What makes for the perfect Philly cheesesteak?
Cognoscenti maintain it starts with meat shaved from the right cut, which splits between the rib-eye or the top round camps. Sliced to order is ideal but rare. Thin-shaved or thick, beef should be perfectly seared or griddled, with a little bit of pink in the center as well as caramelized edges with a hint of crispness.
Other factors that lead to perfection are just as essential. The bread must be crusty. A laundry list of choices are not necessary when it comes to cheese, so long as there’s Cheez Whiz and provolone. Fried or grilled onions are a must, to accommodate those who order a cheesesteak “wid” as in “with onions.”
Then there’s the nuance known as “good drip,” a factor Philadelphia restaurant critic Craig LaBan tells us refers to meat drippings, oil and cheese that trickle down a wrist or onto a plate. Some Philadelphians seek out good drip. As the case may be when it comes to political rivalries, some people don’t.
But the most interesting part of the lore of cheesesteaks is making the pilgrimage. In Philly, it means finding the go-to shop among many and becoming a devotee. It’s not so easy on Long Island — seekers first have to ferret out who’s making them.
We’re here to help.
Fat Ernie’s Cheesesteak Co.(Credit: Bruce Gilbert)
Fat Ernie’s Cheesesteak Co. (249-24 Jericho Tpke., Floral Park): Ernie Langstrand, the founder of Long Island’s only cheesesteak outlet attached to a car wash, was a cheesesteak enthusiast who tired of driving to Philadelphia for his fix. He opened Fat Ernie’s in July 2015 but passed away in April. His friend Michael Baratto carries on the business with steaks both plain and fancy. The basic cheesesteak, $8.95, comes with one of 10 toppings and one of eight cheeses. Premium toppings, $1.50, include bacon, fried egg and crispy onions. Signature sandwiches include the Burn-N-Ern (with jalapeños, ghost-pepper cheese, hot cherry peppers and crispy onions, $9.95) and the Gold Coast cheesesteak ($18.95) made with filet mignon and as many toppings as you desire. More info: 516-216-5223, faterniescheesesteaks.com
Sid’s All-American(Credit: Marisol Diaz)
Sid’s All-American (80 Glen Cove Ave., Glen Cove): With its glass front and back-sloping roof, Sid’s All-American retains the bones of the Carvel it originally was. There are a few stools inside, but most customers dine at the bright-red picnic tables outside. Bucking tradition, Sid’s uses sirloin (instead of the more traditional rib-eye or eye-of-round), which makes for a more tender sandwich. The kitchen also makes its own cheese sauce (as opposed to using Cheez Whiz), although most customers opt for mozzarella, pepper jack, Swiss or white American cheese. The cheesesteak, $9.25, comes with cheese. Onions or peppers are 75 cents extra, bacon is $1.75. More info: 516-200-9071, sidsallamerican.com
Beyond Philly(Credit: Daniel Brennan)
Beyond Philly (168 Montauk Hwy., Blue Point): A relatively luxurious outlet for cheesesteaks, Beyond Philly has indoor seating for 16 and a kitschy nostalgic décor featuring such posters as the Philadelphia skyline and many renderings of the Liberty Bell. The cheesesteaks range from classic (with Cheez Whiz and onions) to the Steel City (pepper jack, onions, coleslaw and fries), the Italian Steak (with tomato sauce, mozzarella, onions and peppers) and Arn’s Favorite, pictured, made with pepper jack, onions, peppers, horseradish mayo and Lea & Perrins, and named for owner Arnold Gifford, Worcestershire sauce enthusiast. Steak sandwiches are $9.99. More info: 631-868-3896, beyondphillysteaks.com
Industry Standard Bar(Credit: Randee Daddona)
Industry Standard Bar (45 Front St., Greenport): This new Greenport restaurant offers destination-worthy cheesesteaks, a sandwich that points to chef Greg Ling’s Philadelphia roots. There are no variations beyond the cheese. The house-made roll is the best of the bunch, with a soft interior and crust so crisp it shards. Blanket the sandwich with provolone, Swiss or homemade “Beer Wiz,” though the latter is the obvious choice (pictured, $18). More info: 631-333-2500, industrystandardbar.com
Chiddy’s(Credit: Daniel Brennan)
Chiddy’s (Food truck, follow @chiddyssteaks on Instagram for location): Owner Mike Chidester parks the Chiddy’s cheesesteak food truck at the Best Buy in Bay Shore for an added shopping incentive. Chidester, a self-described “cheesesteak fanatic,” bases his steaks around a roll baked at Philadelphia’s Amoroso’s bakery. Then he stacks it with thin-shaved rib-eye, also sourced in Philly. Customers’ decisions start with whether to go for a regular or small steak ($9 or $6, plus $2.50 for the fries and drinks combo), dressed with peppers, or mushrooms, or egg with cheese with fried potatoes. Next, choose a variation of cheese from mozzarella to Cheez Whiz. Finally, decide whether to top it with onions. More info: 631-813-4022, chiddys.com
Ribeye Bros. Cheesesteaks(Credit: Yvonne Albinowski)
Ribeye Bros. Cheesesteaks (4455 Broadway, Island Park):You’ll see the cow on the roof from a few blocks away, luring you to Ribeye Bros. Cheesesteaks, a modest, free-standing building with a few seats inside and, in good weather, a picnic table outside. The signature Ribeye Brother sandwich ($9.95) features steak, sautéed onions, grilled green peppers and provolone. Variations include Brother From Another Mother (pictured, with steak, broccoli rabe, roasted red peppers and provolone, $11.95), Reggae Brother (steak, sautéed onions, Jamaican jerk sauce and pepper jack cheese, $9,95) and The Fratello (steak with marinara and mozzarella on garlic bread, $10.50). More info: 516-889-9449, ribeyebros.com
Supreme Philly(Credit: Daniel Brennan)
Supreme Philly (20 Railroad Ave., Babylon): Supreme Philly is bedecked with paraphernalia from the Phillies, 76ers and Flyers. This is Jerry Pariaros’ shop, a place he took over just a few months ago. Pariaros fell in love with cheesesteaks visiting family in Philadelphia. A perfect one, he says, depends on quality rib-eye, “not roast beef or Steak-umms.” Sandwiches at this counter-service shop start at $6.50 for a half and $10 for a full sandwich. While traditionalists might go for “Whiz wid,” he likes his with mozzarella. Other options for toppings include an array of grilled peppers, mushrooms, bacon and cheeses. “I’m a New Yorker,” he said. “We like choices.” More info: 631-669-0099