Whiz on this: Philadelphians choose American for their cheesesteaks

Great article in the Philadelphia Inquirer that scientifically proves that American is the preferred cheese for a cheesesteak. In their poll, cheese whiz came in third behind American and provolone.

I hope this puts this to a rest. No self-respecting Philadelphian that lives above Market Street or in the suburbs eats a steak with cheese whiz.

“I’m a cheese eater, sweetheart, and I love cheese, but Whiz is not cheese,” says owner Vonda Bucci, 75. “It’s a lot of grease and coloring.”

  • http://www.cynicsgirl.blogspot.com/ Cyn

    I guess I’ve got no respect for myself ;-)

    Don’t know if I’m a Philadelphian anyway — do you count 4 years living on the Temple campus (Yay, North Philadelphia!) and 3 years as a Manayunk homeowner? I’m just a girl from the sticks that doesn’t know any better.

    Anyway, I agree with Vonda – Whiz isn’t cheese – nobody claimed it was *actually cheese* did they? But it is delectable in its own slimey artery-clogging way.

  • Spencer

    Cheeze whiz is a wholly tourist phenomenon – so if that’s what you grew up on – then I’d just say “that girl wasn’t raised right”.

    Honestly I’ve never had whiz on mine (places I grew up on didn’t have it), but I’ve never had peanut butter on a steak either.

  • Sean

    What a coincidence that you brought this topic up again, Spencer, as I just saw a program on the Travel Channel last week called Steak Paradise, wherein they visit what they think are the great steak places in the nation.

    As a sidebar, they devoted a segment to the Philly Cheesesteak, and vistied both Pat’s and Geno’s in Philadelphia.

    Now, here’s where it gets interesting…they talked to Pat’s first, since they are the oldest, and the guy said that the first cheesesteak sandwiches made there were made with cheese whiz, and that is considered the traditional “cheese” for a Philly cheesesteak…later came american and provalone as options.

    Then, they go to Geno’s, and lo and behold, they also said that cheese whiz was how they make their sandwiches, unless customers specify otherwise.

    All I can say is that if cheese whiz is what constitutes an “authentic” Philly Cheesesteak, then count me out…NO WAY IN HELL am I putting cheez whiz on mine…YUCK! It’s either white american or provalone for me.

    As for the difference between Geno’s and Pat’s, the show seemed to come to the conclusion that it came down to the meat: one place chops their steak in pieces, the other leaves it in big slices.

    Pat’s seems to be the favourite with “traditionalists” who think Pat’s has more substance than the flashier and newer Geno’s.

    Not that I care anymore, not after finding out about this whole cheez whiz debacle…I’ll stick to my favourite Philly Cheesesteak haunts here in L.A. where I don’t have to worry about cheez whiz coming anywhere near my sandwich.

  • http://www.cynicsgirl.blogspot.com/ Cyn

    My mom used to make us peanut butter and cream cheese sandwiches (tasty!) and peanut butter and lettuce sandwiches (somewhat less tasty!) for our school lunches. So yeah, maybe my childhood was a little skewed.

    We were cheesesteak-deprived when I was a kid anyway. Had to walk miles barefoot to get to a McD’s even.

    Truth is I always get American cheese now anyway — wouldn’t trust South Jersey Whiz to be the real deal. But I still think a Pat’s steak with Cheese Whiz is damn good and nothing will convince me otherwise.

  • radiocynic

    Can’t believe I’m being drawn back into this discussion! Despite my earlier assertions that any good cheese provides an interesting twist (seriously, y’all, don’t knock Kerry’s Swiss until you’ve tried it), I must also go on record as agreeing with Spencer (and with several cited in this article) that American or Provolone are the only “authentics”. (Personally prefer the Provolone.)

    Apologies to my lovely wife’s former life of South Philly steak-eating, but Whiz is really yucky — only good if nothing else is available, since of course, even fake cheese is still better than no cheese.

    BTW, I wouldn’t dis all South Jersey steaks; some are great. I was born in Philly and lived there til age 9, but didn’t start exploring serious steaks (in Philly, the PA burbs, or NJ) until after moving to NJ.

    Glad we’re exploring the REALLY important topics.

  • Spencer

    Cheesesteaks is as serious as I can get on vacation.

    Trust me – I fully expect that the best cheesesteaks you can get are in the neighborhoods and suburbs including South Jersey and Delaware.

  • Marc

    2:00 in the morning freezing my ass off in South Philly, or 12:00 noon on a Summer Sunday, I’m gettin’ Whiz wit. I’m just sayin’, it’s the proper way.

  • http://merujo.blogspot.com Merujo

    I’ve never had a cheesesteak in Philly. I will have to rectify this on my next trip.

    We have a cheesesteak place here in Bethesda – they make one with steak, egg, mushroom and cheese. Damn, it’s good!

  • Sean

    Now that I’ve discovered that the original cheeseteaks were really made with Cheez Whiz(yuck), I am ammending my list of good things to come out of Philadelphia. It was a list of two, now it is a list of one, haha!

    Good things to come out of Philadelphia:
    1. Hall & Oates

  • Spencer

    I don’t know where you got whiz being the original.

    “But pundits, pleez note: Whiz wasn’t first historically, and it’s no runaway favorite regionwide.”

    Also – I would put the Roots on that list.

  • Sean

    I told you where I heard it in my first comment…a food documentary on the Travel Channel where both the head honchos of BOTH Geno’s and Pat’s in Philly said that the first Philly Cheesesteaks made at their respective establishments were made with cheez whiz.

  • Spencer

    Sorry, I was confused because both the owners of Pat’s and Geno’s say differently in the article I linked to (quote below) – the cheese steak apparently pre-dates the invention of cheese whiz. From the article I linked to:

    Even Geno’s owner Joey Vento, 68, downplays Whiz. “To be honest with you, I’ve never eaten Cheez Whiz, and I’m the owner,” he said. “… We always recommend the provolone. … That’s the real cheese.”

    The yellow runny goo, though, is the top choice of his customers, the locals as well as tourists, he said.

    Ditto at Pat’s King of Steaks, where Whiz oozed its way into history, said owner Frank Olivieri Jr., 44.

    Originally, the Philly steak sandwich, invented by his Uncle Pat in the early 1930s, had no cheese, he said.

    By and by, cheese was introduced. “Customers got tired of eating with or without onions, just like my Uncle Pat got tired of eating hot dogs,” Frank Jr. said.

    American or sharp provolone? was the original debate, he said.

    In the mid 1950s – not long after Cheez Whiz hit the market – his father, Frank Sr., began keeping some by the grill, and telling customers to try it.