Most people have heard of the Philly Cheese steak but are not familiar with it's historical beginning. After the signing of the Declaration of Independence the steak sandwich is the second most important thing that started in Philadelphia, PA.
Philadelphia has long been known for it's comfort food and snacks. There is a long history of local and regional potato chip and pretzel making along with the famous soft pretzels of our area. It is here that we teach you to put mustard on those soft pretzels. Philadelphia is also home of Tastykake. They are famous for their cupcakes and butter scotch crimpets. The city is famous for its flavored water ice also.
Than there is the hoagie sandwich. A cold sandwich which stuffs a a soft or hard Italian roll shaped like a hot dog roll, only longer and thicker, with lunch meats and cheeses covered with shredded lettuce and tomato. Maybe some onion and hot pepper also. There are other regions of the country who have introduced this concept but not with the rolls you can get around here.
Philly is also famous for a slab a meat we call scrapple. Mainly a breakfast food it is a mush with cornmeal, flour, and buckwheat flour fried or simmered with pork scraps. Yes scraps left over from the butcher. It goes great with eggs.
But the Grand Daddy of them all is the all powerful steak sandwich. In the 1920's Pat and Harry Olivieri had a hot dog stand in Philadelphia and they began selling chopped steak on a hoagie roll. Often with onions and ketchup. It was so successful that in 1930 they opened up Pat's Steaks soley for the purpose of selling the steak sandwich. It is still there today and is called Pat's King of Steaks.
It was so popular Joe Vento opened up Geno's Steak across the street from Pat's. It too is still opened to this day. In 1952 Pat's began to offer a cheese sauce poured on to the sandwich called Cheez Whiz. Although Joe form Geno's claims he added good old American cheese before Pat added the Whiz. No one has ever solved that debate.
So if you ever get to Philadelphia you must go to 9Th Street and Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia a visit both Pat's and Geno's. Remember though Pat's was the beginning.
Another unique aspect is the infamous “How to Order a Steak” sign at Pat's. It isn't a joke either. They get so crowded that they insist people know exactly how they want their sandwich. And you must order it in the correct fashion or you get sent back to the sign to learn.
For example if you want a steak sandwich with provolone instead of the whiz that is fine. So you would say give me a provolone. Also though you must end an order with either the word “with” (Philly speech “wit”) or the word “without” (wit out in Philly language) to communicate whether you want onions or not. So your actual order would sound like this “give me a provolone wit, please.” You just order a steak sandwich with provolone cheese and onions in correct fashion! Oh and if you want peppers there is a mice selection of peppers at the self serve ketchup station.
The most popular orders are the Cheez Whiz “wit”, Provolone “wit”, American “wit”, and pizza sauce “wit”. Onions are pretty popular here. No shame in saying “wit out” though.
Also pretty cool is they have pictures of many of the famous people who have come by from the many decades. I have actually met a few celebs and pro athletes getting a steak sandwich.
On a pathetic note. I now live 64 miles from Pat's and I will still make a pilgrimage there at least once a year for a sandwich! Got to love it! Oh and for me it's “Give me a pizza steak wit please.”