Philadelphia is known for many things… the Liberty Bell, Rocky, the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence, and being the home of Super Bowl 52 Champs – the Philadelphia Eagles. But, in order to make the most of your time in the city, it is crucial that you have a famous Philly Cheesesteak. No matter where you are in the city, there’s a good chance that you can find somewhere to get a cheesesteak within a mile radius. Growing up in the Greater Philadelphia Area, I’ve had more than my fair share of cheesesteaks, so I can confidently say that not all cheesesteaks are equal.
Before I share with you where to find a Philadelphia cheesesteak, I should be sure you know how to order them. It’s important to order your cheesesteaks like a true Philadelphian: “whiz wit”. That means you’re getting a cheesesteak with cheese whiz as your cheese (a cheesesteak with American just isn’t the same, trust me) with fried onions to top it off (this is the “wit” part of your order). If you order it any other way, it’s just not an authentic Philly cheesesteak – sorry, I don’t make the rules!
So, based on my extensive research, here is my list of the top five cheesesteak places you must experience in the greatest city in the world, Philadelphia:
- One of my personal favorites is Steve’s Prince of Steaks. Steve’s is a popular one because they make their cheesesteaks slightly different than the rest – instead of chopping up the meat, they slice it. And honestly, it makes all the difference. Another must when you go to Steve’s is their cheese fries; they’re just plain old steak fries with whiz, but they’re just better. Trust me.
- Joe’s is another must-stop for cheesesteaks. The shop has been in Philly since the 1940’s, but recently changed its name in 2013. However, that’s about the only thing the store has changed. Inside, it has a 1950’s diner-style atmosphere: complete with booths, a soda fountain, and even jukeboxes (which are unfortunately no longer operational). Joe’s also serves amazing milkshakes, which definitely pair quite nicely with your cheesesteak.
- Founded in 1960, Dalessandro’s is home to some of the best cheesesteaks Philly has to offer. Don’t believe me? Just ask Jimmy Fallon, host of the Tonight Show. Fallon is a known fan of Dalessandro’s, and spread national spotlight on the store when he served Ben Simmons one of their cheesesteaks on one of his episodes.
- Another place to visit for a great cheesesteak is Tony Luke’s. Unlike the others mentioned, Tony Luke’s is fairly new to the game: they were founded just over thirty years ago in the early 90’s. However, they caught up to the competition fast. They’ve won dozens of awards and have even gone international, serving their cheesesteaks (along with other sandwiches) outside the Philly area.
- Finally, when most people think of Philly cheesesteaks, they think of Pat’s & Geno’s. The restaurants are across the street from one another, thus sparking a rivalry between the two. It’s a huge tourist attraction as many people like to compare the two and decide which is best. Pat’s was founded by the Olivieri brothers, the same people credited with inventing the cheesesteak. A few decades later, Geno’s opened up across the street, creating the rivalry that still runs true today. In my humble opinion, there are better cheesesteaks to be had – but visiting Pat’s and Geno’s is definitely an item to cross off your Philly bucket list.
In short, it’s essential that you have at least one cheesesteak when you visit Philadelphia. It’s a rite of passage. Philly is home to so many unique things and contains so many new opportunities: take advantage of it! The amount of culture within the City of Brotherly Love will inspire you – and the amazing food will keep you coming back for more! So next time you’re sightseeing in Old City or catching the birds at the Linc, make sure you stop and get one of our famous cheesesteaks – whiz wit.
–Dani Greenberg, ’22