Which is better: Pat’s or Geno’s?
When it comes to Philadelphia cuisine, there's only one dish that fully encompasses the true spirit of the city — the good old cheesesteak. It's the cornerstone of a decades-old battle regarding who concocts the greasiest and cheesiest steak sandwich in the City of Brotherly Love, and among all contenders, two always seem to reign supreme: Pat's King of Steaks and Geno's.
The two cheesesteak joints have been sandwich rivals for nearly 47 years, ever since Geno's was established in 1966 right across the street from the then 36-year-old Pat's. Located in South Philadelphia right off Ninth and Wharton Streets, the two restaurants might appear to have a lot in common to outsiders.
They're both open 24/7, their specialties are fantastic cheesesteaks served on freshly baked rolls, and each thinks they’re the best. In fact, Pat’s even calls themselves "the originator and inventor of the steak and cheesesteak sandwiches" while Geno’s claims they offer "the best of cheesesteaks."
To Philadelphia natives, however, Pat's and Geno's are very different in important areas. Pat's steaks are prepared thinly chopped while Geno's offers thinly sliced strips of steak. The bread qualities are slightly different, and depending on your cheese preference (Cheese Whiz is a must-have), the steak tastes can vary greatly.
The sandwich war has even come to involve hungry celebrity visitors, like President Obama, Rachael Ray, Justin Timberlake, and Tony Danza, to name just a few. So in order to fully experience Philadelphia the next time you’re in town, become a cheesesteak crusader and bravely choose a side: Pat’s or Geno’s?
Inventor of Philly Cheesesteak Hosts Vegan Sandwich Battle
On April 14, Philadelphia chefs will face off in a cooking battle to create the best vegan version of the city&rsquos iconic dish, the Philly Cheesesteak sandwich. The fifth annual Vegan Cheesesteak Party and Cabaret will be hosted by Frank Olivieri, a member of the family credited for inventing the original sandwich, which is made from thinly sliced pieces of beef and melted cheese in a long hoagie roll. &ldquoI am honored to once again host the vegan cheesesteak contest,&rdquo Olivieri told media outlet Billy Pen. &ldquoHopefully they won&rsquot burn me at the &lsquosteak.’&rdquo This year&rsquos contest has been expanded into a festive event showcasing the many different plant-based versions of Philly’s signature sandwich, including free samples of vegan cheesesteaks for attendees. Contest judges include renowned vegan doctor Michael Greger, MD, along with TV star and author Christina Pirello, actress Kimberly Garrison, and vegan comedian Myq Kaplan.
Photo credit: Tattooed Mom
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In the Lehigh Valley, Your Cheesesteak Comes With Red Sauce
In Philadelphia, battle lines are drawn between two iconic neighboring cheesesteak vendors, Pat's and Geno's. Your loyalty to one side of the street or the other defines you. But in the Lehigh Valley, which forms a right angle north of Philly and west of New York City by about 60 miles, give or take, the question isn't Pat's or Geno's, or even "wiz wit?" (as in, Cheese Whiz with onions). It's about a sauce you won't find anywhere else and its confounding origins. I'm not talking about a sauce comprised of that processed cheese-related product. I'm talking about the default inclusion of a tangy red, tomato-based sauce in cheesesteaks everywhere you go.
My husband John and I grew up in South Jersey, about 15 miles from Philly, and he moved to the city for a spell in his 20s, pledging his allegiance to Pat's. Eventually, he moved up the river to Easton, one of the cities in the Lehigh Valley. In those days, after a gig, he and his bandmates would often hop in the car and donate their earnings to the cheesesteak god. They'd typically consume a dozen sandwiches among them. It was ritual it was religion, eating those hot and oozy cheesesteaks.
When I moved to join him in Easton 14 years ago, one of the most puzzling food items I encountered was the cheesesteak. Initially, my reactions were aesthetic and academic, involving questions of authenticity: What would they say in Philly? Why would you sully a perfectly good sandwich? Who does the Lehigh Valley think it is, anyway? Is nothing sacred? I thought it a bit crass, something like dumping ketchup on a nicely cooked strip steak. It was a greasy culinary crime, maybe, but I was guilty of something, too. I hadn't bothered to taste this aberration because Cheesesteaks. Don't. Have. Sauce. I never quite understood it I never ordered it on purpose.
Flash forward. Recently, my husband picked up sandwiches for dinner from the Italian market and grill down the block, Giacomo's. When I unwrapped them, I saw that his was with sauce. "When did you start doing that?" I asked. He shrugged. I stopped what I was doing. I knew that the fifth-generation guys from Sicily running Giacomo's sell a damn fine homemade tomato sauce, among other delicacies. And they won the local paper's cheesesteak showdown in 2011. We had a model specimen in our possession. I took a bite, and then another, suddenly appreciating how the fresh, bright sauce cut through the heavier flavors of beef and cheese. It was a study in contrast, so obvious a move, I chastised myself mentally for all the years I ordered cheesesteaks with onions and mushrooms, sans sauce. Why hadn't I tried this sooner?
I started asking around about the origins of the Lehigh Valley sauce, knowing this was going to be a slippery, elusive inquisition that wouldn't likely yield definitive answers. The quest has been fraught with suppositions, conclusions based on context clues, and a few ironic curveballs.
The first place to put sauce on steak sandwiches around here was The Brass Rail, a restaurant in Allentown. Established in 1931, the Brass Rail is now in its third generation, with 46-year-old Mark Sorrentino running it alongside his wife Leigh and veteran chef Don Maurer. When the sandwich was first introduced at the Great Allentown Fair in 1937 as "Phil's Original Steak Sandwich," there was no fanfare on the first day. (Nor was there cheese that came later.) Phil tried to rally the crowds, printing up newspaper-style headlines declaring the sandwich the hit of the fair. The sandwich became an institution. In its heyday, the Brass Rail would blow through 800 dozen rolls—about 9,600 sandwiches a day—from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. the following morning, says Sorrentino.
Why a tomato-based sauce? "I wish I had the answer to this question. There are so many things I wish I could ask," says Sorrentino, whose grandfather and father have both passed away, the latter in 1996. He concedes it may have something to do with their Italian heritage—his grandfather came to Allentown from Italy—but adds a confounding twist. "My grandfather apparently saw someone do this in New York," he says, referring to the sauce. Yes, he said New York, the pizza mecca. Not, y'know, Philadelphia, the birthplace of the cheesesteak vis-a-vis Pat's King of Steaks, in 1930.
Around the Lehigh Valley, most people order cheesesteaks as they come, with few omissions, but amendments do happen occasionally. "One of the things that drives me crazy is when someone orders it with no sauce, and when they get it, they dump ketchup all over it," says Sorrentino, shaking his head.
