This weekend is Championship Weekend in college lacrosse, with the men’s lacrosse championships being held in Philadelphia. You may know that already.
You may not know what to do during the weekend that doesn’t involve lacrosse. There’s a ton of places to do and see and even eat around the greatest city in the world. But for most foodies, Philly is known for their cheesesteaks. They’re also just called cheesesteaks, not “Philly Cheesesteaks.” There’s plenty of places to get there, but some are better than others.
But before you find out where to go, there’s a few basics to know about the simple yet important food.
What Is A Cheesesteak?
This is a cheesesteak.
Here’s what goes on a cheesesteak:
- Meat (usually rib-eye steak)
- Cheese (more on this later)
- Bread (an Italian hoagie roll)
- Optional: Grilled onions
What Is Not A Cheesesteak?
By god, not this.
We try to avoid politics on this site, but this is the sole reason why John Kerry lost the Presidential Election in 2004.
So here’s what doesn’t go on cheesesteaks:
- Raw onions
- Anything you put on a hoagie/sub
- It should be obvious, but mustard
- Green and red peppers (contrary to some weird national chains, peppers don’t go on cheesesteaks)
- Cheeses that aren’t Whiz or American (Provolone is a popular option, but I absolutely hate it. Swiss, Mozzarella, Munster, Blue, Goat, or any other cheese known to humankind does not go on a cheesesteak).
So now you know what goes on and not on a cheesesteak. How do you order one?
How To Order A Cheesesteak?
It’s very simple. And you don’t need to say “I’d like to have a cheesesteak” at most, if not all, cheesesteak places.
If you want a cheesesteak, you say the following:
- Type of cheese (Again, Whiz or American only)
- Onions or without onions (“Wit” or “witout”)
So if you want a cheesesteak with American cheese and no onions, you say “American witout.” Whiz with onions, it’s “Whiz wit.” Very simple.
Now for some places, they have two separate lines. One of them is just for cheesesteaks. The other is for drinks and fries. Make sure you know if the place you’re ordering from has two separate lines for two separate things.
Alright, now time to scout the spots to get a cheesesteak.
Where To Get A Cheesesteak?
Here are some of the top places to get a cheesesteak:
- Dalessandro’s Steaks: It’s a little further out than most of the places listed, but Jimmy Fallon went there once. They have a lunch counter in the place (which is small), and the onions are bigger than most. They also put a fork in your cheesesteak as well, which I personally don’t like.
- Geno’s Steaks: The first of two “tourist traps” in the city along Passyunk Avenue. It’s known for it’s Las Vegas-like neon signs and a place you literally cannot miss.
- Ishkabibble’s: Along with Jim’s, Ishkabibble’s is one of the more popular cheesesteak places on South Street. It’s so popular there’s an Ishkabibble’s II as well on the same street.
- Jim’s Steaks: A popular place along South Street, Jim’s also shows off the number of stars that have walked into the place throughout the years.
- Joe’s Steaks + Soda Shop: It’s been around since 1949 when it was called differently, but the steaks have still been the same. If you go inside, it has a very retro feel to it.
- John’s Roast Pork: This place is different from most. John’s has a sesame seed Italian roll and does not serve Whiz. It’s still good.
- Larry’s Steaks: This is Kobe Bryant’s favorite place and went here the night before his final NBA game against the Sixers. It’s not the best, but it’s a popular place to get something to eat if you’re in the St. Joe’s area late at night for some reason.
- Max’s Steaks: This is Kevin Hart’s favorite place to get a cheesesteak. Recently featured in Creed, Max’s is also known for their chicken steaks.
- Pat’s King of Steaks: The second of the two “tourist traps” in the city and right across from Geno’s. It’s the older of the two joints and where the cheesesteak actually came from. Honestly, I would prefer this place over Geno’s. The signage is ordinary, but the food is better.
- Philip’s Steaks: Along with Geno’s and Pat’s, Philip’s is also on Passyunk Avenue and open 24 hours. But it’s a little further out than the former two. It’s a much smaller place, but the cheesesteaks are still phenomenal.
- Sonny’s Famous Steaks: A newer location compared to most of the places on this list, Sonny’s is a more healthier option if you’re looking for something like that. They cook their meat in its own juices rather than using any oil.
- Steve’s Prince of Steaks: As a loyal subject of Steve’s, this is my personal favorite. Unlike other cheesesteak places, the rib-eye steak is sliced, but not chopped. It’s different and perfect. I put the Center City location, but you should definitely go to the one I go to on Comly Road in Northeast Philadelphia or the original Bustleton Avenue location also in the Northeast.
- Tony Luke’s: Looking for a place to get cheesesteaks after the day of lacrosse? Tony Luke’s is your place. It sits right next to an I-95 underpass a few minutes away from Lincoln Financial Field. There’s also plenty of outdoor seating.
- Woodrow’s Sandwich Shop: This is a place many of you may not have heard of. But it’s the sleeping giant among cheesesteak places in the city. Woodrow’s has shaved rib-eye, caramelized onions, and TRUFFLE-INFUSED WHIZ. A little different kick.
Other Top Sandwiches In The Area
Outside of those cheesesteak places, there’s a few others that should be noted.
- The Roast Pork Sandwich: Some people think this is better than a cheesesteak. You be the judge. But usually these sandwiches include broccoli rabe (or spinach), slow-roasted pork, and provolone cheese on a seeded or unseeded Italian roll. Get these at John’s Roast Pork or DiNic’s inside Reading Terminal Market.
- Donkey’s: Our only location in New Jersey. They serve cheesesteaks as well, but with one twist. They’re on a poppy seed kaiser roll. It’s different, but still very good.
- McNally’s Tavern: If you want a place that’s a little outside of Philly, McNally’s is your place. It also includes their signature sandwich called “The Schmitter.” It consists of grilled steak, fried onions, and melted cheese. But it also includes grilled salami, grilled tomatoes, and a special sauce on top of a toasted Kaiser roll. Definitely worth trying.
- The Philly Taco: For food diehards only that want an unreal food experience. Brace yourselves, you can only do this on South Street. Get yourself a cheesesteak at Jim’s and also a slice of plain pizza (they only have plain) at Lorenzo and Son’s right nearby. Then have someone at either location (whichever you go to last) roll up the cheesesteak inside that slice of pizza. That’s your Philly Taco.
I have done it once. It was insane. I might do it again. We’ll see.
But enjoy the city, the cheesesteaks, and the lacrosse this weekend!