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ME LIKE EAT In Philadelphia: Pat’s King Of Steaks Vs. Geno’s Steaks – Who Makes The Best Cheesesteak In Philly?

April 13, 2011

The two archrivals sit across the street from each other.

Well, it was bound to happen: eventually I was going to get a chance to weigh in on the eternal “best cheesesteak in Philadelphia” debate. For those of you not in the know, two of the main contenders in this debate are Pat’s King Of Steaks and it’s caddy-corner arch-rival, Geno’s Steaks. The two sit less than a football field apart.

The sign outside of Pats that convinced me to try it first.

At first I planned to go to Geno’s, which I recall hearing more about. But when I saw that it was established in 1966, and it appears as a much gaudier structure, I was a touch concerned. I also noticed some kind of historical-looking sign across the street in front of Pat’s. It was enough to sway me that I should try Pat’s to start.

Outside Pats King Of Steaks in Philadelphia.

Signage and lengthy arch-rivalry set aside, the two shops are distractingly similar in their service format. You step up to a small window, place your order, pay your $9 and get your cheesesteak. Pat’s seems truly obsessed with its rich history, with photos of the numerous celebs who’ve eaten there adorning the place. In addition, there’s a stone in the sidewalk marking a spot where Sylvester Stallone stood while filming a scene in “Rocky.”

Waiting at the window of Pats.

The key cheesesteak components you have to decide on are whether you want them “wit'”or not. If you get them “wit,” that means you’re getting them with onions. The cheese varieties are Cheez Whiz, American or provolone. Now I am not much of a fan of Cheez Whiz, as it makes everything taste like Cheez Whiz. Personally, I go for provolone. Getting a cheesesteak without onions is a shonda, in my opinion, so of course I opted for “wit.”

In this corner: Pats King Of Steaks.

Now I’d like to sit here and say that biting into this cheesesteak was a revelation. But it really and truly wasn’t. What it has going for it is the delicious onions. The Pat’s King of Steaks cheesesteak features chopped-up pieces of sliced beef resting atop a few slices of provolone. They sit in an unimpressive, fluffy bun. Atop them is a healthy ramble of onions.

Another view.

Look, visually it’s pretty sexy. But frankly I don’t think it was worth the $9 I dropped on it. They may have originated the cheesesteak, but it doesn’t seem to me they’ve perfected it. The beef was just OK. There was some grease, but it wasn’t too greasy. The whole thing had a bit more salt than you’d think. The steak wasn’t low quality – it wasn’t stringy or tough – but it also wasn’t anything very special. Seems to me I could get something similar just about anywhere. All in all it was a big “meh.” So, feeling disappointed and underwhelmed, we crossed the street to try Geno’s.

Second verse, same as the first?

If the format looks the same, it’s because it is. Another triangular structure with a window you approach. You fork over your $9 and they quickly give you a cheesesteak. Fries and sodas are the next window down. The gentleman in the window is very polite, but it’s $9, $9, $9, $9, $9… . These guys (and Pat’s) must be making money hand over fist. Also, you’ll notice the prominent display of the memorial to Officer Daniel Faulker. On the right side, the shield says “Murdered by Mumia Abu-Jamal.” I gather the owner feels strongly on the issue. In fact, Joey Vento seems to be quite a character and very passionate about numerous things, as you can see from the signs in the window (i.e. “I Want My Country Back,” “This Is America, When Ordering Speak English”).

But again, back to the steak.

The Genos Steaks cheesesteak with provolone and onions.

As you can see right away, the steak involved is different. It is served in long, unbroken strips. The strips sit on top of the provolone and the onions are buried within. It’s a better design, in fact, because when you pick up the sandwich you don’t risk all the onions toppling out and off, as you do when you bite into Pat’s.

Its a very big bun... .

