I do. I ought to, I’ve been making them for 16 years.
If you want the absolutely, day one original cheesesteak, go to Pat’s and get a provolone with onions. Some people will say that Cheez Whiz is on the original steak, but Pat’s was open for a long time before Cheez Whiz was ever invented. If you feel that you must, get sweet peppers or mushrooms, but it’s best if you just stick to onions.
That said, avoid Pat’s and Geno’s. Pat’s is OK, but not great. Geno’s has much thicker steak, which makes for a very different sandwich. If you want the best in Philadelphia, go to Tony Luke’s on Oregon Avenue. The others are tourist traps.
One other thing: if you want to be cool, when you go to order it say you want a “Provy with”, the “correct” way to order a provolone with onions. Whatever you do, don’t be hesitant, because they will send you to the back of the line if they’re busy. Nothing personal, just business.
thinly sliced ribeye is seared on a flat pan. brown or gray the meat so as to leave no pink surface. put some salt and pepper. set aside. soutee onions (add mushrooms if you like) till translucent. now mix the onions with the meat and arrange them in long rectangles on the pan (the shape they will take when put in a sliced bun.) you then top those rectangles with some cheese (american cheese is the easiest.) as soon as the cheese melts you shovel that whole thing onto your sliced bun.
pat and geno’s of course make theirs more mechanically. pat’s uses cheese whiz while geno’s uses provolone. they say pat uses better bread (i agree.) geno’s has bigger slices of meat (i prefer cut small.) geno’s place looks newer and better but pat’s has a more “trodden-historical” look.
Whatever you do, don’t go with Jim’s (don’t remember exactly what street, but it’s near downtown). Their steaks taste like cardboard.
And I personally prefer American, not Provolone. The biggest difference is that American is greasier, but I like greasy.
Oh, and if you don’t know already, a cheesesteak does not have any vegetables other than onions, possibly mushrooms, and maybe peppers, and none of those are mandatory. You will not get lettuce and tomato on a cheesesteak, despite what most of the country calls a “Philadelphia cheesesteak”.
Either one, or indeed almost any steak joint, will have a variety of cheeses available. You can get American or Provolone absolutely anywhere, Whiz most places, and even other cheeses like mozzarella in many places (typically on a “pizza steak”, which also has tomato sauce on it).
Everyone says Pat’s is a tourist trap; I disagree. Of course, it is where the tourists go. But, the cheesesteak is still really good. It’s far better than Geno’s and I like it better than Tony Luke’s. (I really don’t care for Geno’s. Not for their cheese steaks, not for their bright lights, and not for their politics. But, I have to say they do a great job on cheese fries.) I don’t Pat’s is the best in the city, but I do think you are getting the real delicious thing when you get a cheese steak there. On top of that the tables and walls are riddled with tradition. (Along with other things you don’t want to think about.)
I prefer whiz without. But, I like cheez whiz, if you don’t care for processed cheese food you are probably better off with provolone, or whatever other cheese they offer. I order whiz without and no additional toppings. I enjoy every bite.
As AirmanDoors says there is a specific way to order your steak - there is a sign there explaining the procedure. Although, I have never ever seen someone charged the extra for not knowing how to order, or sent to the back of the line. You order your sandwich at one window, and your soda and french fries at another one.
My favorite place in the city is called Chink’s. In spite of the offensive name they make a sandwich to die for. In addition to that you can get old fashioned flavored sodas and wonderful milkshakes. But, it’s out of the way. It’s not a spot I am going to send a visitor.
John’s Roast Pork is another favorite of mine. It’s a lunch place. I don’t think they are even open past 3. But, man they make an excellent cheese steak. It takes a bit to get used to, since they use rolls with seeds on it. But, still good stuff.
Tony Luke’s is the place I find a lot of Philadelphians recomment, and they are top-notch. Their roast pork sandwiches are not to be missed, either.
That said, while my experience is limited, I think a trip to the cheesesteak progenitor, Pat’s, is definitely worth it. I loved Pat’s. I’m sick and tired of people complaining about famous fast food outlets in their cities being “only for tourists” and that the “real locals” only go to XYZ place. In Chicago, that’s Pizzeria Uno, the original deep dish. As a local, it’s not my favorite–hell, I’ve only been there twice–but it’s not “only for tourists.” They make great pizza, and there’s plenty of Chicagoans who love it and eat there. I found the same thing with the Anchor Bar in Buffalo and Pat’s in Philly. I saw lots of locals at both and, if you’re interested in food history and want to establish a stylistic baseline for the local cuisine, why wouldn’t you go to the original source? I mean, hopefully, you’re not going to eat just one cheesesteak while you’re there–try a few out.
I spent a week in Philadelphia and have been there several times and have eaten cheesesteaks nearly every day, and thought both Ginos and Pats sucked. The comparison to Unos/Dues is exactly apt - tourist traps coasting on their long-lost reps. Unos was especially disappointing, a perfect looking pizza with the blandest sausage I have ever tasted.
Virtually all places like that are a waste of time - Authur Bryants in Kansas City, etc.
