations creep in. They must be confronted and purged.

    One thing I must point out however: you did not rule on the elegibility of the PIZZA STEAK. I am for ruling it elegible as a correct and acceptable variation, possibly the one and only exception. You should have it with whiz, BUT Mozzarella is an acceptable substitute.

    Don Pepinos pizza sauce is correct for making your own. Baking it is optional but pushing the boundaries.
    If you flinch during the process it is counted as a failure and you will have to be purified by pain.

    Randall is right. The CSH is only acceptable from non-cheesteak establishments.

  15. Picky Says:
    August 26th, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Having never had a “Philly Cheesesteak” sandwich, I’m not sure how I would like mine. What I DO know is that when i go to Arbys and get a roast beef sandwich, I prefer Swiss cheese to cheddar or American. Also, when I go to Culvers, I get the “shaved prime rib” sandwich, which also comes with Swiss cheese. So I’m guessing that I would probably prefer Swiss on my cheesesteak.

    Food snob.

  16. Randal Graves Says:
    August 26th, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Captain – Pizza steaks fall into the same category as the CSH: only from “pizza joint” type places.

    Oh, and the thin sliced pickles at Steve’s rule as a side (not on the sandwich)!

  17. GroovyVic Says:
    August 26th, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    *sigh* You just order it for me…

  18. JT Says:
    August 26th, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    I love fried onions and mushrooms on mine.


  19. Old NFO Says:
    August 26th, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    Hell, I’m a SOUTHERNER, and I know better :-)

  20. C/A Says:
    August 26th, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    Randal- absolutely correct. Steve has the “good” pickels. Don’t tell Wyatt but I sneak them in.
    Picky- your on very thin ice my friend.
    JT- Joey Vento would approve.
    OLD NFO- as always on the mark!

  21. Wyatt Earp Says:
    August 27th, 2011 at 1:04 am

    John D – And the back. Definitely the back.

    RT – I don’t get the mustard thing at all.

    Sally Anne – Would I steer you wrong? Trust me, Cheez Whiz is where it’s at. Besides, you’ll be too busy enjoying the steaky goodness to notice.

    Randal – Agreed. You want to defile a cheesesteak, do it at a pizza joint.

    Orchid – You escaped U of P as a conservative? Wow. And I like wit or witout – depending on my mood.

    Bob G. – There’s a place called Angela’s around the corner that makes a killer pepperoni pizza steak. And they just added garlic fries! *drools*

    Uncle Ray – Great points about the nomenclature. “Wit” or “Witout” is essential when ordering. And Steve’s is really good, as is “Wit Or Witout,” which just opened around the corner.

    Mario – I’m a traditionalist. I don’t think lettuce, tomatoes, or mayo should be within 100 feet of a cheesesteak.

    Veeshir – It shouldn’t be, but people are lazy. And hot peppers (even relish-style) are acceptable.

    Captain – And I give those places a pass because you probably wouldn’t take a friend from out of town there.

    Picky – Swiss. What are we gonna do with you?

    Randal – Agreed. On the side, not on the sandwich.

    GroovyVic – That’s what I did with Code Monkey because she didn’t want to make a faux pas.

    JT – Acceptable . . . at a pizza joint.

    Old NFO – That’s why I took you to Steve’s when you came in. Uncle Ray recommended it highly.

  22. Dannytheman Says:
    August 27th, 2011 at 9:21 am

    OK, I am a life long South East PA guy. I have had every combination of cheesesteaks, they are all frickin fabulous! But when I really want an explosive mouth orgasm, I have the steak maker grill the hot peppers in with the meat, then add fried onions and mushrooms, finished off with a topping of raw onions.
    I like the wiz right up until I read the label, DO NOT read the label!!!!

  23. Rick Says:
    August 27th, 2011 at 10:13 am

    I am a Hoosier and I know better than order the Lurch Kerry was.

  24. Wyatt Earp Says:
    August 27th, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Danny – It’s like my point about looking into the sandwich. Some things you just don’t do.

    Rick – You would think one of his handlers would prep him beforehand.

  25. Richard Says:
    August 27th, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    Wyatt – Meat is murder. Tasty, tasty murder!

    Since I am already fat, I’ll take two! Whiz wit!!!


  26. Veeshir Says:
    August 27th, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Rick – You would think one of his handlers would prep him beforehand.

    I have a feeling he ignored his handlers a lot.

    How else to explain his saying, in Michigan, something about how he loves him some Buckeye football or going into a sporting goods store and saying, “Where can I get me a huntin’ license?”

  27. Enano Siniestro Says:
    August 27th, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    Whiz wit for me.