What’s the Difference Between a Steak and Cheese and a Cheesesteak?
When you hear the term “cheesesteak,” what comes to mind? For many Americans, that probably conjures up an image of a long, narrow hoagie with shaved steak, cheese, onions, and tomatoes piled high on it. In fact, the name “cheesesteak” is a contraction of the words “cheese” and “steak,” further solidifying the connection in the minds of many.
Nonetheless, many cheesesteak purveyors are quick to point out that theirs are different from the hoagies with similar names you may have encountered in the past. They explain that their cheesesteaks are different from the other, more well-known kinds of cheesesteaks because they’re from Philadelphia, not South Philly. They go on to argue that their cheesesteaks are different from other kinds of cheesesteaks because their cheesesteaks are from Philadelphia, not South Philly.
And, of course, they’re correct. Whether you’re from Philadelphia or not, a cheesesteak is a cheesesteak is a cheesesteak. There are many different varieties, with different toppings and personal preferences. But, as with most things in life, there’s an appropriate time to explain the differences and an appropriate time to shut your pie hole. And, as it pertains to the cheesesteak, it’s probably more appropriate to explain the differences at the beginning of your first cheesesteak experience than at the end, right?
What is a cheesesteak?
A cheesesteak is a sandwich made from hoagie-style bread. It’s primarily associated with South Philadelphia, though you’ll also find variations in Delaware, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
The word “cheesesteak” is a shortened form of the word “cheese steak.”
A cheesesteak generally consists of a roll or breadyWrapper on the bottom (often topped with onions), sliced or diced cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes on the top, and sometimes a meat (typically, steak is the most common, but you’ll also find pork, lamb, and veal).
Typically, a cheesesteak is dressed with either olive oil or oil-based mayo. Some places also add a sweet Mrs. Butterworth’s-like sauce, while others put it all together in an “olive dip” or “olive oil dip.”
What is a hoagie?
If you live or travel in New England, you’ve probably encountered a hoagie there. Although they’re most associated with New England, hoagies are generally a Philly thing, too.
Basically, a hoagie is a sub made with Italian bread. In New England, you’ll also likely find that some delis use English muffins or buns.
While the origins of the name “hoagie” are unclear, many speculate that it comes from the Italian word “hoggia,” meaning “gang.” Over time, the word “hoagie” has been applied to the various types of bread used to make sandwiches.
Where does the name “cheesesteak” come from?
The name “cheesesteak” is most commonly believed to be an abbreviated form of Philadelphia cheesesteak, though there are a few who contend that it comes from New York.
Regardless of its birthplace, the name “cheesesteak” applies exclusively to the sandwich variations found in Philadelphia.
As explained above, the word “cheesesteak” is a contraction of the words “cheese” and “steak.”
Philadelphia cheesesteaks vs. South Philly cheesesteaks
Philadelphia cheesesteaks are the long, narrow hoagies with shaved steak, cheese, and onions. The name does not, however, apply to the other cheesesteaks found in Philadelphia, which are more commonly known as South Philly cheesesteaks.
Which type of cheesesteak is better?
This is a loaded question!
There’s no definitive “best” type of cheesesteak, as it largely depends on your taste buds, the cheesesteak purveyor, and your budget.
Some may prefer a light, simple cheese steak, while others may want a more elaborate sandwich with a wide range of cheeses, meat options, and condiments.
Beyond that, the only real difference is personal preference.
Ultimately, the only real way to discern the difference between a Philadelphia and a South Philly cheesesteak is to try them both.
In fact, the only way to truly discover if a cheesesteak is “the one” for you is to make the leap and try one.