Philadelphia’s Sandwich Hall Of Fame
An ode to Philadelphia’s wealth of almost impossibly delicious sandwiches
Philadelphia is a city that loves great food. We have Iron Chefs and Top Chefs and incredible BYOBs. Our food truck scene has exploded. Our neighborhoods are bursting with incredible flavors and cuisines from all around the world. Our craft beer scene is as strong as any city in the county. We’ve been called one of the best cities in the U.S. for pizza and burgers, while also being declared the country’s very best city for late-night eats.
All of these edible assets and accolades are part of what makes Philadelphia great, but perhaps nothing speaks to Philadelphia’s love of great food more than our appreciation of an amazing sandwich.
From the world-famous Philly cheesesteak to its less famous (but equally delicious) brother) the hoagie, to the third juggernaut in Philly’s sandwich triumvirate, the roast pork sandwich, Philadelphia loves genuinely incredible sandwiches. We know them. We love them. We eat them. It’s what we do.
So it’s no surprise that SAVEUR Magazine declared Philadelphia “America’s Best Sandwich City.”
It was actually a nice reminder for Philadelphians not to take for granted the incredible bounty of sandwich awesomeness that we are presented with each and every day. So with that in mind, we put together a quick homage to some of Philly’s best sandwiches in the form of a visual Philadelphia Sandwich Hall of Fame.
So without any further ado, scroll down to check out the initial 12 entries. Just be forewarned: Doing so will make you hungry. And that’s a good thing. You should probably be making plans to enjoy your next authentic Philly cheesesteak/hoagie/roast pork/etc. as we speak.
The Roast Pork Sandwich at DiNic’s — “The Best Sandwich In America”
When it comes to quintessential Philly sandwiches, the cheesesteak may be more famous (Cheesesteak Shuffle, anyone?), but the roast pork sandwich is a sleeper favorite of many. And for an authentic roast pork sandwich, there are a few places in Philadelphia that make it better than anywhere else. One of those places is DiNic’s.
DiNic’s is the most popular vendor in Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia’s most popular attraction. (Left photo by G. Widman; right by J. Smith, both for Visit Philadelphia)
Located in the famous Reading Terminal Market in Center City, DiNic’s has been wowing locals and visitors alike for decades with its amazing roast pork sandwich. Then, in 2012, its roast pork sandwich was deservingly crowned “The Best Sandwich in America” by Adam Richman’s Best Sandwich in America.
And for anyone who’s ever had a roast pork sandwich at DiNic’s, you can appreciate the distinction. It is one insanely delicious sandwich.
The pork at DiNic’s is rubbed with Italian herbs and spices, roasted for five hours, then sliced thin and topped with sharp provolone and broccoli rabe. It’s a sandwich that is on a whole different level.
And now that it’s been named the best sandwich in the country, the secret is out.
Reading Terminal Market – 12th & Arch Streets – Center City
The Roast Pork Sandwich at John’s Roast Pork
The other leading contender for the best roast pork sandwich in Philadelphia.
Order the roast pork sandwich at John’s with Provolone and sautéed spinach and you’ll understand why this sandwich is one of Philadelphia’s best. (Photo by J. Varney for Visit Philadelphia)
When you walk into John’s Roast Pork, the shoebox-sized sandwich shack on a corner of Snyder Avenue in South Philadelphia, you definitely get the sense that you’re entering a place that’s been making great sandwiches for a long time. There are framed photos on the wall, an unbelievably enticing smell coming from the grill behind the counter and a line of hungry customers extending out the door.
For what? A sandwich so delicious you simply have to taste it to believe it.
John’s has been around for more than 80 years and the secret recipe behind their famous roast pork sandwich is just as closely guarded now as it was back in 1930 when John’s first opened. The pork is rubbed, roasted and sliced in house and then simmered in its own gravy before it makes its way into a crusty long roll. Order it with Provolone and sautéed spinach and you’ll understand why this roast pork sandwich is one of Philadelphia’s best.
Also Great: The Cheesesteak at John’s Roast Pork
The quality of the delightfully crusty roll alone, delivered fresh each morning from South Philadelphia’s Carangi Bakery, could be enough to declare this cheesesteak Philly’s finest. (Photo by Rianvented)
While the namesake roast pork sandwich is so good that it makes it hard to order anything else, John’s also makes one of the best cheesesteaks in Philadelphia. The beef is expertly seasoned and grilled. The cheese and onions are actually folded into the meat while still on the grill so the end result is far more flavorful and cheesy than many of its rivals. And the quality of the delightfully crusty roll alone, delivered fresh each morning from South Philadelphia’s Carangi Bakery, could be enough to declare this cheesesteak Philly’s finest.
