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This Contender For The World's Longest Cheesesteak Spans 3 City Blocks

The 510-foot cheesesteak made in South Philly's Italian Market spanned three blocks.
Sean Duffy
The 510-foot cheesesteak made in South Philly's Italian Market spanned three blocks.

Updated May 26, 2021 at 6:21 PM ET

If you were trying to drive through South Philadelphia on Monday, you may have experienced some traffic issues. It wasn't an accident or a broken stoplight. It was a cheesesteak.

The hoagie, a word used here as a catchall for reasons that will become apparent later, measured 510 feet and spanned three city blocks.

For his birthday, Rene Kobeitri, owner of Rim Cafe, enlisted chefs at neighboring restaurants to help him break the record for world's longest cheesesteak. Kobeitri, who is often called Don René, set out to beat the standing record of 480 feet by Steve's Prince of Steaks.

"Today's the day," he said in a video posted to Instagram. "I'm making the biggest steak in the [most] beautiful city in the whole world: Philadelphia."

The hoagie was not just the traditional Philly recipe of beef "Whiz wit" (that is, with Cheez Whiz and onions). Each participating restaurant put its own spin on a portion of the massive sandwich, from Mexican barbacoa to Japanese yakitori. The combination of cuisines offered a unique opportunity to show off the different cultures of Philadelphia, but some said that to be the world's longest cheesesteak, it needed to be strictly cheese and steak.

Many also pointed out that the hoagie was not one continuous roll of bread but, rather, hundreds of rolls placed end to end.

Now, any Subway sandwich artist will tell you that in order to make the chain's 6-foot party subs, footlong rolls are braided together, proofed, baked and then laid next to each other. It's important to note, though, that Subway cuts off the curved ends to give the illusion of a continuous roll. No such cuts were made on this cheesesteak, which more closely resembled hundreds of hoagies laid end to end.

Whether or not Kobeitri's hoagie officially beats any records, the point was to bring about some brotherly love after a difficult year. And Kobeitri brought together the city's cooks, including Geno Vento of Geno's Steaks, whose cheesesteaks are some of the most famous in Philly.

Vento told NBC10 in Philadelphia that the idea came about during dinner with friends.

"One of the friends at the table said, 'Well, why don't you make a big cheesesteak?' Never a size, just said 'big,' " Vento said. "And then his motor started going, and then all of a sudden, before you know it, we found out we're making a 500-foot cheesesteak."

Sean Duffy, an associate professor of psychology at Rutgers University-Camden, attended the event and tried some of the classic cheesesteak.

"Was it the best cheesesteak? No, that belongs to a local shop, Angelo's," he says. "But it was a decent sandwich for folks putting together a 510-foot-long record attempt."

Duffy teaches a class on culture and food, and though he's by no means an official record-keeper, he thinks this hoagie should count.

"They were not trying to make the longest sandwich in the world but beat the prior record of the longest cheesesteak!" Duffy says. "Because cheesesteaks are regularly sold in pieces, the fact that this was a 510-foot-long continuous filling but discrete roll of cheesesteak means it fits the bill."

And even if the 510-foot hoagie doesn't quite break a cheesesteak world record, it at least rose to meat the challenge and steak a claim at the title.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.
Sam Yellowhorse Kesler
Sam Yellowhorse Kesler is an Assistant Producer for Planet Money. Previously, he's held positions at NPR's Ask Me Another & All Things Considered, and was the inaugural Code Switch Fellow. Before NPR, he interned with World Cafe from WXPN. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, and continues to reside in Philadelphia. If you want to reach him, try looking in your phone contacts to see if he's there! You'd be surprised how many people are in there that you forgot about.