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Nov 24, 2009 04:14 PM

Attention Philly hounds! Car-less visiting L.A. Chowhound needs to know-- Where is the best Philly Cheesesteak available by SEPTA (subway and W2 lines)

Hello Philly hounds

My wife and I will be arriving at PHL around 2:30pm on Wednesday, and will be taking the Septa W2 Warminster train to visit my grandmother for the holiday. Since the train goes through South Philly, I was hoping to get an out-of-this-world cheesesteak on my way up to Richboro.

We're absolutely OK with going out of our way to get this. My research on this board has come up with the following recs:

John's Roast Pork (sounds phenomenal-- if the roast pork is that good, this might be a great 2-for-1 experience)
Tony Luke's
Steve's Prince of Steaks

Which would you recommend? Have I missed anything obvious? (I've intentionally left D'Allesandro's off the list due to recent downhill reports).

Also, I can't quite tell what the consensus is on whiz vs. provolone. If I've never had a great cheesesteak, how should I get it? Also, what does the standard Philly roast pork sandwich consist of? I'd never heard of it before reading these boards, and I'm originally from New Jersey.

Lastly, we'll be wearing our big carry on backpacks, so we'd prefer not to walk too far off the subway line (though we will go out of our way for a phenomenal representation of the sandwich) or walk through anywhere dangerous (though we are from central Los Angeles-- however east coast urban blight is somehow more intimidating).

So to summarize--

1. What the best sandwich with the best SEPTA connections?
2. What is the most traditional way to get your cheesesteak/roast pork prepared?
3. What SEPTA route would you take to get there?


Mr Taster

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  1. I hate to say it but most of your choices are way off the beaten path for transit without several transfers.

    My heartfelt advice: When you take the Airport Septa line, take it to Market East station. You are then only 1 block from Reading Terminal Market, where you can enjoy DiNic's Roast Pork (with provolone and broccoli rabe). And you can have all the other treats in the market (the market... and CH.... are filled with suggestions). Then an easy 1 block walk back to your train station, hop back on the R2 up to warminster.

    2 Replies
    1. re: JugglerDave

      Agreed! Of course, my personal opinion is that there's no such thing as an out-of-this-world cheesesteak, but some are better than others. A good roast pork and rabe like DiNics, though, is better than the best cheesesteak.

      1. re: JugglerDave

        Just checked John's Roast Pork... they close at 3:00pm, so no way for us to get there in time.

        Reading Terminal Market seems the way to go given our circumstances.

        So DiNic's for the Roast Pork with sharp provolone and broccoli rabe. Do they make a good cheesesteak too? Also, is DiNic's inside the Reading Terminal Market or is it just nearby?

        Mr Taster

      2. Do you mean the SEPTA R2 Warminster ? I think it starts at Market East from the Airport?? You would not be going through S. Philly at all. Market East station is all chain restaurants, but depending on what time of day (2:30- 3:00 should be perfect, you could slip over to the Reading Terminal. If you don't have a car, that might be your only real option.

        I will get grief, but the default is American cheese (not Kraft Singles) and Whiz is pretty popular. You will NOT get Provolone (or Whiz) unless you specifically ask for it.

        Personally, I find Provolone the wrong texture for a steak (though great on Roast Pork) ESPECIALLY if you can get hand cut SHARP Provolone.

        "Standard " Roast Pork is seasoned roast pork (wet) but garlicky broccoli rabe (or spinach) are excellent foils for the fatty richness. Provolone is the favored cheese.

        At the Reading Terminal Market (very safe) you can get excellent examples of both sandwiches (and take a buttered hot soft pretzel with you for later).

        If, for some reason, you miss this, there is a decent place on Street Road in Warminster (Steak and Hoagie Factory) that is not mind-altering, but you'll get an authentic steak there.

        1 Reply
        1. re: phillyjazz

          Where do you recommend getting a good (if not great) cheesesteak in the vicinity of Reading Terminal Market?

          Mr Taster

        2. Yep, most of those places are pretty tough to get to without a car, or at least a few bus transfers. Philly is not a great public transportation town. As long as your plane isn't late, you should have time to get to the Reading Terminal Market. Have the Dinic's roast pork with greens and sharp provolone (ask for it wet and it will be very juicy, but fall apart easily). Then top it off with some pumpkin ice cream at Bassets.