Eh, someones feeling a bit crotchety. I still think Uno’s and Due’s put out a great pie. While Malnati’s is the place I steer visitors to, (and Burt’s in Morton Grove is my favorite, although that’s not the typical Chicago deep dish), you really can’t go wrong with Uno’s. Just no Giordano’s.
A cheesesteak is significantly different than a (Chicago-style Italian) beef, although they obviously have similarities. A cheesesteak is generally made from rib eye (like Pat’s) or top round (like Jim’s). It is not cooked as a whole roast, sliced thinly, and then dipped or held in a spiced broth mixture like an Italian beef. Instead, it is thinly sliced while raw, and then fried on a griddle, sometimes being chopped up while it’s frying, sometimes not so much. It’s closer to what in Chicago we simply call a “steak sandwich” than an Italian beef.
Also, the roll is important. Amorosa rolls are the traditional ones, but there is at least one other bakery (whose name escapes me at the moment) that is also highly lauded. The bread is also essential to the experience. It has a light crust, and a soft interior–it’s not entirely dissimilar from a Gonella roll here, but I find Gonella rolls to be a bit tough on the inside (despite their softness) in a way that the Amoroso rolls aren’t. It works for the wet beef, which needs a little more structure to hold it all together, but it’s a little chewy on a Philly cheesesteak, in my opinion.
So, while they are both beef sandwiches, they are dissimilar in execution. And, if want a beef with cheese and giard, some Chicago beef places do offer a “cheesy beef.” Not usually made with Cheez Whiz, but same idea. I’ve never had one, because the idea of putting cheese on my Italian beef just seems wrong in every way.
I personally found it a wonderful experience and perhaps my highlight first visiting Philly, but, in the end, if you’re expecting some mind-blowing orgasmic experience, you’re apt to be disappointed. It’s very simple, straight forward street food. Just steak, cheese, onions, bread, and a good bit of grease.
As I’ve mentioned, my wife likes her beeves with hot peppers and LOTS of ketchup and, mea maxima culpa, they taste pretty good. The best part of Cheez Whiz, like Velveeta, is the Worste… Worse… Wooster sauce, and it’s not wasted on beef.
ETA: Worked a year around the corner from the Gonnella bakery. It smelt more like dough conditioner than food.
I said it was a tourist trap, and it is. They have the big historical reputation, and as a result that’s where everybody wants to go. The food is perfectly serviceable, but it’s certainly not the best in town. For all the hype, you get a roll that is somewhat sparsely filled with beef, in my learned opinion somewhat substandard, but you get a genuine Pat’s cheesesteak, which is what people want.
I’ll personally take the Pepsi Challenge against Pat’s any day of the week. I’ll win, too, and that’s not stealth-bragging, it’s outright boasting.
Geno’s is much the same. They cut it a bit thicker (to differentiate themselves from Pat’s) so it’s gamier, and while some people prefer that I’m not a big fan. To each his own. That’s not to mention his politics, which turn lots of people off.
But the bottom line is that they draw huge amounts of business on their reputations as the “original” cheesesteak places. Go there on off hours and you’ll find that the customers waiting in line are all out-of-towners, as evidenced by the countless cars with out-of-state license plates. They live off their history.
Tony Luke’s, in my experience, does it all better. I’ve never once been disappointed when I went there.
An ANONYMOUS message board. And have you no idea how painful it is to request it? As I mentioned once before, countermen who have been up here for decades completely lose their English when I request one.
“¿Que? ¿Ketchup? No habla ingles.”
And these are guys I’ve known for 20 years. No, get the fuck over it and slop the Heinz all over it. It’s not like I asked for ketchup on one of your washed-out hot dogs.
That may have come off a bit strong, and I totally agree about Tony Luke’s being better. However, I personally find myself almost always having a more favorable opinion of the local “tourist traps” than the locals do. Seems like every other person in Buffalo told me not to go to the Anchor Bar (which was a personal Mecca) because that’s where the tourists go and to go to Duff’s, because that’s where the locals go when they’re not getting wings from the pizza place down the street. (And, of course, the best wings come from some of these places. That’s supposed to be read sincerely, no implied sarcasm.) So my first stop was Duff’s. I was, well, a bit disappointed. Then I went to the Anchor Bar. It was great. Wings were good–their suicide wings (or whatever the hottest ones are) are a bit odd with all the black pepper, but their medium hot wings were pretty much the perfect wing to me. So I went to the other Duff’s location to see if I just had an off experience. No. Turns out, I’m not really a fan of Duff’s wings.
Same with countless other places. So, my advice is to try it. If you have only one steak place you can possibly visit then, yeah, you can’t go wrong with Tony Luke’s. But a trip to the original is worth it. Plus, like I said above, I like to have that baseline to judge by.
i have yet to visit a restaurant that can match our mother’s homecooking. so looking for an eat-for-pay racket that will wow you crazy is pointless. and yet, i would gladly go to a restaurant if only for the (exciting) price. if the service is good, if the place has historical and cultural significance, then i’ll be satisfied as long as the food isn’t too atrocious.