As a Philadelphia resident, I’m often asked, “Which is the best cheesesteak? Pat’s or Geno’s?” My answer? Neither. Don’t get me wrong, Pat’s and Geno’s are a good situation after a Phillies game or when you want a steak at 4am. However, I think there are some better options. In terms of Pat’s v. Geno’s, I think they both taste the same.
So, on that note, here are a few things about cheesesteaks and sandwiches from a Philadelphian that I think everyone should know…
1. Cheese wiz does not make a steak “Philly.” Cheese wiz is actually gross and it will make your steak gross. I don’t know where this “tradition” began, but it’s not tasty. Try getting your steak with provolone or cheddar. “Wiz wit” is the popular phrase people say at Pat’s and Geno’s, and it means “cheese wiz with onions.” I’m thinking provolone, with. That’s a good steak.
2. Pat’s and Geno’s are not the only option for cheesesteaks. They are just popular and open all night. A few places I like better are Tony Luke’s, John’s Roast Pork, Jim’s on South Street, Johnny’s Hots, and even Slack’s Hoagie Shack. Abbaye in Northern Liberties has a gourmet cheesesteak, and it’s awesome. Anthony’s Cafe on Girard Avenue has a surprisingly good steak. I’m sure I’m missing many good options, but my point is that Pat’s and Geno’s are not the only place to get a good steak in Philadelphia (though it’s hard to go wrong with any form of cheese, steak, and bread). If you come into town and want to try and an authentic Philly cheesesteak, we probably will not be going to Pat’s or Geno’s. My go to steak option is Tony Luke’s on Oregon Avenue; there’s parking and a sit down restaurant.
3. A Philly cheesesteak does not use ground meat. Instead, the meat is more like a Steak Umm. A Philly cheesesteak uses sliced meat. The signature of a Philly cheesesteak is sliced meat on high quality bread. The bread is the real key to the steak. The best steak shops have the bread specially made, usually in South Philly.
4. A Philly cheesesteak never has lettuce and tomato on it. Putting lettuce and tomato on a cheesesteak makes it a “cheesesteak hoagie*.” Which I’m sure is perfectly fine if you’re John Kerry, I guess. But it ain’t a Philly cheesesteak. You can, however, add things like broccoli raab, long hots, mushrooms, etc. to a Philly cheesesteak. Personally, I like mine with raab, mushroom, onion, and hots. (*A “hoagie” is what New Yorkers and other parts of the country blasphemously call a ‘hero’, ‘wedge’, or ‘submarine’.)
5. Cheesesteaks are not the only great Philadelphia sandwich. Philly is also known for its roast pork sandwiches. My favorite can be found right in my neighborhood at the Memphis Tap. Philadelphia also offers some great other meals like hots (my favorite are found at Johnny’s Hots), hoagies, and other delicious Amish cuisine found at Reading Terminal Market.
So there you go, people. Next time you’re in Philadelphia and want a good sandwich, consider expanding your horizon beyond Pat’s and Geno’s. Whatever you do, do not put lettuce, tomato, or wiz on your steak. Now go forth and eat!
Holly Eats has a great writeup about all things food and Philly.