Let’s face it, for a classic cheesesteak, no one tops the city of Philadelphia’ sandwiches. But because DC is such a transient city with many PA imports, there are quality cheesesteaks to satisfy even the most discerning cheesesteak palate. While the traditional Philly cheesesteak will have chopped steak and onions with Cheez Whiz on top served exclusively on the Amoroso roll, DC offers traditional, unique and reinvented cheesesteaks as eclectic as the city itself.
Al’s Steak House
1504 Mt. Vernon Ave
Alexandria, VA 22301
Al’s Steak House originally opened in 1956 and has remained an Alexandria favorite since. Like most established restaurants, there are some standard orders that regular patrons love about Al’s. First is the portion size. Despite being called a medium, Al’s smallest cheesesteak comes loaded with meats and onions and is sufficient enough for two meals. Next is the charm. Al’s is a throw back to the days gone by. It has a very strict cell phone policy, sells soda for only $.90, the staff is very friendly and you can always call ahead to have your order ready upon arrival. All the meats are sliced that morning and cooked to order, so it’s always fresh. Although you won’t find the Amoroso roll or Cheez Whiz here, Al’s has its own unique take on the Philly classic. The cheesesteaks are well seasoned, and if you want a little more kick, there’s a jar of complimentary pickled hot peppers at the front.
1939 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20009
JJs Cheesesteaks is a quirky place on U Street that names its steaks. Rather than having an original Philly, you want the Ben Franklin, which is an extra lean, sliced rib eye with sautéed onions topped with Cheez Whiz on the authentic Amoroso roll. JJs serves both rib-eye steak and chicken cheesesteaks. There’s also vegetarian cheesesteaks like the Leonardo da Veggi which is a veggie patty grilled with sautéed onions, mushrooms and Cheez Whiz. JJs is open even later than the metro on Friday and Saturday, with hours until 4 a.m. for a late-night fix, and is within walking distance of the 9:30 Club.
South Street Steaks
4856 Cordell Ave
Bethesda, MD 20814
South Street Steaks in Bethesda serves all of its cheesesteaks on the authentic Amoroso roll that arrives straight from Philadelphia. Cheesesteaks can be either nine or twelve inches and will come with fried onions unless you order otherwise. You can get your cheesesteak topped authentically with Cheez Whiz or you can choose between American and provolone cheese. Phillys are served with sirloin steak or chicken. Pittsburghers will even find a cheesesteak dedicated to them called the The Steel City, which comes with fries lining the roll. For those that are especially hungry, there’s the “Misteak” – one pound of steak, eight pieces of bacon, pepperoni, fried onions, three cheeses and a handful of fries. This 2.5-pound behemoth serves four people, but for those that are adventurous enough to take it on alone, there’s the Misteak Challenge. If you finish two Misteaks in 30 minutes, you’ll get your picture on the Wall of Fame and a $10 gift card.
Related: Best French Fries in DC
7732 Wisconsin Ave
Bethesda, MD 20814
Philadelphia Mike’s — or Philly Mike’s as locals will call it — is the place to go in Bethesda when you’re hungry for a satisfying cheesesteak. While Philly Mike’s doesn’t have Cheez Whiz and has its own type of roll, there are many variations to satisfy your tastebuds, including chicken, pizza-style, steak-and-egg and turkey cheesesteaks. Mike’s even gives a nod to the area it calls home with a topping arrangement called Washington-style, including lettuce, tomato, onions, mayo and provolone cheese. You can get Washington-style toppings on the Diplomat and Executive subs. Be sure to ask for a side of French fries as they are cooked to order in crispy perfection.
775 G St NW
Washington, DC 20001
Served exclusively on its lunch menu that is only available Tuesday through Friday, Proof offers the reinvented, gourmet version of a cheesesteak. The Wagyu Beef Steak & Cheese is a decadent slice of well-marbled, eye-of-round wagyu beef stacked in a crispy roll with wild mushrooms and provolone cheese. It is then topped with Proof’s spicy-jalapeño mayonnaise and mixed greens for the ultimate combination. Proof is committed to sourcing local, organic, sustainable ingredients, so you won’t find the Amoroso roll here. Instead, expect a beautifully-browned roll from the local favorite Firehook Bakery. While this cheesesteak is not the soft, gooey cheesesteak that most are familiar with, it’s a great gourmet lunch alternative in the bustling Chinatown area.
Related: Best Burgers in the DC Area
Jamie Hardin is the counter-culture Washingtonian in the know. Inspired by food, sustainability issues, and public health, she prides herself on finding DC’s off-the-beaten path treasures. When she isn’t enjoying organic food or reducing her carbon footprint, Jamies traveling on her scooter or walking her two pitbulls. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.