Created | Updated Jan 28, 2002
A delicacy of the masses, the cheesesteak has been, throughout its existence, one of the most delightful and beloved foods available in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA while at the same time being cheap, mass produced, and simple. Without frills or pretentiousness, it spread not only throughout Southern Philadelphia, its birthplace, but the entire US and the world1. And, as anybody who has ever tasted one knows, this is with good reason.
The cheesesteak originated on some forgotten day in 1921. Pat Olivieri, owner of what would become the world's best cheesesteak vendor (aptly named Pat's King of Steaks), had a steak sandwich for lunch as usual. He also had several slices of cheese, and decided to use them to add flavour to his meat. This great moment would have passed unnoticed, had the taxi driver next to him not inhaled the tempting aroma, and requested one for himself. The next day, taxi drivers from all over South Philly were asking Pat for a 'cheesesteak'. The rest is, of course, history.
The aforementioned eating establishment, Pat's King of Steaks, still exists and still serves them up hot all night long, every night. It can be found at the intersection Ninth, Passayunk2 and Wharton Streets. When ordering, the proper thing to say is either 'cheese with' or 'cheese without', which refers to Cheez Whiz with or without onions. Other types of cheese are available but frowned upon.