This photo illustrates a difficulty with this sandwich. It’s just a few thin slices of beef wrapped in a substantial bun. It’s hard not to feel a little bit suckered. But: it is better than Pat’s. For one thing, at Geno’s you could taste the provolone, and it added a sharp zest that was wonderful. The steak seems to be fresher and of higher quality. There’s less of a salt and pepper flavor than Pat’s, so the beef comes across. The bread again though is nothing special.

At the end of the day I am not sure I will ever feel compelled to return to either again. Of the two, Geno’s is more flavorful and seems to be higher quality. But for $9, and considering their legendary status, I was really expecting to be wowed. You know: the way you are wowed at Joe’s Pizza, or at Sal & Carmine’s. Food doesn’t have to be fancy to be really good. These both struck me as very suitable cheesesteaks, but not much more. Geno’s gets the slight edge, but is it destination dining? Maybe there’s something more to their legendary status, but for now, I don’t see it.

Pat’s King of Steaks

1237 Passyunk Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19147

Geno’s Steaks

1219 South 9th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
14 Comments leave one →
  1. Dan permalink
    April 14, 2011 11:33 am


    I got linked to your blog via Philadelphia Reddit, and figured I’d help a fellow eater out and tell you this:

    Philly people pretty universally dislike both places. They’re mediocre cheesesteaks that cash in on the age old rivalry. Also, Pat’s really is better with wiz, simply because they don’t bother to melt the cheese into the meat, they just put it in the bun with the hot meat and hope for the best.

    If you want to try a great cheesesteak, here’s my list of places that make truly great steaks:

    John’s Roast Pork – 14 Snyder Avenue – Only open weekdays 6am-3pm… do yourself a favor and get a roast pork w/ cheese and greens too. Both sandwiches are to die for.
    Mama’s Pizzeria – 426 Belmont Avenue Lower Merion – Huge, cheesy, meaty and fantastic.
    Tony Luke’s – 39 East Oregon Avenue
    D’allesandro’s – 600 Wendover Street
    Steve’s Prince of Steaks – 7200 Bustleton Avenue
    Jim’s Steaks – 400 South St

    And for kicks, food truck cheesesteaks are pretty awesome in their own special way.

    • April 14, 2011 11:36 am

      Thanks Dan –

      As you can see from the review, I was basically not a fan and couldn’t figure out what the fuss was about. It’s clear they are a cash cow. Thanks a million for the list of spots, I get to Philly every now and again, and can’t wait to try some places that really sizzle.

    • April 14, 2011 11:38 am

      Also, for food truck cheesesteaks in NYC, you might enjoy these (they are not pure cheesesteaks, but they are tasty):

      Frites n Meats is temporarily down due to an accident… .

    • April 14, 2011 11:44 am


      excellent list. i’d just like to add two:

      – dinic’s in reading terminal market. be ready for a long line due to the recent tv coverage they’ve been getting (various food network shows), but still a delicious roast pork sandwich. get the broccoli rabe and sharp provolone.
      – chubby’s steaks (5826 Henry Avenue). if you can get past the funny name (i can’t), and the fact that it’s in the middle of nowhere they make an excellent cheesesteak, plus it’s a sit-down place and you can get beer too!

      • Dan permalink
        April 14, 2011 11:52 am

        DiNic’s is amaaaaaaazing, but they don’t make cheesesteaks, so I didn’t list them. Their pulled pork and their brisket are f’n fantastic.

        Oh Yeah! Chubby’s is great, and it’s right across the street for D’alessandro’s. That’s a much better head to head than Pat’s vs Gino’s. Still, Mama’s and John’s are my two favorites.

      • April 15, 2011 7:53 am

        Thanks for the suggestions. I can’t wait to try ’em out. As a New Yorker I was really looking forward to sampling Philly’s best. Now I’ve got some places to go… .