"That's how you know they're not from the Lehigh Valley," says Kelly Huth, features editor of the Express-Times. Huth is one of two editors, along with Joe Owens, who spearheaded the newspaper's cheesesteak showdown. Readers sent in their recommendations and every week for 13 weeks the pair would visit a new place in search of the ultimate cheesesteak. Huth, a Valley native, knows them no other way, but wanted to know why, too. "Whenever we would ask why the sauce was on it, we were told, 'That's just how you make a Lehigh Valley cheesesteak,'" she says.
Tautology aside, there are as many variations on these sauces (and sandwiches) as there are Italian grandmothers who believe their sauce is best. Most places closely guard their recipes, but here's what we do know: "They all seem to share some element of a pizza-like tomato sauce, but with some Worcestershire in them," Huth says. "Some are sweet, but there's a bit of a tang."
At the Brass Rail, it's a cooked-down, tomato-based affair made from puree, paste, and crushed tomatoes, says Sorrentino, with neither herbs nor Worcestershire. It's requisitely tangy (must be some vinegar in there), not as thick as an A-1, and served hot on the side. Some offerings are sweeter, such as Matey's, which began turning out steak sandwiches in Hellertown in 1953 and is run by Ray Matey. His brother, Ron, and nephew Mike have been operating a separate location in nearby Fountain Hill since 1989. Mike acknowledges that he's still using the same recipe the original location was using 30 years ago: a ketchup base that's been tweaked over the years. "It's thinner than ketchup, but it's more of a jus, just a little thicker. And we have a secret ingredient, and it's something so off-the-wall, you'd never guess," he says. Both Matey's outposts integrate the sauce throughout the sandwich, but drape cheese across the top—mozzarella, provolone, and a third, undisclosed cheese—and pop them in the oven for a toasty-melty-gooey situation. Another mainstay, Joe's Steaks, which is across the river in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, has been rocking cheesesteaks with a ketchup-based sauce since 1938. The sauce is so paramount you can buy it in jars in mild or hot versions.
At Giacomo's, it's a fully integrated experience—the steak, cheese, fried onions, and sauce. Mario Famularo, the 38-year-old co-owner with his brother, Sal, 43, describes it as "something you could put on pizza, but it's not the same as my mom's sauce," he says, referring to the marinara they sell. (In 2003, the brothers took over and expanded the biz from their parents, who started it in 1975.) He doesn't guard his ingredient list: "There's nothing to hide. It's tomatoes, Italian herbs, onions," he says.
When you bite into their award-winning sandwich, the sauce, which is cooked right on the grill with the steak and onions, is neither overpowering nor superfluous. It's also not drippy or excessively saucy it's logical and does its job. It supplies just the right bright note and melds cohesively with the other components. And the roll, delivered daily from Calandra's Bakery in Newark, holds up. "I had to use Amoroso's [from Philly] during Hurricane Sandy, because we couldn't get bread. Never again. They just fall apart," says Mario.
So, is it a pizza sauce or a steak sauce? You might say it's neither—it's some kind of regional hybrid. Some joints even go so far as to invoke the term "Sunday gravy." If you're curious, hunt down Tallarico Foods of Bethlehem, PA. The company began in 1958 as a neighborhood market complete with four butchers. These days, they sell jarred sauces in supermarkets and online. Their first, introduced more than 60 years ago in response to consumer demand, wasn't marinara. It was a "Philly style" steak sandwich sauce, made "with a proprietary blend of herbs and spices." That's all Chris Tallarico, the company's acting president, will allow.
Wait, what? The language on the jar reads 'Philly style' steak sandwich sauce—as though Philly cheesesteaks contain and are therefore known for their sauce. Misplaced modifier? The irony was not lost on Tallarico when I pointed it out.
"It's to indicate it belongs on a Philly-style steak sandwich, not a regular steak. It's a Philly steak sandwich sauce," he explains.
We may not ever know the exact origins of the sauce. One person started adding it, and the rest followed suit. Maybe it was in response to consumer demand. Maybe it was the Italian immigration. It's what people around here have known as a cheesesteak since the late 1930s. Mike Matey puts it bluntly. "The sauce just adds flavor. It's a pretty bland sandwich otherwise."
Flavor may be indeed an issue, but Tallarico believes the sauce is meant to "reintroduce moisture" to a fairly lean cut of meat. He says most places in the region use knuckle meat, which is from the shoulder area and is typically sliced thin, while frozen. It defrosts by the time it hits the grill. (It's what the Brass Rail uses, at 5.5 ounces per sandwich.) Giacomo's cheesesteak has double the meat, says Mario, and is made with freshly shaved rib eye that's neither chopped so finely on the grill that it starts to resemble ground beef, nor strung across a roll in rubber band-like strings. The sauce definitely supplies some flavor, but it's an integrated supporting player it's never steals the spotlight.
You may now be wondering: what's the difference between a cheesesteak from the Lehigh Valley and another commonly encountered iteration, the pizza steak, spotted in sandwich shops all along the mid-Atlantic? Ah, another loaded question. In the Lehigh Valley, you more often than not encounter hot peppers (Italian influence?) and/or pickles (German influence?) on a cheesesteak. Sauce is de rigueur, but it's not called pizza steak because the sauce and toppings aren't always pizza appropriate. Would you put ketchup on pizza?
When I contacted Pat's in Philly to find out how they make their pizza steak, here's the answer I got: "I guess it would be hard to answer given that it is not by any means our preferred ordered steak sandwich, which would be the Cheesesteak or the steak sandwich, not the pizza steak." I responded to their e-mail, and asked them to clarify what was in the pizza steak (a question I had already asked), but they wouldn't engage further.
So I took a different approach. I called blindly and asked what was on their pizza steak. I was told, "pizza sauce and cheese." When I asked them to specify the cheese, I was told, "Whatever kind you like. Provolone, Cheese Whiz, American." Pizza steaks aren't really their thing. Pat's seems to officially refuse to acknowledge any other cheesesteak's authenticity—permutations like the saucy Lehigh Valley sandwich and the pizza steak are imposters. Remind me to never ask them for their official position on chicken cheesesteaks.
When I relay this whole story to Mario at Giacomo's, he laughs. He calls out to his brother, Sal, halfway across the market. "Pat's and Geno's are pissed at us because of the sauce? Whatthefuckisthat? We should be pissed at them! They're Italian and they're using Whiz!" He's half kidding, but not really.
Real Italian Hoagie
The Hoagie sandwich was originally created in Philadelphia. There are a number of different versions to how the Hoagie got its name, but no matter what version is right, all agree that it started in Philadelphia.
The most widely accepted story centers on an area of Philadelphia known as Hog Island, which was home to a shipyard during World War I (1914-1918). The Italian immigrants working there would bring giant sandwiches made with cold cuts, spices, oil, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and peppers for their lunches. These workers were nicknamed “hoggies.” Over the years, the name was attached to the sandwiches, but under a different spelling.
