The Great Cheesesteak Smackdown - Pat's vs. Geno's

Growing up in the Tri-State Region area I certainly knew what a cheesesteak was. My mother was probably the first to serve me one and in my older years I made more than a few of my own with, dare I say, Steak-umms. The thoughts of those years make me cringe at present day as my diet has changed drastically. I believe I eat a lot better than I did in my earlier days and always strive for constant improvement in at least understanding how to treat my body better. For the most part my allergies (not including quinine) are gone and I rarely, if ever, get a cold anymore.

So, where does the great cheesesteak smackdown fit into all of this? Zig-zagging was brought to Tony’s life by Sage Robbins and as I went through my master cleanse a couple of months ago I enjoyed watching the Travel Channel making my own wish list of zigs. (or are they zags?) The first road trip was an adventure to where the cheesesteak began – Philadelphia. No, I am certainly not craving the taste from all of those years ago, but I am fascinated with what has become a piece of American history. The bottom line is if you are going to take in the early part of American history while you visit Philadelphia, do take the less than 1.5 mile detour away from the Liberty Bell to see where the cheesesteak phenomenon took root.

Liberty Bell

The story seems to be that Pat and Harry Olivieri invented the cheesesteak and sold it at their hotdog stand in the south Philadelphia Italian Market. Due to the success the of the public’s response Pat decided to open up a store called Pat’s King of Steaks dedicated to the sandwich in 1930 on the same site it is today at 1237 East Passyunk Avenue.

When you come to visit Pat’s you will probably see quite a crowd surrounding the place but do not let this deter your resolve to buy a cheesesteak from the source!

Pat's King of Steaks

The lines move very quickly as the 80 years of experience seem to have certainly paid off at least in the form of efficiency. When you are close to the ordering window you will have a set of instructions you can follow to help keep things moving fast.

How to Order a Steak

Of course just when you have finished all of your practicing, and have your money ready, you then get confused when you see the array of options to choose from. No worries, as the panic passes quickly – just let your hunger choose for you and sit back and enjoy the experience.

Pat's King of Steak Menu

In what seems to be an instant after you place your order and tender your money you will then have your little piece of American history in hand. If you so desire you can move onto to the next window to order something to drink or some fries to go ‘wit’ your steak. Otherwise, find a seat or eat it standing and be sure to take it all in while it is still warm.

A Cheesestake from Pat's King of Steaks

Okay, enough of the original! For this to be a smackdown there needs to be competition, and competition there is only a street crossing away. Looking from Pat’s front step you can see the following:

Geno's Steaks

Geno’s Steaks was founded a staggering 36 years after Pat’s in 1966. The output is generally the same with the following exceptions: Pat chops his steak before it is put on the bun whereas Gino’s are layered pieces of steak and in either case they are similar in thickness. Pat also seems to have a much larger menu of options for how you can build out your desire whereas Gino seems to stick to the core values of what makes a cheesestake a cheesestake.

Beyond the food at Geno’s there are some interesting other facts about the establishment. First, at least when we were there the police seemed to prefer eating there. Yes, it could be the fact that the founder, Joe Vento, is a supporter of the family of murdered police officer Daniel Faulkner, or it could be the food. I made no attempt at polling the officers there but one thing is for sure: Gino’s has a vocal opinion on America and is proud to display it boldly.

Proud to be an American

In fact they went as far as to post a sign near the ordering counter that reads, “This is America, when ordering ‘speak english’.” It seems it has sparked controversy as some people call it discrimination. I find this amazing for if I where in the Netherlands would it be discrimination if they asked me to speak Dutch when ordering? I do not think so. To me the sign does not mean you are not welcome. To me it means, for goodness sake, try to communicate in the language people are using behind the counter! No matter the course of your beliefs on the subjects it has all come together quite well to make Gino’s have quite a name for ‘steaking’ ground right across from Pat’s.

So, the battle took place. Going in, I knew one chopped its meat, the other one did not, and one of them was the originator of the meal. I did not know which was which up front, and we tried Gino’s first. It was strange to have the cheesesteak taste in my mouth after a pause of probably 25 years but I must say it was quite good indeed. Looking at the sandwich I saw that Gino’s was the one that did not chop its steak and moving onto Pat’s I thought it would be a slam dunk that they would be better.

To our surprise (that is the both of us that were in the smackdown together agreed without a doubt) we found Gino’s a much better experience overall. That is not only was the food better, but from ordering to the way the cheesesteaks were handed to us (wrapped as opposed to in the middle of an open paper) Gino’s wins hands down. No contest. Game over.

Later, when we did the research, I was also surprised to learn Pat’s was the original and came into being 36 years before Gino’s. The bottom line is if you are ever in the area my recommendation would be to try both. You need to try Pat’s simply because that is where the history started. From there try Gino’s to decide your personal favorite. Although the sign is on Pat’s building you certainly will not make a ‘misteak’ at either place.

Don't Eat a Misteak