A Philadelphia insider’s guide to the top cheesesteak joints - Ahulan

A Philadelphia insider’s guide to the top cheesesteak joints


Philadelphia Cheesesteak Challenge winner Jim Pappas recommends many restaurants serving the iconic sandwich, including the original Pat’s King of Steaks and the exclusive Café Carmela

Philadelphia is well-known as the nation’s birthplace (and as the home of the legendary fictional boxer Rocky Balboa), but the city also has much to offer in the way of attractions, such as its excellent parks and vibrant arts and cultural scene. But if you’re hungry in the Brotherly Love City, nothing beats a classic Philadelphia cheesesteak sandwich—a large hoagie bread filled with thinly sliced beefsteak, melted cheese, and stir-fried onions.

Legend has it that in 1930, while working as a hot dog vendor outside Philadelphia’s Italian Market, local businessman Pat Olivieri invented the steak-and-onion sandwich. Olivieri quickly established Pat’s King of Steaks as a restaurant, and it was supposedly manager Joe Lorenza who introduced provolone cheese ten years later.


The origins of the Philadelphia cheesesteak may be murky, but it has spread to hundreds of eateries around the city. If you want the inside scoop on the best places to obtain a Philadelphia Cheesesteak, we asked Jim Pappas, the brains behind the Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure, for his opinion.

The Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure was presented in 2018 by Jim Pappas. In the last six years, he has meticulously recorded his findings in an extensive spreadsheet after visiting over 1,100 venues and eating 1,100 distinct cheesesteaks.


From his childhood at Delaware’s Claymont Steak Shop, Pappas first discovered the cheesy hoagie and fell in love with it. “People don’t realise that cheesesteaks can be so different,” he adds. One may find tourist spots, local joints, and even places run by kids who grew up eating cheesesteaks but are now cooking them finer after attending culinary school. I’ve really enjoyed delving into it.

Pappas states that ribeye steak has recently surpassed sirloin as the preferred meat for a real Philadelphia cheesesteak, but rump steak was the initial ingredient. The spreadability of Cheez Whiz processed cheese topping made it the favorite in the city, while American cheese was more popular in the suburbs. Pappas claims that now days, Cooper sharp cheddar cheese is the norm.

What really matters, however, is how delicious the cheesesteak is. In Philadelphia, these cheesesteaks are Pappas’ favorites.

One must try Geno’s Steaks and Pat’s King of Steaks for the best traditional Philadelphia cheesesteaks

Although it may seem trite, Pappas has no problem referring customers to Geno’s Steaks or Pat’s King Of Steaks. Their competition and close proximity to one another, as well as their physical location, have contributed to their immense popularity. “Geno’s is famous because they opened up across the street from Pat’s,” Pappas points out. They’re much friendlier and more enthusiastic about their competition. However, their cheesesteaks taste very similar. Absolutely classic.

Helpful tip:

Pappas and other “cheesesteak traditionalists” will tell you that mayonnaise isn’t supposed to go on top of a cheesesteak. If pressed, Pappas will confess that he has sometimes disregarded this rule, with “amazing” consequences. Every time he places an order, he instructs the waiter, “Make it the way you normally do.”

“It’s the traditional cheesesteak experience,” Pappas adds. You just stand on the corner, place your order via a window, snap a photo, and then go home. They’re known as tourist hotspots, but I was pleasantly surprised when I visited Pat’s a few months ago.

The four-location Steve’s Prince Of Steaks, which Pappas suggests, uses a variety of cheeses, including American and provolone, in their steaks. “It melts in, rolls off the meat, and gets in the rolls,” Pappas adds. He also like Tony and Nick’s Steaks, a hidden gem in southeast Philadelphia, since the rolls there are crispier and give the sandwich a more youthful vibe.

Page URL: https://www.patskingofsteaks.com/

Twelve hundred thirty-seven East Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19147

Call at this number: (215) 468-1546

Twitter: @pats king of steaks

2. Angelo’s Pizzeria: Newcomer of the Year

Since its January 2019 opening, Angelo’s Pizzeria has been very popular, with lineups that are now on par with those of the city’s longest-running cheesesteak joints.

Pappas claims that Angelo’s owner, Danny DiGiampietro, became a “very good baker” after working as an adolescent at Sarcone’s Bakery, a fifth-generation Italian bakery in the city. The couple then tied the knot. Although Angelo’s makes a typical cheesesteak, the meat is of greater quality, and they prepare their own roll, which is “much better” according to Pappas.

“Everyone raves about them,” Pappas tells us. “People wait 40 minutes on a Saturday, standing on the street, for a sandwich.” “[The owner] opened a food truck with Bradley Cooper in New York City for the release of Maestro.” So, the diner already has one major celebrity admirer.

Location: https://angelospizzeriasouthphiladelphia.com/ }

Postal Code: 19147 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 736 S 9th St

Contact us at (215) 922-0000

Social media account: @angelos_pizzeria_south_philly

3. Café Carmela: The Best Spot for Locals Only

Restaurants a little outside of town, such Café Carmela, 20 minutes northeast of the city, are great options for those seeking a more authentic, regional dining experience.

