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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

You can now officially say cheesesteak and sexy in the same sentence, thanks to Playboy. Let me warn those of you with a hunger for food and babes ahead of time, there are no photos of scantily clad women eating cheesesteaks here. Not only is that opposite of classy, it’s unsanitary. What we do have is Philadelphia’s very own Pat’s King of Steaks making Playboy’s A List: America’s Best Sandwiches.

Although many would argue and throw fits about Pat’s being celebrated as the best, Playboy does make a point by stating, “[Pat’s] has the balls to name itself the King of Steaks.” We’re not sure what Geno’s owner Joey Vento thinks of this but it will most certainly add fuel to the grease fire.

Alongside the Philadelphia food icon were the usual suspects in the sandwich line up, the Lobster Roll, Cuban, Banh Mi, Pastrami and Po’ Boy. This A List also includes some new players in the sandwich game, the St. Paul Sandwich, the Italian Beef and the far-from-the-image-your-in-head Sloppy Joe. (It's not even sloppy!)

Check out the article on Playboy’s web site to read more about the sandwiches that have made the A List.

[Article Credit: Playboy]
[Photo Credit:
Playboy & Top news]

Monday, June 29, 2009

The sandwich is a marvelous invention, second only to cocktail umbrellas. Each nation has their own popular sandwich utilizing customary ingredients. The Cubano sandwich, the Monte Cristo and the Bánh Mì, which happens to be a Vietnamese specialty, are prime examples of popular sandwiches from around the world. Philadelphia’s cheesesteak just so happens to be a sandwich with the flexibility and popularity to be reinvented by sandwich connoisseurs.

From the land of beer and bratwurst is a variation of the South Philly classicWe’ll consider this a loose interpretation of the historic sandwich but acknowledge the effort. The similarities between the two sandwiches are as follows: meat, cheese and bread. The first major difference is that the German version uses pork loin soaked in a brine instead of cheap cuts of beef. In place of the standard cheeses (provolone, American or even whiz) is Limburger cheese. To finish it off, this “cheesesteak” rests on top of a pumpernickel hoagie roll instead of the classic Italian hoagie.

Brace yourselves because this will probably have most Philadelphians pulling out their hair. Instead of the standard cheesesteak toppings (onions) the recipe calls for apples, sauerkraut, and onions. A lot of cheesesteak enthusiasts get angry when peppers and mushrooms are added. Throwing apples and sauerkraut into the mix might be asking for trouble.

Although this version is far from the original steak sandwich, the key technique is still applied. The recipe calls for the pork to be cut into very thin slices and cooked on a flat top griddle, which screams Philadelphia but…even with the similarities between the two “cheesesteaks” I’m going to have to disagree with the Food Network.

The Philly cheesesteak sandwich is based on simplicity and inexpensive ingredients. This version uses ingredients that are just too different from the original and it uses too many of them. I’m sorry Germany, this just won’t cut it in Philly.

[Recipe Credit: Food Network]

[Photo Credit: Galen Fry Singer & Marin Lacross Club]

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pat’s King of Steaks has been filling American bellies for over 70 years. Since the days of Herbert Hoover, Pat’s steak sandwich has been a favorite in the home of the brave.

They’ve been by our sides and on our plates through five wars and two depressions, giving us the energy to fight for freedom time and time again!

Pioneers in the restaurant industry and poster children of the American Dream, the Oliveri brothers created a sandwich unlike any other back in 1930. And what better place for such a dish to emerge than the city that was our great nation’s first capital? With the addition of cheese to this steamy sandwich, the steak gives new meaning to the phrase “Melting Pot of the World.”

So stick a feather in your hat and ride your pony to 9th and Passyunk to get your hands on this hearty classic!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

After months of endless cheesesteak-related ramblings, another cheesesteak-craving finally got the best of me.  Unfortunately, it didn’t hit me until late Monday night.  As a car-less Art Museum area resident in the company of friends who are also car-challenged, I was forced to get my cheesesteak fix within walking distance.  Since my friends and I also had a hankering for some delicious cocktails, we decided to go to Continental Midtown on 18th and Chestnut where we could get great drinks AND their hyped up “Cheesesteak Egg Roll.”

