Visitors to Philadelphia are always asking about where they can find the “best” cheesesteak in Philly. (FYI only tourists call the staple sandwich a “Philly” cheesesteak. It’s pretty much understood.) Depending on who you ask, however, the answer to that popular question can vary greatly. To let you in on a little secret, the love affair with the cheesesteak for the Philadelphia native is very intimate and personal. Often times, the favorite has little to do with taste, but everything to do with where the person grew up. To be perfectly honest cheesesteak preference is often times territorial. Philadelphians rarely try out different restaurants. They usually find what they like and stick it. Luckily for you, we’ve tried them all and compiled a list of the Top 10 Best Cheesesteaks!
Best Overall Steaks
Campo’s 214 Market St. – Philly’s best kept secret. Family owned, run and operated, Campo’s makes an overall great steak. They’re consistent with their product, provide excellent customer service and serve fresh ingredients. They offer a wide variety of beef cheesesteak, chicken cheesesteak and veggie options to appeal to most every taste bud. Within walking distance from Independence Mall in the Old City section of Philadelphia, Campo’s is a must visit when searching for the best cheesesteak in Philly.
Sonny’s 228 Market St. – The “healthier” steak. Cheesesteak and healthy don’t usually go together but Sonny’s considers their steaks to be healthier than the average steak because they cook the meat in its own juices. They claim to not add any additional oil to their steaks and offer some great burgers as well. Also within walking distance of the historic district of Philadelphia and steps away from Campo’s, why not try both!
Jim’s 400 South St. – A long time Philly favorite. With three locations, for almost 80 years Jim’s has been a landmark in Philadelphia. Chopped ribeye steak, choice of a variety of cheeses and their in house baked long rolls have been one of the most popular cheesesteak restaurants to visit in Philly. Expect to wait, especially at their most popular location on Philadelphia’s most famous strip, South Street. You can’t say you’ve had a “Philly” cheesesteak unless you’ve had a Jim’s steak.
Tony Luke’s 39 E. Oregon Ave. – New kid on the block. Originally a sandwich shop, Tony Luke’s didn’t add the cheesesteak to the menu until 1992. With so many sandwich varieties, the Tony Luke’s cheesesteak doesn’t disappoint. Their cheesesteak is not just a cheesesteak and the way they cook their steaks on the grill helps to ensure a juicy cheesesteak experience every time. Their steaks are definitely worth a try.
Joe’s 1 W. Girard Ave. – The soda shop. Got a sweet tooth? Joe’s Steaks and Soda Shop is for you. Not only can you get a great steak at Joe’s, but you also have a choice of a variety of sodas, milkshakes and Sundays We say that’s even more of an incentive to take the trip to Philly’s Fishtown section of the city. All Philly natives know that you can’t eat your steak without a soda to wash it down.
Dalessandro’s 600 Wendover St. – Off the beaten path. If you ask a group of Philadelphians what their favorite cheesesteak restaurant is, we guarantee you that a handful of them will mention Dalessandro’s. A small mom and pop style restaurant in the Roxborough section of the city, away from the hustle and bustle of Center City and South Philadelphia, you’ll find this great steak shop. The Philly favorite has many variations of the cheesesteak and offers a variety of ways for dressing up the traditional sandwich. If you’re looking to travel away from the city on your search for the best steak, Dalessandro’s is worth the trip.
Steve’s Prince of Steaks 41 S. 16th St. – One stop shop. Looking for other Philly favorites to go with your cheesesteak? Steve’s has burgers, pizza, hoagies and cheesesteaks to satisfy your craving. Steve’s also offers a double meat option to their cheesesteaks just in case the regular serving is not enough. With all that’s available at Steve’s, being full will not be a concern.
John’s Roast Pork 14 E. Snyder Ave. – Not just cheesesteaks. John’s has won awards for their roast pork sandwich. Televisions shows and celebrities have traveled far and wide to try their namesake sandwich, but the steaks at John’s are worth the trip as well. You want a cheesesteak dish for breakfast? They have a cheesesteak and egg option available all day!
Let’s be honest. When you visit the following restaurants, you’re going for the cheesesteak “experience.” Cheesy, wiz covered sheets of steak on a long Italian roll with maybe fries on the side. Long lines are to be expected at the typical lunch/dinner time rush. Even longer lines can be found during the busy season. There is no dining room. All seating is outside (if you can locate an available table) and parking is impossible to find. No way do you go to either of these restaurants for convenience. You go so you can brag to your friends that you’ve been there and done that. You go so you can say that you’ve tried both and with 100% confidence, you’re able to give your opinion of which is the best. Just remember your choices, “Wiz wit” or “wiz witout.”
Pat’s 1237 E. Passyunk Ave. – The “originator.” As the story goes, in 1930, Pat Olivieri created a cheesesteak by accident after wanting to switch up his normal lunch routine by putting steak and onions on a hotdog roll instead of his usual hot dog. He didn’t realize that over 80 years later, the world would still be excited about it. At Pat’s, sheets of steaks are pumped out with speed straight off the grill with no time to waste. No frills. No bright lights. Cash only. This location is also the only location in the world. For over 80 years you would think that Frank, Pat’s nephew and now owner of the restaurant, would want to shake things up a bit, right? No. We assume they believe in the saying, “ If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.
Geno’s 1219 S. 9th St. – Lights, camera, action! When you walk up to Geno’s, you can’t ignore the flashy, neon lights with a huge cheesesteak on the roof, the display of celebrity photos and the Geno’s gear shop because why would anyone go there and leave without a souvenir to remember their visit long after they’ve digested their steaks? Joey Vento knew he had to make his presence known after he decided to put his cheesesteak restaurant at the same intersection as Pat’s steaks over 30 years later. Both offer a very similar sheet style steak, but the cut of meat, roll and cheese combination taste slightly different. No way can you walk away from the X-shaped intersection in South Philly without trying them both.
Now, why on earth would anyone want a vegan or vegetarian cheesesteak? No judgment here. The reality is that some have decided to choose a healthier diet and have cut meat out of their lives. Many of the restaurants in the Philadelphia area offer meatless options for those who want the cheesesteak experience without the meat. Campo’s, Jim’s, Tony Luke’s, Joe’s, Dalessandro’s, and Steve’s all provide a vegetarian sandwich. For a bonus, we’ve also listed what we believe is a great cheesesteak substitute for those who are adventurous and want to try something different.
Govinda’s 1408 South St. – Hand’s down the best mock “cheesesteak” in Philly. Govinda’s vegan cheesesteak, made with a soy-based protein, has the consistency of a chicken cheesesteak but many say they wouldn’t have known it wasn’t meat had they not been told. They use peppers and onions for flavor and even use a cheese/ mayo spread that is completely vegan as well. You can get your sandwich on a long seeded roll or a wrap. It’s definitely in our opinion a must try while in Philly.
Now that you’ve been brought up to speed on all things cheesesteak, you can either try to navigate your way through the streets of Philadelphia and try as many cheesesteak restaurants as you can or you can sit back, relax and enjoy a cheesesteak tour! Really? Yes, Philly Cheesesteak Tour is a sightseeing food tour bus experience that let’s you sample 5 cheesesteaks from 5 different restaurants, visit some of the popular landmarks in Philadelphia and avoid lines while riding on a comfortable tour bus. To book your tour visit www.phillycheesesteaktour.com. You may also call 215-432-2096 if you have questions.
*Header photo credit: “Cheesesteaks” by Leadfoot via Flickr