The flesh is tender, according to Pappas. The bread is finer and seedier, and the slices are thicker there. A delightful twist on the classic cheesesteak—that’s all. Another long-running establishment in the neighborhood, Dagwood’s Pub, is located only two miles east of Café Carmela. They have been preparing cheesesteaks for 30 years, and according to Pappas, their chef is “always cooking something new”—something like hot honey calamari, seafood rigatoni, lobster and chips, Nashville chicken, and more.

With its sandwich and beer special, Cook and Shaker is a “little neighbourhood corner bar” in Philadelphia’s Olde Richmond neighborhood that is more conveniently positioned near the city center. “It’s traditional, but the owner grew up on cheesesteaks and got a culinary degree,” Pappas adds. “It has banana peppers, a special sauce.”

Additionally, in Philadelphia’s Center City, you could visit McGillin’s Olde Ale House. This pub has been serving patrons since 1860 and is well-known as an ideal location for engagement proposals. “The bar, the old signs, the history and the whole environment is nice,” Pappas adds, praising the sandwich’s excellent bun and the expert mixing of the meat, cheese, and onions.

Venue URL: https://cafecarmelaphilly.com/

Philly, PA 19152, 2859 Holme Ave.

Dial (215) 821-2584

Here is the Instagram: @cafe_carmela

Woodrow’s Sandwich Shop and Callahan’s Grille are the best underappreciated ones.

Some places haven’t gotten the love that Pappas believe they should have, what with all the cheesesteak joints out there (and all the tourists going to Pat’s and Geno’s). Particularly noteworthy is Callahan’s Grille, situated under the South Street Bridge in South Philadelphia. Young folks who have just finished a game of soccer, kickball, or volleyball fill the pub most nights. A youthful, lively, corner dive pub,” Pappas describes it. The thick seeded bun is the perfect vessel for the deliciously congealed and absolutely fulfilling pile of meat, cheese, and onion, all of which are proportionally distributed.

Pappas claims that Woodrow’s Sandwich Shop, located on the other side of South Street, “doesn’t get talked about enough” due to their innovative cheesesteak offerings. Shaved ribeye, Cheez Whiz, daily-made truffles, and cherry pepper mayonnaise are all components of this dish. “They take their time to make each cheesesteak.”

Location: https://www.woodrowsandwich.com/

Postal Code: 19147 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 630 South St.

Call us at (215) 470-3559

Follow @woodrowsandwich on Instagram.

5. Gilben’s Bakery has the best alternative cheesesteak.

Two Louisiana bakers at Gilben’s Bakery in Germantown, North Philadelphia, have given the cheesesteak their own special touch, making it taste like no other.

“They make a garlic bread roll – it’s like the ones they use for lobster rolls,” Pappas adds. “You have to be in the mood and eat it quickly, but it’s flavourful, the meat is chopped up real fine, and it’s a bit spicy.”

For those seeking something a little different, Pappas recommends the truffle cheesesteak from Woodrow’s Sandwich shop, the pastrami version from Steve Stein’s Famous Deli, and the duck version from the Northeast Sandwich Company.

For more information, visit https://gilbensbakery.com/.

Postal Code: 19150 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 7405 Stenton Ave

Dial (215) 298-0879

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gilbens steaksandpoboys/

6. Barclay’s Prime: The Ultimate Indulgence

Barclay Prime offers a cheesesteak for $140 (£110.50), perfect for those seeking a genuinely decadent meal. The proprietor, Stephen Starr, is from Philadelphia and has curated an exquisite selection of the most luscious ingredients to create an exquisite rendition of his city’s most renowned dish, which typically costs about $10 [£7.80]). On top of a just-baked sesame bun, you’ll find hand-cut wagyu, black truffle, foie gras, fried onions, and Cooper sharp cheddar cheese.

Pappas describes it as a restaurant serving high-end steaks in Philadelphia. Their cheese is a blend of three different types of cheese and is served in thirds; they also produce their own bread. So opulent and luxurious. The flesh just dissolves. It’s so luxurious and elevates it to a whole new level. And that’s not all: to complement your sandwich, you’ll also get half a bottle of champagne.

For more information, visit https://barclayprime.com/.

Located at 237 South 18th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103

Contact information: (215) 732-7560

Here is the Instagram link: https://www.instagram.com/barclayprime/?hl=en

7. Cockadoodle and Delco Steaks are the best eateries outside of Philadelphia. Dan’s Steaks and Wings

Stop by Delco Steaks, a brand with sites to the west and south of Philadelphia, if you’re craving a cheesesteak before you leave the city. “Everything is [locally] sourced and very community based there,” he adds. I love the beef. A cheesesteak they cooked for me a few years ago was very delicious.

On the other hand, Pappas would approve of the Batman and Robin sandwich, which is made by Cockadoodle Dan’s Wings & Steaks (east and north of Philadelphia) and has shredded chicken, sirloin steak, cooper sharp cheese, and a secret sauce.

After years of arguing with other eaters and experts over where to get the greatest Philadelphia cheesesteaks, Pappas has firsthand experience with the power of emotion in making such judgments.

“For some people, their favourite cheesesteak is embedded in their favourite memories,” Pappas adds. “The first location they ever had one is usually the one they still love the most. Cheesesteaks evoke more than simply enthusiasm; they touch people’s hearts. The power of food is just that.

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