Pats or Geno’s? Who Has the Best Philly Cheesesteak?

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To say Philadelphia is serious about the Philly Cheesesteak is putting it lightly.  Everyone has their favorite spot and there are literally hundreds to choose from.  I chose Pat’s and Geno’s for comparison since Pat’s is the originator of the Philly Cheesesteak and Geno’s is right across the street, making it the city’s longest standing rivalry.  I also stuck to just these two so I wouldn’t be forced to pay for an extra seat on the plane ride home.

I’ll preface this article with a quick disclaimer that I am by no means a cheesesteak expert, but I am great at eating!  In fact, I didn’t really know what a cheesesteak was prior to this trip to Philadelphia.  I thought I did, but my idea of a cheesesteak was always sauteed peppers and onions, grilled up with sliced meat, and topped with melted cheese.  It was close, but apparently the peppers are not actually a part of the traditional Philly Cheesesteak.

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Pat’s

King of Steaks

Pat's Cheesesteaks in Philadelphia- home of the original Philly Cheesesteak

I tried out Pat’s first, as he is the “King Of Steaks” and also the originator of the Philly Cheesesteak in 1930.  I got lucky and visited on a slow day.  From what I am told that line has been known to stretch around the block.  In fact, I wished the line were a bit longer so I had more time to both decided what I want and practice my order.  Ordering here is serious business, and a bit intimidating.

How to Order a Cheesesteak at Pat's Cheesesteaks in Philadelphia- home of the original Philly Cheesesteak

I decided to go classic for comparison’s sake, though I really want to try whatever a “pizza steak” is.  I landed on “One Wit Provolone”, meaning one cheesesteak with onions and provolone cheese, which is how I would really have preferred order it.  I don’t know, something about that dropped “h” makes me uncomfortable.  I’m still not sure it’s not just to trick tourist.  While many people swear that Cheez  Wiz is the way to go, to my way of thinking, real cheese has to be better than processed cheese food, right?

How to Order a Cheesesteak at Pat's Cheesesteaks in Philadelphia- home of the original Philly Cheesesteak

The verdict- While the picture makes it look like a drippy mess, I actually found the sandwich to be a bit dry.  The meat was flavorful, but I think it could have benefited from a condiment of some sort, or maybe some au jus.  Sacrilege, I know, but I’d have preferred this as a french dip.

Pat's the King Of Steaks- Home of the original Philly Cheesesteak

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Geno’s

Geno's Steaks in Philadelphia- Home of the best Philly Cheesesteak?

I have to admit, I was not as excited about Geno’s as I was about Pat’s.  Pat’s is the original and I found the decor a bit more appealing. The harsh colors and neon lights, the flames on the side of the building, opening literally across the street from the home of the original cheesesteak (30-some-odd years later) and proclaiming yourself the “best”, seems a bit aggressive.

Even the ordering process was inflammatory (and I found Pat’s intimidating enough!)

Sign at Geno's Steaks in Philly. A bold statement from an establishment requesting you order your sandwich "wit or witout" onions.

Geno’s proudly displays this gem at the register, which is not only needlessly aggressive, but also pretty bold for an establishment demanding you order your sandwich “wit or witout” onions.  Not to mention the questionable grammar of the sign itself.  Literally the only punctuation in this run on sentence is a pair of confusing quotation marks.  Who is speaking? The eagle?  Do eagles speak English?  And that “please” was clearly an afterthought.

Geno's Steaks in Philadelphia- home of the best cheesesteak?

Needless to say, I went in to this a little biased, but prepared to give Geno’s a shot.  Here, I probably should have ordered the same thing I got at Pat’s for comparison’s sake, but I found Pat’s to be dry so I decided to mix it up and actually try the Cheez Wiz.

"One Wit Wiz" at Geno's Steaks in Philly.

The Verdict- I’ll admit, this sandwich doesn’t look like much, but I’m glad I got over my hesitation and ordered the Cheez Wiz, it helped immensely with the sandwich’s overall moisture level.  I know that doesn’t make for a fair comparison, but I actually think the meat was better at Geno’s too.  I would have to go back and try steaks done a few different ways to really make a fair judgement call (it’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it), but for now….

Who has the best Philly Cheesesteak? Pat's or Geno's

Sorry Pat’s, Geno’s steaks were a little better.

I’ll open myself up to some criticism here too, but while I liked Geno’s steaks slightly better, I don’t really understand what all the excitement is about… and frankly, I missed the peppers.

15 thoughts on “Pats or Geno’s? Who Has the Best Philly Cheesesteak?

  1. Gosh, I kind of wonder what the fuss is about. But, I guess if it is the region’s speciality, that’s it. I’d hope I’d make a better cheese steak at home though

  2. Some of these small corner type restaurants look amazing. I love authentic spots not mass produced chain restaurants. I really must say though i cant grasp the concept about whats so special about putting cheese on steak. Doesn’t everyone do that who has a steak sandwich?

  3. Yummy! Glad I read your article after eating dinner. I would have jumped in the car for a Cheesesteak road trip!! Great list of eateries to put on my list to try. Thanks!

  4. OMG! The food looks amazing! would love to try Geno’s steaks

  5. I’ve heard amazing things about the famous Philly Cheesesteak – I’m basically planning on getting there and just jumping from restaurant to restaurant! These sound like a good place to start!

  6. I love cheese steaks, I’d probably still try both and make a decision on my own. It would be my choice of meal anyway …. loving the look of the cheese steak here.

  7. Always tough to wade into these local “who’s best?” fights. Thanks for sorting it out.

  8. You go girl! I loved the signage and once again your fearless critique, albeit subjective, is worthy of four stars. I opted out of the Chees Steak experience (the lines too) in the Marketplace downtown last winter. Will rectify that next time and make it over to Geo’s.

  9. Unabashed vegetarian here! Sorry, so no Philly Cheesesteaks for me. Certainly a worthy comparison, though, as it is the specialty of the city. Meat or no meat aside, the signage is intimidating and would affect my appetite for sure. At least, Pat’s sign seems more of a shtick a la the soup nazi in NYC.

  10. I haven’t been to Philly yet, but I would love to go soley for the cheese steaks! These food photos are mouthwatering!

  11. I’ve had differing opinions on this over the years. At one time I really thought Pats was the best. They have better bread. But this past October, we went and thought that Ginos was best this time, because the sandwich had more cheese. Either way, we always have one of each, do I guess it doesn’t matter! They’re both good.

  12. I went to Philly and loved the food scene there, cheesesteaks included of course! Surprisingly, my favorite was one I got at the Reading Terminal Market. I tried one of these places, but I can’t remember which one. I think it was Pat’s! Maybe I should have tried Genos, because it sounds like it would have been at least a little more memorable!

  13. Rob

    I have never had a true Philly Cheese Steak but totally agree with you, real cheese would be my preference as well. While reading the sign in your feature image I thought to myself the there was only one cheese on the list. I am not a big fan of the eagle sign and mostly likely would have passed on that establishment. Too bad that the sandwiches weren’t as impressive as their legend.

  14. Going on a food escapade in the US this summer and I am really excited as this is my first trip! I keep wondering what the philly cheese steak buzz is all about. I better see it for myself!

  15. I love that you critiqued the aggressive sign – and I never realized that ordering was such a strictly controlled task! Shame that the original was a little dry – I would have picked real cheese over cheese-in-a-can too(!) and i’m slightly disappointed that the fake cheese was nicer!

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