The First-Ever Philly Cheesesteak Festival is Philly

The battle that has divided Philadelphia for decades is finally getting the tribute it deserves later this month, with the introduction of the first-ever Philadelphia Cheesesteak Festival!

Who’s better: Pat’s or Geno’s? How do you order: “wit” or “wit out?” What about the cheese: Provolone, American, or whiz? What makes a better steak: top round or rib eye? Is there really water on Mars?

All of these questions and more have been laid out on the table and left for the people to decide.

The Festival event took place on the grounds of the beautiful Lincoln Financial Field in South Philly. Attendees came out and enjoyed a day in Cheesesteak Heaven, where they have been able to sample the culinary masterpieces of all the industry’s best purveyors of cheese-y, steak-y goodness, from Philly and beyond.

Vendors included Pat’s King of Steaks, Geno’s Steaks, Tony Lukes, Joe’s Steaks & Soda Shop, Nick’s, Donkey’s Place, Shanks, Wit or Witout?, Steve’s Prince of Steaks, Jersey Mike’s Subs, Fat Jack’s BBQ, and over 30 others.

As part of the celebration of Philly’s signature sandwich, attendees enjoyed a cheesesteak-eating contest, a cheesesteak cook-off, carnival games, zip line and mechanical bull rides, and a cornhole tournament, as well as live music from Philly favorites Go-Go Gadget, Stellar Mojo, and Blackthorn!

The 450-Foot Behemoth

Can you guess where the world’s largest cheese teak is from? That’s right! Tucson, Arizona!

No, we’re not kidding. Frankie Santos, from Frankie’s South Philly Cheesesteaks and Hoagies in Tucson, took the torch from Philly on April 2, 2011, when he pieced together a massive 426-foot steak hoagie at the University of Arizona mall.

According to a PhillyMag.com article, the event was filmed by the Food Network’s Outrageous Foods.

But as the famous Bob Dylan once said, times are a-changing.

So, just how big are we talkin’? 427 feet? Maybe 430? Nope! The Philadelphia Cheesesteak Festival is coming out swinging with a 450-foot attempt, and we hope you’ll be there with us to take a bite out of cheesesteak history!

The History of the Cheesesteak

The world has thousands of sandwiches: The Ham and Swiss, The Tuna Melt, The Roast Beef and Horseradish, and even The Mighty Reuben. And sure, they’re all delicious.

But at the head of the table, atop a glorious mountain of worthy and not-so-worthy adversaries, there sits only one king: The Philadelphia Cheesesteak.

The origin of the world’s best sandwich is shrouded in rumor and secrecy, and is a point of contention among many of Philly’s most knowledgeable foodie historians. But from what we know, it all began in the 1930’s, with two brothers–Pat and Harry Olivieri. The two hot dog vendors grew tired of selling bland, plain hot dogs, and wanted to offer the world something new.

The result was their famous steak sandwich. The original incarnation of the Philly steak sandwich was comprised simply of bread, “frizzled” beef, and a slew of delicious Italian seasonings. The brothers knew they were on to something, and soon (with the help of supportive local cabbies, area workers and laborers, and all the other blue collar rough-and-toughs for which Philly is known) ditched their hot dog stand and went head-on into the steak sandwich business. And thus, Pat’s King of Steaks became the first steak sandwich shop in all of Philadelphia. Things were glorious.

But something was missing…

Enter: Joe “Cocky Joe” Lorenzo. In 1949, Cocky Joe, then a manager at Pat’s, decided to toss a piece of provolone onto one of the sandwiches, and he unknowingly changed the world forever. From then on, the Philly Cheesesteak was king.

In 1966 a man name Joey Vento came along and disrupted Pat’s tenure as Philly’s King of Cheesesteaks by opening his own shop, Geno’s, right across the street. This neighborhood rivalry from both steak aficionados is something that would stand the test of time, and is still, to this day, heavily debated among tourists and New Jerseyans (because most Philadelphians don’t care–just kidding!).

Philadelphians take their cheesesteaks seriously, and over the years, dozens, maybe even hundreds, of steak shops have come and gone. Throughout it all, the Philadelphia cheesesteak became, and remains, one of the most iconic pieces of Philadelphia culture — Philadelphia is the city on a roll. Get it?!

We love our cheesesteaks, and we know you will, too!

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