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Philadelphia - The Infatuation: The Not-Your-Average Philly Cheesesteak Guide

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    Sometimes, you want a classic, factory settings-standard cheesesteak. And other times, as Jalen Hurts says, the sandwich needs to “get freaky.” Whether you’re looking for a cheesy hangover cure or a casual lunch with a chipotle chicken, crab meat, or General Tso’s remix, we’ve got the list for you. It’s full of all the non-cheesesteak cheesesteaks that go beyond beef, cheese, and onions on a roll. Here are 12 cheesesteaks that prove the rules are meant to be broken, especially when they taste this good.  

    Grays Ferry’s Korea Taqueria is where we go for taco, quesadilla, and burrito-induced happiness with a kimchi twist. So it should be no surprise that we also head here for an out-of-this-world cheesesteak. The Korean Bulgogi Cheesesteak coats super tender, slow-cooked Korean Bulgogi beef with a house made cheese sauce, and wraps it all up in a toasty sesame seed roll. It’s a sweet and savory blend so good you won’t regret skipping the Korean beef birria (but next time, you should try that, too). 

    This Manayunk restaurant hasn’t been open for long, but like the Eagles' alternate Kelly green jerseys, sometimes newness brings greatness. Run by the team behind Pizza Jawn—a pizza shop we can’t get enough of—they’ve added another dish to the roster worth obsessing over: the South Philly Chopped Cheese. It comes with chopped sausage, fried onions, cherry peppers, banana peppers, crisp iceberg lettuce, and cooper sharp oozing from the peppery mix. After one glorious, filling sandwich, you’ll want to hit snooze on any plans for the rest of your day—and every other sandwich you’ll have for the rest of your life. 

    The Jerk Chicken Cheesesteak at Walnut Hill’s Sheba’s Soul Plate is what happens when a Jamaican platter uses one of its three wishes from the genie to become a cheesesteak. It has smoky jerk marinated chicken, grilled peppers and onions, and melted provolone layered throughout. What we love most about it, though, outside of the charred bits, is it’s about as thick as a Kelce’s bicep. It’s one of those all-time great sandwiches you’ll savor as much as your last trip to the shore for the summer.

    Chiquita's Pizzeria & Mexican Grill is a small South Philly restaurant with a mighty menu of Mexican pizzas, tacos, and cheesesteaks. The cheesesteak options are limitless—including carnitas, birria, and jalapeno—but the Mexican Cheesesteak is our favorite. It has thick slabs of beef, fried onion, cilantro, chihuahua cheese, and creamy jalapeño salsa with a bit of a spicy sizzle. It’s essentially everything you love about a burrito in cheesesteak form. All of the sandwiches are $10-$14, and are the perfect cheap option for a pre- or post-game meal. 

    FoodChasers Kitchen is an Elkins Park restaurant that translates our love for seafood into creamy, decadent cheesesteaks. The Sea Chaser keeps it “simple” with grilled salmon, shrimp, crab, garlic cheese, your choice of cheese sauce (we suggest the cheddar), and a spread of peppery seafood mayo. The Hamptons has all of the above, plus bits of juicy steak, making it the surf and turf of our fantasies. They both bring a blend of quality seafood and a smoky, salty bite. Be prepared—they’re massive (and will require all of your stomach’s square footage), and you’ll have to fight through crowds to get one. 

    We know—it would take something extraordinary to convince you to cheat on your go-to cheesesteak order. But we’re here to tell you that they’re performing bread-filling miracles with the oxtail and salmon cheesesteaks at this North Philly shop. On one, you’ll find tender pieces of oxtail and gravy, fried onions and bell peppers, and a provolone and American cheese mix that’s just the right balance of salty and creamy. On the other, a soft, long roll is loaded with chopped grilled salmon, grilled spinach, onions, peppers, and a melty provolone sauce. They’re the kind of sandwiches you’ll clear your schedule for (which you’ll have to, since there’s always a line), and that’s because they’re bliss-inducing. We’d make them mayor if we could.

    You know when you get so giddy that you type in all caps? That’s how we feel when we bite into a Chipotle Chicken Cheesesteak at South Philly’s Avenue Steaks & Pizza. It has meaty chopped chicken, a tangy house-made chipotle aioli (our new favorite condiment), American cheese, lettuce, and tomato, all on a seeded roll—which adds some great nuttiness. The bread is almost Charmin-soft, and after a few bites, it will be the thing you excitedly text about in all caps instead of date night recaps and Philebrity sightings.  

