We want to help you find some of the best cheesesteaks in Philadelphia because, well, here in the City of Brotherly Love, cheesesteaks are a civic icon, a draw for visitors and a cultural obsession. Often imitated around the world, the Philly cheesesteak is rarely duplicated successfully outside of Philadelphia. Let’s take a closer look and what makes a Philly cheesesteak so unique.
A cheesesteak is a long, crusty roll filled with thinly sliced sautéed rib-eye beef and melted cheese. Generally, the cheese of choice is Cheez Whiz, but American and mild or sharp provolone are common substitutions. 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, when South Philadelphia hot dog vendor Pat Olivieri slapped some beef from the butcher onto 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 thereafter, 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 sizzle 24 hours a day, as does circa 1966 Geno’s, the rival shop across the street. For decades, the two family-run businesses have waged a friendly competition to win the title of best cheesesteak in town, with Geno’s late founder, Joe Vento, claiming it was he, not Olivieri, who first added cheese to the 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?
If you want Whiz and onions, request a “Whiz wit.” Not into onions? Then ask for a “Whiz Widout,” which will yield a sandwich with Cheez Whiz and no onions. Next, ask for any other toppings or condiments you desire.
— Photo by B. Krist for Visit Philadelphia
Now that you have a grasp of the intricacies of the construction and ordering process for a Philadelphia cheesesteak, it’s time to try one for yourself. Fortunately, it’s easy to find awesome Philly cheesesteaks around the City of Brotherly Love – they’re all over. And no matter if it’s your first cheesesteak or your 101st, each bite is always worth savoring. Our guide below will help you find some of the best and most popular cheesesteaks in Philadelphia. Enjoy!
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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 No. 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 recent years it’s gained mainstream recognition as one of the best purveyors of cheesesteaks in the city, 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.
Where: John's Roast Pork, 14 E. Snyder Avenue
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Every sandwich at the award-winning Tony Luke’s — now with multiple locations in multiple states — is worth ordering. And although the cheesesteak, made with 100% USDA-inspected rib-eye steak, was not on the restaurant’s original menu, it’s been a top seller ever since it was added six months after opening in 1992. 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, including to pro sports games at the nearby sports complex.
Where: Tony Luke's, Various locations including 39 E. Oregon Avenue
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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
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 late night of partying on the famed strip.
Where: Jim's Steaks, Various locations including 400 South Street
Campo’s is a great spot for anyone looking to sample 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 Center and the Independence Visitor Center, making it the perfect stop for a post-tour meal.
Where: Campo's, 214 Market Street
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
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If you’re a saavy enough cheesesteak aficionado, you’ll 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 racked up an enormous amount of accolades since getting into the cheesesteak business a half-century ago. For this neighborhood staple, freshness rules, and that’s why they use only the freshest meats, cheeses, produce and bread to make their raved-about creations one sandwich at a time.
Where: Dalessandro's Steaks, 600 Wendover Street
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Now with four locations in the Philadelphia area, Steve’s Prince of Steaks started in Northeast Philadelphia on Bustleton Avenue and expanded to Center City. For 30 years now, owner Steve Iliescu has delivered his signature sandwich on a long, thin roll with just the right chew.
Where: Steve's Prince of Steaks, Various locations including 41 S. 16th Street
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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
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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. Go eat this cheesesteak — you won’t regret it.
Where: Woodrow's Sandwich Shop, 630 South Street
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Rittenhouse Square’s Cleavers offers an entire “Make It Yours” menu of cheesesteak options made from ribeye steak. Choose whether you want your roll seeded or unseeded, or move beyond traditional cheesesteak territory and order meat in a wrap or bowl style. The topping combinations allow you to go beyond the classics, too, with versions that include Sriracha aioli, blue cheese dressing, long hots and onion rings along with the steak. There’s also a lengthy selection of chicken cheesesteaks and a few vegetarian recommendations as well.
Where: Cleavers, 108 S. 18th 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 Historic District shop uses locally baked Amoroso’s rolls and boasts a liberal ordering policy — meaning patrons shouldn’t feel pressured to order the cheesesteak in standard Philly fashion.
