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the 40-year-old cheesesteak virgin

  • e


i'm coming to phila this coming wknd, express goal is to try as many proper cheesesteaks as possible, have never had one in phila.

just scrolled over the past month and was surprised to see no posts on the subject, though i assume everyone there must be sick of talking about it.

anyway, if anyone would be kind enough to post their thoughts about anything cheesesteak-related, from the #1 place i should visit to when i should go to what to order, etc., i'd be much appreciative.

many thanks,
boston foodie

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  1. Eric,

    I believe it was you who posted a few days ago about this subject. I responded in some detail, but the posts were deleted. Anyway, I'll try again. I'm not a cheesesteak expert, and have only been to Philadelphia to try a cheesesteak once. But I have read the hundreds of posts here and on other forums. There are so many opinions on what is the best cheesesteak. Sort of like what is the best hot dog. The consensus among many cheesteak afficionados is that Pat's, Genos, and Jim's are the tourist places. Well known and good; but there are better to be found. When you watch a Monday Night football game from Philly, Pat's is where the cameras are to show the locals eating an "authentic Philadelphia steak sandwich". Pat's was the originator of this sandwich.

    When people who make a hobby out of sampling cheesesteaks talk about the best, you hear the names Steve's Prince of Steaks and Dalessandro's an awful lot. My one experience in Philly was at Steves and it was very good. But being a hot dog afficianado, I have very little to compare it to. Surprisingly, on my way home to Union, N.J. I had a steak sandwich from a local place that I preferred to Steve's. Philly Grille on Galloping Hill Rd. in Elizabeth is about 2 miles down the road from the Galloping Hill Inn. It is a few years old and the owner has connections to Jim's in Philadelphia. He is either a part owner or family member. I was told that the Philadelphia Grille uses harder bread and better quality meat than Jim's. The bread was better, although Philadelphians like it softer, and the meat was definitely tastier.

    I would suggest try as many places in Philly as you can and also a few in Jersey. There are many in south Jersey that are considered as good as or better than what you will find in Philadelphia. Whitehouse Subs in Atlantic City and Gaetanos (various locations) come to mind. One that I haven't had, but hear is great is from Chick's in Cherry Hill. Considered the best by the Newark (N.J.) Star Ledger as well as Philadelphia Magazine!

    After you sample all those cheesestaks, let us know what you think.

    2 Replies
    1. re: John Fox

      There have been many posts on this subject in the past. Consensus:
      D'Allesandro's and John's Roast Pork are the two most frequently cited as the best.
      At John's (which is my fave), you have your choice of cheese. Purists go for the provelone. My only complaint was that they put so much on, and it's so good, that the cheese overwhelms the taste of the meat. My husband gets it cheeseless, and I actually preferred that. Order "with" (pronounced "wit") and you get sauteed onions. Definitely recommended.
      As an authentic alternative to the cheesesteak, you might try a roast pork sandwich at D'Nics in Reading Terminal Market or at Tony Luke's at Front and Oregon. Also order "with" and also with spinach or brocolli rabb.
      Geno's and Pats are strictly for tourists, and those who have had too much beer, it's late at night, and these are the only places open. I prefer Geno's myself, if you must. Other more decent places to get cheesesteaks are Jim's on South Street, Sonny's on Market near 2d.

      1. re: Susan H

        If you do go to Sonny's, I prefer it Jersey Style Wit. This means that it has american cheese, mixed win with the meat during the cooking, plus fried onions mixed in as well. Good stuff.

    2. Try the link below. Holly does a good job of reviewing and rating a broad range of Philly eateries.

      Link: http://www.hollyeats.com/

      1. d
        Donald Summerland

        This is easy: DO NOT go to Pats, Geno's or Jims. Simply drive to Snyder Ave, go to Front st. and have the best cheese steak in the whole world at John's Roast Pork.
        Case closed.

        1. There's a thread below "tour de cheesesteak' that can help.

          As below, I will recommend 'Steve's Prince of Steak's' on Bustleton a little northeast of the city. Steve's is also on hollyeats.com.

          I'll say to go ahead and try Pat's and/or Geno's (right across the street from each other). I respectfully disagree that they are only for tourists and drunks. If Pat's or Geno's were down here in Washington, DC they would clean up. It's the rolls! I don't think for a second that Pat's or Geno's serves up the best in Philly, but as a first time visitor on a cheesesteak quest, I think you'd be doing yourself wrong by not hitting one, if not both. And it's rare that when I hit Philly, I don't stop at both Steve's as well as Pat's or Geno's.

          Many don't like Pat's / Geno's and many love them. Just as I am among those that are no big fan of Jim's, but obviously Jim's has a ton of followers, as does Pat's and Geno's.



