I walk up to the open window where the cashier is. Right next to him, behind the grease covered glass you can see loads of steak and onions just cooking away.
“Whiz with, please,” I say, trying to restrain from drooling all over myself.
“WHIZ WIT!” the cashier screams to the man standing literally right next to him.
He turns back to me and tells me it’s $6 and a quarter. I already have the money ready because it’s one of the “rules” of ordering cheese steaks and I hand him a five and two ones.
By the time the cashier is giving me three quarters, the man next to him had already placed the bun on paper, opened it up, slapped on a good portion of meat, slapped on a healthy serving of grilled onions, covered it with cheese whiz, and placed it right next to the register for me to pick up.
“NEXT!” screams the cashier as soon as the last quarter leaves his fingers. I turn my attention to the cheese steak sitting next to the register. I pick it up with a huge smile on my face and I walk to one of the tables set outside the establishment, ready to sink my teeth into the best cheese steak I’ve ever had in my life.
Where is this establishment you ask? It’s in South Philly and it’s not just one establishment, it’s two. They are literally right across the street from each other and both boast the best Philly cheese steaks of all time, and honestly, it’s hard to argue against it! One is called Geno’s Steak and the other is called Pat’s Steak. They are identical in many aspects but it’s the subtleties that set them apart. And they are both located at the intersection of 9th Street and Passyunk Ave.
Which one is the best one? I could tell you that my favorite is Pat’s, but the next person would tell you they prefer Geno’s. I don’t blame them. The two are so much alike that either could really be someone’s favorite. It’s really a matter of preference, as most things come down to. The best part about them being so close to each other is being able to order one cheese steak at one joint and then crossing the street to grab a second at the other! This way, you can get the best of both worlds!
There are many similarities between Geno’s and Pat’s, as mentioned earlier. Their basic cheese steak includes the same ingredients: meat, cheese, and onions. Of course, the onions are optional and you can add other ingredients as well, such as mushrooms. However, the traditional cheese steak consists of steak, onions, and cheese, so that’s what I’ll be focusing on in this review.
Both establishments use the same ingredients; however the way they prepare the meat is different. Geno’s on one hand slices their meat in the fashion gyro meat is sliced. Pat’s on the other hand, slice their meat like what you would expect in any cheese steak. The taste is not affected by this, but the tenderness is. Because there is more air between the slices of steak found in Pat’s meat, the cheese steak is tenderer. Geno’s however, a bit tougher than Pat’s, but only slightly. Those not really looking for the difference won’t notice it, but if you are conscience of about it when you’re eating them, they are noticeable.
Both cheese steaks are extremely greasy, as they should be, but Geno’s seems to be a tad bit on the lighter side. Pat’s is a bit more grittier than Geno’s, but that adds more flavor in my opinion.
The way you order food is the same for both as well. But, before we get into that, there are some rules when ordering that need to be covered first. These rules are the same for both establishments: 1) Before you get to the register know what you want to order; 2) When ordering say the type of cheese you want first and if you want onions or not; 3) Have your money ready before you order! The pace is extremely fast at these establishments and there is a high demand for their food. To accommodate everyone in a speedy manner, they ask that all patrons follow these rules. They seem to work because when I got there, there were a lot of people in line in front of me, but I got my cheese steak in no time!
Now, on to ordering. As mentioned earlier, there is a certain way to order at these establishments. The first thing you need to do is decide what kind of cheese you want. There are a variety of cheeses available but I would recommend trying the cheese whiz because that seems to be the classic cheese to use, plus it tastes so good! The second thing you need to do is decide whether or not you want onions. In my opinion, grilled onions are good with anything so I would suggest getting them. They add more flavor as well. Once you got those two things decided, you put them together. When you order, you say the name of the cheese first and then “with” for onions or “without” for no onions. Simple right?
Another thing to know before trying out either place is to know that the only seats you’ll find are the ones that are set up outside around the establishment. The whole building is used up as one big kitchen so there’s no indoor sitting. This is not a problem because it just fits the mood of cheese steaks: simple, greasy, and good.
Another similarity is the price. This is good because now you can freely choose which cheese steak is your favorite on taste alone. You can feel at ease knowing that if you like Geno’s better than Pat’s, you’ll be paying the same price and vice versa.
However, there are some differences to these establishments that set them apart from each other. They aren’t huge differences, but they are subtle enough to drive one person to Geno’s and another to Pat’s. As mentioned earlier, Geno’s is a little bit lighter than Pat’s. This isn’t saying that Geno’s is the dieter’s alternative, far from it. It is greasy and you’ll have puddles of grease when you’re done eating, but maybe not as much as Pat’s. Another difference that was mentioned earlier was the way the meat was cut. Again, not a huge difference, but enough to make people choose one over the other.
The final difference, and probably the biggest, is the fact that Geno’s offers a special hot sauce on the side whereas Pat’s offers grilled peppers instead. Now, both are really good. The hot sauce is hot and flavorful and the grilled peppers are a tad spicy with a lot of flavor. Again, this will cause a split in favorites. I love hot sauce, but the flavor of the peppers is just so much better so I tend to lean that way.
These are the major differences. They are small, but again, enough to push people one way or another.
I have to admit, these are the best Philly cheese steaks I’ve ever had in my life. I definitely lean more towards Pat’s but that’s because I prefer my meat sliced the traditional way, I prefer the more gritty food, and I love the peppers. But, don’t take my word for it, go to South Philly and try both! They’re right across the street from each other, literally, so you can try them both! I’ve had “Philly cheese steaks” from California, Oregon, Washington, Kentucky, Michigan, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey. I have to say, the best is definitely the original Philly cheese steak, straight from South Philly.