Another version: The word Hoagie came from the sandwiches that used to get eaten by workers over on a place that was nicknamed “hog island”. The workers there would bring crusty rolls with Italian meats and some olive oil and these sandwiches became known as “hoggies”, which eventually morphed into hoagie. By the way – It has to be a fresh, crusty Italian long roll!
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 hoagie rolls
- 1/4 lb prosciutto di Parma, thinly sliced
- 1/4 lb capicola, thinly sliced
- 1/4 lb genoa salami or 1/4 lb sopressata salami, thinly sliced
- 1/4 lb provolone cheese
- 1 large tomato, thinly sliced
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced
- 1/8 cup shredded lettuce
Slice the rolls, but not all the way through.
Place the vinegar and oregano in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil until emulsified.
Remove some of the bread from the center of each half of roll.
Drizzle a little of the olive oil mixture on the bread.
Place first the meats, then the cheese in layers.
Top with the tomatoes, onions and the lettuce. Drizzle with more of the dressing, as desired.
Philly Cheesesteak Wid or Wid-Out
The best about tailgating and tailgating food at the Vet (now the Link) in Philadelphia is a cheesesteak. It's too much trouble to cook them at the stadium so we stop at either Pat's or Geno's in South Philly. They're across the street from each other at 12th and Passyunk. People line up hours before a game to get a "cheesesteak wid" (with onions) or a cheesesteak wid-out (hold the onions). We get 'bout a dozen of 'em and head to the parking lot before going in to watch the Iggles play. If you really want to make 'em though, here's the recipe:
10-inch Italian roll
6 oz. chipped eyeroast or choice round
5 slices of white American cheese or Provolone or
3 oz. Cheese Whiz
2 oz. chopped onions
1 oz. olive oil
Partially freeze the roast, then slice as thin as possible about 1/16 of an inch. Fry onions in olive oil. Add the meat. Chop it up as it is cooking. If you are using real cheese, mix the meat and onions together in a mound. Lay the cheese on and just before it starts to melt, lay the roll on top. Let cook for about 15 seconds and flip the whole thing over. If using Cheese Whiz, still mix the meat and onions, but slab the Cheese Whiz all over the roll. Some people like to "gut" the roll" (pull out the bread). Not as chewy, but not as messy either. Still other people like fried mushrooms, green peppers, or pizza sauce.
Yeah, yeah. We wrote a whole thing about quitting cheap meat and being more conscientious in our consumption. And those arguments are all valid and important ones to consider as we go slowly forward into whatever kind of restaurant industry exists in the future.
But cheesesteaks are important to Philadelphia. They’re a part of our identity as a city and as a dining class. They ground us in the convenience and approachability that have long been hallmarks of our scene and they’re one of the signifiers of our unshakeable blue-collar roots. Though cheesesteaks have been politicized, argued over and gussied up over the years, Philadelphians have never turned our backs on them. And we’re certainly not going to do that now.
Should they cost a little more? Absolutely. Can they be a lever used to shift the path of an exploitative industrial food system in dire need of change? Maybe. But a cheap sandwich built for the working class is revolutionary in its own right. Don’t eat them every day is all we’re saying. Be thoughtful about your choices. Make every cheesesteak count.
Here are a few of our favorites, currently doing delivery or takeout. I’m sure every one of these places could use your support right now. So if you’re looking for a good takeout or delivery cheesesteak, here are some good places to start. (Keep scrolling for our full list of Philly’s best cheesesteak spots.)
The crown jewel cheesesteak: pastured beef from Primal Supply Meats whiz made with Philabundance Abundantly Good cheddar and Ambler Beer Co.’s Belgian Pale Ale. the roll made by Merzbacher’s Bakery in Germantown. And only $5 more than a sandwich at Pat’s. Available for pick-up
I’m gonna suggest something daring here. When you go to Barry’s looking to get your cheesesteak fix (which you should absolutely do), rather than just getting the standard cheesesteak, go for the Alpine Steak (a cheesesteak made with Swiss and brown gravy). Oh, and also, the South Philly, which is a cheesesteak with grilled salami, provolone and pizza sauce. I mean, get a regular steak, too. But stretch a little and get something new while you’re at it. You won’t regret it. Available for pickup or local delivery
Delco Steaks, Broomall
Two-foot cheesesteaks AND pancakes on the menu? What more do you need? Oh, you want your steaks made with Pennsylvania-raised, hormone and antibiotic-free beef? Done. You want your two-foot cheesesteak made with Cooper sharp? Done. You also want to be able to pick up some steaks for the grill from the butcher counter? Done. Delco Steaks has got you covered. Available for pickup or local delivery
Steve’s Prince of Steaks, Multiple locations
Steve’s is running with three of its four locations right now — the Center City branch remains closed. But if you’re in the Northeast or Langhorne and are looking for some classic steaks covered with Wiz, some fries (also covered with Wiz) or a hoagie (which I’m sure they’ll cover with Wiz if you ask nice), this is your spot. Call ahead with your order, pick it up at the shop. Available for pickup
Does this place serve the best cheesesteaks in the region? Maybe. There’s a lot to be said for personal preference and idiosyncrasy. But Dalessandro’s is absolutely up there among the legends in Cheesesteak Valhalla, so if you’re in the neighborhood and looking for fresh, finely-chopped meat, grilled onions and cheese on a soft roll done by a crew that should probably be in the running for the Nobel Prize for Cheesesteaks, drop by. Pro tip: get twice as many steaks as you want to eat immediately. I swear that they’re even better as leftovers the next day. Available for pickup or local delivery
Joe’s Steaks, Fishtown
Chicken cheesesteaks, vegan cheesesteaks, buffalo chicken fries — Joe’s is doing your standard, conventional cheesesteak, sure, but they’re also there for those that are looking for something a little bit different. They’ve also got a cheesesteak burger, which is basically what you’d get if a cheesesteak and a cheeseburger got together and made a baby. It’s beautiful, like the circle of life on a bun. And then you eat it. Available for pickup or delivery via Caviar
John’s Roast Pork, Pennsport
Another contender for best cheesesteak in Philly, John’s was dark for a little while after COVID shut the city down, but is currently back up and running, slinging steaks and roast pork sandwiches for the masses. They’re only open ’til 7 p.m., are closed Sundays and Mondays, and don’t appear to be doing any delivery, but for the neighbors — and anyone willing to make the trip to South Philly — this is still nothing but good news. Available for pickup
Where to Eat Cheesesteaks in Philadelphia: The Ultimate Guide
A classic long before Hollywood came calling
There are two ways to start at Max’s, and one way to finish. Going cheesesteak? They do a nice job: chopped steak, lots of cheese, a long line (a scene in Creed was filmed here) that moves quickly unless you get stuck behind tourists. But they also do a plain steak sandwich the neighborhood loves with mayo and occasionally ketchup. Either way, you’ll be walking out with an enormous sandwich. Seriously, go for a half unless you’ve brought backup. And if you’re one of those people who put mayo on a regular cheesesteak? Just … I don’t even know what to say to you right now. 3653 Germantown Avenue, North Philly.
