Chomping Around Town: Philadelphia Cheesesteaks

We were in Philadelphia this past weekend for a retreat with Jon’s department. The last time I had been in Philadelphia, other than a quick trip last fall to a spa for a story in DAYSPA magazine, was in 1994, when my sister was graduating from college. That was probably around the same time Jon had last been in Philly, on a school trip to visit America’s great beginnings (imagine the poor teachers who had to supervise hundreds of kids on an airplane!) In any case, both of us did not feel obligated to re-visit the Liberty Bell or the Franklin Institute with its giant heart.

Instead, Jon’s only requirement was to hunt down the best Philadelphia Cheesesteak.

The problem was that we would only end up at one because there’s only so many cheesesteaks one can eat in a weekend. So, would it be Jim’s, or Pat’s? Tony Luke’s or Geno’s? Those four cheesesteak creators were apparently topping the lists from Jon’s research, which included a visit to this comprehensive cheesesteak site, a consultation with his friend David, a former Philly resident and adoring food consumer, and the concierge at the Sofitel in Philadelphia.

In the end, we couldn’t find parking near any of them except Jim’s, so Jim won. However, I gather they are all very similar experiences: long lines and waits. Pictures of celebrities, mostly from the 80’s, standing with Jim/Pat/Tony/Geno. Low-maintenance eating area. Perhaps giant cans of Kraft Cheez Whiz lining the wall with cans of mushrooms. The sounds of metal spatulas chopping up steaks on the stove and cooks yelling out orders.

We ordered cheesesteaks with provolone, peppers, onions and mushrooms with ketchup squeezed on top. And the verdict: Jon thought it was tasty, but he didn’t think it was any better than the ones served at the Hoagie Hut in Chicago. Though I’m really not a hoagie or cheesesteak connoiseur, I also admit I did not think it warranted all the hunting for parking spaces and waiting. It wasn’t like there were any hidden or secret ingredients in the steaks: plain steak browned with onions and peppers and canned mushrooms. New York has its advantage of high-fluoride water to make the best bagels and pizza, Boston has its swarm of Maine lobsters and clams to make New England chowda, and Chicago has its audience who desire deep-dish pizzas. Sorry, Philly, you’re going to have to try a little harder.

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1 Comment

Filed under Chomping Around Town, North America

One response to “Chomping Around Town: Philadelphia Cheesesteaks

  1. Dont know how I found this site but glad I did find it. Think I was looking for something else on google. Not sure I agree 100% with what you say, hopefully you will be adding to this site. Keep up the good work

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