A Tale of Two Cheesesteaks

June 24, 2008 · 28 comments · Print This Post

in Erin Cooks On-The-Go, Resturants, Reviews

Pat's For the Win!

Last weekend CK and I flew to Philadelphia to spend the weekend with our friends Doug and Jen. Never having been to Philly before our gracious hosts provided us with a whirlwind tour of the area’s attractions including a trip to sample the quintessential Philly dish: the cheesesteak.

Geno's Steaks

Apparently there are two “warring factions” vying for top Philly cheesesteak honors and they just happen to exist on the same street.  Long lines wrap around both restaurants, but our host said that we would be dead to him if we dared to venture over to Geno’s, so we dutifully got into line at Pat’s. Who knew a sandwich could inspire such a violent reaction?!

Gallons of Cheese Whiz

I was horrified when I spied the huge containers of Cheese Whiz proudly displayed in the window at Pat’s and vehemently refused to order mine “Whiz Wit” and settled for some onions and slices of provolone. Of course after we snagged a seat and I saw how gooey and awesome CK’s cheese product slathered sandwich looked I batted my eyes a few times and he happily handed over half. Or maybe I just told him he was going to give it to me? It’s all semantics… The lesson to be learned here is that you can’t be a food snob when you’re eating a cheesesteak in Philly.  Just order the Cheese Whiz and be a man about it.

Looks Bad, But Tastes Good!

For those of you who have had the pleasure of sampling the greasy goodness I’d love to hear if you’re a frequenter of Geno’s, or a life long regular at Pat’s. Do I need to covertly sneak back to Philly and try Geno’s (risking the wrath of Doug) or is Pat’s truly the best? Anyway, we essentially ate our way through the whole city so stay tuned for the total calorie count.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Cze-Johnson Carrie June 24, 2008 at 10:41 pm

uggg. seeing that just BRINGS BACK memories. not of philly; just of myself about 20 pounds ago when I lived in reno and could knock back one of those bad boys at 3am on the way home from a night of drinking. (they had a place that was owned by some guys from philly.)

oddly enough, though, as much as I despise the ‘wiz’… when paired with the shaved and fried beef.. it tastes GOOD. even sober!

just don’t put that crap on my fries. I draw the line at the cheese steaks.

glad you guys had fun!


2 Emily June 24, 2008 at 11:27 pm

I’m going to make the choices even harder for you by throwing in a third contender… Jim’s! It’s another pretty famous one on 4th and South, and I believe, the winner of the Philly cheesesteaks battle!
And I totally agree with the cheez whiz phenomenon. I was determined that provolone was the way to go, but once I tasted it with the whiz, I knew I had to give up the snobbery and just eat the trashily delicious cheez whiz.
I love Philly, and am looking forward to seeing what else you ate 🙂


3 Erin June 24, 2008 at 11:33 pm

They look deliciously disgusting! But I bet they tasted excellent. I love cheese steaks! Glad you guys had a fun time in Philly – hope you took some ballpark food photos, too!


4 Mari June 25, 2008 at 4:52 am

I’d give my right arm for a good ol’ American sandwich such as the Philly cheesesteak, right now?

I don’t know if you know Chicago at all, but if you’re ever there you need to venture to
Hot Doug’s
, The Sausage Superstore and
Encased Meat Emporium. This man takes hot dogs to a whole new level! There were 5 of us gluttonous food lovers and we went through about 10 hot dogs between us, and these aren’t just your regular ketchup/mustard/relish affair. Totally worth a trip to Chicago, I told Doug personally that if he wasn’t taken, I’d marry him.


5 Rachel June 25, 2008 at 9:01 am

People here in Philly really don’t eat at Pat’s or Geno’s very much. Not unless we want a crappy sandwich. P and G both tend to be a little too touristy, but they are iconic, hence the lines. They sure as heck aren’t there for the food. We tend to go to DiNic’s for roast pork (which is infinitely better than a cheesesteak anyway), or we go to Tony Luke’s for that steak sandwich after all. Next time, try these options instead. You’ll be blown away.


6 geeky June 25, 2008 at 9:31 am

Oh, you might as well have just stabbed me in the heart! I grew up near Philly, and do you have any idea how hard it is to get a decent cheesesteak in Virginia? DO YOU? It’s impossible. I never hit up Pat’s or Geno’s, so I can’t really weigh in on which was best, but I can tell you they’ll both be way better than the abomination they call a cheesesteak down South.


