How to Order a Philly Cheesesteak

Instructions for Ordering Cheesesteaks in Philadelphia

Learning how to order a Philly cheesesteak correctly and efficiently can make your experience at some Philly establishments more pleasant for everyone involved. 

Expect every local you meet to have strong opinions about what exactly makes a great Philly cheesesteak, but there are a few things that all can agree on: the ingredients. A Philly cheesesteak is comprised of thinly chopped pieces of beefsteak served in a long hoagie roll. Then there are the customizable toppings of cheese and onions—the variety and preparation of these additions garner heated debate about which combinations are the best. 

Many tourists that come to the City of Brotherly Love stop by the well-known duo of Pat’s King of Steaks or Geno’s which are located in directly across the street from each other in South Philly.  As every neighborhood has a local shop or two serving up cheesesteaks to happy residents, ask around for recommendations while in town. 

While not everyone is hard-core about how a cheesesteak gets ordered, if you’re at a food truck, in deep South Philly, or anywhere there is a long line, it’s best to know what you’re doing. Follow these simple instructions for a smooth cheesesteak experience.

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Don't say Philly.

Food grill
B. Krist for GPTMC

Don't order a "Philly" cheesesteak. You're in Philly, so that part goes without saying, and it makes you sound like a tourist.

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Don't ask for Swiss cheese.

You have three cheese choices: Cheez Whiz, American, and Provolone cheese. That’s it. 

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Wit or Witout

Some people are fans of onions on their cheesesteak, while some hate them with a burning passion. That's the choice you have to make when ordering: wit or witout. 

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Less is More

The rule of thumb is to minimize the words you need to convey what you want. So don't bother saying the word "cheesesteak" if that is really the only thing the establishment serves other than fries. It is implied, so you can just focus on the specifics:

Example: "Whiz wit" means Cheez Whiz with fried onions, and " Prov witout" means (yes, you guessed it), provolone cheese without fried onions.

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Additional Toppings

Once you have mastered (and eaten) the basic cheesesteak, it might be time to consider customization choices. Some shops will offer hot or sweet peppers, grilled mushrooms, or cherry peppers. If a particular combo strikes your fancy, tack it on to the end of your regular order. 

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Focus

No texting on your cell phone, chatting with your friends while waiting in line, or posing for that perfect selfie. When it’s your turn, be ready.

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Don't Ask Questions

If you really need to know more than what we’ve covered, ask someone else in line, but don’t bother the busy guys behind the counter. Just wing it. Even if you mess up, you’ll end up with something delicious.

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Be Ready to Pay

You've made it through the line and ordered the right way. Congrats! Don't then bungle it by fumbling with your wallet to hand over the money. Slowing down the line at any point is considered an ordering foul in Philly

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