    Although this Lamb Kheema Cheesesteak is packed, it’s always presented beautifully (unlike most of its classic cheesesteak brethren). You’ll get a juicy, masala-rubbed lamb and ribeye mix, American cheese, and cilantro lime aioli. It would taste amazing even if it was served to you on top of an old Braves jersey (yikes), but thankfully, it’s wrapped in a thick, crackly seeded roll. It’s like the sandwich sweet spot between a traditional curry dish and our old faithful cheesesteak, and the aromatic mashup is glorious. Order one before or after playing a few rounds of mini golf or while watching the game at the bar inside. 

    Things that will stand the test of time: pyramids, Barbie’s obsession with pink, and this city’s love of putting broccoli rabe on a sandwich. At Reading Terminal Market’s By George, they have an Italian Cheesesteak that mixes tender chopped steak with broccoli rabe, roasted peppers, and sharp provolone. The sandwich is basically a roast pork that grew up on a dairy farm instead of Peppa Pig’s house. The vegetables make it crunchier than the cheesesteaks we’re used to, and has a nice balance of salty and sweet. It works so well that it got us thinking about other Philly-centric things we can mash up, like a tomato pie made on a soft pretzel or a statue of Pink doing her acrobatics next to Rocky’s. 

    Since eating a General Tso’s Chicken Cheesesteak from this Northeast Philly shop, it’s all we can think about (and maybe the Phillies). While we love the Pork Roll Cheesesteak from their breakfast menu, it's the General Tso’s that we remember as fondly as our kindergarten teacher. The juicy grilled chicken is glazed with a syrupy, sweet General Tso’s Sauce, sesame seeds, scallions, and topped with a pungent wasabi bleu cheese. It’s sweet, salty, and oniony all at once, and you’ll have half of it on your face as you try to scarf it down. Precisely what your kindergarten teacher told you not to do. 

    Occasionally, we get sick of spending time at restaurants with trendy ingredients we’ve never heard of. During those times, we welcome the simplicity of knowing where to get a simple, delicious sandwich. One of those places is Poe’s Sandwich Joint in Kensington, and we have a love affair brewing with their Uncle Tony. It combines hand-trimmed ribeye, sautéed onions, spicy pepperoncini relish, and an orange American whiz sauce sweet enough to perfectly balance the salty ribeye. Although some elements remind us of a traditional cheesesteak, the relish and cheese sauce make it a tangy, citrusy feast. From the ingredients alone, we knew this would be a great sandwich. And after one bite, the hefty combo proved us right.  

    Going to Little Sicily Pizza 2 and not getting a Spicy Chicken Cheesesteak would be like going to Wonka’s factory and leaving without candy or a song from an oompa loompa —boring and anti-climactic. Although they have eight cheesesteaks on the menu, there’s a clear reason why this one is our favorite: the fragrant, masala-like marinade of turmeric, hot peppers, ginger, and cumin cloves on the chopped chicken. There’s a great crunch from the onion and cilantro, and the gooey cheese ensures it all stays perfectly encased in the long, soft roll. The only difficult decision you’ll have to make here is if you want to pair your cheesesteak with the Masala Fries (and if one order is enough).

    Cheesesteaks have been there for you through late-night cravings and breakups, but like swapping out your phone case, sometimes you just need a little variety. When that feeling hits, head to Spring Garden’s Del Rossi's Cheesesteak & Pizza Co. They have over a dozen cheesesteaks that go above and beyond your standard go-to. We love the Long Hot Chicken Cheesesteak. The first thing you’ll notice is the enormous chunks of long hots that blend beautifully with nicely cut, tender meat. The second is the spicy kick, and that it comes with a generous amount of your choice of cheese. Could it dethrone your favorite cheesesteak order? Maybe not. But it’s a deliciously close call.

    99.9% of sandwiches can be made better by putting cilantro and turmeric on them. Okay, that’s a made up stat, but it’s how we feel after eating the sandwiches at Bombay Kitchen Food Truck in the Northeast. Order the Chicken Cheesesteak, and you’ll get one stuffed with chicken marinated with masala, turmeric, and yogurt that’s so good you’d happily eat it in a parking lot next to a dilapidated gas station (and you’ll have to, since that’s where the truck is). The bread has that beautiful soft-to-crispy ratio down, and since you’re not in a restaurant, you can go full mouth vacuum while eating it in your car and those outside will be none the wiser.  


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