John’s Roast Pork in Pennsport.
John’s Roast Pork
Don’t let the name fool you
There are a thousand places claiming to be Philly’s best. Many of them are lying. But John’s? Man, they might be lying less than the rest. This place — with its seeded rolls, muffuletta-style hollowing, sweet onions, Whiz-shunning, and almost architectural construction — has brought a scientific rigor to the cheesesteak that shows in every sandwich that comes off the line. Go with the sharp provolone, and if you like a little kick, ask for long hots. 14 East Snyder Avenue, Pennsport.
John’s Roast Pork in Pennsport.
The cheesesteak for New Philadelphia
The artisanal mind-set has chefs thinking everything is better if you make it yourself. Much of the time, this leads to disaster. But at Woodrow’s, the kitchen set about building the cheese-steak back up again from scratch, shaving their own rib eye, gimmicking up truffled Whiz, even making cherry pepper mayo. And it works, because they’re not reinventing a classic, just adding a little polish to a tried-and-true combination. 630 South Street, Bella Vista.
Joe’s Steaks + Soda Shop
A modern shop with historic roots
This place started as a hole-in-the-wall called Chink’s that did only one thing: steak sandwiches, with or without onions. Today, the menu is longer (15 sandwiches, including a vegan cheesesteak), the name has changed, and the inside looks like a quilted-aluminum neighborhood luncheonette. But owner Joe Groh is still using the same recipe from 60-some years ago and knocking out sliced-steak sandwiches on soft rolls, with or without onions, slorked with a generous shot of Whiz. 1 West Girard Avenue, Fishtown, and 6030 Torresdale Avenue, Northeast Philly.
Charlie’s Roast Pork
Cheesesteaks first, then beer
The crew from Pennsport Beer Boutique redid a space behind the neighborhood favorite beer bar and turned it into an all-day sandwich joint that pushes the roast pork, but also does a fine cheesesteak–including a locals-only version with long hots. Yeah, you can get beers out front and bring them back to drink with your cheesesteaks (or roast pork sandwiches, if you swing that way). And yes, you can get a steak in the back and bring it into the beer garden. 1301 South 3rd Street, Pennsport
It might seem like a stunt, but it isn’t
The purists might say that a cheesesteak must be made with chopped (or sliced) rib eye and that to even think about using something like the slow-smoked, tender and incredibly flavorful brisket served up daily by the pit crew at Mike’s is sheer sacrilege. But those people are idiots, because a brisket cheesesteak with Cooper sharp whiz and fried onions is one thing and one thing only: Absolutely goddamn delicious. 1703 South 11th Street, East Passyunk
A fan fave, without any flash
When faced with the classic Pat’s-vs.-Geno’s question, most Philadelphians will answer with “Dalessandro’s.” Why? Because it’s the rarest of things: a cheesesteak joint worth leaving your neighborhood for. The basic model here is a work of art — the benchmark against which all other cheesesteaks in Philly (and the world) ought to be judged. But this is also a place to come if your tastes (mushrooms, peppers, pizza steaks) run to the more eclectic. 600 Wendover Street, Roxborough.
One Pound Cheesesteaks in Kensington.
One Pound Cheesesteaks
Late-night steaks — the size of your leg
It’s 3 a.m. Do you know where to score a two-foot cheesesteak for $11? Now you do. Just walk up to the window and ask. What you’ll walk away with is a marvel of late-night eating — a massive roll stuffed with meat, cheese, chopped onions, and ketchup on demand. 2661 Kensington Avenue, Kensington.
Gooey Looie’s Deli in Pennsport.
Gooey Looie’s Deli
It’s a small place that’s super simple — just a lunch counter inside a grocery store. But it’s worth seeking out, because the ’steaks are made to order and somehow, impossibly, come on bread that’s both crispy and soft. Really, it’s a magic trick that sets this sandwich apart. Plus, the meat has an excellent flavor, as though haunted by generations of onions passing across the grill. 231 McClellan Street, Pennsport.
Gooey Looie’s Deli in Pennsport.
Hog Island Steaks
A damn good-looking specimen
The menu offers a thousand sandwiches, banking on the history of Hog Island and its tie to the “hoggie.” But the cheesesteak? It gets its own special section, with more than a dozen varieties centered on fresh beef, chopped, thrown on the grill, and turned into a hot-sandwich beauty mixed up with American cheese. There’s also a loaded option with mushrooms, peppers and onions, which tastes like a good version of all the completely wrong “Philly-style” cheesesteaks done everywhere else. 785 Starr Street, Phoenixville.
Spot Gourmet Burgers in Brewerytown.
Spot Gourmet Burgers
Want to try something wild? Order the Jawn, a dream-team combo of Philly’s, Camden’s and Pittsburgh’s best ideas, with a little Schmitter thrown in. It’s sliced rib eye and Whiz on a round roll with two kinds of onion (raw red and grilled white), french fries and burger sauce. 2821 West Girard Avenue, Brewerytown.
Donkey’s Place in Camden. | Photo: Neal Santos
Rounded, poppy-seeded — but still revered
Bourdain declared it the best cheesesteak around, and if you’ve made the trek across the bridge, you know that this thing is a contender. It has most of the expected elements — sliced beef, onions off the flat grill, American cheese — but the big difference is that Donkey’s serves its ’steaks on a round, seeded kaiser roll. So you gotta ask yourself: What makes a cheesesteak a cheesesteak? Is it the ingredients? The bread? The shape? Or, really, is it something more ineffable — a sense of working-class, eat-it-standing convenience and no-bullshit simplicity? If it’s that, then Donkey’s absolutely serves one of the best cheesesteaks out there. 1223 Haddon Avenue, Camden.
A for-locals joint that goes the extra mile
A neighborhood grocery store opened in 1932 by an Italian stonemason that became one of the best spots in town for cheesesteaks and hoagies? That’s the kind of story Philadelphia loves. And seriously, this place (which caught fire almost 20 years ago and was rebuilt as a bigger, better sandwich shop) knocks out some shockingly good options, mounted on the house’s own rolls, made from the best ingredients they can get their hands on. Better still, they offer two kinds of rolls (seeded and plain) and eight kinds of cheese, including Cooper sharp, which is a little fancy but makes for a fine sandwich. 1501 South 8th Street, East Passyunk.
Overrun with students … for good reason
That an all-halal Middle Eastern restaurant — one crawling with Penn kids — slings one of the best ’steaks around proves there are many sides to our city. The cooks here bang out a big, dumb, satisfying cheesesteak like nobody’s business, but they really shine on the poultry side of things, doing a chicken cheesesteak that can make even purists reconsider their position. 4500 Walnut Street, University City.
