What’s in a roll? If you hail from good ole’ Philadelphia—or anywhere nearby, honestly— you already know that the king of rolls is the fresh and ever-so-chewy Amoroso. Something you don’t have to be from Philadelphia to know is where cheesesteaks were originated. Long story short, Pat Olivieri—of the Pat’s and Geno’s “cheesesteak rivalry”—owned a simple South Philly hot dog cart in the 1930s. When he grew tired of “dogs” for lunch, Pat grilled up some thin-sliced beef, threw it on an Italian roll, and topped it with grilled onions. With a little push from a loyal, lunch-eating and cab-driving patron, the Philly cheesesteak was born and the rest, you could say, is history.
The only thing harder than finding that chewy roll, though, is finding that perfectly nostalgic Philly style cheesesteak—or at least that was my initial impression of Denver. But after some research and the educated input from many Philly transplants, a list of five must-tries has been made for you to enjoy. Thankfully, the one important thing they all seem to understand is the use of Amoroso rolls.
Best Authentic Shop & Steak: Taste of Philly
Despite being located in a strip mall off Colorado Boulevard, as opposed to a small shop on Passyunk Avenue, this tiny Philly-inspired joint is exactly that: tiny, inspired and feels most like home. Immediately after entering the shop, you feel as if you’re stepping into a little hidden gem in South Philly—from the small space to the checkered tiles and tiny tables. Order The Works Philly, an Amoroso roll piled high with perfectly cooked beef, sautéed bell peppers, caramelized onions and ooey-gooey American cheese binding it all together. Drizzle some ketchup on top, take a bite and there may be a moment where you forget you reside in the Mile High.
Best Bar Steak: Pat’s Philly Cheesesteaks on Iliff & Quebec and Arapahoe & I-25
They’re already known for being a go-to watering hole for most Pennsylvania sports team fans (Eagles, Phillies, Penn State, etc,), but it’s also been said that their cheesesteaks and homemade fries are reason enough to stumble down a flight of stairs to watch the game. Pat’s Phatty is just that: a fat Amoroso roll stuffed with thinly sliced ribeye, grilled sweet peppers, sauteed onions and the choice of Cheez Whiz or American. Substituting your chips for fries is strongly recommended—if you’re going to watch the game at a bar, you might as well do it the right way.
Best Recommended Steak: Denver Ted’s Cheesesteaks
First instinct when researching the fan favorites of any food is to reach out to the locals. I reached out to the group of Philly transplants I’ve met in Denver and found that Denver Ted’s kept coming up—so to Denver Ted’s I went. You could order a regular steak or you could go for the Chauncey—an Amoroso roll (of course), grilled peppers, sauteed onions, melty provolone mixed with whiz and chopped beef. Of course you should order a brew and play some SORRY while you wait. Needless to say, I now trust a majority of my friends and their recommendations on all things Philly.
Best To-Go Steak: South Philly Cheese Steaks
No need for frills when it comes to this shop—they’ve been keeping food simple and delicious since 2000. If you think about it, all a cheesesteak needs is the combination of meat, cheese and bread—all done well and right, that is. Order the “Cheese Steak Sandwich”—Amoroso roll, steak, cheese, and grilled onions. Add a little heat to your sandwich with their signature cherry pepper relish.
Best (any-type-of) Date Steak: Steuben’s
Whether it’s brunch with the ladies, a beer with the boys, or a date with your significant other, Steuben’s seems to be one of those all around great places to check out and stay a while. Imagine to my surprise that they have a cheesesteak on their menu that has been boasted as being one of the best in Denver—an accurate rumor. Order the cheesesteak with the works—mushrooms, peppers, jalapeños, onions, and cheese, all on our favorite Philly roll with a crunchy dill pickle and pickled peppers on the side.
All photography by Lucy Beaugard
Authors note: The original version of this article featured Pat’s Downtown Bar & Grill, which has since closed since research was conducted and photos were taken. Two locations of Pat’s Cheesesteaks are still open and serving at Iliff & Quebec and Arapahoe & I-25. 303 Magazine regrets the error.