A Philadelphia insider’s guide to the greatest cheesesteaks - Hexbag

A Philadelphia insider’s guide to the greatest cheesesteaks


From the original Pat’s King of Steaks to locals-only Café Carmela, Philadelphia Cheesesteak Challenge founder Jim Pappas recommends the sandwich.

Philadelphia, known as the birthplace of America and home to Rocky Balboa, has a vibrant arts and entertainment scene and world-class parks. on Philadelphia, the only way to satisfy hunger is with a Philadelphia cheesesteak sandwich: thinly sliced beefsteak, melted cheese, and stir-fried onions on a long hoagie bread.

Philadelphia legend says Pat Olivieri invented the steak-and-onion sandwich at his hot dog cart near the Italian Market in 1930. Olivieri founded Pat’s King of Steaks, and manager Joe Lorenza purportedly added provolone cheese a decade later.


Philadelphia cheesesteaks are served at thousands of establishments around the city, regardless of provenance. We asked Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure founder Jim Pappas where to eat this sandwich.

Jim Pappas founded Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure in 2018. Over six years, he has visited over 1,100 places and eaten 1,100 cheesesteaks, keeping a thorough database.


“People don’t realise that cheesesteaks can be so different,” says Pappas, who fell in love with the cheesy hoagie after dining at Claymont Steak Shop in Delaware as a child. “The touristy, local, and place from a kid who grew up on cheesesteaks, attended to culinary school, and makes a finer version. That’s been wonderful to discover.”

Ribeye has replaced sirloin (rump steak) as the most preferred beef for Philadelphia cheesesteaks, according to Pappas. Cheez Whiz was popular in the city because it was spreadable, whereas suburbanites preferred American cheese. Pappas adds most establishments utilize Cooper sharp cheddar.

The trick is that the cheesesteak tastes nice. His birthplace Philadelphia cheesesteaks among Pappas’s favorites.

1. Best traditional Philly cheesesteak: Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s

Pappas sends guests to Pat’s King Of Steaks or Geno’s Steaks, which may seem corny. Their rivalry and closeness opposite each other have strengthened their popularity. “Geno’s is famous because they opened up across the street from Pat’s,” he adds. They’re more sociable and happy about their competition. Their cheesesteaks are comparable. Very classic.”


Pappas and other “cheesesteak traditionalists” say mayonnaise is not allowed on cheesesteaks. Pappas admits breaking this commandment periodically, with “amazing” results. He usually orders, “Make it the way you normally do.”

Pappas: “It’s the traditional cheesesteak experience.” Stand on the corner, order through a window, snap a picture, and go home. I went to Pat’s a few months ago with low expectations and was pleasantly delighted.”

Pappas also suggests Steve’s Prince Of Steaks, which has four city locations and mixes American and provolone cheeses. “It melts in, rolls off the meat, and gets in the rolls,” he explains. He also enjoys Tony and Nick’s Steaks, a hidden gem in southeast Philadelphia, for its crispier buns and fresher sandwiches.

The Pats King of Steaks website

1237 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19147

Call (215) 468-1546

Instagram: @pats_king_of_steaks

2. Best newcomer: Angelo’s Pizzeria

Since opening in January 2019, Angelo’s Pizzeria has drawn crowds that match the city’s cheesesteak establishments.

According to Pappas, Angelo’s Pizzeria is only down the street from Sarcone’s Bakery, a fifth-generation Italian bakery where Angelo’s owner Danny DiGiampietro worked as a kid before marrying the owner’s daughter and becoming a “very good baker”. Angelo’s makes a cheesesteak with higher-quality beef and a roll that Pappas says is “much better”.

“Everyone raves about them,” adds Pappas. “People wait 40 minutes on a Saturday, standing on the street, for a sandwich.” One famous fan: “[The owner] opened a food truck with Bradley Cooper in New York City for the release of Maestro.”

Website: angelospizzeriasouthphiladelphia.com

Philadelphia, PA 19147, 736 S 9th St.

Call (215) 922-0000

Angelos Pizzeria South Philly, Instagram

3. Best local hangout: Café Carmela

For a more local taste, try Café Carmela, a 20-minute drive northeast of the city.

“It has a nice cut of meat,” adds Pappas. A better, seedier bun and thicker slices are used there. It’s a wonderful cheesesteak upgrade.” Dagwood’s Pub, two miles east of Café Carmela, with a 30-year cheesesteak history and a chef who is “always cooking something new” such lobster and chips, seafood rigatoni, Nashville chicken, and hot honey calamari.