          1. OK, how about this idea--

            Exit Market East station. Get a roast pork sandwich from Di Nic's, maybe an ice cream from Basset's. Walk it off through Center City East and down to South Street, get a cheesesteak at Jim's. Walk down south street and back up 12th to make a circle back to Market East station. Yeah, it's a hike, but we'll hit some decent spots and walk through the Philly sights.

            Sound like a plan?

            Mr Taster

            2 Replies
            1. re: Mr Taster

              Sounds good, but if you are up for that much walking, skip Bassets and walk up 13th and stop at Capogiro (13th & Sansom) for some awesome gelato.

              1. re: Mr Taster

                This is a great plan. Jim's is a solid steak, if maybe not in the league of the places on your original list. At Jim's, I'd go with whiz, and onions.

              2. Going from the Airport to Warminster, you most likely are taking the R1 Airport train and transferring to the R2 Warminster train without ever needing to be on the subway. While the Airport train does go through South Philly, there are no stops in South Philly, and it essentially goes directly from the Airport to Center City.

                My suggestion would be rather than walk all the way to Jim's from Reading Terminal, walk to Rick's Steaks at Broad and Walnut. Rick's was actually in Reading Terminal for years but recently moved to Broad and Walnut. Per their website, they're open from 8am-6pm Mon-Sat.

                According to Google Maps, Reading Terminal to Rick's is a 9 minute walk vs a 26 minute walk from Reading Terminal to Jim's Steaks. Walking issues aside, personally I prefer Rick's and don't particularly care for Jim's at all, but plenty of other people like Jim's.

                You will never get a consensus on the best cheese option, unlike a lot of other cheesesteak places, Rick's has pepper jack cheese. I usually get pepper jack cheese, fried onions, mushrooms, and hot peppers.

                5 Replies
                1. re: mikerichi

                  I'm going to have to agree with Mikerichi on this one. Get off the train at Market East, hit DiNic's in the Reading Terminal for your roast pork with provolone and broccoli rabe, then continue to Ricks for your cheesesteak. Although I haven't been to Rick's since they relocated, I've been unimpressed with Jim's in the past. FYI Rick's is in the basement of the Bellevue Hotel which is on the corner of Broad and Walnut. You don't have to worry about sketchy neighborhoods following this plan, and you can walk to Suburban Station (16th and JFK) to catch the R2 to Richboro.

                  Good luck!

                  1. re: ShakenNotStirred

                    I totally agree with the DiNic's choice. It's right off Market East. I would also say that walking to South St. is a waste, at least if you are eating at Jim's. My last steak there years ago was dry and gristly. Rick's in the Bellevue is decent and takes no time at all to get to from Reading Terminal, and then you are a block from dessert at Capogiro.

                    1. re: bluehensfan

                      It pains me to say this a bit, since I'm a public transit guy, but I'm wondering if a cab doesn't make some sense here. You can get a cab from the airport to anywhere in center city for a flat rate (is this still $20?).
                      I'd take it straight to Jim's. But then, I like Jim's, a lot of people don't. 4th and south.
                      From there, it's not an easy walk to Market East, but it is doable. And it's only one-way. You can stop half-way (ok, more like 3/4 of the way + 1 block out of the way) at capogiro.

                      1. re: Bob Loblaw

                        Or you could always get an unlimited one day pass for SEPTA for $10 per person and take the R-1 from the airport to Market East and the R-2 from there.

                        A big warning though for all of us (including myself) who recommended DiNic's to the OP. If your flight is scheduled to arrive at PHL at 2:30 on Wednesday (theoretically), even if your flight is on time, the chances of you getting any food around 3:00 or later is slim and none at DiNic's because they start to run out of things. If you are thinking DiNic's, I'd seriously consider calling first, especially with the holiday coming up and places closing early.

                        1. re: bluehensfan

                          The one-day pass does not cover regional rail, but the "independence pass" does (that is the $10 one). If you can buy one at the airport, that is actually a really good deal since you need to change trains downtown regardless of if you stop to eat or not.

                          I think down at the airport there are no ticket booths, just a machine, meaning you would have to buy the pass on the train and I don't know if they sell it. And if they do, there is likely a surcharge for not using the machine. Ah, SEPTA.