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The Perfect Philly Cheesesteak

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Mayor Street's new fitness guru will tell you they're bad for you, but they're just so darn good that Philadelphian's tend to overlook that minor point. They are, of course, cheesesteaks. Far more than TastyKakes and soft pretzels, this is the food that Philly is known for.

You see, other cities have cupcakes and "soft pretzels." True, they're nothing like ours, but they have them. But people in other parts of the U.S. often don't even know what a cheesesteak is. No, they're not Steak-Ums. Steak-Ums are a substitute - like Egg Beaters are to chicken eggs.

Real cheesesteaks are cooked fresh, covered with American cheese, provolone or Cheese-Whiz and rest in a roll dripping with grease. Sound disgusting? You're obviously not from this town.

Cheesesteaks were invented in South Philadelphia in the 1930's at Pat's Steaks, located in the heart of South Philadelphia, hence the addition of "Philly" to the name. They were originally topped with a pizza sauce, (now called a pizza steak).

Where to find the best cheesesteak is a question that will forever be debated throughout the area. Only in Philadelphia could two places stay open all night selling cheesesteaks -- right across the street from each other -- and both do a thriving business.

The debate over whether Pat's or Geno's steaks are the best goes on every night. Both are located on Passyunk Avenue near Ninth Street in the heart of South Philly. Other neighborhoods have also staked their claims to have the best cheesesteak.

Jim's Steaks at 4th and South Street has been in business for over 60 years, and is a favorite of many locals.  Dallessandro's at Henry Avenue and Wendover Street in Roxborough, PA has received much acclaim in recent years for their fresh rolls and large sandwiches.

John Russ, who maintains a website called The Best Philly Cheesesteaks says that his choice is Leo's at 1403 Chester Pike in suburban Folcroft, Delaware County.

There are a number of things you need to consider in your search for the perfect cheesesteak. First, there's the cheesesteak itself. As already noted, a proper Philly cheesesteak is made with real beef -- fresh, not frozen. It is cooked on a grill using grease.

As it is cooked, it should be chopped to bits. You then choose which cheese you prefer and whether you want onions, peppers or other toppings. When the sandwich is served the juices should drip from your cheesesteak. In order to avoid ruining their clothes, Philadelphians have learned, what is referred to as, the "Philadelphia Lean", bending forward to eat the cheesesteak, instead of bringing it to your mouth.

The perfect cheesesteak shop has ample seating for the clientele. Outdoor seating is best in South Philly. You will find older folks eating right next to teenagers and tourists. The most popular shops are open late into the night. A midnight cheesesteak is a Philly tradition. Many of the more famous shops have signed celebrity photos decorating their establishments.

Or you can always make your own. Check out our "How to make a Philly cheesesteak" to find out how.

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