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Worth a Detour in to Philly?

Coming out to the east coast from Western Canada next week for a boys trip. We're actually flying in and out of Washington DC, but will be driving up to New York City next Tursday for a few days to catch a couple of hockey games and the Giants/Cowboys game on Sunday, then going back to DC to catch a Caps game and the Redskins/Eagles.

Looking at our driving route, I notice we will be driving through Pennsylvania and fairly close to Philadelphia. Google has the quickest route via the 295.

I would love to to try an good authentic cheesesteak either on the way to or from NYC (ideally both ways). Can anyone recommend a few places that would be in close proximity to the 295, or is it worth the time to go in to Philadelphia?

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  1. Detour on I-95 into South Philly and get a cheesesteak at Tony Luke's. On the way back, get their Roast Pork Italian.

    13 Replies
    1. re: barryg

      Agreed on the roast pork, but for the cheesesteak I'd detour a little further and go to Steve's Prince of Steaks, it's the only cheesesteak worth eating. It's more of a pain to get to if you're driving from DC to NYC though. You'd take 95 from DC, get off at the Cottman Ave. exit. When you're done, you can take the Tacony-Palmyra bridge into NJ and get on 295.


      1. re: Buckethead

        That Steve's is the "only cheese steak worth eating" is just North East troll talk. Steve's is a pretty specific and un-typical sandwich. It is tasty, and probably the best example of the "un-chopped" genre out there, but I am not looking to start "yet another" cheese steak war.

        You can get a pretty decent example all over the Philly region :


        1. re: phillyjazz

          No, Buckethead just doesn't like cheesesteaks. I happen to agree that Steve's is the best there is (maybe tied with John's, I go back and forth), so I'm not surprised it's the only one he'll eat.

          I will add though that I have taken out-of-towners to Steve's and in general they are not especially impressed. I think it is a more subtle sandwich. Sort of like giving a single malt scotch to someone who has never had a whiskey.

          BTW Steve's has a second location that is just off where Woodhaven Road meets Roosevelt Blvd, it is a bit quicker to/from the highway than the Bustleton location. The address is 2711B Comly Road.

          1. re: phillyjazz

            Not sure why--I've never liked Steve's, more of a Jim's fan-- but your comment of "North East troll" strikes a bad chord. Perhaps because I was born & raised there many years ago when it was a really nice neighborhood?

            1. re: gaffk

              Sorry - "Troll"is an old Internet term for when someone says something controversial for the sake of creating an argument like "only cheese steak worth eating"

              1. re: phillyjazz

                The reason I said it's the "only cheese steak worth eating" is that that's my opinion. As barryg said I'm not a fan of the cheesesteak in general and would recommend that people who are visiting Philly avoid eating them altogether in favor of the roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe and provolone, which I think should be our city's signature sandwich. But if you *have* to eat one, my suggestion is Steve's.

              2. re: gaffk

                +1 on Jim's.

                Personally I've never been a fan of Tony (F)luke's. I tried it a number of times and wanted to like it, but thought it was mediocre at best.

                1. re: mitchh

                  Agreed on the cheesesteak but the pork is good.

                  1. re: mitchh

                    I basically agree with your statement of trying several times to want to like something only to fail. I have tried so many cheesesteak sandwiches and I have never gone away thinking, "yeah, I've finally found the perfect one"

              3. re: Buckethead

                I love your suggestion for this. What makes Steve's Prince of Steaks so good? I have had so many philly cheesesteaks in Philly and can't find one worth going back for.

                1. re: iL Divo

                  Lots of great things about Steve's, will let others hit the details, but I would recommend you eat steaks when they are made rather than bringing them back to your hotel to get a real taste.

                  1. re: iL Divo

                    The main thing was the steak itself, I think. It's sliced, not chopped into a million bits. They cook them long enough to get some nice browning on the meat, rather than just cooking a huge pile of beef at once and letting it steam on the grill. It actually tastes like beef rather than just fat. The bread is just the right texture. There is just enough of each component (meat, cheese, onions) on the sandwich.

                2. re: barryg

                  " get their Roast Pork Italian."

                  and get a philly cheesesteak too, what the heck, have half of each.

                3. I have to second barryg!

                  1. so humbling.
                    other, smaller cities have huge regional influence. we're *maybe* worth a detour on the road from New York to DC. (Sighs...)

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: Bob Loblaw

                      Yes, if only we had some good museums or other cultural attractions, or maybe some historic sites, or even if we could get some fine dining, or at least sporting events. Perhaps then we could me more than a cheesesteak detour :(

                        1. re: gaffk

                          Sometimes you gotta play the cards that are dealt ya. If we had TOP-NOTCH cheese steaks served at the Art Museum, Kimmel Center, Constitution Center etc, we could kill two bird with one stone..

                          Q. Where is the best Cheese steak near the Liberty Bell"
                          A. "Shee-iit You can get one grilled right ON the Libery Bell !! Nothing like hot cast iron !"

                          1. re: phillyjazz

                            Maybe the art museum can do a special "St-Eakins" stand inside the Pearlman. Not sure how conducive the newly restored "Gross Clinic" would be to food though ;)

                          2. re: gaffk

                            I know that's tongue in cheek right? I LOVE Philadelphia. It's a favorite for me to several times a year. Too many reasons to say why but all that gaffk just mentioned are there in droves. enjoy your "boy trip"

                            1. re: iL Divo

                              Tongue was planted firmly in cheek ;)

                          3. re: Bob Loblaw

                            Exactly my thoughts, Bob. I think the Cheesesteak in the case at the 7/11 would do just fine and it would not require a detour.

