Philadelphia is famous for its cheesesteaks. I’ve tried cheesesteaks before but I thought since I was going to be in Philly, it was about time I tried the best. The problem is there is a big debate over which is the best Philly cheesesteak. Both Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks have very devout followings. Their customers passionately debate which one is the best Philly cheese steak shop. Both have been featured on the Food Network. I decided to do my own taste test to see who serves the best of Philly cheesesteaks. Welcome to the Two Traveling Texans Pat’s vs Geno’s cheesesteak taste-off! Keep reading to find out if we preferred Geno’s or Pat’s…
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What is a Philly Cheesesteak?
Pat’s and Geno’s are both famous for their cheesesteaks. A cheesesteak is a sandwich with thinly sliced pieces of beef and melted cheese in a long hoagie roll. The meat traditionally used is rib-eye or top round cooked on a griddle. It is common to have grilled onions, mushrooms, and peppers on your cheesesteak. The peppers can be either hot or sweet.
How to Order a Philly Cheesesteak
First, you will need to decide what type of cheesesteak you would like to have. You can choose your cheese and also whether or not you want onions. We decided we should try onions on the cheesesteak. For cheese, I wasn’t sure the best cheese for a cheesesteak. We ended up chosing cheese whiz, a processed American cheese spread, since I think that is the traditional Philly cheesesteak. If you prefer, you could also have regular American cheese or provolone. They also make cheesesteaks without cheese, but is that really a cheesesteak?
Ok, so now you know what you want to order. From what I read, I thought they were very particular about how you order your cheesesteak. You are supposed to say which cheese you want and then if you want your cheesesteak “wit or witout” onions. So I think I should have said, “I want a cheesesteak whiz wit.” I was worried I would get yelled at for not ordering it correctly. Lucky for me, that didn’t happen and I still got my cheesesteaks even though I don’t think I ordered the ‘right way’!
Yes, there are other sandwiches on the menu at both Pat’s and Geno’s, but if this is your first time, shouldn’t you try the sandwiches that made them famous? If you are extra hungry, you may want to try the cheese fries though.
Our first stop was Pat’s King of Steaks. Pat’s King of Steaks was founded by Pat Olivieri back in 1930. It actually started as a modest hot-dog stand right by the famous Italian Market in South Philadelphia. One day Pat decided to try something different for lunch and got some chopped meat from the butcher shop. He cooked the meat on his hot dog grill, then put the meat onto an Italian roll, and added grilled onions. One of his regular customers saw the sandwich and insisted that Pat make him one as well.
“Hey…..forget ’bout those hot dogs, you should sell these.” And that’s how the cheesesteak was born. It wasn’t until years later when employees and customers wanted a change that cheese was added to Pat’s cheesesteak recipe.
So we decided to start the taste test with Pat’s since it is the original Philly cheesesteak. The line looked a little intimidating but it did move pretty fast. We waited less than 10 minutes, although part of that was in the intense sun. I ordered my cheesesteak whiz wit and handed over my $11. They only accept cash. Before I knew it, I had the Pat’s Philly cheesesteak in my hand.
It was bigger than I expected. Pat’s Philly cheesesteak must have been at least a foot long. Since they are trying to keep the line moving, they have to make the cheesesteaks quickly, so they are not big on presentation or making sure the cheese is spread evenly throughout the sandwich.
There is a station for condiments that also had some peppers. I decided we would try the sandwich just as they made it, but picked up some peppers to have on the side. There is a dispenser for napkins, but that was by the ordering window.
Once we had everything, we went to sit down. After doing a loop around the place, we realized there were no seats available and we would have to stand. I should also mention there is no inside seating at Pat’s (or Geno’s for that matter). It was fine, we were excited to finally try the famous cheesesteak.
Let me tell you, it did not disappoint. I was surprised that the Philly cheesesteak from Pat’s was not greasy at all. It tasted delicious. My only constructive feedback was that it would have been nice if they would have spread the cheese a little more evenly throughout the cheesesteak.
Then, we went to Geno’s, the other half of the famous Philly cheesesteak rivalry. Philadelphia native Joey Vento founded Geno’s in 1966. He only had two boxes of steaks, a few hot dogs, and $6 in his pocket when he opened his shop at 9th and Passyunk. But it wasn’t long until the business was booming.
When Joey had a son in 1971, he named him Geno. As soon as he could, Geno started learning about the family business. From age 17 on, you could find Geno at the shop, making steaks, taking orders, and getting to know the customers. When Joey Vento passed away in 2011, Geno took over the shop and is carrying on his father’s legacy by serving up Philly’s famous cheesesteaks.
Geno’s does have a devout following as I noticed a memorabilia shop across the street. There is also an intense rivalry between Pat’s and Geno’s. It was funny when we were there a group that came in and one person had a sandwich from Pat’s. The staff immediately noticed and asked them not to bring that sandwich in.
We learned our lesson from Pat’s and Russell went to find a table, while I stood in line. It was nice that they curve the line so that I was in the shade the whole time. Like Pat’s it moved pretty quickly and I had my cheesesteak in less than 10 minutes. They also have a similar setup where you can get condiments and peppers for your cheesesteak.
Then, it was time to taste the other famous Philly cheesesteak. No surprise, it was delicious and you could tell they use high-quality ingredients, just like Pat does. However, there is definitely a difference between the two!
Which is better Pat’s or Geno’s: The Verdict
You can get a delicious authentic Philly cheesesteak at both Pat’s and Geno’s. While it was a tough call, we ended up with a unanimous decision on where to find the best Philly cheesesteak. Check out our video to find out the winner – Pat’s or Geno’s?
How to Get to Pat’s and Geno’s
Pat’s and Geno’s are located caddy-corner from each other close to the Italian Market in Philadelphia. You can take the bus line that goes along 9th street to get there or it is about a 10-minute walk from the Broad and Federal Street subway stop. We took an uber from the historical area since we were short on time and it costs us about $7. If you are driving, there are several parking lots you can use.
Note: While you are in the neighborhood, it’s worth visiting the Italian Market too. It’s a great place to experience America’s diversity.
Have you tried one of the famous Philly Cheesesteaks? Which one is your favorite?
Expert Tips For the Two Famous Philly Cheesesteak Places In Philadelphia
- You will need cash for your cheesesteaks – neither shop accepts credit cards.
- Both shops only offer outdoor seating, so be prepared for the weather conditions.
- Don’t stress too much about ordering your cheesesteak. I didn’t do it exactly right, but I still got what I wanted.
- If you want to sit down, have one person in your party scope out a table while you are waiting in line.
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