Monday, January 21, 2013

The Best Cheesesteak in Philly: Pat's vs. Geno's

This is the 1st of my Weekend Trip to Philly series. Other posts include Best of Philadelphia: Reading Terminal, DiNic's, Famous 4th St Cookies and Tinto Restaurant by Iron Chef Jose Garces.

This past weekend, a few friends and I went to Philadelphia for a weekend getaway. We left Manhattan around 10 AM on Saturday morning and got to Philly by noon. Our first stop? The most famous Philly cheesesteak shops, Pat's and Geno's of course!
A Philly Cheesesteak with Provolone from Pat's - the original cheesesteak shop in Philly

Pat's and Geno's isn't one cheese steak shop, they are actually two competitors across the street from each other. Pat's claim to fame is that it's founder, Pat Olivieri, created the cheesesteak sandwich back in 1930, so it is the oldest cheesesteak in Philly. Geno's opened their location right across the street 36 years later and claims to have perfected the sandwich.

Both Pat's and Geno's are opened 24/7 minus a few holidays, and sure, it might be considered a "tourist trap", but who cares? The experience is half the fun!

The Face-off - Geno's on the left, and Pat's on the right, located on 9th Street & Passyunk Avenue

Pat's vs Geno's, a complete comparison

A plus side of going anywhere with a huge group is being able to order as much as you want and trying a bite of everything. On this trip, I tried the two classic combos at both Pat's and Geno's: cheesesteak with provolone and cheesesteak with cheez whiz. The lines actually weren't too bad, we were able to grab a sandwich within 10 minutes.

Provolone Cheesesteak with grilled onions
Cheesesteak with Provolone - Geno's on the left, Pat's on the right

So, what's better? Pat's or Geno's? Cheez Whiz or Provolone? Decisions decisions...

Geno's, since '66, flashy w/ bright lights and neon signs
Pat's, since '30, feels like a mom & pop establishment

Presentation, Bread & Cheese

You eat with your eyes right? From the outside of the building alone, you can tell that Geno's looks more like a Vegas spectacle while Pat's looks more like a local joint. I have to say that Pat's grills/windows looked a bit dirty while Geno's looked much cleaner. 

The bread at Geno's was a bit chewy to me, and you can see that it has an extra shiny egg-wash coat on top of it. The bread at Pat's however, was softer and helped soak up the juices for me overall. Everyone who I went with liked the bread at Geno's more, but my personal preference is for Pat's.

Next comes the cheese. After trying all 4 sandwiches, I declare that cheez whiz trumps provolone, and as you can see in the image below, Pat's slapped it on liberally while Geno's left me wanting more. Pat's wins for bread and cheese for me.

Cheez Whiz Cheesesteak with grilled onions
Cheesesteak with Cheez Wiz - Geno's on the left, Pat's on the right

Cheez Whiz FTW (for the win) - gives extra flavor to the sandwich and adds extra gooey-deliciousness!

I LOVED having a bite of these cherry peppers along with my cheesesteak - available at both Pat's and Geno's

The Toppings

One look at Geno's menu will tell you that there's only two items to choose from, cheesesteak or roast pork. It will cost you $8-9 total. That's it.

Pat's menu offerings is much more robust, you have steak, cheesesteak, then you can add on with more cheese, marinara sauce, mushrooms, and peppers. A cheesesteak is $9 and the toppings will bring you to $11 including tax.

All sandwiches come wit or wit-out grilled onions, so that's off the table. But, I liked the mushrooms in my sandwich, so for the toppings category, Pat's wins for having that extra variety.

The menus at Pat's and Geno's
The menus at Geno's (left) and Pat's (right)

Learn how to order a Cheesesetak like a Philly Local

With all these options, Pat's gives you firm instructions on how to order your steak. There's rumors that the folks at these cheesesteaks shop will get short with you if you don't know what you're doing when ordering. While I didn't go up to the window to order, my experiences while stalking the kitchen showed that everyone in at both Pat's and Geno's were super friendly! No one cared that I had my camera in their business, they even posed.

The Steak

A good cheesesteak is made with fresh beef that's thinly sliced and grilled. Some cheesesteaks have steak that's chopped, and some have them in slices. Both Pat's and Geno's gives you the meat in slices. Personally, I liked the extra texture from Pat's steaks being bunched up instead of just in simple thin layers. So, once again, Pat's wins for me for meat!

The slices of steak at Pat's is cooked in bunches, giving you the impression that it's chopped up, but it's not

The slices of steak at Geno's is neatly stacked up and then piled on your sandwich

The winner? Pat's all the way!

For me, I declare Pat's as the King of Steak! The Mushroom Cheesesteak wit onions and cheez whiz is the clear winner between the two rivals. I loved how authentic Pat's sandwich tasted. The bread helped soak up the cheese perfectly and the texture was just right. The way the sliced steak is stacked gives it a much better bite than the organized stack at Geno's. However, the next time you're in Philly, I say if you get a chance, just order one eat from both Pat's and Geno's to try for yourself. Just make sure you get that wit cheez whiz and onions!

Pat's cheesesteak is the best of Pat's and Geno's
One last picture from my favorite Pat's cheesesteak - I was too busy eating the one with cheez, so here's a provolone


Hungry for more Cheesesteak? Check out how Jim's Steaks in Philly stacks up!


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Pat's King of Steaks | Yelp
1237 E Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19147

(215) 468-1546


Geno's Steaks | Yelp
1219 S 9th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147

(215) 389-0659
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