                            1. re: Bacchus101

                              Lorenzo's at the italian market. They were best in the city going back to the 1970's

                              9th street right across from the where they make the freash pasta. See where rocky ran thur and grab some great eats.

                          4. No cheesesteak is worth a detour to Philadelphia.

                            1. Philly is worth a detour because it's a big city and different from NY and DC. As for the cheesesteak...well, it is our indigenous contribution to the culinary lexicon. I'm not a fan, but if you want one I'd recommend heading to Jim's Steaks on South Street (at 4th Street). South Street is a bit of a destination in itself, so you might as well be somewhere you can see something while you're walking off your lunch. And people stand in line for Jim's so it must be a decent sandwich. Just a block away is Famous 4th Street deli where Pres. Obama just had lunch a week ago -- a democratic alternative to cheesesteaks perhaps.

                              This is a pretty easy diversion -- take 95 straight to Philly, get off at the Washington Ave exit (you're close to South Street from there) and then get back on 95 north to 276 east to NJ Turnpike to NYC.

                              1. If you are traveling between 7 am and 2 pm Monday thru Friday go to John's Roast pork on Snyder between Columbus Blvd and Front Street. Great Roast pork with rabe and provolone and cheese steaks

                                1. Thanks for all the suggestions. I didn't mean any offense. I would love to spend some time in Philadelphia, as I am sure there is plenty thereto see and do.

                                  Our schedule for this trip ir already pretty full, and unfortunately, we just don't have enough time to have more then one meal there. We leave DC on Thursday morning and have to be at La Guardia to pickup a buddy that afternoon. We go to the Giants game Sunday evening and then head back to DC on Monday morning for the Eagles/Redskins game.

                                  If its any consolation, I'll be cheering on the Eagles!!

                                  9 Replies
                                  1. re: djdragan

                                    dj--This is why Philly is known to have a chip on its shoulder--we really are a great city to visit for cultural/historic/dining options. But we are, sadly, the 1/2 way point between DC & NYC as well.

                                    Try Jim's Steaks at 4th & South. You can take your sandwich up to the 2nd floor & people watch as you eat. And it's definitely better than Pat's & Geno's. Get the steak with American or provolone (NOT cheese whiz) and fried onions.

                                    And next time you have a guys weekend, plan around a Phillies playoff game, a Flyers game & an Eagles game--you won't even have to leave the city.

                                    1. re: gaffk

                                      Yes, it is worth it to make a detour. I am a New Yorker and always make a detour for a Tony Lukes Roast Pork and Broccoli Rabe with Provolone and a Philly Cheesesteak. In fact we are doing it next weekend on our way to DC. We will only do it one way though.

                                      Tony Luke's
                                      625 Highway 33, Trenton, NJ 08619

                                      1. re: ncara

                                        That is the wrong link - chowhound always does that. Tony Luke's is at Front and Oregon

                                        Tony Luke's
                                        625 Highway 33, Trenton, NJ 08619

                                      2. re: gaffk


                                        Love your rec for Jim's and agree wholeheartedly about them being better than Pat's and Geno's (and Tony Luke's for that matter). Won't agree with you about the American over Whiz though. I've been going to Jim's for over 20 years and to this day I still get the same thing, extra Whiz and extra meat without onions. Push comes to shove I'd get American as option 2, but I personally think provolone is horrible on a cheesesteak. But that's a different debate.

                                        What you say about why Philly has a chip on its shoulder is spot on. In fact if you are on I-95 driving north the signs south of DC will read I-95 North Washington DC, once you get past DC that changes to Baltimore and once you are north of Baltimore the signs read New York City!

                                        1. re: mitchh

                                          is it that you don't like onions? just curious.......
                                          oh and I'm with the provolone vote, my preference is not Whiz or American, it's provolone, but like you say, it's personal taste.

                                          1. re: iL Divo

                                            I like onions, just not on a cheesesteak. I can't explain why, but I've never liked the way it tastes.

                                            The other debate about a cheesesteak is chopped or sliced. While Buckethead appears to prefer the sliced version, I prefer the chopped. For me, when it's chopped the cheese, especially Whiz, can melt through the meat.

                                            Darn, now I'm hungry and I just came back from lunch! :)

                                          2. re: mitchh

                                            I don't think provolone melts or tastes right on a steak. Roast Pork or a hoagie ... another story... especially real hand-cut sharp provolone on Pork.. I had a steak at John's where they accidentally put provolone on my steak and it basically ruined the experience.

                                            1. re: phillyjazz

                                              The thing with provolone (the slicing kind, not sharp) is that it takes longer than American cheese to melt properly and it has to be placed on the steak while it is still cooking on the griddle. Since most places line the roll with the cheese and then lay the steak on that, provolone will never melt properly.

                                              Also, since most places are trying to move things along quickly, they won't take the time to leave your provolone on the griddle with the meat.

                                              Personally, I like provolone on a cheesesteak, but it has to be melted properly.

                                        2. re: djdragan

                                          oh sorry dj, I should have read this without posting all that other stuff. that was not smart of me..............but you'll have a great trip!

                                        3. I'd detour into Philly for lunch at RTM alone.