Mama’s Pizzeria in Bala Cynwyd. | Photo: Neal Santos
Extra love for the extra cheese
Massive, gut-busting sandwiches that run heavy on the cheese (a specialty combo they blend in-house) — that’s the draw. The obvious one, anyway. Because really, it’s the care that goes into the ’steaks that makes the difference. Not pulled from a mountain of chopped meat, these individually made gooey monsters are mounted on squishy rolls. Bring an appetite — or a friend. 426 Belmont Avenue, Bala Cynwyd.
Mama’s Pizzeria in Bala Cynwyd.
Steve’s Prince of Steaks in Northeast Philly.
Steve’s Prince of Steaks
A blissfully unchanged OG
Forget the other locations. The original Steve’s has been providing the Northeast with quality ’steaks (and Texas Tommies and chocolate soda) for decades. The sandwiches are big and delicious, and there’s a line of toppings to grab along the stainless by the order windows. There’s not much in the way of seating, and the place remains cash-only, but we wouldn’t want anything to change here anyway. 7200 Bustleton Avenue, Northeast Philly.
Steve’s Prince of Steaks in Northeast Philly.
A loud, bright, there-when-you-need-it institution
A theory: Geno’s has all that neon so that no matter how rough a night you’ve had, you can still find it at last call. Like, even if you’ve had the kind of night where you’ve stolen a helicopter and are just looking for a place to land it. The inside is filled with headshots and memorabilia, the grills run 24 hours a day, the steaks are sliced not chopped (the big difference between Geno’s and Pat’s across the street), and the crowds are enough to teach you everything you need to know about Philly (and its tourists) in one night. 1219 South 9th Street, East Passyunk.
Pat’s King of Steaks
A not-as-loud, not-as-bright, there-when-you-need-it institution
Pat’s is fast. Pat’s is famous. Pat’s is open every day, all of the time, except on Thanksgiving and Christmas. It slops on the Whiz (when you ask for it) and has been making cheesesteaks since 1930. Plus, this is the cheesesteak Rocky ate. What, you think you’re better than Rocky? 1237 East Passyunk Avenue, East Passyunk.
Chubby’s Steaks in Roxborough.
Overstuffed, fork required
Easy on the Whiz, heavy on the meat, on a soft roll that sponges up the grease from the grill. Chubby’s is a busy joint, full of friends and neighbors — and even though the crowds can stack up deep near the register, it’s all cool, because Chubby’s has a bar right there with a TV that’s always tuned to whatever game is on. 5826 Henry Avenue, Roxborough.
Chubby’s Steaks in Roxborough.
Little Sicily II in Pennsport.
Little Sicily II
A spicy Indian cheesesteak? (It’s even better than it sounds.)
Yes, it’s a neighborhood Italian restaurant run by an Indian family. But they’ve got this extra menu — their “Spicy Food Menu” — and on it lives the spicy chicken cheesesteak, which is a unique thing in this ’steak-obsessed town. It’s chopped chicken, hit with Indian spices and packed into an Amoroso’s roll. It’s a fantastic sandwich that’s unique in a city where so many sandwiches are pretty much indistinguishable. Order the masala cheese fries, too. 1600 South Columbus Avenue, Pennsport.
Little Sicily II in Pennsport.
The Gordon Gekko of cheesesteaks
It’s a stunt sandwich — a $120 wagyu rib-eye, foie gras and truffled Whiz concoction that comes with a half bottle of champagne — but since someone has to set the top bar for this kind of thing, better Barclay than some lesser contender. The sandwich is good but ridiculously rich. And not for nothing: Rendered foie fat just isn’t as good for soaking down a roll as old-fashioned beef grease. If someone else is picking up the bill, you should absolutely try it. But bear in mind that you could get something like 13 Dalessandro’s cheese-steaks (plus a small soda) for the same price. 237 South 18th Street, Rittenhouse.
It’s everything — and everywhere
At this point, Tony Luke Jr. is Philly’s cheese-steak ambassador. Like Johnny Appleseed, he walks the land, planting shops in the strangest of places and bringing cheese-steaks to the far corners. He’s got operators in malls, at a bowling alley, even one at the Pentagon. But Tony Luke’s original location is still slinging the best ’steaks on its home turf, with chopped onions, sliced rib eye and lots of cheese (Whiz or otherwise), until midnight. 39 East Oregon Avenue, South Philly.
Your first stop post-last-call
The pizza fries look good at 2 a.m., but stay strong. The cheesesteak — all grease and salt and spongy bread — was designed by the sandwich gods to rebalance the body’s humors after a night of beers and shots. It’s a summation of poor life choices in sandwich form, and Oregon Steaks knows that. That’s why they’re there. And that’s why you are, too. 2654 South 10th Street, South Philly.
A South Philly pit stop for those in the know
The red-and-white-checkerboard design makes it look old-timey. The slightly run-down, boxy building makes it seem a bit forlorn. And the location — far from 9th and Passyunk — would make you think you’d be lonely here on a late-night run. But you’d be wrong, because this place always has a crowd. The standard-issue option is good (though light on the cheese, no matter your preferred variety), but the real draw here is the Old Fashioned — a sliced-steak sandwich with provolone, grilled tomatoes, peppers, and a shake of oregano. 2234 West Passyunk Avenue, South Philly.
Philip’s Steaks in South Philly.
Honestly speaking, the Battle of Roxborough (Dalessandro’s, Chubby’s and Barry’s) is way more interesting than the Pat’s-vs.-Geno’s rivalry. And Barry’s is a shop with a few surprises of its own. They do some solid ’steaks — juicy, greasy and made to order. They’ve got about 30 years’ experience. They bottle their own sodas. (The root beer is excellent.) And when you walk in and the conversation across the counter is an argument over Eagles ticket prices between a guy in a Vets Stadium t-shirt and another whose legs are covered in Liberty Bell and Spirit of ’76 tattoos, you know you’ve found a place that’s gonna respect the Philly history that the humble cheesesteak represents. 471 Leverington Avenue, Roxborough.
Want to know something that every other ’steak shop in town could learn from the Ethiopian cheesesteak at Gojjo? That neither chopped nor sliced steak is best. What’s best (texture-wise and in terms of maximizing beef-to-cheese cohesion) is to cut the beef into tiny strips that curl and cup when cooked on the grill. That’s what Gojjo does. That’s why these ’steaks are so good. Well, that and the Ethiopian spice that’s all sharp, smoky heat and makes the onion seem almost sweet in comparison. 4540 Baltimore Avenue, University City.
The cheesesteak’s delicious first cousin
Like the Trainwreck (below), the Schmitter is a kind of deviant — a round, stacked and juicy mutant that takes the beef/onion/cheese formula and mad-sciences in some wild hoagie DNA with the addition of sliced tomato and grilled salami. The result is a killer sandwich that is both descended from Philly’s most famous sandwich and wholly its own delicious creature. 8634 Germantown Avenue, Chestnut Hill.
