Experience: Pats vs. Geno’s

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When I was recenDSCN2506tly in Philadelphia, I was encouraged by many to try the Pats and Geno’s challenge.  They are, of course, the quintessential Philly cheesesteak places, across the street from one another and both drawing huge crowds.

DSCN2507Each claims to be the best, and each has staunch supporters.  I’m pretty sure that you can break up a family with a debate over the best cheesesteak place (sort of like you can do the same with chili around here).  Since these were the two most famous, I decided to try them both in one day. Man, did my stomach hate me for it.  Good thing I had Terry to eat some too– whew.

Both had huge lines.  Apparently the thing to do after the Philadelphia Marathon is to go eat a cheesesteak.  Makes sense to me.

DSCN2509Pat’s was up first–Pat’s is the one that has explicit instructions on how to order, and if you don’t do it right, you have to go to the back of the line.  One window has steaks, the other fries, drinks, etc.  I ordered a cheesesteak wit, whiz– translation: a cheesesteak with onions and cheese whiz, which is a traditional topping to a cheesesteak.  We received it quite quickly– it was huge, about as big as my forearm.  We sneaked into a corner to eat a few bites before we headed across the street.  I think the whiz overwhelmed the meat just a tad, but it certainly was juicy, drippy, and pretty good.

I noticed that both restaurants had boxes upon boxes of Aversa’s Bakery rolls.  I had been under the impression that a cheeseteak needed an Amaroso roll– in this case, I was wrong. And they’re made in New Jersey! The nerve.

DSCN2510Next up was Geno’s, which is somewhat notorious for its very anti-immigrant stance (which sort of floors me, considering it’s in South Philly, the home of a bunch of Italian… immigrants).  I think they get more press for politics over cheesesteaks.  We added cheese fries to our order of a “cheesesteak, wit, provo”– I couldn’t take any more cheez whiz (sorry, aficionados, I prefer the provolone).  Unfortunately, Geno’s suffered without the added moisture of the whiz– it was a little dry, but still flavorful.

DSCN2517To be honest, there wasn’t a whole lot of difference between the two.  I’d probably pick Pat’s over Geno’s, but I feel as if now I’ve done these two– the next time I get to Philly, I need to try something else.

On that note, my boss– who is from Philly– asked me my opinion on Pat’s vs. Geno’s.  I told him– and he sniffed, “Well, that’s because you didn’t try Jim’s.”

I guess I have my next cheesesteak stop…

Pat's King of Steaks on Urbanspoon

Geno's Steaks on Urbanspoon


  1. I am not so big on the cheese whiz myself. Cheese that you squeeze out of a can? 🙁
    What I do have to ask is if the steak part is like steakums or is it “real” cooked and sliced meat that they make?
    .-= Christina Baita´s last blog ..Traveling: How To Fly 101 =-.

    • Richard says:

      No it’s real steak I live in Philly and had them both.
      But on another note there is a possibly even better cheese steak place featured on Man vs. Food being: Tony Lukes it’s steaks to me are even better than both pat’s and geno’s. If ur ever in Philly check them all out.

  2. Susan says:

    I’m glad your boss mentioned Jim’s. It’s the best!!!

  3. Jeff says:

    As a transplanted Philadelphian living in Cincy, I can tell you that neither of these places is considered tops by most of us natives — although they are the most well-known. My pick: Tony Luke’s. He’s been on Man vs Food as well as Dinner: Impossible and let me tell you — his roast pork sandwich is to DIE for. 🙂

    • julie says:

      I’ll definitely try it the next time we’re there.

    • Carnivore says:

      Second Tony Luke’s and would add John’s for Roast Pork. Both Philly originals and can’t be duplicated anywhere else just like a Cuban sandwich in Tampa or a Lobster or Clam Roll in New England. You also can’t get authentic chili five way outside Cincinnati either.

