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How to order a Philly cheesesteak, the right way

If it’s your first time ordering the iconic Philly sandwich, fear not: We got you.

A cheesesteak with onions and peppers is pictured at Max's Steaks in North Philadelphia.
A cheesesteak with onions and peppers is pictured at Max's Steaks in North Philadelphia.Read moreTIM TAI / Staff Photographer / TIM TAI / Staff Photographer

OK, you’ve chosen your cheesesteak, whether it’s from one of our food-team-approved spots, one of Philly’s more famous and popular joints, or maybe something off our list of vegan cheesesteak best bets.

What do you do now?

If this is your first time, fear not: Here’s a handy cheat sheet to how to order your sandwich.

How to order a cheesesteak

  1. “A cheesesteak wit,” is what you say if you want onions.

  2. “A cheesesteak witout,” is what you say if you don’t want onions. (You can also order your cheesesteak “with onions” or “without onions” and nobody will mind.)

  3. At some places, you may be asked to specify whether you want American cheese, provolone, or Whiz. Don’t ask for Swiss cheese. Presidential candidate John Kerry made that mistake.

  4. Don’t ask for rare, medium rare, or medium. All cheesesteaks are well-done.

So, for example, you might order “One Whiz, wit (or witout)”; “One American, wit (or witout)”; or “One provolone, wit (or witout).”

Cheesesteak facts and trivia

While you’re waiting in line, here are some cheesesteak facts that may surprise you:

  1. The sandwich that became the cheesesteak originally didn’t have cheese at all. Here’s the often-told origin story: In 1930, the story goes, a taxi driver pulled up to Pat Olivieri’s hot dog cart at Ninth and Passyunk, spotted him grilling beef from a butcher for his own lunch, and suggested he sell it. Yes, that’s the same Pat of Pat’s King of Steaks.

  2. You can buy a cheesesteak from a James Beard award winner. South Philly’s John’s Roast Pork won a James Beard Award in 2006 and, while it’s famous for that other famous sandwich, their cheesesteaks are still coming from a culinary pro.

  3. Whiz is cheesier than you think. According to the seminal tome The Great Philly Cheesesteak Book by Carolyn Wyman, food-service grade Cheez Whiz used by restaurants has more real cheese than the jarred stuff sold at supermarkets.

  4. A “Philly taco” is a cheesesteak rolled up in a slice of pizza. The carbs-on-carbs creation, with the sandwich from Jim’s and the pizza from Lorenzo and Sons, was invented in 2003, by friends Jeff Barg and Adam Gordon, who called it the Lorenzo’s-Jim’s Challenge. We do not have an estimate of its calories, but to estimate its calories would be to miss the point, anyway.

  5. The most expensive cheesesteak in Philly is $140, and it comes with champagne. If you’re feeling luxe, Barclay Prime’s signature cheesesteak is made with wagyu ribeye, foie gras, onions, truffled cheese whiz on a fresh baked sesame roll served with a ½ bottle of champagne.

The Eagles once helped make a football-field-length cheesesteak on a single roll. The year was 1998. The cheesesteak was 365 feet, 7 inches long; weighed 1,790 pounds, and measured just a few inches longer than a football field. It may have been the Eagles’ biggest accomplishment that year.

» READ MORE: Cheesesteak facts and trivia

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