When you think of Philadelphia, you think of cheesesteaks. On the corner of 9th and Passyunk in South Philly, two “rival” quick-service restaurants have been serving up this delicacy for years: Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks. For the City of Brotherly Love, these two culinary hot-spots are both local institutions and hyped-up tourist traps. If you’re expecting a gourmet meal that’ll knock your socks off, you’re only fooling yourself. Pat’s and Geno’s are only what they claim to be: fast, casual street food vendors offering sinfully delicious cheesesteaks.
There’s no question that Pat’s King of Steaks is the original. In the 1930s, the Olivieri brothers founded their restaurant and have been credited with inventing the city’s signature sandwich. After noting their success, Geno’s Steaks opened across the street 30 years later and the cheesesteak rivalry commenced. Whether the rivalry is real or not is of some debate. No one can argue how 80+ years of press affects the business! Regardless, I just had to test them out and pick a favorite…
First Up: Geno’s
I arrived at Geno’s with my parents and fiancé in tow and immediately noted the delightfully tacky decor. With neon lights and bright orange accents, it looks like the Vegas Strip threw up all over the place. It’s unapologetic, and I couldn’t help but love it. We ordered 2 cheesesteaks “wit” onions and cheese whiz. The service was surprisingly friendly and helpful, which lead to an up-sell of french fries and a few branded bottles of waters. She seemed to get a kick out of the fact that A) we were doing a “Pat’s Vs. Geno’s” challenge- not the first time she’s heard that, I’m sure- and B) my parents have adorable English accents, yet love telling people they’re American.
The results: The bread was something of a debate. I felt it was nothing to write home about- a bit too soft for my liking. The rest of the group seemed to enjoy the texture. The meat was fine and the onions were cooked perfectly, but I felt like I need a bit more cheese. The french fries were awesome- crispy and nicely seasoned- and I’m obsessed with the water bottle packaging. Can I buy that in bulk for my apartment? It just puts a smile on my face.
Next Up: Pat’s King of Steaks
My first impression of Pat’s was that they’re completely overshadowed by Geno’s exterior decor. Having said that, there’s something charming about the simplicity of Pats’ design. It’s old-school for sure, which gave me high hopes for the food.
When you walk up to the counter, you’ll also notice the difference in signage. While Geno’s has a much more touristy- and thereby friendlier vibe- at Pat’s you’re greeted with this: an in-your-face warning of sorts. You better order right or get out of line. True to form, the service here wasn’t nearly as friendly. I didn’t really mind, but my parents found it off-putting.
The results: Good thing for Pat’s I judge a restaurant first and foremost on the food. Just. Look. At. That. Cheese. The bread at Pat’s King of Steaks is more of a baguette than an Italian style roll. It’s soft on the inside with a nice crust on the outside. The meat here was more tender and juicier, and they literally drenched it in cheese. It was ooey-gooey and oh-so-delicious.
For me? It was Pat’s King of Steaks for the win! My fiancê and parents, however, found the overall experience at Geno’s to be more enjoyable. At the end of the day, if you’ve never been to either- you need to go to both. What makes Pat’s & Geno’s special is the opportunity to play Food Critic, so grab a couple of friends, get a cheesesteak from each place, and decide which one tickles your fancy!