The cheesesteak is the hackneyed stereotype that makes us groan. The only thing that could make our eyes roll more would be running up the Art Museum steps, dressed up as Ben Franklin, while flying a kite and throwing a snowball at Santa Claus. The question of where to get a cheesesteak makes us groan. We cringe with every stereotypical b-roll shot of a grill and fried onions during a national Eagles broadcast. We’re disciples of Vetri, Vernick and Sbraga, not Jim, Pat or Tony. When Anthony Bourdain finally came to Philadelphia to do a show, he deliberately omitted the city’s most known sandwich. And we were thrilled.
The cheesesteak has become our albatross. The sandwiches at 9th and Passyunk, our Cheesesteak Vegas are nothing more than bait for tourists. A trap to be avoided, even at 3 a.m. Especially at 3 a.m. And even if you’ve nodded approvingly of this takedown of the cheesesteak, there’s something else us Philadelphians know is true. Nowhere makes a cheesesteak better than Philadelphia. We will never order a steak and cheese. Mayo and Swiss cheese have no place on a traditional cheesesteak and any steak that promises to be an “authentic Philly,” most assuredly will not be. We are insulted when out-of-towners come to our fair city and rank their favorite steak sandwiches. Who are they to ignore our favorite neighborhood spot? “Hacks” we scream. “Who is this clown” echoes across Internet comment sections.
And that’s the rub. The cheesesteak and Philadelphia are indelibly connected. The world will not let us forget the cheesesteak and we make it best. So we must bring the cheesesteak up with us. It must become a symbol of how far we’ve come.
This year on Foobooz, we will exalt the cheesesteak. Not by settling for $9 cheese/bread sandwiches with a couple of low quality slices of beef but by promoting those who do it right. Whether that means heaps of quality grass-fed beef at a fair price or even a new take on a cheesesteak that represents Philadelphia today. It’s ok if the cheese comes from a farm and not a 72-ounce can. It is all fair game and will be covered on Foobooz this year, 2014 – The Year of the Cheesesteak.
Year of the Cheesesteak [Foobooz]