When done right, the cheesesteak is a pretty perfect food.
It has everything: thinly sliced ribeye, melty cheese and a soft roll. The rest is up to you: Choose white American cheese, Cheez Whiz, or maybe provolone, then add sautéed onions and peppers, or maybe bacon and mushrooms.
Order yours Buffalo style, with hot sauce and blue cheese; make it a pizza steak with marinara and mozzarella; or go the California route with lettuce, tomato and a squiggle of mayo.
There's no wrong way to eat a cheesesteak.
In celebration of National Cheesesteak Day on March 24, we rounded up a handful of tasty ones at the Shore. There are many more, of course, so a cheesesteak tour just might be in order.
Cheesesteak Louie's, Seaside Heights
For nearly a decade, TJ Perl worked for Jersey Mike's, where he got the itch to go into business for himself.
The opportunity presented itself a year ago, when he learned of a small restaurant available on the Boulevard in Seaside Heights. He opened Cheesesteak Louie's, serving cheesesteaks, burgers, wings and milkshakes year-round in the space previously occupied by PJ's Place.
"We slice our steak to order for every single sandwich," said Perl, who slices the ribeye thin and tucks 12 ounces of meat into 10-inch rolls from Brooklyn.
The "Louie Original" is topped with sautéed onions and peppers, the "King Louie" has sautéed onions, peppers, chili peppers, mushrooms and chipotle mayo, and "The Big Dave" has grilled pork roll, pepper jack cheese and waffle fries.
Customers can eat their cheesesteaks inside or at one of the restaurant's outside tables, and when it warms up, have their order delivered to the beach.
"This is a dream for me and it's coming true, so when I get to share it with people, that makes it even better," Perl said.
Go: 22 Boulevard; 732-250-2773, cheesesteaklouies.com.
Harry's Smokin' BBQ, South Toms River
If you are driving north on the Garden State Parkway around mile 81, look east and you'll spot Harry Clayton's bright orange food truck.
His food business got its start after Clayton, who said he always wanted to be a chef, fell in love with barbecue while living in Florida. Back home in New Jersey, he began smoking ribs, brisket and pulled pork in his driveway, which led to family and friends asking if he could cook for parties.
Clayton opened Harry's Smokin' BBQ on Dover Road in South Toms River three years ago, and he recently added a chopped cheese sandwich to the menu. Also called a "chop cheese," the sandwich originated in the bodegas of New York.
"The chopped cheese, in my opinion, is the New York version of a California cheesesteak but with ground beef," Clayton said. "I honestly love the chopped cheese."
The sandwich starts with freshly ground beef on the grill, then he adds a layer of onions that cook with the meat. "I let it fuse, then season, chop and flip," said Clayton, who piles the meat, lettuce, tomato, ketchup and mayonnaise onto a soft roll from Giannella's Baking Company in Paterson.
Go: 240 Dover Road; 848-223-9955, harryssmokinbbq.com.
Bruno's Pizza & Subs, Neptune City
Walking into Bruno's Pizza & Subs, you might be tempted to order a slice of pizza: Each slice at the counter looks tastier than the next.
But keep walking and check the menu on the wall for cheesesteaks. There are a dozen options, including lain, one with fried onions and tomatoes, and another with chicken, barbecue sauce, onions, peppers and mushrooms.
What sets these cheesesteaks apart is the assembly. The finely chopped meat and melted cheese are piled onto soft bread, which almost steams the sandwich closed. This makes for a cheesesteak where nothing falls out, so you don't miss a bite.
Go: 165 West Sylvania Ave.; 732-988-3399, brunospizzasubsnj.com.
Big Bob's Original Philly Cheesesteaks, Englishtown
Looking for a cheesesteak "Whiz Wit," as they say in Philly?
Find it at Big Bob's Original Philly Cheesesteaks in Englishtown, where owner Arturo Calle has served a ribeye cheesesteak with cheese sauce and onions, just like in the City of Brotherly Love, since 2019.
The sandwich is one of half a dozen on the menu, which also includes a cheesesteak topped with broccoli rabe and Provolone, an ode to Philly's other famous sandwich, the roast pork. There is also a pizza steak with marinara, mozzarella and pepperoni, and a loaded cheesesteak with fresh-cut potatoes and bacon, "and I make a special sauce for that, brandy peppercorn," Calle said.
Go: 14 Wilson Ave.; 732-851-4941, bigbobsphillycheesesteak.com.
The Speakeatery, Asbury Park
When you are craving a sandwich, Andrew Vermilyea's Cookman Avenue restaurant is the place to go.
The Speakeatery is known for its big, fun sandwiches, like "The Bootlegger," a fried boneless pork chop with sausage gravy on a buttermilk biscuit, and "The General," made with General Tso's chicken and broccoli slaw on sticky rice buns.
Then there is the cheesesteak, named "The Ol' Steak Sang-Gweech." Described on the menu as a "mass of meat and cheese," the sandwich is made with roast beef cooked in house, American cheese, hot cherry peppers and red onion.
A breakfast version adds a hash brown and an egg, and there's another with shaved chicken, hot peppers, onions and provolone cheese.
Go: 705 Cookman Ave.; 732-898-9456, thespeakeatery.com.
Sarah Griesemer joined the USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey in 2003 and has been writing all things food since 2014. Send restaurant tips to email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: For National Cheesesteak Day, 5 NJ Shore spots for a great cheesesteak