Top 10 Spots for
Authentic Philly Cheesesteaks
Our picks for the best places to go for an Authentic Philly Cheesesteak experience
Here in Philly, 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.
So what is an authentic cheesesteak and where did it come from? Here’s the lowdown on this region’s favorite sandwich.
What Is A Cheesesteak?:
A cheesesteak is a long, crusty roll filled with thinly sliced sautéed ribeye beef and melted cheese. Generally, the cheese of choice is Cheez Whiz, but American and provolone are also common choices. The art of cheesesteak preparation lies in the balance of flavors, textures and what is often referred to as the “drip” factor. Other toppings may include fried onions, sautéed mushrooms, ketchup and hot or sweet peppers.
Some sandwich shops also offer a cheesesteak hoagie, a hybrid version that combines the cheesesteak with cold hoagie dressings like lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise.
Cheesesteaks are fast, portable and readily available at steak shops, delis, food trucks, pizzerias and even some high-end restaurants throughout the region.
The cheesesteak made its official debut in 1930. Pat Olivieri was a South Philadelphia hot dog vendor who one day decided to put some beef from the butcher on his grill. A taxicab driver noticed the alluring aroma and asked for his own steak sandwich.
The next day, as the story goes, rumor of the delicious lunch had spread, and cabbies around the city came to Olivieri demanding steak sandwiches. Soon after, Olivieri opened up a shop on 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue, Pat’s King of Steaks, to sell his new creation. Eventually, according to legend, he added cheese to the recipe.
Today, Pat’s grills are sizzling 24 hours a day, as are Geno’s, the rival shop across the street. For 40 years, the two shops have waged a friendly competition to win the title of best cheesesteak in town, with Geno’s founder, Joe Vento, claiming it was he, not Olivieri, who first added cheese to the cheesesteak.
How To Order A Cheesesteak:
Cheesesteak consumption has its own etiquette. When ordering, there are two critical questions to answer: First, what kind of cheese do you want? (Whiz? Provolone? American?) Second, do you want onions? (“Whiz wit?”) The correct way to respond is “Wit” for “Yes, I would like Whiz and onions,” or “Widout” for “No, just the cheese.” Then, ask for any other toppings or condiments you desire.
Be forewarned: Lines are long, patience is tested, and if you don’t have your order and money ready to go, you might be sent to the back of the queue.
Best Places To Find an Authentic Philadelphia Cheesesteak Experience:
1. John’s Roast Pork
A small shack amidst shopping plazas, John’s Roast Pork is perennially cited as one of the city’s top steak spots and it gets our nod for #1. Its secret weapon? A crusty seeded roll. John’s has long been a favorite of South Philadelphia dock workers and contractors, having opened in 1930, but in the last decade or so it has really gained mainstream recognition as one of the best purveyors of cheesesteaks in the City of Philadelphia, including a James Beard Award for America’s Classics . Also, don’t miss the namesake roast pork sandwich. 14 Snyder Avenue, (215) 463-1951 More >>
2. Tony Luke’s
Located next to an I-95 underpass on an otherwise dull stretch of Oregon Avenue in South Philadelphia, Tony Luke’s is another South Philadelphia institution. There’s no need for an inside here — you order and pick up your sandwich from the street side windows and feast upon your reward at the outdoor picnic-style tables. When ordering, don’t be offended if the staff seems a bit a less than friendly; they take pride in giving a hard time to both regulars and first-timers. It’s part of Tony Luke’s lure. And note: every sandwich at the award-winning Tony Luke’s is worth ordering, and they taste even better during a game at the nearby sports complex. Want a sneak peek of their cheesesteak? Take a mouth-watering look… 39 E. Oregon Avenue. (215) 551-5725. More >>
3. Pat’s King of Steaks
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). 9th Street & Passyunk Avenue, (215) 468-1546. More >>
4. Geno’s Steaks
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. Geno’s has been slinging its famous cheesesteaks from the same location here for more than forty years now. Like Pat’s, Geno’s is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week so you can visit whenever you get the urge. 1219 S. 9th Street, (215) 389-0659. More >>
5. Jim’s Steaks
Jim’s Steaks has multiple locations, but the classic smell of fried onions wafting down South Street makes that location the most memorable. Jim’s Steaks is South Street’s premier cheesesteak shop. The crowds can often mean an extra long 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. 400 South Street, (267) 519-9253. More >>
Campo’s Deli is a great spot for anyone looking to sample some authentic Philadelphia flavor without traveling too far to get it. Conveniently located on Market Street in Old City, Campo’s is only three blocks from the Liberty Bell and the Independence Visitor Center. More famous for its creative menu of hoagies, Campo’s Deli cooks up a respectable traditional cheesesteak, and they ship to other cities as well. 214 Market Street, (215) 923-1000, camposdeli.com
7. McNally’s Tavern
McNally’s is a Chestnut Hill landmark and it’s 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, mcnallystavern.com
8. Dalessandro’s Steaks
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. 600 Wendover Street, (215) 482-5407, dalessandros.com
9. Steaks on South
One might think that Philadelphia already has enough cheesesteak eateries to last it a life time. While that may very well be true, you can never really have too many options for cheesesteak bliss. Enter Steaks on South, a relative newcomer to Philadelphia’s cheesesteak scene, but one that is already turning a lot of heads and filling a lot of stomachs. 308 South Street, (215) 922-7880, steaksonsouth.com
10. Shank’s Original
Visit Shank’s Original for a highly reputed cheesesteak and an old-school South Philly experience transplanted to Center City. The tradition of Shank’s dates back to 1962 when Shank’s and Evelyn’s (“Shank’s”) opened its doors to the Italian Market near 10th and Catherine Streets. In 2009, Shank’s closed it’s original location and opened a new location in Center City Philadelphia known as Shank’s Original Uptown. 120 South 15th Street, (215) 629-1093, shanksoriginal.com
Rick’s Steaks – Rick’s Philly Steaks is a third-generation spinoff of Pat’s, started by the “Prince of Steaks” Rick Olivieri, who brought his cheesesteak savvy to Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles. Like all fine, authentic Philly Cheesesteak shops, Rick’s has a preferred methodology/recipe that it feels produces the best steak sandwiches. Rick’s cooks their steak in whole slices — rather than chopping it up while it’s on the grill — to preserve the maximum amount of flavor and texture in the meat. The steak is then piled on a soft Italian roll, to which fried onions and cheese whiz are traditionally added. Lincoln Financial Field, rickssteaks.com
Cosmi’s Deli – Cosmi’s Deli is a relative newcomer among the cheesesteak contenders, winning recent accolades from Philadelphia Magazine. 1501 S. 8th Street, (215) 468-6093
Sonny’s – Founded in 2000, Sonny’s Famous Steaks in Old City offers a fresh, healthier take on the recipe, frying the meat in its own juices rather than in oil. 228 Market Street. (215) 629-5760
Steve’s Prince of Steaks – Located in the Northeast section of the city, Steve’s has a sizable and devoted following of fans who swear the long, thin cheesesteaks that the “Prince” serves are the best in Philadelphia. 7200 Bustleton Avenue, (215) 338-0985, www.stevesprinceofsteaks.com