As a cheesesteak egg roll virgin (and a cheesesteak sandwich connoisseur), I was excited to see what all the fuss was about.  I’m happy to report that I was completely satisfied with my platter of cheesesteak-filled egg rolls piled high with fried onions and garnished with Sriracha ketchup.  (However, the degree of deliciousness that I found them to be at the time could’ve been the result of a few too many Pomargaritas, Hawaii 5-Os, and wanton hunger.)  Compared to the petite appetizers that we consumed prior to the epic cheesesteak egg rolls, my friends and I were pleasantly surprised by the generous portion of the $12.50 dish.

In conclusion, Continental’s classic “Cheesesteak Egg Roll” is an awesome late night fix.  It’s a great value for the price, but don’t get too excited. Your drink tab will more than compensate for the inexpensive item.

[Photo Credit: Food Network]

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Geno's Motorcycle Club is now accepting new members. Do you have what it takes to wear our colors? Can you eat a steak while being chased by the cherry tops down I-95? Do you spread ketchup on with a switchblade? Do you spit cheese whiz in your enemies face? Is Easy Rider a permanent fix in your VCR?

If so, then put on your whiz covered leathers, throw the old lady in the side car and bring your chopper down Passayunk at Genos MC, where Skynyrd is always playing on the jukebox and the steaks are always on tap.

[Photo Credits: Webwombat and Filmposters]

Monday, June 22, 2009

Do you know that look your pet gives you when they catch the scent of the delicious meal you’re about to eat? It’s the kind of look that could melt glaciers or bring an American Gladiator to tears. Unfortunately, you often find yourself unable to satisfy their sad little faces. While you bite into a scrumptious steak they must fill themselves with processed canned food or Cocoa Pebbles look-alikes. For too many years our lovable little critters have not feasted on the same dishes we indulge ourselves with. Forget the Kibbles ‘n Bits, Beggin Strips or regular catnip; much like yourself, your dog and/or cat wants a cheesesteak or at least something that tastes like one.


As a snack for man’s best friend, Grandma Lucy’s bakery makes Philly Cheesesteak doggie treats. It may not look like it but these little morsels contain cheese, bread and USDA beef. Although it doesn’t come on an Italian hoagie with provolone, onions or chopped up steak these tasty bites will satisfy your pet’s hunger and your desire to share a Philadelphia experience with them.


If you happen to own a cat and would like to treat them to one of your favorite meals, Cosmic Pet has the answer for you. The Philly Cheesesteak flavored catnip will provide your feline friend with the flavor of a Philadelphia Cheesesteak while inducing that playful attitude catnip tends to do.  Soon your cat will be running around all amped up off of the catnip while giving you funny looks for putting whiz on your cheesesteak. Even the cat knows that’s a mistake.

All of the advances in modern technology have allowed us to compress the delicious Philly classic into a miniature version for our beloved pets. Now your cat or dog can experience the delight of having a mixture of cheese, meat and bread in their mouths alongside of you.


[Photo Credits: Cosmic Pet, Uptown Critters and Scott County Humane Society]

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The PV America and Photovoltaic Specialists Conference in Philadelphia gave 3,000 people the chance to check out the latest in solar technology. Those who were fortunate enough to attend the opening session also received a valuable cheesesteak lesson from none other than Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell.

To kick off his turn to speak the Gov. gave an inspiring anecdote regarding the historic Philadelphia sandwich. He didn’t mention the bread but Rendell’s philosophy behind the sandwich’s filling would make, what many believe is, the original cheesesteak.

Rendell stated, “the number-one secret for a good Philadelphia cheesesteak is to not use good meat.” That knocks the $100 Dollar cheesesteak’s Kobe beef off the list of potential ingredients. The exact words Governor Gourmand used were, “fatty, stringy meat.” For the most part this isn’t such a bad thing. If you have the Food Network on as much as some of us then you know fat equals flavor. Stringy on the other hand sounds a bit off. Perhaps a better adjective should’ve been used, like flakey. The only stringy thing people want to eat is string cheese.