  4. Graham says:

    Julie– Agree! I enjoyed both on a previous visit for the same meal–whoa! I think I enjoyed Geno’s by a thin margin but it could be because I enjoyed the ordering experience there more. Of course I get mine “provolone ‘wit” so I didn’t have the “Whiz” experience. (I’ve done it in philly before and I just like the provolone better!) In any case, what’s it take to get a decent steak here in Cincy?!
    .-= Graham´s last blog ..Pictures of food: truth in advertising =-.

    • julie says:

      I felt like I was going to die afterwards. Too much food.

      As far as a good ‘steak around here– I don’t think there are any. Balboa’s is out. I know it’s not authentic, but I *am* a Penn Station fan (those heavenly fries..). I know the bread isn’t right, and the beef isn’t… but it is darn good.

  5. Jeff says:

    PS: I also agree with the previous commenter… Jim’s is definitely better than that Geno’s or Pat’s. 🙂

  6. Michael Kylere Reed says:

    I want to further endorse Jim’s, it ruined me for any other place.

  7. Sara says:

    Having lived right down the street from Pat’s and Geno’s for several years, I never grew to like either. (Blasphemy, yes, as a resident of South Philadelphia.) But I definitely and 110% support the recommendation to go to Tony Luke’s over any other sandwich place in Philadelphia (including South Street’s Jim’s as well). Tony Luke’s is, by far, the best sandwich you can get in Philadelphia.

    Unless we start talking about hoagies, which is a whole different discussion.

    And for a quick, on-the-go sandwich in Philadelphia (and NJ, Delaware, Maryland, and northern Virginia), Wawa is a great go-to place. Nothing fancy or special, and it is a convenience store chain, but it’s a tasty sandwich. And it’s also one of the things I miss most about living in Philadelphia. (Sad but true.)
    .-= Sara´s last blog ..Out and About, Finds Around Town =-.

  8. CincyCapell says:

    Next time you’re in Philly eat at someplace decent & memorable, like Susanna Foo.

  9. Amy Scalia says:

    Jim’s is my favorite! And it’s easier to find… it’s right on South Street!

  10. I’m with your boss – Jim’s is the best. 4th & South Street, if my memory serves me right.
    .-= Columbus Foodie´s last blog ..Spring Fever =-.

  11. John says:

    I think you’re all wrong. The best cheesteak in Philly are; All of them!!! Kind of like the Italian beefs in Chicago. They’re all good and I believe the secret is a good crusty bread. At least locally we can get a good Philly cheese at Penn Station, but still waiting for a decent Italian beef or a roast pork w/broccoli rabe.

  12. ryan says:

    I have to admit I love cheese steak sandwiches and I will thank Philly for coming up with the idea. However I have tried 3 different places in Philly and they all made me want to puke! The best cheese steak I have ever had believe it or not is Penn Station in Cincy.

  13. Sara says:

    Wow, Susanna Foo is a blast from the past. I believe her restaurant was really in its prime when I lived in the city – about 12+ years back. I think she’s been eclipsed a few times over by some of the newer chefs in Philadelphia. I’d be curious to hear about where Julie (and others) have been eating in Philadelphia these days. Myself – I’d beat down the door to Amada if I were in Philadelphia right now.
    .-= Sara´s last blog ..Out and About, Finds Around Town =-.

    • julie says:

      We went to the Broad Street tavern, and Dante and Luigi’s, which is one of Terry’s favorite old-school Italian restaurants, and we went on a walk-through of the Reading Market. We were only there for a long weekend…

  14. TJ Jackson says:

    Best cheesesteak in Philly (based on eating 4 of them over a 2 day period 4 years ago, so clearly I am a major, major expert here) is at Steve’s Prince of Steaks

    Tony Luke’s Roast pork italian with rabe, tho, was the sandwich that left the bigger impression on me. Out freakin standing.

  15. […] came into existence and forever changed the American colonies.  I wonder if Ben Franklin was a Pat’s or Geno’s […]

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