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Here in the City of Brotherly and Sisterly Love, cheesesteaks are civic icons, tourist draws and — let’s own it — cultural obsessions.
We want to help you find the best cheesesteaks in Philadelphia because, while often imitated around the world, the authentic Philly cheesesteak is rarely duplicated successfully outside of Philadelphia.
A cheesesteak — always one word — consists of a long, crusty roll filled with thinly sliced, freshly sautéed ribeye beef and melted cheese. The art of cheesesteak preparation lies in the balance of flavors, textures and what is often referred to as the drip factor.
For many fans, the definitive cheese of choice is Cheez Whiz®, but American and provolone are widely accepted alternatives. Other common toppings include sautéed onions, cooked mushrooms, ketchup and sweet or hot — “long hots” — peppers.
There are lots of creative takes out there on this region’s specialty sandwich, too, but here we focus on where to get the classic Philly cheesesteak.
Below, our picks for notable spots dishing Philly cheesesteaks are organized by area so you can sample more than one cheesesteak on any visit.
Here’s the lowdown on where to find some of the best authentic cheesesteaks in Greater Philadelphia.
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Nearly every pizza or sandwich shop on any corner of every Philly neighborhood serves up the casual delicacy. Below are our picks for notable spots dishing authentic cheesesteaks in Center City and beyond, but, first, a lesson on ordering.
Those who crave a cheesesteak must first consider two critical questions: What kind of cheese? Onions or no onions? Those who want Cheez Whiz and onions can ask for a “Whiz Wit.” Those who want provolone without onions can ask for a “Provolone Witout.”
The origin of the cheesesteak dates back to 1930, when, during one fateful lunch hour, South Philly hot dog vendor Pat Olivieri slapped some beef from the butcher on his grill. A cabbie driving by sniffed something delicious, leaned out his window and requested his own. It didn’t take long for news of the creation to spread. Other taxi drivers came to Olivieri demanding their own steak sandwiches.
Soon after, the vendor opened a permanent shop on 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue, Pat’s King of Steaks, to sell his invention to the masses. Pat’s grills now sizzle 24 hours a day. So do the grills at Geno’s Steaks, Pat’s across-the-street-rival that opened in 1966. The late owner of Geno’s claims to have first added cheese to the sandwich.
For more than half a century, Pat’s and Geno’s have waged a (mostly) friendly competition, with visitors often ordering from both shops to see which they deem the winner.
Our suggestion? Don’t stop the taste-testing at Pat’s and Geno’s. A visit to Philadelphia would be incomplete without digging in to several of the best cheesesteaks in Philly.
A low-slung luncheonette amidst shopping plazas, John’s Roast Pork is perennially cited as one of the city’s top steak spots. Its secret weapon? A crusty seeded roll from Carangi’s Bakery. John’s has long been a favorite of South Philadelphia dock workers and contractors for the best cheesesteaks in Philadelphia — it opened in 1930 — but in recent years it’s gained mainstream recognition, including a James Beard Foundation Award for Culinary Excellence. If you’ve got room in your stomach, don’t miss the namesake roast pork sandwich. Bonus: You can get John’s shipped.
Where: John's Roast Pork, 14 E. Snyder Avenue
Every sandwich at the award-winning Tony Luke’s — now with multiple locations in multiple states — is worth ordering. For the real experience, visit the restaurant’s original location, located next to an I-95 overpass on Oregon Avenue in South Philadelphia. Diners pick up their sandwiches from streetside windows and either feast at the outdoor picnic-style tables or take them to go. Local takeout and nationwide delivery options are available, too.