To top off the cheap cuts of beef he recommends the use “artificial Cheez Whiz.” Rendell believes this part of the essence of a true Philly cheesesteak; I believe in the right to choose. When the mood strikes American is a good way to go. Most days Provolone is the only choice, but what I’m certain of is never whiz and never yellow American.

According to Rendell the third secret to a good cheesesteak is “onions with the grease.” This is something he learned while on a trip to Seattle. Though toppings are optional the Pennsylvania Governor is on the money with this culinary suggestion. Whether it’s a cheesesteak, burger or liver; greasy onions are the only way to go.

If I were the Governor of Pennsylvania speaking at a solar-energy convention my cheesesteak rundown would have stressed the importance of the bread. The foundation for the steak and cheese is as important as the word foundation implies. The ingredients on top are nothing without a delicious and sturdy Amoroso roll.

Placed on top of the bread is a delicate layer of Provolone waiting to be melted by a hot mixture of steak and onion. Some argue against a chopped up steak while others are adamant about the texture the chopping gives the sandwich. I say chop that steak up! Throw in some sautéed onions and mix it all together. Besides, I enjoy the tornado of steak and grease caused by the rapid rising and falling of spatulas.

The governor’s final result is a goopy, greasy, and cheesy mess unable to satisfy anyone due to the lack of bread. Forgetting the bread is a no-no especially for a former mayor of Philadelphia.

[Photo Credit: Epoch Times]
[Article Credit: Cheesesteak technology from Gov. Rendell]

Monday, June 15, 2009

All I have to say is, it’s about time. The cheesesteak may seem simple enough, but underneath all the meat and cheese is a rich layer of history and an intriguing tale about each variation of the steak-sandwich and its respective creator.

Carolyn Wyman has bestowed upon us the ultimate guide to Cheesesteak Utopia. “The Great Philly Cheesesteak Book” is a compilation of history, culture, recipes, and photography involving Philadelphia’s favorite food. The handbook covers all things cheesesteak. From events and online homages, to examinations of the cheesesteak’s ingredients. Wyman’s book collects the in-depth stories that have lead to cheesesteak giants such as Tony Luke’s, Pat’s King of Steaks, and Geno’s Steaks. If you’re a fan of the sandwich, the city, or both, I suggest you check it out.

Also, if you happen to have a bike, a helmet, and of course a love for cheesesteaks, then you’re in luck. The author invites interested riders and cheesesteak enthusiasts to join her on a "leisurely" 12-mile bike ride as she visits eight popular cheesesteak shops. The free ride around Center City and South Philly will include stops to Sonny’s, Campo’s, Johnny’s Hots, Tony Luke’s, Philip’s, Cosmi’s, Pat’s, and finally Geno’s.  Food, history, culture, and exercise (which I’m sure we’ll be thankful for) are all part of the Cheesesteak Bicycle Ride. At every stop, Wyman will offer information, $2 bites, and an introduction to each of the stand’s owners. 

How could any cheesesteak fanatic pass up the opportunity to meet Geno’s larger-than-life personality and owner Joey Vento or Pat’s owner Frankie Olivieri Jr.?

Read the details here.

[Photo Credit: The Great Philly Cheesesteak Book]

Friday, June 12, 2009

I guess it must be celeb week here at PvsG (hey, that's one way to get traffic to a blog), because the Philadelphia-based sandwich blog Unbreaded caught up with Danny Bonaduce to talk about his favorite sandwich, and considering he's from Philly, I doubt you'll be surprised what his answer was.

No one place jumps off the board for me, but give me some grilled steak, onions and provolone and that’s a Philly cheesesteak.

I'm not going to get into the great Cheese Whiz vs Provolone vs American vs Swiss debate, but it's good to see that the 'Duce (as no one calls him) keeps it local when it comes to his sandwiches.

[Photo credit: ZigZagLens]

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Earlier this week you got acquainted with the signage around Pat's King of Steaks, the second part of this photo tour is going to take in everything else, well, the bits that are of interest to our design proposals, at least.

Our project aside, I really like this photograph, good work intern Percy! Obviously, this is one of the picnic-style tables that surround Pat's, they aren't exactly exciting, but they do get the got done.

