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Philadelphia Cheesesteak Trail

September 8, 2022

Philadelphia is known for a lot of impressive things, but one particular item seems to always come to mind whenever the city is mentioned: the cheesesteak.

The City of Brotherly Love’s trademark sandwich is a mouthwatering masterpiece of tender pieces of beef combined with melted cheesy goodness on a fresh Italian roll. Most of our establishments offer a choice of Cheez Whiz, American, or Provolone cheese, and the option to add either fried or raw onions. Some cheesesteak connoisseurs will tell you a cheesesteak isn’t complete unless it’s “whiz with,” which is a popular choice, but we’ll let you be the judge.

There are plenty of cheesesteak spots to try, but here are some of our favorites:

 

Angelo’s Pizzeria

Angelo’s Pizzeria: This cash only cheesesteak joint in South Philadelphia has been cranking out cheesesteaks since it was established in 2013. It all starts with a fresh roll and fresh-cut steak, but it’s the bonus cheese choice that fans rave about. Angelo’s offers Cooper Sharp cheese, along with the originals: American, Provolone, and Cheese Whiz. Let’s be honest, it’s not just the cheeses that draw the crowds, this sandwich is the total package.

Address: 736 South 9th Street

Barclay Prime

Barclay Prime: Stephen Starr’s frilly Rittenhouse “library” put an elegant spin on the cheesesteak in 2004, one that blew everyone’s minds. Their $140 version subs out ribeye for Wagyu, married alongside decadent foie gras, truffled cheese whiz, and caramelized onions on a sesame seed roll. The perfect high-brow meets low-brow meal is served with champagne. Who says the cheesesteak can’t put on a tuxedo and enjoy a fancy night out on the town?

Address: 237 South 18th Street

Campo’s

Campo’s: The go-to steak spot for tourists and locals strolling the cobblestone streets of Old City since 1947. The Phillie Phanatic has been known to pop in, too – it’s his second home after Campo’s opened at Citizens Bank Park. The move? The Heater featuring thinly sliced ribeye melded with jalapenos, Buffalo sauce, and jalapeno cheddar.

Address: 214 Market Street

Charlie’s Roast Pork

Charlie’s Roast Pork: Jim Pappas, known as The Cheesesteak Adventurer for eating more than 1,000 cheesesteaks on a quest to find the best one, ranked this cheesesteak joint as his top pick. It checks all the boxes: plenty of seating, friendly service, and high-quality chopped ribeye comfortably wedged into a Caranji seeded roll with American cheese melted throughout. It doesn’t hurt that you can pair it with a half-price growler at nearby Pennsport Beer Boutique.

Address: 1301 South 3rd Street

Cleavers

Cleavers: Jim Pappas (a.k.a. The Cheesesteak Adventurer) called this new kid on the block a “staple stop” due to its legit restaurant feel, something lacking in the other mom-and-pop shops on this list. No disrespect, of course. Their steaks are more elevated, almost chef-driven – take the BBQ Cheesesteak: ribeye steak, onion rings, thick cut bacon, American, BBQ sauce.

Address: 108 South 18th Street

Dalessandro’s

Dalessandro’s: This tiny Roxborough rowhome has risen to fame in recent years thanks to Jimmy Fallon and The Legendary Roots Crew. Locals have been flocking here since 1960, fighting for a coveted counter seat and a whiff of greasy ribeye amid the clanging spatulas which finely chop each piece of meat. Dalessandro’s was also Philadelphia Style Magazine’s Best of Style Readers’ Choice award winner for Best Philly Cheesesteak in 2022.

Address: 600 Wendover Street and Henry Avenue

Donkey’s Place

Donkey’s Place: Does New Jersey own the best cheesesteak? That’s what former celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain decided during a visit in 2015. Located in nearby Camden, Donkey’s Place plays by their own rules: a circular poppy seed kaiser roll replaces the traditional Italian hoagie roll, perfect for trapping in big hunky slabs of steak along with browned onions and melty American cheese. And the non-descript storefront doubles as a neighborhood watering hole, with a fully-stocked bar.

Address: 1223 Haddon Ave, Camden, NJ

Geno’s Steaks

Geno’s Steaks: Joey Vento opened his rival steak shop right across from Pat’s in 1966 following the success of his curbside grill at the same location. The difference? He started serving up slabs of the beautiful, marbled meat instead of chopping it up. It worked. Geno’s has turned into an industry icon thanks in large part to its 24-hour glowing neon signs, prompting the corner to earn the flattering moniker of “Cheesesteak Vegas.”

Address: 1219 South 9th Street

Ishkabibble’s

Ishkabibble’s: A relative newcomer to the scene, Ishkabibble’s name comes from an old Yiddish saying: “Do I look like I care?” The famed South Street “hole in the wall” started pumping out high-quality steaks in 1979 and put their own stamp on Philly sandwich history when they introduced the Chicken Cheesesteak.