Get there early — unlike other famed South Philadelphia cheesesteak shops, John’s operating hours do not extend into the wee hours of the night. So if you’re on a mission to taste cheesesteak bliss, you’ll have to do your steak-eating for lunch or as an early afternoon snack.
John’s Roast Pork
14 Snyder Avenue – South Philadelphia
The “Whiz With” Cheesesteak at Tony Luke’s in South Philadelphia
The Philly cheesesteak is inarguably the city’s most famous food. And Tony Luke’s makes one of Philadelphia’s best.
Pictured here is a steak topped with Cheez Whiz and onions — or a “Whiz With” — from one of the most famous cheesesteak shops in town, Tony Luke’s in South Philly. (Photo by J. Varney for Visit Philadelphia)
Here in Philadelphia, cheesesteaks are a civic icon, a tourist draw and a cultural obsession. Often imitated around the world, the cheesesteak is rarely duplicated successfully outside of Philadelphia.
Why? Let’s call it “precision sandwich engineering.” Everyone agrees that an authentic Philadelphia cheesesteak, first introduced by Pat Olivieri in 1930, requires thinly sliced ribeye beef and a somewhat soft/somewhat crusty long roll, but the choice between provolone, American and Cheez Whiz is a matter of great debate, as is the best place to eat the famed sandwich.
The good news is that no matter if it’s your first cheesesteak or your 101st, each bite is always worth savoring.
Pictured here is a steak topped with Cheez Whiz and onions — ordered it as a “Whiz With” — from one of the most famous cheesesteak shops in town, Tony Luke’s in South Philly.
Go ahead and treat yourself to one. You won’t regret it.
Ah, the welcoming glow of a South Philadelphia cheesesteak shop…
Also Great: The Roast Pork Italian Sandwich at Tony Luke’s
While the menu of countless delicious “Old Philly Style Sandwiches” at Tony Luke’s can seem overwhelming, you can’t go wrong with either of the two juggernauts: the Cheesesteak (with Wiz or American) of the Roast Pork Italian, the two most popular choices by far.
The Cheesesteak is thick and juicy and sure to impress. Bud don’t overlook the Roast Pork Italian, considered by many to be not only Tony Luke’s best sandwich, but also to be one of the finest Italian Roast Pork sandwich in the city. Stuffed with tender and spicy roast pork, garlicky broccoli rabe and sharp provolone and topped with a drizzle of rich gravy, the Roast Pork Italian will make you think twice about ever ordering a cheesesteak again.
39 E. Oregon Avenue – South Philadelphia
The Original Cheesesteak at Pat’s King of Steaks
Pat’s founder, Pat Olivieri, invented the steak sandwich in 1930. The rest, as they say, is history.
Located at the intersection of 9th and Passyunk in South Philadelphia, Pat’s is where it all began more than 80 years ago. (Photo by B. Krist for Visit Philadelphia)
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 location (and still the only location).
Ordering a Cheesesteak.
When ordering a cheesesteak, the idea is to let the cashier know a.) that you would like a cheesesteak, b.) what type of cheese you want, and c.) whether or not you want fried onions. And you have to be as concise as possible while doing so. Locals have become so adept at this practice that they basically have it down to three words: saying “one whiz with” to the person behind the counter means that you would like one cheesesteak [denoted by the “one”] with Cheez Whiz as your choice of cheese [denoted by the “whiz”] and with fried onions [denoted by the “with”].
Similarly, saying “one provolone without” would secure you a single cheesesteak [one] made with provolone cheese [provolone] and without fried onions [without]. OK. Got it? Now go ahead and test out your ordering prowess for real.
Pat’s King of Steaks
9th & Passyunk – South Philadelphia
The Incomparable Schmitter® Sandwich At McNally’s Tavern In Chestnut Hill
A variation on the cheesesteak so good that it’s been copyrighted.
A favorite at McNally’s Tavern in Chestnut Hill for more than 40 years, The Schmitter® is packed with sliced beef, extra cheese, fried onions, tomato, grilled salami and special sauce all onto a flash-broiled Kaiser roll. (Photo by J. Varney for Visit Philadelphia)
McNally’s is a Chestnut Hill landmark; however, it’s one without a big sign. Instead, there’s just a small plaque on the door and a green flag hanging above. But locals know how to find it just fine — it’s been located here near the top of Germantown Avenue for more than 80 years.