Where: Sonny's Famous Steaks, 228 Market Street
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Although Cosmi’s Deli is a relative newcomer among cheesesteak contenders, this tiny corner store in South Philadelphia barely enough seating for half a dozen people has won plenty of praise for its rendition of the famous Philly delicacy (as well its hoagies and roast pork sandwiches). 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 wit” on a seeded roll and get an order of long hots on the side for a little extra kick.
Where: Cosmi's Deli, 1501 S. 8th Street
— Photo by Visit Philadelphia
Max’s may be most well known for its star turn in Creed, the seventh movie in the Rocky film franchise, but for many decades now, it’s been a go-to place for cheesesteaks in the heart of North Philadelphia. Max’s also makes an appearance in our “We Got You” Video Series, where Tarik “Black Thought” Trotter of GRAMMY-winning hip-hop band The Roots and Dustin Ross, co-host of weekly podcast “The Friend Zone,” meet up at the famous cheesesteak shop. Click the image above to watch the clip.
Where: Max's Steaks, 3653 Germantown Avenue
Like Pat’s and Geno’s (see above), Philip’s Steaks is another 24-hour cheesesteak joint on Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia, though it’s a little more out of the way than those two. But that off-the-beaten-path vibe gives Philip’s more cred if you’re looking to find a great cheesesteak that not everyone has tried before. Philip’s offers standard cheesesteak varieties as well as an “old-fashioned,” which is a cheesesteak with provolone cheese, grilled tomatoes, onions and long hots. Try one. You won’t regret it.
Where: Philip's Steaks, 2234 W. Passyunk Avenue
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Meat specialists with a Drexel University truck and a brick-and-mortar location in Brewerytown, Spot Gourmet Burgers distinguishes its steaks from the pack with a whopping half pound of house-butchered rib-eye per sandwich. Topped with provolone and grilled onions, it’s a memorable rendition.
Where: Spot Gourmet Burgers, 2821 W. Girard Avenue
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Spring Garden’s Jimmy G’s Steaks has established itself as a key player in the local sandwich game, grilling up classics in chopped and slab formats on Liscio’s rolls. For the adventuresome, there’s also a lamb variation as well as the shop’s secret weapon: the Philadelphia Cream Cheesesteak.
Where: Jimmy G's Steaks, 695 N. Broad Street
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Oregon Steaks is another relative newcomer to the Philly cheesesteak scene, having opened a new storefront at 10th and Oregon in deep South Philly in early 2014. Very convenient to the sports complex and Citizens Bank Park, Oregon Steaks is open 24/7 and has neon lights that provide the classic South Philly glow perfect for a post-game, late-night cheesesteak.
Where: Oregon Steaks, 2654 S. 10th Street
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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.
Where: Joe's Steaks + Soda Shop, Various locations including 1 W. Girard Avenue
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Some might call it cheesesteak sacrilege, but vegans have to eat, too. To that end, Blackbird Pizzeria produces a fine seitan “cheesesteak” — featuring rosemary and garlic seared seitan, grilled diced onions and vegan Whiz served on a Lost Bread Co. baguettethat — has garnered much praise from vegetarians and carnivores alike.
Where: Blackbird Pizzeria, Various locations including 507 S. 6th Street and 614 N. 2nd Street
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A post shared by John (@bellyofthepig) on Dec 18, 2015 at 4:40am PST
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
Abner’s has been a part of the Philly college experience for decades. The cheesesteak specialty shop also serves gyros, pizza and more to hungry students until the wee hours of the morning.
Where: Abner's Cheesesteaks, 3813 Chestnut Street
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An addition to the Northern Liberties neighborhood in 2012, Del Rossi’s has been impressing cheesesteak fans from the start, offering more than a dozen cheesesteak and chicken cheesesteak options.
Where: Del Rossi's Cheesesteak Co., 538 N. 4th Street
Dishing out monstrous single slices and pizza pies that range from 14 to 26 inches, Lazaro’s is primarily known for its thin-crust pizza. But the other menu options, including 18-inch cheesesteaks, are worth seeking out, too.
Where: Lazaro's Pizzeria & Grill, 1743 South Street
With a name like Gooey Looie’s, the kitchen isn’t going to skimp on meat. The Pennsport deli plumps up its sandwiches with a beyond-generous helping of steak and cheese that demands many napkins — and sometimes utensils.
Where: Gooey Looies, 231 McClellan Street
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A guide to one of Philly’s vastly underrated signature sandwiches