5 Reasons West Coast Cheesesteaks Suck

Cheesesteaks are a beloved American sandwich that originated in Philadelphia. Made with thinly sliced beefsteak and melted cheese, this sandwich has become an icon in the world of fast food.

While Philadelphia is renowned for its cheesesteaks, the West Coast has tried to replicate this East Coast delicacy.

However, purists and food enthusiasts argue that West Coast cheesesteaks simply don’t measure up. As a Philadelphia native who has lived in the Bay Area for 10+ years, I have to agree!

Here’s why West Coast cheesesteaks suck (with one notable exception–the only authentic Philly cheesesteak I’ve found on the West Coast, which I’ll share below.)

1. Lack of Authentic Ingredients


The first reason West Coast cheesesteaks can’t compete with the originals is due to the lack of authentic ingredients. Philadelphia cheesesteaks are traditionally made with Amoroso rolls, which are known for their slightly crusty exterior and soft, chewy interior.

This kind of bread is hard to find on the West Coast, and as a result, the sandwiches often miss that authentic texture.

In Philly, the best cheesesteak places are right by the Italian markets in South Philadelphia. It’s easy to source fantastic Italian rolls. Here on the West Coast, everything is sourdough.


Additionally, Cheese Whiz, Provolone, and American cheese are the traditional choices for a Philly cheesesteak. The West Coast versions often experiment with different kinds of cheese, which can lead to a taste that deviates from the original.

Swiss cheese in a cheesesteak is an abomination.

2. Inconsistent Cooking Techniques

West Coast cheesesteak joints often lack the consistent cooking techniques that have been passed down through generations in Philadelphia.

The thinly sliced beefsteak in a traditional Philly cheesesteak is cooked on a flat-top griddle to perfection. On the West Coast, variations in cooking techniques can lead to overcooked or undercooked meat, impacting the flavor and texture of the sandwich.

Failing to use a flat top can also result in steak that’s too thick or too fancy.

3. Unnecessary Additions

Some West Coast versions of the cheesesteak have a tendency to go overboard with additional toppings and ingredients. While a traditional Philly cheesesteak is simple with steak, cheese, and optionally onions, the West Coast takes liberty with additions like peppers, mushrooms, and even avocado.

These additions, while creative, often overshadow the basic flavors that make a cheesesteak so delicious.

4. Lack of History and Culture

A large part of what makes a Philly cheesesteak so special is the history and culture that surrounds it. Established in the early 20th century, this sandwich has been a part of Philadelphia’s identity for almost a century.

Ordering a cheesesteak in Philly is a complex ritual with special practices and even unique language. For example, if you don’t know your order when you reach the front of the line, you’ll be summarily sent back to the rear.

Likewise, ordering in Philly is a simple matter of saying “Whiz wit”, “American witout”, “Provolone wit”, etc. The “wit” or “witout” are how you ask for fried onions or no fried onions on your cheesesteak, and the first part explains what kind of cheese you want.

Every Philadelphian knows this code. It’s a ritual that creates a sense of shared culture and belonging.

The West Coast, on the other hand, lacks this rich history and cultural attachment to the sandwich, which can make their versions feel less authentic and soulful.

5. Sacrificing Quality for Convenience

Lastly, in the quest to serve cheesesteaks quickly and efficiently, some West Coast establishments may sacrifice quality.

The use of frozen or lower-quality meat or even (SHAME!) hamburger meat can result in a sandwich that lacks the fresh and hearty taste of a traditional Philly cheesesteak.

The One Exception

In my extensive travels, I’ve found only one exception to the general rule that West Coast cheesesteaks suck.

In the tiny town of Dunsmuir, California, I found the only truly authentic Philly cheesesteak I’ve had out west. Turns out the town’s restaurant was started by a Philadelphian. Go figure!


While the West Coast has its own culinary treasures, it seems that when it comes to cheesesteaks, the East Coast reigns supreme.

The lack of authentic ingredients, inconsistent cooking techniques, unnecessary additions, absence of history, and sacrificing quality for convenience make the West Coast’s attempt at this beloved sandwich fall short of the real deal.

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

Leave a Reply

Back to top button