Beck’s Cajun Cafe
The cheesesteak’s delicious first cousin twice removed
Look, it would take a lot to improve on a cheesesteak. But if you were going to try, you’d be wise to first check out Beck’s, where they’ve been serving an upgraded model for years now. The Trainwreck is a standard cheesesteak mounted on a French baguette, smeared with Creole mayo, then jumped up with chopped salami and Andouille sausage, onions and cheese. It’s a killer sandwich, made even better with a couple tots of hot sauce. Reading Terminal Market, Market East.
One of the originals … that got better with age
Black-and-white tile, polished stainless, beef steaming on the grill: There are some things about the Springfield location that make it feel a lot like the others — those that are still around, anyhow. (A note about that: The West Philly Jim’s is currently closed for renovations the South Street one has a different owner entirely.) But this youngest family member has a parking lot and shorter lines while still serving a classic ’steak any way you want it. 469 Baltimore Pike, Springfield.
Published as a part of “The Cheesesteak, Reconsidered” in the October 2018 issue of Philadelphia magazine.
The Best Cheesesteak in Philly: Pat’s vs. Geno’s
This past weekend, a few friends and I went to Philadelphia for a weekend getaway. We left Manhattan around 10 AM on Saturday morning and got to Philly by noon. Our first stop? The most famous Philly cheesesteak shops, Pat’s and Geno’s of course!
|A Philly Cheesesteak with Provolone from Pat’s – the original cheesesteak shop in Philly|
Pat’s and Geno’s isn’t one cheese steak shop, they are actually two competitors across the street from each other. Pat’s claim to fame is that it’s founder, Pat Olivieri, created the cheesesteak sandwich back in 1930, so it is the oldest cheesesteak in Philly. Geno’s opened their location right across the street 36 years later and claims to have perfected the sandwich.
Both Pat’s and Geno’s are opened 24/7 minus a few holidays, and sure, it might be considered a “tourist trap”, but who cares? The experience is half the fun!
|The Face-off – Geno’s on the left, and Pat’s on the right, located on 9th Street & Passyunk Avenue|
Pat’s vs Geno’s, a complete comparison
So, what’s better? Pat’s or Geno’s? Cheez Whiz or Provolone? Decisions decisions…
|Geno’s, since , flashy w/ bright lights and neon signs|
|Pat’s, since , feels like a mom & pop establishment|
Presentation, Bread & Cheese
|Cheesesteak with Cheez Wiz – Geno’s on the left, Pat’s on the right|
|Cheez Whiz FTW (for the win) – gives extra flavor to the sandwich and adds extra gooey-deliciousness!|
I LOVED having a bite of these cherry peppers along with my cheesesteak – available at both Pat’s and Geno’s
All sandwiches come wit or wit-out grilled onions, so that’s off the table. But, I liked the mushrooms in my sandwich, so for the toppings category, Pat’s wins for having that extra variety.
|The menus at Geno’s (left) and Pat’s (right)|
|Learn how to order a Cheesesetak like a Philly Local|
With all these options, Pat’s gives you firm instructions on how to order your steak. There’s rumors that the folks at these cheesesteaks shop will get short with you if you don’t know what you’re doing when ordering. While I didn’t go up to the window to order, my experiences while stalking the kitchen showed that everyone in at both Pat’s and Geno’s were super friendly! No one cared that I had my camera in their business, they even posed.
A good cheesesteak is made with fresh beef that’s thinly sliced and grilled. Some cheesesteaks have steak that’s chopped, and some have them in slices. Both Pat’s and Geno’s gives you the meat in slices. Personally, I liked the extra texture from Pat’s steaks being bunched up instead of just in simple thin layers. So, once again, Pat’s wins for me for meat!
|The slices of steak at Pat’s is cooked in bunches, giving you the impression that it’s chopped up, but it’s not|
|The slices of steak at Geno’s is neatly stacked up and then piled on your sandwich|
The winner? Pat’s all the way!
For me, I declare Pat’s as the King of Steak! The Mushroom Cheesesteak wit onions and cheez whiz is the clear winner between the two rivals. I loved how authentic Pat’s sandwich tasted. The bread helped soak up the cheese perfectly and the texture was just right. The way the sliced steak is stacked gives it a much better bite than the organized stack at Geno’s. However, the next time you’re in Philly, I say if you get a chance, just order one eat from both Pat’s and Geno’s to try for yourself. Just make sure you get that wit cheez whiz and onions!
|One last picture from my favorite Pat’s cheesesteak – I was too busy eating the one with cheez, so here’s a provolone|
Have you had both Pat’s or Geno’s? Let me know what’s your fave in the comments below!
Hungry for more Cheesesteak? Check out how Jim’s Steaks in Philly stacks up!
Geno’s Steaks | Yelp
1219 S 9th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
Your Destination Guide to Philadelphia
The battle has raged for decades – who makes the best cheesesteak in the City of Brotherly Love? The uninitiated might not know where to begin when ordering that first Philly cheesesteak – the choices are staggering, both in ingredient options and establishments. Upon arriving in Philadelphia with a grumbling stomach, you might just go straight to Pat's King of Steaks or rival Geno's, located across the street from one another at 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue. But according to Philadelphia Magazine's annual "best of Philly" polls, neither Pat's nor Geno's have been "where-it's-at" cheesesteak-wise since 2000 and 2001 (respectively). Some locals and frequent day-trippers grumble that the two have become tourist traps, but others still swear by their tried and tested recipe for sandwich success. So who really makes the best cheesesteak in town? Take a tour and let your taste buds decide.
It all started with the hoagie roll, or "hoggie" as it was originally called – freshly baked white Italian bread, slightly crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. Add succulent grilled top-round or rib eye steak, sliced or chopped, dripping with juice on a bed of onions – what could possibly be more mouthwatering? The addition of melted cheese, of course – creamy American or Cheez Whiz, sharp provolone, or even stringy mozzarella. Pat and Harry Oliveri are credited with constructing the first incarnation of the sandwich (sans cheese) in 1930. After opening Pat's King of Steaks, Oliveri added cheese due to popular demand, and the cheesesteak as we know it today was born. It's now part of the menu at hundreds of restaurants nationally, but only in Philly can you get an authentic cheesesteak and savor it surrounded by the city that so lovingly created and consumed it almost 80 years ago. Today, different cuts and styles of meat, cheeses, and rolls are offered, along with toppings like mushrooms, grilled peppers, and more. There are variations on the traditional cheesesteak that include the pizza steak, the chicken cheesesteak, and a myriad of vegetarian and vegan options. There is so much variety available –– and so many locations that do it all so well – that the search for the perfect sandwich can be daunting.
Pat's King of Steaks and Geno's, both in South Philly, are open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Their order process moves fast and you will have a hot sandwich in your hands within minutes, but make sure you know what you want before you arrive to avoid holding up the line -- or be prepared to endure public berating by impatient employees. There's no indoor seating, so these two are perfect if you want to get out and explore with a meal on the go. Jim's Steaks has four locations, and typically visitors enjoy the 5th and South Street restaurant during an afternoon trip to the South Street shops and markets. Jim's rib eye cuts are chopped and placed on top of your choice of cheese in a delicious roll, and seating upstairs is available so you can rest your feet from all that window shopping. The original Jim's Steaks is at North 62nd Street in West Philly.
