In a race to meet my brother Warren — who had driven eight hours from Cleveland to New Jersey to pick us up — Paul and I took PATH (Public Authority of New York/New Jersey) from the World Trade Center to the Penn Station in Newark. The PATH station was located almost right under the former WTC towers and in its place a gaping hole with people milling about, reflecting on the events of 9/11.
Our original plan was to have Warren pick us up in NYC. But with traffic and the high cost of parking a car, we nixed that and decided to leave Manhattan and travel as far west as possible. Warren met us in Newark and we proceeded into Princeton for the night. The next day we started our trip back to Ohio. But first, a stop in Philadelphia.
Reading Terminal Market is a historical farmers market near downtown Philadelphia and is open every day. A perfect spot for breakfast for the the travel-weary.
To Paul’s delight, he spotted butter brickle ice cream — a flavor he’s only seen at the Reno Hilton back in the 90s (and a flavor I’d thought he made up). Unfortunately, the vendor was closed.
We all ate light in anticipation of cheese steak sandwiches — a Philadelphia specialty.
Pat’s and Geno’s cheese steak sandwiches are not merely arch-nemesis but both claim to have the best cheese steaks in the city. A competition so fierce, it’s been documented across the media spectrum. A rivalry heightened by the fact that they are right across the street from each other. Convenient, since we wanted to order cheese steaks from each.
Geno’s — with its flashier signage — appeared to have the longer line. Their $7.87 cheese steak sandwiches came with either American or provolone cheese, or Cheese Whiz. The menu breaks it down including tax. A great way to expedite orders and get the line moving. Service is quick and if you want an order of fries, a second window is down the way; just stay in line after getting your sandwich.
Pat’s — the self-proclaimed “king of steaks” — has a similar process. Their cheese steak sandwiches retail for the same price as Geno’s and the price goes up incrementally for an extra cheese steak, mushroom steak, etc. etc. But they don’t have a second window for french fries. Just be sure to say “wit!” or “witout!” (This refers to whether or not you want grilled onions on your sandwich.) It seems lingering around the ordering window for both places is frowned up. Make up your mind, have your money ready and leave. No dawdling!
The verdict between which is the best cheese steak sandwich is purely opinion. While Geno’s roll is more tender, the chopped meat in Pat’s sandwiches seemed more appropriate in a sandwich as opposed to than the intact slices in Geno’s. Surprisingly both sandwiches weren’t as gut-busting as I imagined. An small amount of meat was piled on each and wolfing it down was an easy task. Adding an order of french fries would almost put the order over the top. As for the best sandwich, two out of three people in our party thought Pat’s was better. It really came down to which bread or meat style you liked. Many tourists people opted to go our route and order sandwiches from both places as well determined to discover, at least in their mind, the superior sandwich place.
The true winners in this are Pat’s and Geno’s — lines forming into the streets for both places and cars vying for the best parking spot in this crowded neighborhood. I’m sure other cheese steak places are envious on the amount of business that turns over for both establishments on a daily basis and seem to be the go-to place for out-of-towners.
After lunch, we jumped onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike and drove several hours into Ohio. Cleveland was in our sights.
Up next: Cleveland Rocks!