The trash cans at Pat's are just that, trash cans, you can trust me when I say they won't be looking like that in our designs.

This is a picture of the cup your fries come in, there's a nice little touch to the cup that you can push a couple of tabs on the top edge and they fold in to help keep your fries warm if you have the willpower to not tuck in straight away.

There's not really much that you can say about the condiment stand at Pat's, it's there, it's propped up by a brick, and it has condiments on it.

What, you didn't think I was going to show you around Pat's without showing you their most prized product in all its gooey glory, did you?

Monday, June 8, 2009

You may remember 'Humble' Bob Shoudt questioning why there wasn't a cheesesteak eating contest in Philadelphia during Monday's interview with the joint 4th ranked professional eater in the world. Despite there not being an IFOCE (International Federation of Competitive Eating) sanctioned event in Philadelphia, British pop sensation Lily Allen took it upon herself to get some action going, by holding an man-on-man eat off single cheesesteak speed-race at her recent concert at the TLA on South Street. I'm not going to give away the result, but the winner does pretty much inhale his cheesesteak, Bob might need to keep an eye on his title. Oh, and take a guess what the winner received as a prize? I'll give you a hint, it was made of bread, cheese, and beef.

Be warned, there is quite a lot of screaming and shouting in this video, so you may want to turn down your speakers in preparation. [thanks, Philebrity]

Friday, June 5, 2009

Since not everyone reading this blog will have experienced (and 'experience' is probably the right word) Pat's and Geno's, it would probably be a good idea to give you a virtual tour of them both so that when we start teasing you with elements of our design proposals you have a decent understanding of what the original looked like and how our ideas would (hopefully) improve upon them. I'm going to break this series down into a few parts, and then do the same of Geno's. First up, a look at the signage around Pat's.

Considering that most people order a whiz wit you have to question why the menu is so long.

This instruction board only serves to make first-timers more nervous (trust me!), but each time I've been the staff haven't even approached the steak-Nazi reputation that precedes them.

Pat's familiar crown logo makes an appearance on this sign located on the side of the building. The sign also lights up at night.

This sign is located on the opposite side of the building and also lights up at night. Notice how this sign uses a typeface unlike any other on the building.

Breaking up the list of items with the logo helps to make the menu board look a lot less like a shopping receipt.

This is Pat's retaliation to the controversial 'speak English' sign displayed at Geno's. You may notice to the left of the picture is an award from Tide, the washing detergent manufacturer, claiming that Pat's has 'Philadelphia's favorite stain', the award itself is fairly hard to read because of a grease mark on the window!

These signs fill the spaces that were previously occupied by windows, and can be found on the South and West walls, where the eating areas are. I think it's my favorite sign at Pat's, whereas everything else is very busy and cluttered, this sign is simple and restrained, also, who doesn't love a pun?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The first time I ate a cheesesteak, I wasn't that impressed. I enjoyed it, but I didn't really see what all the fuss was about. Then I ate my second cheesesteak, and really liked it, even finishing off the half a cheesesteak that my brother could manage to eat, and so it went on from there that I joined the legions of Philadelphians that truly enjoy a good cheesesteak. So, have these pictures got you craving a cheesesteak?

Monday, June 1, 2009

The field of competitive eating is considered a fringe sport by many, and even suggesting that it is a 'sport' will probably offend a lot of people, but if you Google 'define sport' you get this answer: "an active diversion requiring physical exertion and competition," if that's your definition, competitive eating sounds a lot like a sport to me.

'Humble' Bob Shoudt may not be a household name in Philadelphia, despite hailing from nearby Royersford, PA, but he is well-known across the competitive eating world. Currently the joint 4th ranked eater in the world, Bob holds numerous world records, including (but certainly not limited too) 39 Krystal Hamburgers in 2 minutes, 13.5lbs of Skyline chili in 10 minutes, 34.75 beef brisket sandwiches in 10 minutes, and the record that I'm most interested in, 13 cheesesteaks in an hour.