7 Melissa D. June 25, 2008 at 9:33 am

That sandwich pic made me drool a little…..


8 Becke (Columbus Foodie) June 25, 2008 at 1:32 pm

Jim’s on South Street is where it’s at.


9 Lys June 25, 2008 at 2:50 pm

Ahhhhh – Erin…

I am tied between two steaks, but mine are of the Genos or Jims variety. Each time I fly home, on the way to the airport, I tend to stop by one or the other to grab a steak to go. (Word of advice – NEVER go to the one IN the airport. Ugh!). Having gone to Jims since my teens, it’s a bit of home for me but I’m a Genos gal.

Next time you go, let me know and I’ll see if I can wrangle you a little VIP attention.


10 RobynT June 25, 2008 at 4:16 pm

I don’t know much about cheesesteak (although I’m sure I would love it) but I’d go to the less xenophobic of the two: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13272368/


11 FoodieTots June 25, 2008 at 4:30 pm

We don’t get to Philly enough, but when we do our itinerary always revolves around food. My husband is a Jim’s fan, so I’ve never tried the other two. Can’t wait to see what else you ate.


12 Hänni June 25, 2008 at 5:45 pm

I haven’t had a cheesesteak in *years* and seeing these pics reminds me why. looks like a total gut bomb!


13 Sara June 25, 2008 at 6:57 pm

You should try the cheesesteaks at the local pizzerias around Philly. I live in the suburbs and they are even better than Gino’s and Pat’s. Also, try the buffalo chicken cheesesteak. Yum. I hope you were able to check out the Reading Terminal Market. It is a great stop for any foodie.


14 onespicymama June 26, 2008 at 12:04 pm

I’ll echo what Sara said – I never go to either Pat’s or Geno’s unless I’m showing out-of-town friends the sights. I find that it’s the little unknown divey pizzerias in South Jersey or the Philly burbs that have the best cheesesteaks. Oh and the calorie count? Done properly, should be at around 1500 calories. But who’s counting? 😉


15 Elle June 26, 2008 at 12:57 pm

Ok, was reading this last night. Thought the title was Tale of Two Cheesecakes. Read the entire post and thought “where are the cheesecakes?”


I decided I was too tired to even leave a coherent comment.

Never been, but I’ve seen these two places on many TV shows! And yeah, it usually is the out of the way places where the locals go that have the best food.


16 We Are Never Full June 26, 2008 at 8:44 pm

am i the only philly girl who disagrees with most of these commenters? i guess! grew up there, left after college and i still think Pat’s is one of the best. I agree w/another person about Jims on South St. Absolutely delicious. But nothing beats a whiz with (add some ketchup and a few of those cherry peppers and you’re SMILING) from Pat’s. Yes, it’s touristy. But i swear, and if you read my blog you’ll know how much i hate really touristy places, this one lives up the hype.

one of the biggest distinction b/w pats and geno’s is the meat. pat’s chops theirs and geno’s folds theirs into the bread whole. the other thing non philly readers should understand – which is why you really can NOT get as delicious a cheesesteak as in philly – 1st is the use of the Amoroso roll/hoagie roll. it is best fresh and works SO well w/ the meat juices and the whiz.

oh man, i’m drooling now. gotta go!

but, seriously folks, please give pat’s a try – it really is a good cheesesteak and people from philly do go every once in awhile! we didn’t get ‘US most obese city” a few years back for nothing!


17 cookinpanda June 27, 2008 at 6:47 am

This post really brings back memories. I grew up outside of Philly, and truly miss the cheesesteaks!


18 dawn June 27, 2008 at 8:34 am

:::sigh:::: Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a good cheesesteak in Mass? Insane. My hubby is from Philly and we love going back there, over and over to get us some real cheesesteaks.
I also love going to Terminal Market and pigging out there. Philly rocks!


19 Flanboyant Eats June 27, 2008 at 11:14 am

Hey Erin! I’ve never had a cheesesteak in Philly, but DC used to have a really good spot in G’town. That place stayed packed! Haven’t had one here in ATL, sigh.


20 sharon June 27, 2008 at 3:49 pm

I’ve only been to Philly once and I was only allowed to try Pat’s. I suppose those Philadelphians are very loyal, huh? Brings back good memories…I was scared of whiz wit but I perservered and it was YUMMY!