McNally’s, of course, is famous for its signature sandwich, the Schmitter®, which is a variation of Philadelphia’s famous cheesesteak sandwich. The Schmitter® includes the traditional grilled steak, fried onions and melted cheese but adds grilled salami, grilled tomatoes and a special sauce and comes on a toasted Kaiser roll instead of a long hoagie roll.
While the combination might sound strange, it’s famous for a reason — it’s frighteningly delicious. Go ahead and put it on your Philadelphia bucket list.
8634 Germantown Avenue – Chestnut Hill
The intersection of 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia is the epicenter of Philadelphia cheesesteak lure.
Don’t let a line, no matter how long, deter you — Geno’s cashiers and cooks are famous for speedily handing the endless flow of customers. (Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia)
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 more than four decades. Like Pat’s, Geno’s is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week so you can visit whenever you get the urge.
But no matter when you decide to go, you will most likely be greeted by a line ahead of you. But don’t let a line, no matter how long, deter you — Geno’s cashiers and cooks are famous for speedily handing the endless flow of customers.
9th & Passyunk – South Philadelphia
Serving delicious cheesesteaks to the masses on South Street for more than 35 years.
Jim’s first opened on South Street in 1976. It’s been going strong ever since. (Photo by B. Krist for Visit Philadelphia)
South Street is one of Philadelphia’s most well known melting pots. Here, visitors and residents, teenagers and adults, preppies and punk rockers, artists and attorneys, all mix happily. The street is always buzzing, no matter if you visit on a Tuesday afternoon or a Friday night.
This diversity makes for an excellent customer base for Jim’s Steaks, South Street’s premier cheesesteak shop. The crowds can often mean a bit of a wait before you actually get to taste one of Jim’s fine cheesesteak sandwiches, as the line at Jim’s often stretches out the front door and around the corner onto Fourth Street on weekends. However, the unbelievable smell of the grill-cooked beef and sizzling onions will assure you that the steaks are worth waiting for and keep you patient and focused on the eventual reward.
Jim’s is a popular meeting spot on South Street — so find an excuse and go meet a friend there for a delicious cheesesteak(!). (Left photo by B. Krist; right photo by A. Sinagoga, both for Visit Philadelphia)
Bonus Round: The Lorenzo’s-Jim’s Challenge aka “The Philly Taco”
If you want to enjoy two famous South Street institutions at once, then you’re a candidate for the Lorenzo’s-Jim’s Challenge, also known as “The Philly Taco.” Marrying Lorenzo’s delicious pizza and Jim’s superb cheesesteaks – by literally wrapping the giant pizza slice around the cheesesteak – the “challenge” is not for the gastronomically faint of heart.
4th & South Streets
At Sarcone’s, it’s all about the bread.
The amazing Italian hoagie at Sarcone’s — thinly sliced proscuitto, hot capacola, hard salami, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions and herbs, and drizzled with oil and vinegar. (Photo by J. Varney for Visit Philadelphia)\
In Philadelphia, something you will come to recognize about our famous sandwiches is that a great sandwich always begins with the bread. In fact, it may be the single most important component to realizing an amazingly delicious authentic Philadelphia sandwich.
In that case, you can bet the hoagies at Sarcone’s Deli have an immediate advantage. Their family has been baking bread in South Philadelphia’s Italian Market for five generations. The Deli, which opened in 1997 and has been a star ever since, is only about 50 feet away from the famous bakery, on the corner of 9th and Fitzwater.
The Sarcone’s Hoagie Roll is a work of art. A delicately crunchy crust and a soft, dense interior, the combination of which makes for the perfect bread to be filled with meats, cheese, oils, vinegars and herbs. (Photo by J. Varney for Visit Philadelphia)
It is indeed all about the bread at Sarcone’s in South Philadelphia. (Photo by A. Sinagoga for Visit Philadelphia)
Name an award and Sarcone’s has won it. And deservingly so. There’s a great selection of hoagies, ranging from the traditional (Italian) to the inspired (Sinatra) and the modern (Ultimate Veggie). But don’t be intimidated — you can not go wrong no matter what you order.
We will, however, go out on a limb and recommend you try the Old Fashioned Italian — it is one incredibly delicious sandwich. An even better idea would be to visit on multiple occasions… that way you’ll be able to enjoy more than just one.
734 S. 9th Street – Bella Vista
Steve’s Prince of Steaks
Another member of Philly’s cheesesteak royalty.