Address: 517 South Street

Jim’s Steaks

Jim’s Steaks: This two-story greasy spoon disguised as a diner has been serving up mouth-watering steaks on South Street since 1976. The line regularly wraps around the block, with the smells drifting down to Penn’s Landing, and the griddle cooks never forget a face. Try a traditional chopped version; or branch out with a pizza steak.

Address: 400 South Street

NOTE: Jim’s is temporarily closed for renovations and projected to reopen in spring 2023.

John’s Roast Pork

John’s Roast Pork: Roast pork might be the namesake of John Bucci’s 92-year-old South Philly sandwich joint, but locals know the secret star of the show is something he calls the “Ultimate Cheesesteak.” It features 12 ounces of choice meat, smothered in either provolone or American cheese. Don’t ask for Cheez Whiz here.

Address: 14 East Snyder Avenue

Larry’s Steaks

Larry’s Steaks: You could argue GOATS run on Larry’s Steaks since a young Kobe Bryant fueled up on their super-sized Belly Filler: a 2-foot take on a classic cheesesteak overstuffed with ribeye, partly chopped and slabbed. Bryant visited every time he was in town and they even shipped sandwiches to him in Los Angeles. Their location across from Saint Joseph’s Fieldhouse has turned into a shrine to the hoops legend.

Address: 2459 North 54th Street

Max’s Steaks

Max’s Steaks: This North Philly monument, in the heart of Nicetown, is where Michael B. Jordan schools the world on how to use the word “jawn” in the movie “Creed.” It’s also one of the best cheesesteak joints in town, best known for using 100% sirloin – no ribeye – and slapping it on a 2-foot sub roll. Pro tip: take your sandwich to-go and plop down at the attached Eagle Bar to eat.

Address: 3653 Germantown Avenue

Mike’s BBQ

Mike’s BBQ: Their Brisket Cheesesteak is a greasy love letter to Texas BBQ and Philly’s favorite sandwich, one that no one would ever return to sender. Owner Mike Strauss smokes his brisket for 10 hours before letting it sit for another five. He tops it off by slathering it in a homemade “whiz” of Cooper Sharp, American, and heavy cream.

Address: 1703 South 11th Street

Oregon Steaks

Oregon Steaks: All the ambience of Pat’s and Geno’s without the line. The steaks? Just as good. They aren’t afraid to “sizzle the gristle” to charred perfection while finely chopping the onions into pearls, plus they are open 24 hours for late-night cravings. Pro tip: Park your car in the middle of Oregon Ave. and tack on an order of pizza fries.

Address: 2654 South 10th Street

Pat’s King of Steaks

Pat’s King of Steaks: Founded as a hot dog cart in 1930, Pat and Harry Olivieri are credited with inventing the first Philly cheesesteak in 1933 when they slapped onions on thinly-sliced chopped steak and sold it to a cabdriver for 10 cents. The grab-and-go sandwich caught on; a legend was born. Today, not much has changed except for a sign that instructs people on how to properly order: “wit” or “wit-out.”

Address: 1237 East Passyunk Avenue

Philip’s Steaks

Philip’s Steaks: A traditional South Philly walk-up window beckons guests with straw-colored mood lights and a bright red roof. It’s a magical place, open 24 hours since 1983 and away from the hustle of Cheesesteak Vegas. Pro tip: order the Old Fashion Steak, with provolone, grilled tomato, long hots, onions, ribeye.

Address: 2234 West Passyunk Avenue

Sonny’s Famous Steaks

Sonny’s Famous Steaks: Another place located a stone’s throw from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, Sonny’s keeps it simple. They skip seasoning the meat in favor of letting the fatty natural juices take over in flavoring the meat. It works. Spice it up with Cheez Whiz and Spanish onions.

Address: 228 Market Street

Steve’s Prince of Steaks

Steve’s Prince of Steaks: It wasn’t too long ago that only locals knew about this cozy eatery nestled inside a Northeast Philly rowhome since 1980. Now they boast four locations, including a Center City spot across from Liberty Place. Steve’s insists on not chopping their ribeye cuts while serving their gooey steaks on an Amoroso roll.

Address: 7200 Bustleton Avenue

Tony & Nick’s (formerly Tony Luke’s)

Tony & Nick’s (formerly Tony Luke’s): These guys take so much pride in their work that they created the “10 Commandments of Cheesesteaks.” For example: you can only use 100% ribeye and don’t think of adding ketchup or Swiss cheese. Tony & Nick’s (formerly Tony Luke’s) ships their steaks nationwide, packed in ice and microwave-ready but the best place to enjoy one is at their original South Philly location, preferably after a Phillies or Eagles game.

Address: 39 East Oregon Avenue

 

Cover photo: Pat’s King of Steaks. Photo by K. Huff for PHLCVB.

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