Sumo Steaks’ cheesesteaks built on Philly tradition

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A Sumo Steaks cheesesteak with onions, mushrooms, peppers and whiz cheese. ( Colin Kerrigan / Philly.com )

Imagine trying to build the most popular casino in Las Vegas. Or trying to open the biggest tourist attraction in Orlando.

Oh, and here’s your timeline to accomplish those goals — two years.

That’s what brothers Billy and Gary Creagh have done at Sumo Steaks (2805 North 22d Street), winning our Reader’s Choice “Best Cheesesteak” category in a city synonymous with the world’s best cheesesteaks. 

While a title like “Philadelphia’s Best Cheesesteak” speaks for itself, Billy Creagh said that when he and Gary started Sumo in 2013, the idea wasn’t necessarily to create the best cheesesteak — they just wanted to take something they enjoyed and do it right.

“We didn’t grow up with any major cooks in our family, or any secret recipes,” he explained. “But we come from a long line of Philadelphians, and Gary and I understand this city’s culture.”

The Creagh brothers have been eating cheesesteaks their entire lives. “We never had one place we went to —we went to them all,” Billy Creagh said.  “Over time, it turned into a competition of who could serve us the best cheesesteak.”

Then one day, the brothers decided to join the competition. “When we made our [cheesesteak], we looked at each other and said, ‘That’s a damn good cheesesteak!’ ” Billy added. “We never wanted to try to reinvent the wheel. We just wanted to do it right.”

At Sumo Steaks, doing it right is about more than making a great cheesesteak. Billy and Gary have gone to great lengths to make a difference in the North Philadelphia community. Sumo regularly sponsors professional boxing events in the city--"many customers are familiar with the beautiful Sumo's Steaks ring girls," said Billy. The Creagh brothers are also active in charitable causes, including Family Friends at Temple University, a program connecting adult volunteers with children under 12 who have special needs. “For me, I love being there, rather than just sending money,” said Billy. “My highlight is seeing the kids’ faces.”

Sumo Steaks has also teamed up with 900-AM WURD to register voters and process library card requests in the community. At an event last fall, the Creaghs served free cheesesteaks to anyone who registered to vote, requested a library card or filled out a L.O.O.P. (Longtime Owner Occupant Program) application. The radio station started the initiative “to stave off gentrification through education and access for Philly residents without Internet/digital access.”

The Creaghs are proud to point out that Sumo sits just a few feet away from the former site of Connie Mack Stadium, and bill their product as “North Philly’s Own Cheesesteak!”

Of course, it all starts with the sandwich, and the Creaghs were committed to creating not only an authentic cheesesteak, but an authentic Philly experience as well. Sumo utilizes the window-ordering, take-out only system, and offers a menu ranging from the traditional cheesesteak, to specialty items such as chicken steaks, veggie cheesesteak and one of Billy’s personal favorites, the Buffalo Mac ‘n’ Chicken Cheesesteak.

In keeping with modern times, however, Sumo Steaks also offers an online ordering pick-up system, and catering is available for larger orders.

“The name ‘Philly Cheesesteak’ implies authenticity,” said Billy, “but there are so many variations of this steak sandwich across the world. The biggest misconception is that it’s just a cheesesteak.”

At Sumo, authenticity means combining all of the best ingredients — rolls delivered daily, rib-eye hand sliced at the shop, top brand cheese, Spanish onions — and most importantly, love for their customers and their craft.

Billy Creagh likes to use the slogan ‘Train Like a Sumo and Eat!’ He adds that, as the namesake suggests, customers can expect big quality for their money at Sumo Steaks.

Sumo Steaks  2805 North 22nd Street. Hours: Monday-Wednesday: 11a.m. -9 p.m., Thursday-Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Closed Sundays. Information: www.sumosteaks.com, 267-318-7379.


What is Readers' Choice?

It was about time we got the inside scoop on the best in Philadelphia so we turned to our greatest resource: you, our Philly.com readers. And — perhaps not surprisingly — you were happy to share opinions.

From March through May, more than 5,000 readers made 3,500 nominations across 12 categories including Entertainment & Leisure, Food & Restaurants, Health & Fitness, Pets, Shopping & Style, Beauty, Education, Automotive, Hotels & Travel, Real Estate, Services and Weddings. Through April and May, readers cast more than 28,000 votes to determine our winners in more than 190 sub-categories.

Thank you to all who participated in our inaugural Philly.com Readers' Choice effort. We couldn't have done it without you. If you'd like to be notified of future Readers' Choice nominations and voting, please create a Philly.com account.

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