Monday, September 22, 2008

Cheesesteak Heaven

Every year, Philadelphia magazine comes out with a special edition highlighting the "Best of Philly" in which they rate the top local eateries, businesses, celebrities, watering holes, get-aways, etc. One of the most hotly debated categories each year here in the City of Brotherly Love is the 'Best Cheesesteak". You see, the cheesesteak is Philly's signature food. This delicacy of thinly sliced or chopped steak, normally covered with your choice of cheeses, smothered in whatever condiments you like, all served on a fresh, soft long roll is as much a part of our culture as the Mummers, the Big Five, left-wing newspapers, and entrenched politicians. The only problem with Philly magazine's picks is that they are, as much of Philadelphia media and politicians, far too politically correct. They spread the "Best Cheesesteak" title around among the leading contenders every year, once in awhile tossing in a surprise, when the fact is that year-in and year-out there are a handful of locations that simply offer the true best cheesesteak consistently. Now the term 'best' when judging a cheesesteak is a tough one, even for a connoisser such as myself. The fact is that the basic sandwiches served in some of the top spots are slightly, but significantly, different from one another. From soft Amoroso rolls to the seeded Sarcones roll, from chopping the steak to thinly slicing it, the differences are enough that to pick just one as 'best' would be to cheat yourself and the many and varied outstanding selections. So I am going to list for you one locals choices for the top cheesesteaks in Philly. Trust me, I have been to every one of these places any number of times, and am never, ever disappointed. You can go to any of them, year in and year out, no matter who wins what award or honor, and get yourself a delicious cheesesteak. My personal top four, in no particular order, are: Geno's Steaks at 9th & Passyunk in South Philly; Chink's Steaks at 6030 Torresdale Avenue; Steve's Steaks at Roosevelt Boulevard & Comly in the Far Northeast; and John's Roast Pork at Snyder Ave & Weccacoe in South Philly. Steve's is closest to where I live, so I have theirs the most. They make a great, classic cheesesteak, and a bonus here is that their fries are awesome as well, making for a nice combo. At Chink's, you have to get the famous 'Steak and Shake' combo of their tasty cheesesteak and a thick, frosty milkshake. At John's, also famous for their namesake pork sandwich, the cheesesteak comes on the treat of a Sarcone's roll, making for a massive feast for the biggest appetites. Finally there is Geno's, where Joey Vento supports his local cops and many other worthy causes while putting out an incredible cheesesteak that buries the competition from 'that other joint' sometimes considered more famous (okay, it's called Pat's Steaks.) If you are visiting Philly, go to Geno's, not Pat's, if you just must do the touristy thing. If you live here, or are adventurous, seek out the other places I mentioned and give them a try. But look them up in the phone book or online first, as each has different hours (Geno's is a 24/7 operation.) Philadelphia has many problems, but it is also Cheesesteak Heaven, one reason well worth staying close to the city. And these selections are sure to be on the menu when I reach the real Pearly Gates one day. If you have a place to recommend, feel free to post a reply here, or send me an email. Always open to finding a new contender. Stay tuned to this blog for future 'Philly's Best' on things like pizza, water ice, shopping, sports venues, and other items not motivated by politics but based on actual, frequent experiences.

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