Cosmi's Deli at the corner of 8th Street and Dickinson was voted best for cheesesteaks by Philadelphia Magazine in 2004 and 2008. They provide generous portions, but take a bit more time to prepare than diners who frequent Pat's, Geno's, or street vendors may be used to. The wait is worth it. Steve's Prince of Steaks serves up rib eye which is grilled whole, not chopped. The Bustleton & St Vincent St. location in North Philly was featured on the Food Network as Philly's best kept secret and they have since opened a new store in 1999 at Comly Road and Roosevelt Boulevard.
Vegetarian or vegan? No problem. Gianna's Grille at 507 South 6th Street offers one menu for meat-eaters, as well as one for vegetarians with selections that can all be "veganized." Make sure to specify that you want the vegan option when ordering, and be specific about your choice of cheese – Gianna's has American, provolone, mozzarella, cheez whiz, and soy cheese all available. Their alternative options include steak, chicken, and sausage sandwiches. Govinda's Vegetarian at South and Broad Streets has fine dining as well as "Gourmet to Go," their take-out sandwich service, which is available 'til midnight on weekends. Philly chicken cheesesteak (grilled soy chicken with peppers, with vegan or cow cheese), and Philly pepper steak sandwich (non-vegan soy steak with cheese and peppers) are both offered.
Home to the famous soft pretzel (with mustard of course), the Tastykake factory, and some of the best regional potato chips Philadelphia has long been known for its great tasting foods. However, the one food that has topped all of the above, the one which cannot be made the same way anywhere else around the world, is the Philadelphia Cheesesteak. The sliced beef, chopped onions, and melted cheese all on a six to twelve inch hoagie roll, come together to make one of the most renowned foods in America. The creation of the steak sandwich adds to Philadelphia's already lengthy food résumé in America.
Not just a sandwich, but a battle, the contests to create the best Philadelphia Cheesesteak joins the likes of Eagles vs. Steelers, and Penn State University vs. the University of Pittsburgh, as one of the most heated rivals in Pennsylvania. The battle to make the best Philadelphia Cheesesteak has been one for ages since the creation of the scrumptious sandwich.
One day in 1930, the owners of a little hotdog shop in Italian immigrant-filled South Philadelphia decided it was time for a change. Tired of their normal lunch of hot dogs from their shop, Harry Olivieri went to a local grocery market to purchase some beef. Harry and his brother Pat then sliced up the beef, grilled it with some onions, and placed it on a roll. Just before beginning to dig in, a cab driver caught the alluring aroma of the hot beefy sandwich. Upon asking for and receiving his food, legend has it that the cabdriver shoveled down the five-cent beef sandwich and stated, "Hey. forget about those hotdogs, you should sell these." Before either brother had taken a bite of their delicious discovery, the sandwich became a hit. Within days of the initial mouthful, word spread. Cab drivers from around town were demanding the extraordinary steak sandwich.
It took Pat Olivieri ten years to finally succumb to the demand for the steak sandwich and begin selling it as his main attraction. In 1940, the Olivieri brothers opened up Pat's King of Steaks in South Philadelphia, at 1237 East Passyunk Avenue, where it has survived for over sixty years. Not until twelve years later did cheese get added to the recipe of the already mouthwatering meal, giving birth to the modern Cheesesteak.
The invention and spread of the delicious sandwich brought travelers from all around the country to try the newfound glory. Conversely, along with the success the new business brought Pat's, the creation of the Cheesesteak brought competition. In 1966, after years of minimal competition for their sandwich, Joe Vento opened up the foe of Pat's King of Steaks, Geno's Steaks. The two have been in a heavy weight showdown for more than 40 years. The only problem with this boxing cliché is that this match does not end after three rounds, and the competitors do not give themselves space in between punches.
Geno's Steaks opened up a minimal distance from Pat's. The two businesses go to war for customers only the width of a street away. Joe Vento chose 1219 South 9th Street as his location for his sandwich shop. The dilemma: 1219 South Street and 1237 East Passyunk Avenue are the corner addresses at the intersection of South Street and East Passyunk Avenue. Coincidence or not, the location and quality of each company has lead to the Cheesesteak Civil War.
Perhaps the spark of the great dispute of who makes the best sandwich started when cheese was added to the initial steak sandwich in 1952. Both owners take credit for the final ingredient that made the steak sandwich into the Cheesesteak sandwich. The people at whatscookingamerica.com state that longtime employee Joe Lorenzo melted cheese onto the normal recipe because he wanted to try a new twist. On the other hand, the people across the street from Pat's make the claim that the melted cheese was added by their company, but not until Geno's opened in 1966. After decades, the dispute has yet to be resolved, and probably never will be.
In Philadelphia, the Cheesesteak stands for so much more then just a sandwich it has become part of life to Philadelphians. It is a fact that Philadelphians come off as hardcore sports fans, in some cases rude and obnoxious. Known as the fans who threw snowballs at Santa Claus, they take very little offence to this hardnosed fans claim. When it comes to somebody insulting their pride and joy, they go through the roof. For decades their sports teams have failed to win the big game, Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Championship, or Stanley Cup, the citizens needed to defend something. What did they choose? A sandwich, the sandwich, the Philly Cheesesteak. The CEO of the Corbin & Company Capital Management firm, Dave Corbin, wrote an article in May of 2008, about his travels across the United States as a high-class businessman. In his article he says that he has eaten at over fifteen restaurants in 45 of the 48 continental states Based upon Dave Corbin's ratings, Philadelphians finally have a title to defend in 2008. Dave Corbin classified Geno's Steaks as the number one place to eat in the continental United States for 2007. Although Pat's King of Steaks was heart broken, Philadelphians could not have been more proud.
The Cheesesteak lifestyle has developed so much that Pat's and Geno's restaurants have created something similar to their own language. Geno's and Pat's both have a sign outside their order window that serves as language course for ordering food. A Cheesesteak with onions and with American cheese does not exist. Buyers can have three types of cheese on their Cheesesteak: American, Provolone, or cheese whiz. In regards to onions, it is "wit (yes) or widout (no)." An order for a Cheesesteak with cheese whiz and onions would sound more like "Cheesesteak whiz wit." Each store has the instructions posted so that new customers can learn the ropes before put under the spotlight. Pat's sign also includes the advice, "If you make a mistake don't panic, just go to the back of the line and start over." With such high demand and so many hungry customers a day, the two businesses get so crowded that employees insist customers know what they want before being asked.