Cook & Shaker, a “little neighbourhood corner bar” in Olde Richmond, offers sandwiches and drinks closer to Philadelphia’s city center. “It’s traditional, but the owner grew up on cheesesteaks and got a culinary degree,” he explains. “It has banana peppers, a special sauce.”

McGillin’s Olde Ale House, Philadelphia’s oldest continuously functioning pub, is a favorite engagement proposal venue in Center City. “The bar, old signs, history, and whole environment is nice,” adds Pappas, who praises the sandwich’s delicious bun and ideal meat, cheese, and onion balance.

Visit https://cafecarmelaphilly.com/

2859 Holme Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19152

Call (215) 821-2584

Cafe_Carmela on Instagram

4. Best overlooked: Callahan’s Grille, Woodrow’s Sandwich Shop

With so many cheesesteaks and so many out-of-towners visiting Pat’s and Geno’s, Pappas feels certain restaurants haven’t gotten the recognition they deserve. Callahan’s Grille beneath the South Street Bridge in South Philadelphia is one. “Young folks who played volleyball, kickball, or soccer fill the bar. Pappas calls it a lively corner dive pub. Although substantial, the seeded bun holds the deliciously congealed and completely gratifying mass of equally proportioned meat, cheese, and onion.

At the opposite end of South Street, Woodrow’s Sandwich Shop “doesn’t get talked about enough because they’re doing different things with the cheesesteak”, adds Pappas. Cherry pepper mayonnaise, shaved ribeye, and truffle-infused Cheez Whiz produced daily are used. “They take their time to make each cheesesteak.”

Web: https://woodrowsandwich.com

630 South St, Philadelphia, PA 19147

Call (215) 470-3559

Instagram: @woodrowsandwich

5. Best cheesesteak variation: Gilben’s Bakery

At Gilben’s Bakery in Germantown, North Philadelphia, two Louisiana bakers have personalised the cheesesteak for a distinctive flavor.

“They make a garlic bread roll – it’s like the ones they use for lobster rolls,” he explains. “You have to be in the mood and eat it quickly, but it’s flavourful, the meat is chopped up real fine, and it’s a bit spicy.”

Pappas also recommends Woodrow’s Sandwich Shop’s truffle cheesesteak, Steve Stein’s Famous Deli’s pastrami, and the Northeast Sandwich Company’s duck cheesesteak for those seeking something fresh.

The Gilbens Bakery website

7405 Stenton Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19150

Call (215) 298-0879

Gilbens Steaks & Poboys: Instagram

6. Best spend: Barclay’s Prime

Barclay Prime’s $140 (£110.50) cheesesteak is for true indulgence. Philadelphian owner Stephen Starr gathered the best and most sumptuous ingredients to produce the ultimate high-end twist of his city’s most renowned (and normally $10 [£7.80]) meal. A freshly baked sesame bun with hand-cut wagyu, black truffle, foie gras, fried onions, and Cooper sharp cheddar cheese.

“It’s a Philadelphia high-end steakhouse,” Pappas explains. “They build their own roll with three cheeses sliced in thirds. So decadent and rich. The flesh melts. It’s luxurious and elevates it.” Additionally, the sandwich comes with half a bottle of champagne to drink.

Website: barclayprime.com

237 S 18th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103

Phone: 215-732-7560

Instagram: barclayprime/?hl=en

7. Best outside Philadelphia: Delco Steaks and Cockadoodle Dan’s Steaks & Wings

Visitors leaving Philadelphia should stop at Delco Steaks, a franchise with outlets west and south of the city, for one farewell cheesesteak. “Everything is [locally] sourced and very community based there,” he explains. Excellent beef. Some years ago, they cooked me a wonderful cheesesteak.”

In the east and north of Philadelphia, Cockadoodle Dan’s Wings & Steaks, noted for its chicken wings, creates the Batman and Robin, a Pappas-approved sandwich with shredded chicken, sirloin steak, cooper sharp cheese, and a secret sauce.

Pappas understands how much emotion influences their judgments after numerous conversations with other cheesesteak lovers and professionals over the finest Philadelphia cheesesteak spot.

“For some people, their favourite cheesesteak is embedded in their favourite memories,” he explains. “Nine times out of 10, they like their first place. People are emotionally attached to cheesesteaks. Food can accomplish that.”

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