January 29, 2018

Choices are a part of life, and a part of culinary school for students in Boulder, Colorado. One of the endless yet important decisions restaurateurs or chefs may have to make comes down to a simple question:

Steak sandwich or Philly cheesesteak?

There are some who will vigorously argue the virtues of one sandwich over the other. Here, we break down the major differences so you can finally choose which combination of bread, steak and toppings is best for your establishment.

Elements of a Philly cheesesteak

A Philly cheesesteak isn’t just a steak sandwich with cheese. There’s a very specific formula that, some argue, must be followed to create this specialty from the City of Brotherly Love. According to Visit Philadelphia, the core of a classic Philly cheesesteak consists of:

  • A long, crusty Italian roll.
  • Sauteed ribeye beef, thinly sliced.
  • Cheez Whiz.

When ordering a Philly cheesesteak, customers have the option of adding fried onions to the sandwich. To specify this, people either order a Philly cheesesteak “with” or “without.”

While Cheez Whiz is the cheese of choice (in part because it lends to the sought-after “drip” factor), there are a few acceptable substitutions. These include American and provolone cheeses.

Customers typically specify which cheese they want on the sandwich. Philadelphians have their ordering technique down to a science. One magic three-word combo will tell the cashier or server exactly what to order from the kitchen: “One whiz with” includes Cheez Whiz and fried onions, for example, while “One provolone without” would be made with provolone cheese but no fried onions.

Other potential toppings include ketchup, sauteed mushrooms, and hot or sweet peppers.

Elements of a steak sandwich

While a Philly cheesesteak has very precise specifications, a steak sandwich is a catch-all category that includes every kind of sandwich that involves steak and is not a Philly cheesesteak, Chow Hound explained.

cA hearty pesto
This gives you endless possibilities for innovation. Consider these additions to your savory steak sandwiches:

Pesto is an incredibly versatile sauce that will add bright color and rich flavor to just about any dish. Make a batch of this pesto recipe from Men’s Health and swipe it onto your sandwich for a delicious and unique combination:

In a food processor, combine:

  • Arugula lettuce, spinach or another dark leafy green.
  • Basil.
  • Olive oil.
  • Parsley.
  • Parmesan.
  • Lemon juice and zest.
  • Salt and pepper.

Puree until you’ve reached your desired consistency.


Your most carnivorous customers will love this combination. Add bacon to your steak sandwich for added crunch, saltiness and flavor. Lincoln Barber suggested adding red onion jam and frisee to the sandwich.

To make the red onion jam, caramelize red onions in a saucepan, then add red wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, yellow mustard seed, fennel seed, honey, salt, pepper and olive oil. Bring everything to a boil, then let simmer until it reaches a jam-like consistency.

If you want to imcorporate a bacon flavor but don’t want to add strips to your sandwiches, Men’s Health suggests a swipe of bacon mayo. Combine pasteurized egg yolks, Dijon mustard, oil and bacon fat in a food processor and blend until creamy.


Your steak sandwiches can be accentuated with a whole host of new flavors. Delish suggests making a batch of chimichurri to add to your steak sandwich and pairing it with a fried egg,

To make the chimichurri, mix together cilantro, parsley, oregano, garlic, onion, Fresno pepper, olive oil, salt and pepper. Let sit for a half-hour, then mix in vinegar.

Build your sandwich with steak, fried onions, chimicurri, Camembert cheese and a fried egg.