Steve’s Prince of Steaks is cheesesteak royalty in Philadelphia and now boasts a location in downtown Philadelphia making it easier than ever to track down and enjoy cheesesteak greatness. (Photo by J. Zale for Visit Philadelphia)
Steve’s Prince of Steaks has been a cheesesteak institution in Northeast Philadelphia for more than three decades and now that they’ve opened a location in downtown Philadelphia, more and more happy customers are becoming “loyal subjects” of the Prince (as the slogan on Steve’s T-shirt declares). And for good reason: The cheesesteaks at Steve’s are legit. Served on a long, thin roll that has the right amount of chew, the cheesesteak sandwich at Steve’s features large pieces of grilled rib eye and a generous helping of whiz and fried onions. You can substitute American for whiz or choose Provolone or Mozzarella for an extra $0.35, but our recommendation would be to stick with the whiz — it’s a classic.
Protip: If you want to add an element of heat to your cheesesteak at Steve’s, get one with an order of hot roasted peppers on the side and then scatter them onto your sandwich to taste. It’s good eats.
Steve’s Prince of Steaks
1017 S. 9th Street
Excellent cheesesteaks in the city’s northwestern ridge.
People have been flocking to Dalessandro’s for decades for one of their fine Philly cheesesteaks.
If you’re a saavy enough cheesesteak aficionado, you will no doubt want to make the trek out to Roxborough, near Manayunk in Philadelphia’s northwestern ridge. There, along Henry Avenue, you’ll find Dalessandro’s Steaks. Dalessandro’s has been serving delicious — if sinfully greasy — cheesesteaks from their corner locale for as long as anybody can remember. Legend has it that the grillmasters at Delassandro’s season their sizable flattoped grill with fat before adding the meat. Jimmy Fallon stopped by Dalessandro’s for a cheesesteak on a recent visit to Philadelphia.
Dalessandro’s is located on Henry Avenue in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia. (Photo by Rianvented)
Henry Avenue and Wendover Street – Roxborough
A classic corner deli in South Philadelphia doing knockout cheesesteaks, hoagies and roast pork sandwiches.
Cosmi’s roast pork sandwich on the left and their cheesesteak on the right. Both are great. (Photo by J. Zale for Visit Philadelphia)
Cosmi’s is awesome. It’s a tiny corner deli in South Philly that’s been around since the 1930s. There’s barely enough seating for half a dozen people, but that doesn’t prevent them from making some of the best cheesesteaks, hoagies and roast pork sandwiches in Philadelphia.
All three sandwiches are served on long hoagie rolls, which Cosmi’s gets baked fresh each day from the famous Sarcone’s Bakery. A Cosmi’s cheesesteak features coarsely chopped beef. Order one “whiz with” on a seeded roll and get an order of long hots on the side for a little extra kick.
As for hoagies, there are more than a dozen on the menu. Two of many highlights are the Godfather, made with prosciutto, sopressata, fresh mozzarella, roasted peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, green olives, extra virgin olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar and the Sicilian, made with prosciutto, sopressata, hot imported capicola, imported mortadella, sharp provolone and roasted peppers or long hots. Again, opt for the seeded roll.
The roast pork sandwich is pretty great as well. Slow roasted pork piled atop sharp provolone cheese inside a long seeded Sarcone’s roll and topped with broccoli rabe. It’s a thing of beauty.
1501 S. 8th Street
Paesano’s Philly Style
The New Kid on Philly’s Sandwich Block.
Pictured above: a cross section of three of Paesano’s signature sandwiches — the Arista, Paesano’s take on a roast pork sandwich; the Daddy Wad, Paesano’s version of a classic Italian hoagie; and the namesake Paesano, their variation on a Philly cheesesteak.
The offerings at Paesano’s sandwich shop are decidedly new-school thanks to chef Peter McAndrews’ flourish: Daddy Wad marries mortadella with pistachios, genoa salami, sopressata, capicola, prosciutto and sharp provolone with arugula, tomatoes, onions and sweet and hot peppers, while the Tuna Italiana throws herb-cheddar spread, hard-cooked egg, roasted tomatoes, arugula and chips into the mix.
Not surprising to local fans, Paesano’s namesake sandwich beat out Bobby Flay’s brisket grinder on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. It’s hard to go wrong with brisket, fried egg, horseradish mayo, roasted tomato and sharp provolone, but the namesake sandwich at Paesano’s is still shockingly delicious.
The second location of Northern Liberties’ gourmet Italian sandwich shop resides in heart of the Italian Market. Among the bread-swaddled options: the Arista — roasted suckling pig adorned with long hots, sharp provolone and broccoli rabe, as well as the Bolognese, a fried lasagna sandwich topped with a fried egg.