Yes, There's A Difference Between A Philly Cheesesteak And A Steak And Cheese Sandwich

"Wit or wit-out?" No, this isn't a foreign language. Ask any native Philadelphian and they'll tell you that those are the only two "right" ways to order a Philly cheesesteak. Though you may think this is talking about the cheese (Cheez Whiz, Provolone, or American, depending on the shop you visit and your personal preference) wit or wit-out refers to whether you want onions. Other hallmarks of a true Philly cheesesteak include an Amoroso's roll and sliced or shaved ribeye. 


A steak and cheese sandwich, then, can be defined by how it differs from a Philly cheesesteak. If it uses a different type of cheese, steak, or roll, it's a steak and cheese sandwich. Similarly, if your sandwich has a lot of extra toppings, it's a steak and cheese sandwich rather than a Philly cheesesteak. While we're getting the terminology down, you might want to shy away from calling it a Philly cheesesteak if you're in the city of brotherly love; the simple term "cheesesteak" will suffice. You'd be hard-pressed to find someone in Philadelphia or even in all of Pennsylvania who calls it a Philly cheesesteak.

What is a Philly cheesesteak?

The New York Times reports — depending on who you believe — the first cheesesteak was made with onions and no cheese, so it's safe to say that onions are an accepted topping. Though if you're not a fan of the vegetable, it's okay to leave it off. Many cheesesteaks you'll find in Philly are served on Amoroso's rolls. Amoroso's Baking Company was founded in 1904 in Camden, New Jersey, which is just across the river from Philly. The company moved across the river in 1914 and has served Philadelphia ever since. The rolls are delivered fresh to restaurants and venues around Philly daily. The hearth-baked rolls are a bit crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, and they're strong enough to hold in all of those delicious cheesesteak ingredients without breaking apart. 


Where do you get a genuine Philly cheesesteak? The jury is still out on this one, as everyone seems to have their favorite cheesesteak spot. Many swear by Pat's King of Steaks, which claims to have invented the Philly cheesesteak in 1930 when Pat Olivieri put some chopped meat and onions on an Italian roll. Others prefer Geno's Steaks, a restaurant that got its start in 1966. Geno's uses sliced ribeye steak, another component that many claim is a hallmark of the Philly cheesesteak. It's common to use shaved or thinly sliced ribeye steak, which results in thin and tender meat.

What is a steak and cheese sandwich?

What is a steak and cheese sandwich, then? Pretty much anything else. Many Philadelphians would argue that it's not a true Philly cheesesteak if you add too many additional toppings, like ketchup, pizza sauce, lettuce, or mayonnaise. They might also scoff at chicken cheesesteaks and alternative cheese choices. Beef that isn't ribeye or that's cut into larger chunks will also get your cheesesteak placed into the steak and cheese sandwich category. 


Want to tell for yourself? If you want to make your own Philly cheesesteak, use Amoroso's rolls (they're shipped nationwide), shaved ribeye, and Cheez Whiz or Provolone. Compare that to any other steak and cheese sandwich recipe to see which reigns supreme. And if you want to taste a true original, you'll have to visit the Keystone State. Rivals Pat's and Geno's are located right across from each other, so next time you're in Philly, buy a cheesesteak from each and determine which you think is best.