What I Ordered
- Shanks: Cheesesteak with Provolone cheese “witout” Onions – $8.25
- Campo’s: Cheesesteak with American cheese – $8.00
- Pat’s: Cheesesteak with American cheese “witout” Onions – $9.75
In Short: Warm bread, melted cheese, and tender meat. These are the foodie sensations delivered by some of Philadelphia’s famous cheesesteak eateries. If you plan on starting your own cheesesteak crawl, bring an appetite and plenty of napkins.
Review By: Eric Hoover –
An old friend emailed recently; she was coming to eat the best cheesesteak in Philly. I suggested we go one step further. It would be a day filled with walking, chewing, reminiscing, and digesting. A “cheesesteak crawl,” like a pub-crawl, would consist of travel to three or four spots known for their cheesesteak superiority. The plan: order one at every establishment and slice ‘em right down the middle, rating each while hopefully walking enough off before our next stop. I even created a Twitter hashtag:#cheesesteakcrawl2013
So, what exactly makes up an iconic Philadelphia cheesesteak? Simply, a pile of chopped meat cooked typically “wit” onions (though sometimes ordered “witout”) and topped with either gooey Cheese-Wiz or other forms of processed dairy. Originated by hotdog-selling brothers Pat and Harry Olivieri during the early 1930’s, their creation’s popularity led to the first cheesesteak stand: Pat’s King of Steaks. Today, variations of the classic Philly steak can be found across the globe, but we’re headed back to the “hoagies’” roots.
Shank’s Original Pier 40 – 901 S. Christopher Columbus Blvd.
In my opinion, this was once the greatest cheesesteak in Philadelphia. Shank’s recently became my #2 (displaced by Campo’s, which we’ll discuss next). The meat is tender, the bread is soft, and the people are NICE. None of that Philly “going to be an asshole to you” shit that I grew tired of last time I lived here. Shank’s goes the classic diced meat route, with some of the softest bread in town. Usually, their steak is very moist, but this sirloin tasted a little dry this day, disappointing me in front of my friend Annemarie. On a scale of 1 – 5 (Yes, we rated each cheesesteak as such) Shank’s earned a 3…though I’d typically give them a solid 4.5.
Our second stop was Campo’s: a place I’d never been, but is constantly rated one of the best cheesesteak and hoagie shops in The City of Brotherly Love. For those wondering, a “hoagie” is a sub / grinder / big sandwich / etc. in Philly-speak. Campo’s deli was a slight walk from Shank’s, but still a journey worth every step; we now understand how Campo’s has become an award winning sandwich shop. Yes, the bread is incredibly soft and flavorful, and the cheese didn’t taste overly processed. But the meat, oh my dear carnivore lords the meat. Not diced chunks, but juicy slices of meat, cooked medium rare and still a little red in the center. A solid 5 out of 5 – by far the best cheesesteak in the city of Philadelphia.
Pat’s King of Steaks – Since 1930 – 1237 E. Passyunk Ave.
You know Pat’s because it’s a tourist trap. I know it because it’s a block from my apartment. Whenever my father comes into town he takes me there, even after bringing him to Shanks! Pat’s is the original cheesesteak stand, and for good reason. They pioneered this delicious, ready to order meal. Pat’s has strict rules when ordering to keep lines moving fast. They like to play up meanness, stating that if you order incorrectly, “back of the line” you go! It’s not true, of course; like any tourist attraction they want your money.
If I had to choose between Pat’s and their main competition, Geno’s, I would go Pat’s every time. The bread is typically soft, even at 2 am. The steak’s not bad, and they aren’t blatant racists. Geno’s is best known for their sign explaining: “This Is AMERICA: WHEN ORDERING Please ‘SPEAK ENGLISH.'” I have got no time for right-wing opinions when in need of cheesesteak. Like Shank’s, we gave Pat’s a solid 3.
Two relatively small people eating 1.5 cheesesteaks each is something to witness. If you plan on attempting a #cheesesteakcrawl, I highly recommend bringing napkins, some Tums, and a good friend.