Michael Polak’s Top 5 Philly Cheesesteaks

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Ducks broadcaster Michael Polak is in Camden, N.J. covering the Ducks series against the Riversharks. While there, he has been able to enjoy a variety of Philly cheesesteaks and offers up his top choices in this blog post

Every time the Ducks head to Camden, New Jersey to take on the Riversharks, I always make it a point to venture just across the Delaware River into Philadelphia and try some authentic Philly cheesesteaks. You can get a cheesesteak anywhere you go, including at most delis back home on Long Island. However, no place does them like Philadelphia does them. From the sheer size of the sandwich to the taste of the steak to the bread that they come on, Philly just knows how to make the perfect cheesesteak.

Now, everyone likes their steak different. Some like them with meat, others prefer chicken. Some like them “wit” or “witout,” as in with or without onions. That’s how you are supposed to order them in Philly. Others put a variety of other toppings on their cheesesteak like peppers, mushrooms, etc. Some prefer cheese whiz while others go for American or Provolone cheese. As for yours truly, I prefer it fairly plain and simple: regular cheesesteak, white American cheese, witout. Occasionally I’ll leave the onions on, but it’s rare.

Since my first visit authentic cheesesteak was devoured at Geno’s Steaks back in high school when I was touring colleges in the Philly area, I have been able to enjoy a variety of different steaks from various places around the city. I have yet to find one that I do not like, but deciding which my favorite is has been extremely tough. So, after much debate, here are my top five cheesesteaks in Philadelphia:

#5: Pat’s King of Steaks – 1237 East Passyunk Avenue
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Pat’s is one of the two main tourist attractions for Philly Cheesesteaks along with Geno’s Steaks. In fact, the two are directly across the street from each other. Pat’s features a variety of different styles of cheesesteaks, including Pizza Steaks, Mushroom Pepper Steaks and even Roast Pork sandwiches. While their steak was very good, I wasn’t as big of a fan of their Italian bread that the steak was put on. To me, the bread is very important and underrated in a cheesesteak, and theirs did not live up to its billing. I also felt there wasn’t enough cheese on it. However, several people have raved about Pat’s to me, so perhaps I just went on an off-day.

#4: Jim’s Steaks – 400 South Street
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Jim’s has various locations throughout the city, but the one on South Street is undoubtedly the most famous. This corner shop has an old-school feel with nostalgic font and photos around the restaurant. There is one main counter where to order and pick up your cheesesteaks, and its popularity often creates long lines and waits. That was part of the negative for me, because I’m never a fan of waiting over 30 minutes for a sandwich. However, the quantity of steak and cheese loaded up on Jim’s was quite impressive. Not to mention, the smells coming off the grill were unbelievable. Definitely a must visit, especially because of the quirkiness of South Street.

#3: Geno’s Steaks – 1219 South 9th Street
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Geno’s was my first authentic Philly cheesesteak, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. Across the street from Pat’s, Geno’s definitely attracts a plethora of visitors with its bright neon signage that shines brightly at night. What won me over at Geno’s was their bread, which might be the best in Philly. Their steaks feature sliced meat rather than chopped steak, which you would get at Pat’s. While I wish their steak and cheese quantity was a bit higher, the quality is fantastic, especially when paired with a delicious birch beer. Geno’s menu is also the most basic and doesn’t feature as many different varieties as other places. For someone who likes them basic, that is A-OK with me.

#2: John’s Roast Pork – 14 Snyder Avenue
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I only first tried John’s on Wednesday, but I was absolutely blown away. Walking up to the small corner location that is billed as a roast pork place, I never thought their cheesesteak would be this good. The steak was loaded up and mixed perfectly with hot melted cheese to create a perfect combination. Add the fact that they put it on a sesame seeded hero, which add a unique flavor to the cheesesteak. The only reason I did not have this as the top choice was because I felt like the actual steak could have had slightly more flavor. Regardless, it was a pleasant surprise and definitely a place I will return to on future trips here.

#1: Tony Luke’s – 39 East Oregon Avenue
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For me, if I’m looking to have the best cheesesteak in Philadelphia, my go-to spot is Tony Luke’s. First and foremost, I love the location. It is situated in a nice outdoor spot beneath I-95 and is in South Philly right near the Sports Complex. Not to mention, they serve their cheesesteaks at Citizens Bank Park during Phillies games as well. Another big plus is their vast menu. While I like my steak basic, they have a variety of different styles while also offering one of the best Roast Pork sandwiches around, another must try. One of my favorite sides to get with my cheesesteak can also be found at Tony Luke’s: delicious sweet potato waffle fries that are dusted with salt and caramel. They are out of this world! As for the cheesesteak, it is a perfect combination of steak and cheese, giving you healthy portions of both and seasoned to taste great. The bread is right up there with Geno’s and John’s, so it makes for an all-around great sandwich. If you’re in need of a cheesesteak but only have time for one, my recommendation is checking out Tony Luke’s!

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There you have it, my Top 5 Philly cheesesteaks. As I’ve said before, you can’t really go wrong anywhere you go. However, the next time the Ducks make a trip to Camden, or if you happen to venture to Philadelphia, definitely check one, or two, or all five of these places out. I also highly recommend CLICKING HERE and checking out VisitPhilly.com’s Top 10 list. It includes some cool history and info about the Philly cheesesteak and some more places to visit. I’m definitely adding them to my list!

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Posted on June 20, 2014, in Feature Articles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Hello
    Wonderful article. One suggestion, great authentic Philly Cheese Steaks at Steaks On South!!
    Sigh, note you made me hungry for one!! LOL!!

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