One of the best things we did while on the East Coast in October was extend our stay in Philadelphia in order to check out the best places for Philly Cheese Steaks. A college friend who has relocated to Philly took us around to the two most famous places, along with HIS favorite place. KK and I split a cheese steak at each location, and at the end decided which one was our favorite based on overall taste, meat, bread, and location.
The three places we visited were: Pat's, Geno's, and Jim's. (Apparently, in order to have a good Philly cheese steak place in Philly, your restaurant has to be named after a person.)
Pat's was first on the list. The first thing we had to learn was how to properly order a Philly Cheese Steak. Fortunately, we had this handy dandy "how to!"
At Pat's, we ordered a "wit provolone." We wanted to get a good sense of a real cheese steak, so we ordered them all with onions, even though they're not my favorite thing in the world. And they did add good flavor. The overall flavor of this sandwich was good, but (gasp) I thought it needed a little salt, and the cheese wasn't nearly melt-y enough for me. The meat was the toughest of the three places we went, and I think had the most fatty bits. The bread was AMAZING at Pat's, though. No indoor seating, but they had lots of outdoor tables, and it was decently clean.
Next, we walked right across the street to Geno's. Pat's and Geno's are long time rivals because of their proximity. I'm sure there's history behind them that I'm missing, but I haven't looked it up yet.
At Geno's, we ordered a "wit whiz." And quickly discovered that when it comes to Philly Cheese Steaks, this is the ONLY way to go. I'm not kidding. My first response to the option of Cheese Whiz was "Ewww. Seriously? It's not even real cheese!" And maybe it's not real cheese. But it is delicious, cheese-like goodness that was obviously sent from heaven to accompany cheese steaks.
Anyway, the cheese whiz brought the cheese steak to a new level of fabulousness, and made us believers in the Philly Cheese Steak. The overall flavor of the Geno's steak was better, mostly due to the whiz. The meat was a bit more thinly sliced, and had fewer fatty bits, which was a plus for me. The bread was not quite as good as Pat's, but still hit the spot. Like Pat's, they only had outdoor seating, but again it was plentiful and clean(-ish).
Also? Pat's and Geno's are both open 24/7. How flippin' awesome is that!?
Last on our list was Jim's, which we actually had to get back in the car to get to. We went to the Jim's on South St, which is an area my friend Max told us to check out. The line was almost out the door, but it moved fairly quickly.
We again ordered a "wit whiz," and this time were actually blown away. This sandwich was by far my favorite of the three. The overall flavor was amazing - the meat was a little more seasoned and they added just the right proportion of Cheese Whiz. The onions were chopped smaller and grilled longer, creating a more caramelized flavor than a raw onion flavor. The meat was diced at Jim's, instead of just sliced, and that made a huge difference, too. The bread was soft and chewy, and soaked up all the flavors of the sandwich very well. Jim's had indoor seating, though it was very limited - a counter downstairs and an open room up a set of incredibly steep stairs. But it was also the cleanest of the bunch, and we had no trouble finding a spot to chow down.
Overall, both KK and I liked Jim's the best. Our order was: Jim's, Geno's, and then Pat's, but we later decided we'd been a bit unfair to Pat's because we'd gotten provolone instead of Cheese Whiz on the sandwich, and the whiz made a serious difference when it came to flavor. It's my opinion that each place had something good to offer, and it ultimately comes down to personal preferences.
Also, Geno's lost points with me because there was an air of arrogance surrounding the entire establishment. Also, they were prominently featuring a photo of the owner with Sarah Palin, and we all know how I feel about that whacko. Geno's was outspoken about only speaking English at their store (because "we're in America"), but they were also overly dedicated to supporting the local police and fire departments, so they balanced out. I guess Pat's and Jim's just seemed a little more down to earth and less pretentious.
Regardless, the adventure made me a true fan of a REAL Philly Cheese Steak, and I have been on the hunt for them since I got back to LA. The closest I've found is a place called Philly's Best. It's DELICIOUS. They have a sandwich with three types of cheese and mushrooms, and it's our favorite one to order there.
So tell me. Have you been to Philly? Did you try any (or all) of the places we tried? Which was YOUR favorite?
Jims!!! and next time you come back you will have to try Tony Lukes and Dalessandro's
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