Where: Tony Luke's, Various locations including 39 E. Oregon Avenue
The original home of the cheesesteak, Pat’s King of Steaks is still owned and operated by the Olivieri family. Pat’s claim to fame is that its founder, Pat Olivieri, invented the steak sandwich in 1930. Since then, Pat’s has grown from a little stand at the southern end of South Philly’s Italian Market to one of the most famous cheesesteak shops in the world, albeit still in the same — and only — location. A 24-hour shop, Pat’s shuts down for only 48 hours each year: Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Where: Pat's King of Steaks, 1237 E. Passyunk Avenue
It may be across the street from the oldest cheesesteak joint in town, but Geno’s Steaks is a formidable competitor, going roll-for-roll with Pat’s for decades. The key to success for the 24/7 spot? Quality thinly sliced rib-eye steak for maximum juiciness, the freshest of onions and house-made bread.
Where: Geno’s Steaks, 1219 S. 9th Street
Cosmi’s Deli has the look of a corner market — and the cheesesteak cred of a champion. This tiny corner store in South Philadelphia has won plenty of praise for its rendition of the famous Philly specialty, as well its hoagies and roast pork sandwiches. All three sandwiches are served on long hoagie rolls from the famous Sarcone’s Bakery.
Where: Cosmi's Deli, 1501 S. 8th Street
Like Pat’s and Geno’s, Philip’s Steaks is another 24-hour cheesesteak joint on Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia, though it’s on West Passyunk Avenue instead of East Passyunk. But that off-the-beaten-path vibe gives Philip’s more cred if you’re looking to find a great cheesesteak recommended by those in the know. Philip’s offers standard cheesesteak varieties as well as an “old-fashioned,” which is a cheesesteak with provolone, grilled tomatoes, onions and long hots.
Where: Philip's Steaks, 2234 W. Passyunk Avenue
Oregon Steaks opened its storefront at 10th and Oregon in deep South Philly in early 2014, making it a relative newcomer to the local cheesesteak game. Open 24/7, the spot has neon lights that provide the classic South Philly glow perfect for a late-night cheesesteak.
Where: Oregon Steaks, 2654 S. 10th Street
Jim’s Steaks has multiple locations, but the classic smell of fried onions wafting down South Street makes that address the most memorable — and the most popular after a day or night of hitting up the famed strip.
Where: Jim's Steaks, Various locations including 400 South Street
South Street’s beloved Ishkabibble’s has been cooking up cheesesteaks and chicken cheesesteaks since 1979. The spot — which touts itself as the home of the original chicken cheesesteak — throws out the cheesesteak rule book and lets its patrons call the shots and the toppings. Other favorites at this walk-up vendor include Ishka fries (with hot peppers and onions), sweet potato cheese fries and the original Gremlin, a half-lemonade, half-grape-juice concoction.
Where: Ishkabibble's, 337 South Street
Woodrow’s is a specialty sandwich shop on Philly’s famous South Street that makes one heck of a cheesesteak. The “Woodrow’s Whiz Wit” comes with shaved ribeye, caramelized onions, cherry pepper mayo and truffle-infused Cheese Whiz. Is it a fancier take? Yes. Will you regret diverting from the traditional cheesesteak? No way.
Where: Woodrow's Sandwich Shop, 630 South Street
Founded in 2000, Sonny’s Famous Steaks offers a fresh, healthier take on the recipe, frying the 100% Angus beef in its own juices rather than in oil. The critically lauded and conveniently located Historic District shop uses locally baked Amoroso’s rolls, local cheese or Whiz and boasts a liberal ordering policy — meaning patrons shouldn’t feel pressured to order the cheesesteak in standard Philly fashion. There are even gluten-free options.
Where: Sonny's Famous Steaks, 228 Market Street
Campo’s is a great spot to sample authentic Philadelphia flavor with total convenience to some of the City of Brotherly Love’s main attractions. Located on Market Street in Old City, Campo’s is only three blocks from The Liberty Bell Center and the Independence Visitor Center.
Where: Campo's, 214 Market Street
Visit Shank’s Original for a highly reputed cheesesteak and an old-school experience on the Delaware River waterfront. Wise patrons know to save room for a bite or two of Shank’s famed chicken cutlet sandwich, too.