21 Helen June 27, 2008 at 5:19 pm

I grew up a 20 minute bus ride away from Center City Philadelphia, and honestly: people have very strong opinions about food. My favorite cheesesteak has to 1) be on an Amoroso’s roll 2) have provolone rather than whiz 3)fried onions are a plus, but not necessary. That doesn’t mean the others are bad! It’s like pizza – the floppy pizza you get at the Jersey shore brings back good memories, but isn’t a sicilian from the place around the corner. The next time you’re in Philadelphia, ask people about pork roll sandwiches (taylor’s), hoagies (not zepplins, heros, or submarines), and pretzels, but be ready for the crossfire.

I think you should tell Doug you need to do it for the blog, have a cross-Philly tour of the different cheesesteaks. Also, you MUST get a pretzel from a street vendor, and not that lame superpretzel looking thing. It has to look like a figure 8, and you buy them 6 or 8 to a bag, usually for a buck! … damn, now I’m homesick.


22 [email protected] June 28, 2008 at 6:17 am

They look so good! It’s a good few years since I’ve visited The States but I can still remember the taste of these culinary delights, mmmh 😉


23 Donald June 28, 2008 at 1:54 pm

Oh Erin! That is my home! I am neither a Geno’s or Pat’s but just up the street from where you were and a block over at 5th and South is Jim’s. If I am going to have a tourist steak, that’s where I go. Out of those two though, Pat’s is the one. Better tasting meat and they make pretty good cheese fries. You wouldn’t know it, but neither or those two places is a local’s favorite. Mostly college students and tourists. Either is a good steak experience though.

The best in the city is by the airport though, Tony Luke’s. They make their own bread, which is somewhat unothodox for me, I like the Amoroso rolls, and the bread makes the sandwich, but Tony uses rib-eye meat…sooooo good. Out where my mom used to live, in Dresher, there is a little Italian place that makes the best pizza and steaks, called Pizza Box. For me the absolute best in the entire area is DelAssandros in Roxborough. I will travel for their steaks.

You did it right though, Provolone cheese, NO WIZ!!!! I get my steak with Provo, mayo, salt, pepper, and xtra onions. A side of cheese fries helps too! 🙂


24 Doug June 30, 2008 at 10:12 pm

Ok ok ok. I’ve had them all – Pat’s, Geno’s, Jim’s, Delassandro’s, Tony Luke’s, DiNic’s, local places in the ‘burbs, etc. Sure it has tourists but Pat’s is just what you have to do. I’m sorry if you disagree, but any place that can inspire more than one story of hungry patrons driving 2+ hours solely to get a cheesesteak, well, you get the idea.


25 Kevin Daily July 3, 2008 at 10:28 pm

No Whiz!
I am in my forties, and have lived in Philly since birth. Cheez Whiz is not to be put on anything, especially a CheeseSteak. Any of the places mentioned above are fine for Steaks, just go with real cheese.

In addition Philly Cheesesteak – invented in 1930
Cheez Whiz – invented in 1953 so how can anyone say the original Cheesesteak had Cheez Whiz on it?


26 Edna July 7, 2008 at 6:54 pm

I live in Philly now and take my advice-go right to the source of cheesesteak heaven. The Reading Terminal Market! You can’t go wrong with any of the cheesesteaks there but make sure you polish it off with Bassett’s ice cream. When I die I want to be buried under the counter in homage to the world’s best rum raisin ice cream!


27 Kelly K July 27, 2008 at 8:10 pm

There are so many other places in in Philadelphia that have perfected the art of the cheese steak. Cheesewiz is for tourists!
I live in in P & G’s neighborhood, and trust me, you can do better. Chickie’s off 10th and Federal – Amazing, Cosmi’s n 8th and Dickinson – mouth watering, Ishkabibbles on South Street has a mean chicken cheesesteak w/ mushroons and raw onions, and numerous locals in the Reading terminal Mkt.
1 hour away in Margate, NJ, you’ll find the best damn cheesesteak you’ll ever taste at Dino’s! Order it with the works and be prepared for an experience that will rock your taste buds!


28 Theresa December 27, 2011 at 5:28 pm

OMG you seriously need to go to Geno’s much better than Pat’s! Pat’s is much much more greasy! Geno’s is a party in your mouth! Rest in peace Joey Vento!


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