The Passyunk Avenue and 9th Street intersection has gone from the immigrant part of town to the equivalent of the red carpet in Philadelphia. Just as movie stars, athletes, and musicians come from all over for the next big event in Hollywood the same goes for South Philly's Cheesesteaks. Pat's has pencil sketches of any big named celebrity who has graced the store with its presence, while Geno's has photos of numerous celebrities on their website. From singer Jessica Simpson to television personality Vanna White, from basketball star Yao Ming to talk show host Regis Philbin, celebrities cannot go to Philly without trying a Cheesesteak.
Celebrities have gained or lost points to their public image in Philadelphia based upon their Cheesesteak experience. Sylvester Stallone, already loved by the Philadelphia public for his work in the Rocky films, gained even more points because he stood outside of Pat's King of Steaks during one scene in the first movie. Bad press can also come from an improper encounter with Cheesesteak society. In 2004, presidential candidate John Kerry ordered his Cheesesteak with Swiss cheese. This caused many people in the media to laugh and brought some bad reviews from Philadelphians. In 2005, when the Eagles went to the Super Bowl, Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania placed a wager of a Cheesesteak with Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, following the tradition that governors of states with teams in the big game will make a food-related bet on the outcome. Mitt Romney turned down the sandwich saying, ". the Cheesesteak has no nutritional value." Philadelphians looked upon Romney and Kerry as if they were Cowboys fans, never a good thing in Philadelphia.
The love for the Philly Cheesesteak no longer lies just within the city limits. As people move from the city around the country, their craving and passion for the sandwich stays with them. Once someone has tasted the unforgettable tasting sandwich, it becomes nearly impossible to not desire it again and again. Substitutes for the original Cheesesteak have been made, Steak-Ums being the most popular. However, this alternate form of the Cheesesteak is nothing more than what Egg Beaters are to chicken eggs. Bloggers have posted all over the Internet saying that once you eat the Philadelphia Cheesesteak, you cannot eat another form of Cheesesteak anywhere else in the world.
The debate that started on a small block in Philly in 1966 has grown over the years. The Cheesesteak debate no longer involves just Philadelphia locals, but it includes politicians, athletes, movie stars, etc. People from all around the country have their own opinion on who has the best Cheesesteak. Most likely no one will never know who in fact added the cheese to Pat Olivieri's steak sandwich, but people are sure glad someone did. The sandwich has become a celebrity in its own right. Unlike all other celebrities, however, it will never die. Its past may stay somewhat hazy, but its future is bright and full of promise. It gives the City of Brotherly Love just one more reason to be proud.
Searching For A Cheesesteak In Philly? Take a look here
I tried 23 cheesesteaks that were listed for another websites' ultimate cheesesteak guide and this is what I think.. I am not a local and don't have a local's insight, but this list was made by locals.. All sandwiches were with American cheese, no onions. I believe that onions' strong flavor distracts from the meat, which should be the main focus. If they can't give you a good cheesesteak without onions then they won't be giving you a good cheesesteak. As for cheese, I grew up on American and I think it's the amount of cheese and distribution that matters, rather than the type.. I assessed the sandwich size, flavor, ratios of bread to meat to cheese, and level of cheese distribution. If you've had better or worse sandwiches at one of these places, then that place I think should lose points for inconsistency. These are my findings from worst to first:
23) Joe's Steak and Soda Shop, (formerly known as Chink's):
This is the loser. This was a bad, tiny sandwich, with dried meat that wasn't even in the roll properly, and a small amount of cheese that wasn't even distributed, and it was overall tasteless and cold. The only thing they did interesting was they toasted the outside of the roll.
I don't care if Kobe Bryant went here, this was an uninspired cheesesteak with nothing to recommend it. Lackluster. "Blah" comes to mind.
The roll was way too wide on this sandwich and the meat got lost. It was hard to even bite this sandwich, you had to squish the roll to get it in your mouth. Couldn't even taste the meat.
I found it generic. The only thing memorable about it was how uninteresting it was, and lack of freshness made it mediocre.
I know it's often in contention for best cheesesteak but, though quite big, I found the meat too finely chopped and tasteless. I don't think cheesesteak should be like cheeseburger and how about some seasoning? (Their roast pork is much better.)
For the inventor of the cheesesteak, they insult the legacy. They aren't even trying here. They don't melt the cheese or distribute it, just plop a tiny amount of meat into the big cheese-lined bread. Much too much bread to meat here, though rhe meat was somewhat tasty.
An interesting taste to the meat here but the sandwich didn't taste very fresh and was small.
This also had an interesting taste to the meat, some sort of vinegar or worcesershire. The sandwich was small, though it was the cheapest on the list. Not enough meat on the sandwich knocks it down. (Everyone working here is high).
Sliced beef, a bit dried out and not that flavorful. Bread was good and amount of cheese was good, but a little blah to taste.
Pricey at $13, but this was actually a big sandwich. But MUCH TOO MUCH CHEESE!! It was the only one that had this problem and the cheese overwhelmed the whole thing.
The only one made with brisket, this was small and $14, with cheese just plopped on top. It was tasty but brisket just seems weird, and the sandwich was tiny and cold.
Good, chunky texture, good ratios, needed more flavor. Quite neutral about this, very middle of the pack.
11) Steve's Prince of Steaks:
Similar to Phillip's, with steak slices and chewy bread, but this was moister and had better flavor. The only problem was not nearly enough meat (though you can get double meat).
This was a nice cheesesteak, flavorful, but it wasn't very big for $12.
This was a tough one. The meat is so moist and squishy and seasoned that I have to believe it is treated with broth ie processed. I don't think they cook it from raw since it wasn't that hot. It was a lot like roast beef. It gets this ranking because it was so well seasoned (sodium!) and meat to bread ratio was good, but the texture was definitely mushy.
This was huge, easily the biggest sandwich on the list. The meat was a tiny bit dry but it really lost points for not distributing the cheese, just laying it underneath, and not enough of it either. But it was quite decent.
A good cheesesteak, big and flavorful, needed more seasoning but otherwise good.
Extremely flavorful because they squirt oil onto the cooked meat, which kind of seems like cheating but oh well. Needed much, much more meat on the bread, but filled with flavor, quite delicious.
This sandwich was huge, but the meat was much like roast beef. On a poppy seed bun which was a nice change. It was so seasoned it was actually salty. Could use a bit more cheese. But it was delicious and big so I still gave it a high ranking.
4) The Original Tony Luke's:
Very nice sandwich, fantastic bread, the best bread of them all, lots of meat and cheese, except a lack of cheese distribution, just a blob on top. Otherwise this would win.
Very well made cheesesteak, nice crusty bread, plenty of steak and cheese in perfect ratio, piping hot, just needed more seasoning.
Perfect texture, the best of all of them, nice and chunky, with lots of cheese and good bread, I don't know why so many more people go across the street to Dalessandro's.
1) Sonny's is number one for this list.
A perfect cheesesteak, right ratios of bread to meat to cheese, nicely seasoned and very flavorful, just an all around nice cheesesteak.