Although Philadelphia has so much more than cheese steaks, inevitable everyone coming to town has to sample the sandwich the city is known for. Any internet search leads tourists to Geno’s Steaks and Pats Steaks. Both are located on the corner of 9th St and Passyunk Ave directly across from each other.
Pats Steaks was opened in 1930 and is undisputed as the first cheesesteak. Genos opened in 1966 and the rivalry has gripped the town ever since. But is it worth the hype or have we all been getting played? The 2 owners act as though the others sandwich is garbage. Several years ago the two appeared on GMA to decide who’s was better and after one bite each spit the bite out declaring it horrible. They claim locals are loyal to one or the other but never both.
You wont go wrong with either sandwich but after leaving Philly you will remember the experience more then the sandwich. First thing you should know is there is no rivalry. Its all show for tourists. The two owners and their families are actually very good friends and even live in the same south Philly building often seen coming and going together.
Both shops have the same quirky ordering process. You order your sandwich with 2 words. The first is the type of cheese. Both use cheese wiz as the standard with American or Provolone as options and then you can get either onions (wit) or not (without). So when ordering you simply say “Wiz wit” for cheese wiz with onions Or American wit. In the old days if you didn’t know the right terminology you would get sent to the end of the line just to keep things moving while having a little fun with you. Today snarky counter workers just take your order and move on.
As for the sandwiches, they both use the same meat, the same rolls and the same cheeses. The only difference is Pat chops his meat up into bits and Geno slices his meat. Genos onions are slightly undercooked leaving them harder than Pats. The shops both have outdoor sidewalk seating and the exact same ordering process. The first line is for the sandwiches. The second line is for fries and drink. You can’t order everything at once. And both places take cash only.
Locals and those in the know will tell you that both Genos and Pats Steaks are on the bottom of every top 10 Philly Cheesesteak list. Its all a tourist trap. A good tasting tourist located in a now rundown part of town. Go for the 50 year rivalry not the food and you won’t be disappointed. Just remember its all an act.