I’m Always Hungry in Philadelphia

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.

View of downtown 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.

Reading Terminal Market

Pennsylvania sweets

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.

Butter Brickle Ice Cream

We all ate light in anticipation of cheese steak sandwiches — a Philadelphia specialty.

There are many cheese steak players in the city but no two restaurants as widely competitive as Pat’s and Geno’s.

Pat's Vs. Geno's

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 menu

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 Signage

Pat's Menu

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!

Geno's sandwich

Pat's Sandwich

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!

13 thoughts on “I’m Always Hungry in Philadelphia

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  1. Hee hee! The first time Travis took me to Philadelphia, we did the Pat’s vs. Geno’s taste test. I can’t remember which one we deemed the winner back then, but we have found better cheesesteaks in downtown proper Philadelphia. With more meat (I thought Pat and Geno were kinda skimpy). No trip back to PA is complete without a cheesesteak and soft pretzels.

    1. Good to know that I wasn’t the only person thinking the meat on the sandwiches were skimpy! I did have a taste of a soft pretzel but from Ohio and those were sooooo good.

  2. ah, that’s the eternal debate, but personally, i always liked jim’s on south street (but i prefer chicken steaks) and my brother claims tony luke’s is the best (but the roast pork and broccoli rabe is better than the cheese steak…but the real question is…did you have tastykakes too?

    1. Chicken steaks sound delicious! Unfortunately I did not have a Tastykake. I wasn’t even aware until I had left Philadelphia that it was a regional delicacy. Boo

  3. Very cool Darlene! I had a short business trip there just recently myself. I preferred Pat’s myself, I thought the meats were seasoned better. Might’ve been cause I visited late at night but seems I got more meat in mine. I agree, these weren’t as gut busting as I imagined they would be. Cheers 😉

    1. Hah! I saw your posts on Pat and Geno’s as we were driving to Philadelphia and intentionally *did not* read it until after I had posted mine so I wouldn’t be influenced by your thoughts. Now I can read it!

      1. I can tell you had your Geno’s sandwich sitting at Pat’s bench… Oh man the controversy!! I’m surprised you didn’t get mobbed by Pat’s fans, haha 😉

    1. Truthfully, Liz, the weather was beautiful and the sun shining. I don’t know what is like for the rest of the year but I can vouch that day I went, the city was so pretty.

  4. You are soooo gifted in writing. God is really utilizing you in miraculous ways. You’re doing a great job! This was a usefull blog! Thank you

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