Food & Drink

That Time John Kerry Ordered a Cheesesteak “With Swiss”

And more great moments in cheesesteak history.


john kerry cheesesteak philadelphia

Presidential candidate John Kerry orders a cheesesteak “with Swiss” at Pat’s. | Photo: William Thomas Cain/Stringer/Getty Images

1914: Amoroso’s Baking Company, established in Camden in 1904, moves to Philly. Hey, it starts with the roll.

1930: Pat Olivieri, a South Philly hot-dog vendor, slaps some grilled beef and onions on a roll. A passing cabbie, drawn to the aroma, asks for the same. The steak sandwich is born.

1939: Jim’s Steaks opens in West Philly.

1950s: Pat’s King of Steaks employee “Cocky” Joe Lorenzo, in a fit of brilliance, adds provolone, creating the cheesesteak.

1953: Kraft Foods introduces Cheez Whiz to America.

1966: Joey Vento opens Geno’s Steaks across the street from Pat’s King of Steaks. A rivalry begins.

December 1996: Penn’s basketball team commits a pointless foul against Lehigh to gain possession so they can score 100 points and win fans free cheesesteaks, angering coach Fran Dunphy: “I don’t ever want to get in a situation where you’re forcing things to get culinary satisfaction.”

August 2003: Presidential candidate John Kerry orders a cheesesteak “with Swiss” at Pat’s. Inquirer food critic Craig LaBan declares the order evidence of “an alternative lifestyle.” Kerry’s campaign tanks.

December 2005: Joey Vento posts a sign in the window of Geno’s Steaks demanding that customers “speak English.”

joey vento genos steaks speak english

Photo: Matt Rourke/Associated Press

December 2007: Will Smith tells 60 Minutes that Overbrook Pizza makes the city’s best cheesesteak.

February 2011: Tony Luke, too fat at 365 pounds to get out of bed, begins a diet and loses 122 pounds in a year.

March 2013: A robber in North Philly steals a cell phone and two cheese-steaks. At gunpoint.

January 2014: GQ food writer Alan Richman declares Sonny’s the best cheesesteak in Philly, telling Philly all it needs to know about Alan Richman.

April 2014: During a rain delay, the Mets set the single-game record for cheesesteaks consumed by a visiting team, with 103; the prior record had been in the 80s.

October 2015: Computer programmer Brad Williams starts a blog that measures his newborn son monthly against a Philly cheesesteak.

November 2015: Director Ryan Coogler debuts his Rocky sequel Creed, which bucks tradition by setting its cheesesteak scene at Max’s.

maxs cheesesteak philadelphia

Photo: Visit Philadelphia

April 2016: Ed Rendell employs the term “the Philadelphia lean” for the bodily position required to keep cheese from dripping on one’s clothes while consuming a cheesesteak.

2016: The “Speak English” sign at Geno’s is quietly retired.

October 2017: The family of Richard Lussi, dead at 76 of heart disease, fulfills his final wish to be buried with two cheesesteaks from Pat’s.

January 2018: Bon Appétit’s Alex Delany publishes a story about consuming 16 Philly cheesesteaks in 12 hours. Philadelphians collectively think, “Big deal.” (He also misspells “Cheez Whiz” repeatedly.)

Published as a part of “The Cheesesteak, Reconsidered” in the October 2018 issue of Philadelphia magazine.