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Steak-umm is hitting the streets, food truck-style, to remind Americans that it exists. Namely, millennials who missed out on commercials like this from the 1980s or who have no early childhood memories of having Steak-umm as a “Sunday treat.”
The frozen, paper-thin slices of sandwich meat most commonly used to make DIY cheesesteaks hail from—you guessed it—the Philadelphia suburbs. But when you’re waiting in line next week when the Steak-umm truck pulls into town (Oct. 10-17), note that there’s a lot more to consider than slams on the City of Brotherly Love and its sports fans. Here are 10 things you didn’t know about Steak-umm.
1. The same person who invented popcorn chicken invented Steak-umm. Gene Gagliardi Jr., who is in his 80s, has more than 30 patents in food innovation. He wanted to make a more family-friendly sandwich steak product that wasn’t too tough for kids to chew.
2. After changing hands a couple times since officially launching in 1975, Steak-umm is now in the hands of Quaker Maid Meats—a family-run company in Reading, Pennsylvania, that got started in 1960. Its nonagenarian founder Stanley Szortyka is still active in the company. Quaker Maid acquired the brand in 2006, but they know a thing or two about frozen sandwich steaks given they’ve made a competing brand for decades.
3. The official word is that Steak-umm is made similarly to hamburgers, only the beef is more finely ground. It’s then formed into a large block, frozen, and sliced thin. “The beef we buy is called beef trimmings,” says Joey Piazza, director of marketing for Quaker Maid Brands. “It’s not an emulsified beef product known as ‘pink slime.’”
4. Steak-umm sued Philly chainlet, Steak ‘Em Up, in 2012 for copyright infringement and lost. In the courtroom, Judge Lawrence Stengel described the product a little differently than Piazza.
5. Say your visit to the Steak-umm truck is so inspiring that you pick up a box. There’s more to do with them then craft a drunk food Philly cheesesteak. Stick Steak-umm in fajitas, quiches, egg rolls, stromboli, Sloppy Joes, shepherd’s pie, breakfast burritos, and chili.
6. Steak-umm asked firefighters across the country to submit recipes using Steak-umm as a part of a competition last year. “It’s a really good product for them because they cook quickly and can feed a lot of people on a small budget,” Piazza says. The winner? “Steak Balls of Fire.”
7. That bro-tastic guy in the plaid shirt who appears to be the new face of Steak-umm is David Michaels. They were going for a Charlie Kelly-like character from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” They got pretty close.
8. The East Coast digs Steak-umm the most. Piazza says they’ve seen a 20 percent increase in sales from New York to Richmond. “A lot was reminding people we’re still here and introducing it to younger people,” he says, adding that the West Coast isn’t feeling Steak-umm quite as much.
9. Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) from A Christmas Story was in a Steak-umm commercial in 1981. Also according to this commercial, 51 percent of women “work outside of the home.”
10. “Put your Steakums inside the open space your mouth makes, you’ll feel some pressure on the roof of your mouth and the top of your tongue, it’s alright, it just means you’re ready to chew.” Watch the Saturday Night Live parody of Steak-umm with Chris Pratt as Jason Statham.
Find the truck:
Oct. 10: American Beverage Association
Oct. 11: George Washington University (11 a.m.)
Oct. 12: Georgetown University (11 a.m.)
Oct. 13: Farragut Square (11 a.m.)
Oct. 14: 3 Stars Brewery (4 p.m.)