Who makes the best Philly Cheesesteak?

On a recent trip to Philadelphia the other weekend, a friend of mine and I decided to try our hand at two of the most famous cheesesteak shops in Philadelphia.  Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks are located literally across the street from one another at the intersection where 9th Street, Passyunk Street and Wharton Street meet.  On any given day at any given time that corner is overflowing with people stuffing their faces with bread and meat since both are open 24 hours (so you can get your heart attack in at any time).

Now admittedly, we heard from several locals that these two places are touristy and that some of the best places are actually out in the suburbs (Tony Luke’s for one was a place a local Philly girl swears by).  But since we only had a weekend, we had to see what the hype was about.

Here’s a rundown of how they compared:

Both had similarly long lines and both are Cash Only.  Geno’s by far has the more elaborate looking shop; it looks like something out of Las Vegas, wheras Pat’s has a more local, sandwich hut type feel.   Geno’s easily has the better eating setup: both have picnic tables (about 12 picnic tables or so each), but Geno’s is smart enough to set up standing bar style tables for people to eat along the side of the walls of the shop.   But while Geno’s may have the better seating, they get knocked down a notch because of something that made me feel a little uncomfortable.  When you’re at the casher, there are signs and pictures up of the owner with a “I want my country back” sign and “This is America, we only take orders in English” and shit like that.  Now, I’m not going to use this forum to get too much into it, but as an Asian-American I didn’t feel all that enamoured by that.

Onto the food.  When ordering, both places have the “instructions” on how to order your sandwich quickly.  Probably no one will do anything if you don’t order it like a local, but they may just get a little annoyed if there is a long wait.  You can compare it to putting ketchup on your hot dog in Chicago – they’ll just frown on the out-of-towner.  We ordered the same sandwich, “wiz wit”, at both places.  If you get the cheesesteaks “wiz wit”, which is the cheese whiz, it’s going to be very, very messy.   The steak at Geno’s is a bit more like steak-umm’s flat and solid strips.  The steak at Pat’s is more shredded and a little leaner.  The bread at Geno’s is more like a traditional sub roll like one you’d get from Jimmy Johns, whereas Pat’s break is a lot fluffier and spongier and more like a roll.

In the end the winner is: Pat’s King of Steaks.  You can’t really go wrong with either;  it really comes down to a matter of personal preference.

For good measure, we also tried one of Pat’s cheesesteaks with provolone cheese, peppers and mushrooms and that to me was actually the best out of all of them!  So if you’re up in Philly, enjoy!

2 Replies to “Who makes the best Philly Cheesesteak?”

  1. Nice article Andrew! When I was in Philly for a wedding, I went with friends for cheesesteaks. The woman asked me if I wanted Cheese Whiz or sliced American. I turned to my friend and asked if he was getting “real cheese” or Cheese Whiz. There was an audible gasp from folks in line and the woman at the register. She goes, looking horrified, “Here in Philly, Cheese Whiz IS real cheese ma’am”. Yikes, way to out myself as an out-of-towner!

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