          2 Replies
          1. re: KOK

            I have to disagree. Pat's is awful. I'd rather have a cheesesteak from Philadelphia Cheesesteak Factory in DC (wrong roll, but not horrible, and the meat/cheese blend is much better) than have another Pat's.

            If you MUST go to Pat's, get Whiz, so at least the cheese will be melted!

            1. re: gina

              That's how it always is on chowhound. GGoo above hates Dalessandro's but HamsonPhilly is all over it like stink on a monkey.

              Philadelphia Cheesesteak Factory was pretty good in College Park, Md but it has long ago closed. I never went to the one in Georgetown.



          2. I like Pat's and Geno's.

            Screw the haters.

            1. Cheesesteaks are greasy and gross and they make you smell for like 3 hours.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Marone

                That's okay with me.

                1. re: JohnS

                  good answer. often, when I get the Steve's pizza steak with cheesewhiz and fried onions, the grease gets under my fingernails and the scent is with me for the entire afternoon. it is heaven.

              2. Since your goal is to try as many cheesesteaks as possible, definitely go to Pat's & Gino's and order with cheesewiz. Eat a few bites of each, throw out, and you can now say you've tried them both.

                Then, try the cheesesteaks with provolone at John's Roast Pork and Dalessandro's, and taste how superior they are. If you are in Old City, try Campo's Market.

                Also, to clear your palate of cheesesteaks, you must go to Tony Luke or Tony Luke Jr's and get the Italian Sandwich (roast pork with sharp provolone and broccoli rabe). It's every bit as philly as a cheesesteak.

                1 Reply
                1. re: HamsonPhilly

                  Tony Luke Jr's (on 18th) is no longer affiliated with Tony Luke, and is now called just "Tony Jr." It's awful. It's worse than awful.

                2. My 2 cents:

                  Dallesandro's (sp?): Very, very overrated. Limp bland onions piled on top of the steak. Not good. I've been there twice, same both times. Why all of the hype?

                  John's Roast Pork: Excellent steak, even better roast pork sandwich (w/greens and sharp provolone). My favorite sandwich!

                  Pat's, Geno's: Go to say you were there. Geno's seems to be the more consistant of the two. I have had BAD steaks at Pats.

                  Steve's: Excellent steak, nice roll, very greasy.....which is good.

                  Chink's (Torresdale Ave NE Philly): Controversial name, simple, delicious steak. Only options are fried onions and american cheese, but it works.

                  Silvio's (Hatboro, Montgomery co.): Good steaks, great hoagies. Rolls baked on the premises.

                  Tony Luke's: Haven't had the steak yet, can't get past the chicken cutlet sandwich....Mmmmm


                  1. v
                    Vladimir Estragon

                    My view of this subject might be limited, but I've sampled two distinctly different types of cheesesteaks. The one I call the Philly type, epitomized by Pat's and Geno's, consists of good quality sliced ribeye steak on a roll, with a pile of sauteed onions layered on top, and a big glob of Cheez-Wiz. Generally speaking, the meat is superior on this type, but the synthesis really isn't there. Please note that I've only tried Pat's and Geno's in Philly, not the others mentioned here. Of the two, I prefer Geno's, mainly because it's cleaner.

                    The other type is more commonly found in Lancaster, where I live, mostly at pizza joints. For this type, they put some raw onions on the griddle, layer the raw sliced steak on top, and let it cook, covered for a few minutes. Once it's mostly cooked, they chop it up with the side of the spatula, add the cheese (American usually) and some tomato sauce, and mix everything together before putting it on the roll. I actually prefer this type, because everything comes together into a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. The down side is that the meat is often that frozen steakum-like stuff, which is not as tasty as the real Philly beef.

                    1. I've had both Geno's and Pat's. Both sub good in my opinion. Both had rude people working there, maybe even more important than the sandwich, I can't stand rude.

                      I'm here now, in Philly and my hotel just said to go to Sunny's on Market and 1st/2nd. I'll be going there, but then I'm off to 9th street market and Ross after that, shopping is in my future

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: iL Divo

                        D'Allesandro's in Roxborough seems to hold the lead amongst cheesesteak devotees.
                        But if you aren't eating it right there, the darned roll gets all sloppy wet with the sauce.
                        No fun!

                        1. re: idia

                          As long as the chowhound from Boston is coming into town, they should consider the wide range of cheesesteaks... Ambience at Chinks in the Northeast is great (and they chop their own steak). And they certainly should consider the kobe beef cheesesteak at Barclay Prime. 100 bucks may be more than all the other cheesesteaks put together, but its definitely a once in a lifetime experience.

