39 E Oregon Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148
Saturday morning. I wake up. Okay, late late morning, I wake up. LAW asks if I want to go on a roadtrip. I say sure. So we rent a car and decide to drive to Philly for a Philly cheesesteak. (LAW also spent a few years of his childhood there, so we thought it would be cool to find his old home. I don’t just travel to eat…) Finding the best cheesesteak in Philly is like finding the best pizza in New York. At a certain level, it becomes completely subjective. I did some research and ended up picking a locally well-regarded place (Pat’s and Geno’s are the tourist faves) that had both the cheez whiz and real cheese options on their menu. In my research, I found that the Whiz vs. Cheese debate is very much alive and intense.
We got the classic cheese steak: steak, caramelized onions, and cheez whiz. We also added mushrooms. The steak at Tony Luke’s is thin cut rib-eye (never chopped, they say) and the whiz is Kraft Cheez Whiz. Branded stuff here.
This sandwich is what I describe to be a child’s dream. It literally tastes like the perfect food for kids. Not as in perfect for their growing little bodies, but perfect for their immature taste buds… There’s little more flavor than cheez whiz and a little texture from the beef and bread. If you eat the ingredients separately, you taste that the steak is thin and tender, onions are soft and sweet, bread is nice and crusty yet soft. Combined, the whiz overpowers it all. It still tasted pretty great, but really feels like a Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese version of real macaroni and cheese.
We also got the Italian Steak: steak, broccoli rabe, roasted “long hot” peppers, and sharp provolone. The provolone is much lighter than the whiz, so it doesn’t overpower all the other ingredients. The ribe-eye was lean yet tender. The rabe’s slight bitterness helped cut through the heaviness of the sandwich. The roasted “long hot” peppers added a nice sweetness to round out the sandwich.
Tony Luke’s also had two buckets of these pickled hot peppers on the side. They were hot, mildly pickled, and really necessary for me to finish my sandwiches. As ginger is to sushi, these peppers were an essential palate cleanse.
Where do people get their cheesesteaks in NYC?