Before Bob took the crown, the previous cheesesteak eating record was 12 steaks in 90 minutes, set in 2001. On January 4th 2007 at Jim's Steaks on South Street, Bob hit the dozen mark in just 51 minutes, he ate one more before the hour mark, and decided that whilst he could have kept going, he already had the world record, and that was what he came for. CBS3 covered the event, you can find the video and article here. I asked Bob a few questions about the world-record & cheesesteaks, and he was kind enough to answer them for us:

Quaker City Mercantile Intern: I read on your website that you usually only eat meat during contests, so do you actually like cheesesteaks, and if so which cheese do you prefer on your steak (whiz, provolone, swiss?), or were you just forcing them down for the record?

'Humble' Bob: The cheesesteaks tasted awesome. Provolone is my choice in a cheesesteak.

QCM: You set the record at Jim's on South Street, is this your favourite spot to get a cheesesteak, or are there other places around Philly that you like?

HB: The place for cheesesteaks not only in Philly, but anywhere, is Jim's. The other ones do not even come close in my book. When friends of mine come in from out of town, they all want to go on a cheesesteak tour. At the end of the tour and many cheesesteaks, they all agree with me.

QCM: Let's say you're stood at that intersection at 9th & Passyunk Ave, where are you going to go, Pat's or Geno's?

HB: Between those two, Pat's.

[No one ever said that competitive eating was pretty!]

QCM: Are there any difficulties with eating cheesesteaks compared to other items like hot dogs and wings? I know that a lot of eaters use the solomon method on hot dogs to make eating the bread easier (dunking the dog and bun into a glass of water), but presumably you can't do that with a cheesesteak because of the cheese.

HB: I was not racing when I was eating. There was no clock as far as I was concerned. I just picked them up and ate them normally. I do not eat for speed outside of a contest. All of our contests have EMTs present as a safety measure just in case something happens. In all of my events, I have never seen the EMT do anything. However I will not take any chances.

In a cheesesteak eating contest I would have tried to dunk the roll to help lubricate it to make it easier to swallow. That changes it from enjoyment to what you do for work. When I at these cheesesteaks, I did it as a big dinner. I went to work. After work I walked to Jim's. Ate some cheesesteaks. Walked to my car. Drove home. It was kind of a routine day with a bigger dinner then normal.
[I guess that's why they call him 'Humble' Bob!]

QCM: Do you feel that you could have gone beyond 13 steaks if you had been competing against other eaters, does a competitive environment help you to push yourself, and why don't you think that there is an established cheesesteak eating contest in Philadelphia considering how obsessed with the city is with them?

[I don't think I'd look that happy after eating 95 hamburgers]

HB: Absolutely I could have eaten more then 13 sandwiches. First I had 90 minutes to do it and I stopped at about 60 minutes. My only issue I had was the actual temperature of the meat. Right off of the grill, they are very hot. I stopped only because I had set the record. I did not see the point of continuing eating.

In a contest for 90 minutes against another top ranked eater, it is hard to say what the number would be, but for sure it would be in the mid twenties.

I have no idea why there is no cheesesteak eating contest. It would seem to be a natural for a contest. As a matter of fact, aside from the Nathan's Qualifier which was in Philadelphia for years and the Wing Bowl, there are no other Philadelphia contests sanctioned by Major League Eating. So lets get a cheesesteak contest! Or in the very least a soft pretzel contest. It would be great to have one that is local. However I do enjoy traveling the country and trying other food. Krystal Hamburgers are awesome!

[Bob talking to the media at the Krystal Square Off last year]

QCM: Similarly, your record has stood for more than two years, have you thought about going back to Jim's to beat your own record now that you have even more experience as a competitive eater, and if someone else claimed your crown as King of the Cheesesteaks would you feel a bit of a duty reclaim the title considering you're a Pennsylvania native?

HB: At this point I do not see a reason to up my own record. I think it is cool to see how long it can stand. Let other people come in and give it a shot. Someday someone will come along and eat more cheesesteaks then I did for dinner that night. When that day comes, it will be very tempting to try to regain the record. As long as I feel that I could eat them and enjoy the last one as much as my first, then I will entertain the thought of having another large dinner at Jim's.

Many thanks to 'Humble' Bob for answering my questions, I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I did, and good luck to Bob in his upcoming competitions.