                          1. re: cwdonald

                            Has anyone here ever been to Mama's? I believe it's in Bala Cynd (sp). I heard that it's one of the bigger sandwiches. Great quality and they only use mozarella cheese. From the descriptions I've read elsewhere, this seems like one of the better choices.

                            1. re: hotdoglover

                              hdlover: I've been to Mama's many times and it is one of the bigger sandwiches. No, wait, it's one of the heaviest sandwiches. It's loaded with mozzarella and it weighs a ton. You can't eat many of these a week. One or perhaps two a week is the most one can handle.
                              It's on Belmont Ave. in Bala Cynwyd - about halfway between Manayunk and City Avenue.

                                1. re: hotdoglover

                                  Please everyone stop touting D'Alessandro's. It was the only cheesesteak I've ever had that I wanted to take back. Its comparable only to a cheesesteak from any corner pizza spot in philly. Personally, I think Steve's on Bustleton is the best, not the one on the blvd. The bread is heavenly, steak seasoned well, and even tastes good cold the next day. Pat's is my choice when in S. Philly but I always seem to get long pieces of gummy fat in with the meat. For the record, if I read another cheesesteak post this week I am blowing my budget and going to Steve's!

                                  1. re: dream_of_giusti

                                    I agree with dream of giusti 100%. D'Alessandro's sucks.

                                2. re: cheesewit

                                  1 or 2 a week? I'm impressed. I can eat a half sandwich every few weeks. Absolutely incredible cheesesteak though. I tried to go last time I was in town, but they are closed on Mondays, and only open until 2pm on Tuesdays.

                        2. I grew up in Philadelphia but now live in L.A., a virtual cheesesteak desert. I was back in Philadelphia over New Years and ate at Dallesandro's. I found it excellent. As for Geno's claim to have invented cheesesteaks in 1966, I know for sure that they were available at every hoagie shop as far back as I can remember -- one of our family's greatest treats was a Friday night cheesesteak from Lee's on Cheltenham Ave. in the early
                          60s. None of this Wiz garbage back then -- provolone, sauce, peppers, and onions for the perfect eat.

                          Why cheesesteaks only taste right in Philadelphia is one of life's great mysteries.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: bearymore

                            Geno's NEVER claimed to have invented cheesesteaks in 1966. Joe Vento started Geno's Steaks in 1966. He learned the cheese steak business from his father who in the early 1940's opened "Jim's Steaks".

                            1. re: Philly

                              Jim's, Pat's (all of a sudden the purists are calling this a tourist trap----probably because it gets on the Food and Travel Channels. Untrue....still makes a good steak), Tony's, Steve's and Della's and the Reading Terminal Market has a good one, too....this is all opinion.......personally, I like mine with whiz.

                          2. Of the Philly cheese steak establishments, I like Tony Lukes. Pat's and Geno's are about equally good, both fine and tasty at 2 AM when no other place is open, but I think they're overpriced and skimpy with the meat. Oh, and did Pat's always charge for fried onions and I never noticed, or is that a new thing?

                            The absolute best cheesesteak out there is at the Whitehouse in Atlantic City. That doesn't help you if you're going to be in Philly only, but if you ever get to Atlantic City it's worth going off the boardwalk and grabbing a steak at the counter (it's always packed).

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: makk2

                              Agreed. White House is the best in the area, with Dino's in Margate standing out over all other Philly establishments. If you like "flipped" not "chopped," Steve's and Talk of the Town are the places to go in Philly.

                              1. re: phungi

                                Talk of the Town will chop upon request.

                            2. I've said this before and I'm "sticking" to it. Pudge's in Blue Bell > all that have been posted here. Why? How do I know? Philly native for 36 years before moving out to the burbs...had everyone mentioned here and crown Pudge's as the absolute best.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: DobieGillis©

                                I like Chubby's across from D'Allesandro's. Had a lousy steak at Bravo in Bryn Mawr the other day , btw, avoid it. I should have known better.

                                1. re: steelydad

                                  I've been out of the area for 40 years, but to me as a Penn student in 1968 , the best was at the Classic Sub Shop I think right up the street across from the main entrance to the undergrad dorms. I think we ate there about 6 times a week. Don't know if it still exists, but the meat was juicy and the cheese a cross between provolone and mozzarella - not the CheezWiz yellow stuff others used.

                                  1. re: longmeadow

                                    I just celebrated my 30th reunion at Penn, and I assure you, the Classic Sub is looooong gone. There was a West Philly cheessteak drought during my 4 years....the "trucks" sold a lot of them during the day--- god knows what kind of meat they used. I think Ronnie's on 40th and Spruce ... and the place next door also made them. In later years, Abner's opened on 38th and Walnut----they make a very decent cheesesteak...