  2. Yvo permalink
    July 7, 2011 2:55 am

    I realize this post is months old, but I stumbled on it while searching for something, and I want to point out that many people laud other places for “cheesesteaks” – including your first commenter – but even go on to say to get the “roast pork” sandwiches. Then it’s not a cheesesteak, is it? Pedantry aside, the list is pretty comprehensive for great meat sandwich places. I just get riled up when I talk about cheesesteaks and people suggest Tony Luke’s and then finish with “their broccoli rabe roast pork sandwich is to die for” – I’m certain it’s amazing, but I want a cheesesteak, and I’m getting a cheesesteak, thanks. No disrespect to the first commenter, honest, it’s more a personal experience issue than with him.

    That mouthful aside, Pat’s and Geno’s are fairly equally garbage. The xenophobia at Geno’s is palpable and in some ways, pretty disappointing. On the bright side, when I went in full Mets gear on a day when the Phils were playing the Mets (reason I was in Philly), there were plenty of people around in Phils gear and they did not harass me whatsoever, despite being a lone girl. I appreciated that (in NYC I often get harassed when I wear Mets stuff, either by Yankees fans looking to pick a fight or male Mets fans trying to talk to me).

    And all that aside, I managed to hit a bunch of these places in a 6 hour span, but thanks to the first commenter, have some places to add to my list – much appreciated!
    My 6 cheesesteak binge is documented here:

    Cheers, happy eating, and thanks again – I definitely want to check out some of those other places!

    • Dan permalink
      July 7, 2011 10:15 am

      That’s a mighty fine food baby you’ve got there… (Also, points for using the term food baby. So glad to know my friends and I aren’t the only ones who use that)

      And you’ll notice, the only one on my list that I even suggested the roast pork was John’s Roast Pork. And as you’ll also notice, I didn’t say get it instead of a cheesesteak, I said you should also get a roast pork. I wasn’t trying to dissuade anyone from getting a steak at any of those places. But really, you only need to go to John’s. It’s the mecca of Philadelphia sandwiches.

      Also, the Mets suck.

      • Yvo permalink
        July 7, 2011 11:31 am

        Ahhh, glad you came back. You are correct, which in my most minor of defenses, it was late at night… but as I clearly state in my comment, it was more a personal experience than an attack on you 🙂 I did notice your response to a subsequent commenter who brought up DiNic’s and you say “I didn’t mention them because they don’t do a cheesesteak” which made me happy.

        Not only do my friends & I use the term food baby… well, let’s just say it’s a frequent thing among us.

        As to your last comment, well now, that’s just like kicking a puppy that’s already down, isn’t it? Why so concerned with a team that’s easily 10 games back of you (assuming you’re a Phillies fan)? Hahaha.. say what you like, my team is doing what they do. Good AND bad. ;P

    • July 7, 2011 4:16 pm

      That’s some excursion you made, Yvo. I’m looking forward to comparing notes in the future. Jim’s trumps Geno’s and Pat’s, to my recollection. Nonetheless, eager to try the rest of the list.

    • Dan permalink
      July 7, 2011 5:13 pm

      For whatever reason it won’t let me reply to your second message, so I’m just going to reply to this one again…. : )

      We should get your friends and my friends together. We could have a great many food babies. And possibly eat a few restaurants into an early closing.

      And yes, I’m a Phillies fan… I’d actually typed something along the lines of “The Mets? Are they still a team? I thought they got contracted.” Then I checked the standings and noticed they’re actually above .500, so I decided to take it easy. I mean, do I really need to say any more than “the Mets suck”? Short, and to the point.

      • Yvo permalink
        July 7, 2011 5:24 pm

        Not sure how Jesse feels about us cluttering his page with this back&forth, but sure, why the need to say anything? Your team is in first place in the division, and barring a Mets-caliber late season slide a la 2007, 2008,.. you get the point, your team should be set to go to the post season. Thus the kicking-a-puppy-while-it’s-down comment. I mean, if it’s all in good fun, then I’m going to point out that it would take the Phillies are the losing-est team in all of baseball (granted, they’re also one of the oldest). 😛

        And you know, if it weren’t for the Mets’ horrible, terrible, oh my god what are they DOING late season slide in 2008, the Phillies probably wouldn’t have made it to the post! You’re welcome for that! Hahahaha.


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