Where: Shank's Original, 901 S. Christopher Columbus Boulevard
Now with three locations in the Philadelphia area, Steve’s Prince of Steaks started in Northeast Philadelphia on Bustleton Avenue. For 30 years now, owner Steve Iliescu has delivered his signature sandwich on a long, thin roll with just the right chew.
Where: Various locations including Steve's Prince of Steaks, 7200 Bustleton Avenue
Rittenhouse Square’s Cleavers offers an entire “Make It Yours” menu of cheesesteak options that covers the classics and moves beyond traditional cheesesteak territory, too, with toppings like Sriracha aioli, blue cheese dressing, long hots and onion rings. There’s also a lengthy selection of chicken cheesesteaks and a few vegetarian recommendations as well.
Where: Cleavers, 108 S. 18th Street
This busy, circa 1892 market houses more than 80 vendors of farm-fresh produce, meats, cheeses, herbs and ready-to-eat meals — from Amish baked goods to Greek fare. It’s also a great spot to feast on some of the best cheesesteaks in Philadelphia. By George! Pizza, Pasta & Cheesesteaks, Carmen’s Famous Italian Hoagies & Cheesesteaks and Spataro’s Cheesesteaks are among the solid options here, and for a twist on the classic cheesesteak, there’s the Trainwreck at Beck’s Cajun Café. It’s filled with thin-sliced steak, andouille sausage, salami, American cheese, fried onions and creole mayo.
Where: Reading Terminal Market, 51 N. 12th Street
Max’s may be most well known for its star turn in Creed, the seventh movie in the Rocky film franchise and for its appearance in NBC’s This is Us, but for many decades now, the neon-lit destination been a go-to spot for enormous cheesesteaks and full bar (daiquiris recommended) in the heart of North Philadelphia.
Where: Max's Steaks, 3653 Germantown Avenue
The staff at Joe’s Steaks + Soda Shop has been slinging the classic sandwich since 1949 at its mom-and-pop shop in Northeast Philadelphia. The newer Fishtown location stays true to tradition, serving the 67-year-old recipe with beef or chicken and alongside milkshakes, ice cream sodas and egg creams. Gluten-free and vegan options are available, too.
Where: Joe's Steaks + Soda Shop, Various locations including 1 W. Girard Avenue
If you’re a savvy enough cheesesteak aficionado, you’ll want to visit Roxborough in Northwest Philadelphia. There on Henry Avenue — no doubt with a line out front — you’ll find Dalessandro’s Steaks, which has racked up an enormous amount of accolades since getting into the cheesesteak business a half-century ago. For this neighborhood staple, freshness rules, and its signature steak gets a much finer chop than many of its South Philly compatriots.
Where: Dalessandro's Steaks, 600 Wendover Street
Chubby’s Steaks is a worthy entry in the cheesesteak smackdown that is Henry Avenue near Walnut Lane in Roxborough, where a cluster of cheesesteak and pizza joints rivals those at 9th and Passyunk. Chubby’s has all the variations, plus a full bar.
Where: Chubby's Steaks, 5826 Henry Avenue
Home of the iconic cheesesteak sandwich known as the Schmitter, Chestnut Hill’s McNally’s Tavern packs its signature creation with sliced beef, extra cheese, fried onions, tomato, grilled salami and secret Schmitter sauce. This family-owned bar has been serving its over-the-top sandwich on a flash-broiled kaiser roll for more than a half-century now.
Where: McNally's Tavern, 8634 Germantown Avenue
Book the Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package for a rewarding getaway in one of 2021’s top destinations, per Condé Nast Traveler, Fodor’s, Frommer’s, Esquire and more.
The exclusive deal — booked more than 175,000 times since 2001 — includes buy-one-get-one-free attraction tickets purchased at the Independence Visitor Center to 33 of Philly’s iconic museums and attractions and free hotel parking (worth up to $100 in Center City Philadelphia).
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