There is no one in the world who can legitimately judge a cheesesteak contest without being from Philly. And there are few from Philly who can more legitimately judge them than me.
That’s a mighty big claim to make in this town, home of the most awesome and delicious sandwich on God’s green earth.
But notice that I didn’t go overboard saying I was THE most qualified – just that few are MORE qualified than I am. Let’s just say that I have enjoyed more than my share, and have enjoyed them at most all of the best joints.
So I certainly feel as qualified as anyone to put forth my choices for the best cheesesteaks in Philly over the past year of 2013. While I hate to rank my favorites, I’ll do it just for argument sake, because nothing sparks a debate or argument like a good old-fashioned subjective ranking. Suffice it to say, every one of these is a personal favorite.
Also, if you are reading this at some point in the future, don’t be afraid of the list being outdated. These places have been around for some time, and enjoy loyal followings due to their consistency. You’re likely to find them a decade or two from now at the same locations, all still producing quality.
For a cheesesteak to reach my list, it needs to be three things.
First, it has to be from within the city limits of Philadelphia, where by far the best cheesesteaks in the world are made, and where they originated. Second, it has to taste great. Pretty obvious, right? And third, I like it when a place or a sandwich has something unique that adds to the meal or overall experience.
As far as my own order, I am a “Wiz witout” guy. I like my cheesesteaks made with Cheese Whiz melted into them, and without fried onions. Every once in awhile, I’ll go “Whiz wit”, light on those fried onions. Sometimes maybe American cheese instead of the Whiz. I also like it slathered in ketchup.
If I can get a great order of fries on the side, all the better. And a milkshake would be super, but a Coke is just as fine a side drink.
I am not making a comment on the texture, meat, cheese, condiments, etc in the particular sandwiches on my list. Leave that to alleged expert taste-tester foodie types. These all taste great. They are all within the city limits. They all bring something extra to the experience.
For instance, ‘Wit or Witout’ has the best fries of any of these places, and Steve’s aren’t far behind in that regard. That’s always a nice bonus as a side dish.
‘Chinks’, recently changed to “Joe’s Steaks & Soda Shop” due to political correctness reasons, has the best milkshakes, with their ‘Steak & Shake’ combo a must-try on your list.
Geno’s and Pat’s are legendary longtime rivals directly across the street from one another, and both have the South Philly outside eating experience. Geno’s has the bonus of being major law enforcement supporters.
‘Johns Roast Pork’ has that same outside eating in South Philly, and also has the added bonus of awesome seeded rolls, which I really enjoy. As their name implies, they also make a great hot roast pork sandwich.
Campo’s is the only Old City shop to make my list. But they also have the bonus of being my very favorite overall cheesesteak experience: another location on Ashburn Alley at Citizens Bank Park. There are few things better than enjoying a delicious Campo’s cheesesteak before a Phillies game at a stand-up bar looking out over the outfield on a gorgeous spring or summer afternoon or evening.
So here without further elaboration are the best cheesesteak joints in Philly for the year 2013. Remember, being at the bottom of this list doesn’t mean you’re the worst, or that you don’t have a good sandwich. Just the opposite – you don’t even get on this list at all without being one of the best:
1. Campo’s: 214 Market Street (Old City) and Citizens Bank Park (Ashburn Alley)
2. John’s Roast Pork: 14 Snyder Avenue (South Philly, just east of I-95)
3. Geno’s: 1219 S. 9th Street (South Philly, 9th between Wharton/Federal)
4. Wit or Witout: 9970 Roosevelt Blvd (Red Lion Rd) and 7352 Frankford Avenue
5. Joe’s: 6030 Torresdale Avenue (Tacony)
6. Pat’s: 1237 E. Passyunk Avenue (South Philly, right across from Geno’s)
7. Steve’s: 2711 Comly Road and 7200 Bustleton Ave
Get out to any or all of these great cheesesteak joints during 2014 and enjoy the best sandwiches that your mouth has ever tasted.
If you think a place deserves a spot on the 2014 list, let me know. I will be sure to give it a try in the coming year. I already have a few places lined up as candidates!