When I was recently 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.
Each 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.
Pat’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.
Next 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.
To 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…