Don’t leave Philadelphia without trying the classic Philly cheesesteak
My parents both grew up in Pittsburgh, PA, and while I grew up on the Eastern end of the state, I never fully appreciated the “City of Brotherly Love.” (All that Steeler and Pirate pride and Primanti’s Sammiches have their effect on a girl.) So, when Pedro and I decided to celebrate our first wedding anniversary in Philadelphia, it was like discovering a whole new city. I did, however know a few things about Philly that COULD NOT be missed and chief among them was an authentic Philly cheesesteak cheesesteak.
Everyone in Philadelphia has their favorite place to get a Philly cheesesteak, but the 2 most famous are Geno’s and Pat’s. The story goes that back in 1930 Pat Olivieri had a hot dog stand and one day for lunch he tried cooking some chopped meat on his hot dog grill along with some onions. The result was really tasty, and the steak sandwich was born. As years went by, the option to have a steak sandwich with cheese was added. Decades later in 1966, Geno’s opened at the famous “X” shaped intersection of 9th and Passyunk in South Philly, just across the street from Pat’s and everyone thought it wouldn’t last, but what resulted was a friendly rivalry that continues to this day. Much has been made out of the two neighboring cheese steak stands that are always open, with neon lights calling the faithful to grab a delicious bite, and we couldn’t leave without trying one!
We took the city bus down to Passyunk Avenue and walked toward 9th Street where the famous “X” marks the cheese steak spot. A friend of mine who used to live in Philadelphia told me that Geno’s was the place to go for a good Philly cheesesteak, and since we had limited time, I decided to trust her ruskommendation. We had done our homework and knew that ordering at the famous stand was all part of the ritual. The first window is where you order your cheese steak. You have to say if you want it “with” or “without” (meaning with or without onions.) Then, you specify your cheese (provolone, American or Cheez whiz). You pay for your cheese steaks right there, cash only! The fast moving cooks in the triangular sandwich shop prepare every steak quickly and we didn’t have to wait for more than a minute for our sandwiches. Then, at the second window, you can ask for drinks and fries.
There is no indoor seating at Geno’s, and we were lucky enough to visit on a beautiful fall day, so we sat outside at the bright orange picnic tables. The cheesesteak was delicious- I got mine with onions and provolone cheese. The hot sandwich is unwieldy and messy, and just a fun thing to eat. It is the kind of sandwich that begs for a tradition! In fact, people who used to live in Philadelphia regularly come back to both Geno’s and Pat’s and get their sandwiches to go, or to eat outside. When we were visiting, there was a family who was visiting from out of town and we overheard the children asking if they could swing by before leaving town the next day for a “cheese steak for the road.”
While we don’t pretend to know if Geno’s or Pat’s is the better place to get a cheese steak, we will ruskommend that you don’t leave Philly without trying this classic sandwich that is so identified with the city, (and rightly so!) We ruskommend the Philly cheesesteaks with 5 delicious boquerones! (Just don’t forget the napkins!)