I was sitting at Truckee’s Blue Coyote Bar & Grill having a beer with a bunch of friends; some decided to order food. We hadn’t been talking food and I wasn’t searching for a topic, but as soon as one of them ordered a Philly Cheese Steak, conversation came to a screaming halt. It was fully entertaining to watch and listen.
Some of the people at the bar were from the East Coast, some from the Midwest and, of course, some from the West Coast. The best part was that once our group started talking cheese steak, it seemed like everybody at the bar got involved in the conversation. Philly Cheese Steak is, perhaps, the most famous sandwich named after a city.
There are many varieties to every famous dish depending on where it’s made and who is making it.
Tuna is another famous sandwich and is found in sub shops all over the country. The thing is that it isn’t the San Francisco Tuna Sandwich or the Chicago Tuna Sandwich. I’m sure there is another famous sandwich named for the city that started it or at least made it famous like Buffalo Wings are named for Buffalo, N.Y., where they originated.
The thing is, even if you go to Philadelphia and order subs from six different shops, you will probably get at least five different sandwiches. I would have said six different sandwiches, but the one time I was in Philly, there were two shops right next to each other, which served the same subs — and I think were owned by the same people. When you go to New England and order New England clam chowder, you’re going to get different chowder at different restaurants. There are many varieties to every famous dish depending on where it’s made and who is making it.
Supposedly, the place I got the sub was the originating shop and I have to honestly say, I have had many Philly Cheese Steaks since, as well as before, and few were made that particular way. What made it stand out the most for me was the cheese. They didn’t place slices of cheese on the sandwich and melt it. Instead, they ladled melted Velveeta on the subs from a large melting pot.
The basic Philly Cheese Steak Sub is usually made with some cut of beef, onions, bell peppers and cheese served on a sub roll. I think the place in Philly where I got my sub added mayonnaise on the roll. Some will add mushrooms or red bell peppers; some grill the open roll with mayo — which I like — or butter before assembling the sandwich. Others assemble the sub and then bake it.
The absolute best cheese steak I’ve ever had was in college. I used to ride my bike about 35 miles each way to see this girl and her mom would ask me to stay for dinner. One night she made cheese steaks with chunks of filet mignon. She sautéed the onions and peppers separately and added them to the meat. Then she put all this into fresh baked rolls and topped them with gruyere cheese. She tossed the subs into the oven just long enough to melt the cheese. I think I’ll be remembering those sandwiches even after I’m too old to remember my name.
In any case, you remember Rule No. 1: Since you are eating it, make it with the things you like the best.
Cheese Steak Sub
4 soft sub rolls
16-24 oz. beef
1 bell pepper, medium sliced or medium-to-large dice
½ yellow onion, cut the same as the pepper
8 slices gruyere
Butter or mayonnaise, if desired
You can use small chunks of beef if it is tender or shave the meat thin for cuts such as top round. It is easier to get the meat thin if it is fairly frozen when you cut it.
Get a large pan hot and sauté the meat. Add the peppers and onions and cook until they are a little soft. Slice open the bun and lightly toast it on the inside. You can rub a little butter or mayo on first if desired. Add the meat and veggies, top with the cheese and place in an oven just to melt the cheese.