Sunday, November 14, 2010

Philly Cheese Steak Taste Off

This weekend B1, my littlest sister, her boyfriend and I went on a road trip to Philly for what I call "The Great Philly Cheese Steak Taste Off". We drove down to CT and spent the night over their house and then got up, had breakfast and drove 3 1/2 hours to Philly. To eat cheese steak. And that is all.

When I mentioned this to some people, they rolled their eyes and laughed at me. "You're driving all the way to Philly for a few hours just to eat cheese steak?!"


Why not? It's not that far away and it's a fun and relatively inexpensive way to see a city we've never been to. And it was a beautiful day spent with wonderful people. What more could a girl ask for?

The group "before" in the elevator

The actual drive down wasn't so bad. The worst thing that happened was that we stopped at a rest area to use the bathroom and I got hungry because it was 1pm and I hadn't eaten since breakfast. And I couldn't eat because I knew I was about to eat 2 feet of Philly Cheese Steak.

We got to Philly around 2pm. It is such a pretty city! The neighborhood nearest Geno's and Pat's was more urban than the other areas we saw and not surprisingly, it was my favorite. We didn't get to walk around but B1 and I both agree that we have to go back for the weekend sometime next year. We parked and got ready to eat some serious cheese steak.

Fat zone, indeed.

Pat's King of Steaks

The air around Pat's and Geno's was full of steaky air goodness. This did not help our hunger at all. We hopped into line at Pat's and started to prepare ourselves for the ordering process. We did not want to get sent to the end of the line...especially because we first waited in the shorter, faster drink line. This was the actual line for cheese steaks. It wrapped around the building and spilled out into the road.

Surprisingly, we only waited for 15 minutes in Pat's line...

B1 & I showing off our Pat's soda. :)

When they say that Pat's and Geno's are right across the street from each other, they aren't kidding. This is the view of Geno's from the line at Pat's.

When we finally got to the counter, we were relieved to find directions on how to order:

How to order: "If you make a mistake, don't panic. Just go to the back of the line and start over."

And even more relieved that we did NOT make a mistake!

Our first bite of an authentic Philly Cheese Steak

Pat's steaks were good-I'll tell you about the actual food in a few minutes. But for now, this is what happens to boys when they eat cheese steaks on a wall on the side of the road:

Steaky goodness, on B1's clothes

The 3 of us (my sister is a vegetarian and just came with us for the fun of it!) pretty much inhaled our first sandwich. We've been talking about this trip for over 2 weeks and we hadn't eaten since early morning so we were starving. Looking back, this is probably a good thing because I know that I for one would not have been able to eat more if I hadn't been so hungry. And so we moved on to Geno's...

The line for Geno's was shorter, but we stood in line for more than double the time at Pat's. I took this to mean that more people liked Geno's cheese steaks. Or that they were just slower.

Pat's, as seen from the line at Geno's

By the time we go to the window, sat down and began to eat at Geno's, we weren't feeling the "Take a picture of me eating a cheese steak!" thing. So we have none of them. But we DO have a picture of the 4 of us after eating cheese steaks AND having a beer at the bar next door.

Now-are you curious about which steak I liked better or which steak we as a group liked the best? Even if you aren't, I'm gonna tell you. :) Because I'm such a geek, I made up score cards for us. It included a description of what the criteria should be (Bread, juicy meat, toppings, cheese, the way it looked and ambiance of the place) and then a numbering system for each category. I also included room for comments. At the end of the day, I would add up the totals and average them. Which ever had the highest average would "win".

Here are my cheese steaks side by side. I got whiz and onions on both, to be consistent.

Pat's meat is shaved and was very juicy. Remember the stains on B1's clothing? That was from Pat's. The onions were cooked well, were tender and flavorful but not overpowering. And the cheese-well, they put a lot on there. The bread was good but not fantastic-it could have been a tiny bit crustier in my opinion. We went through Pat's line quickly and though I got the feeling they might be jerkholes, the staff there was nice in a "hurry up and order" kind of way. They served our sandwiches quickly, sliding them over the counter toward us. They were not wrapped but sat on top of the paper.

Geno's meat is thinly sliced and wasn't juicy at all. The onions were hardly cooked and were cut into bigger chunks than Pat's. They overpowered the flavor of the sandwich. In fact, hours later, I could still taste them! If you look at the sandwich on the right, you'll see that there was very little cheese on my cheese steak. This was an overall theme on not just our sandwiches, but everyone else's that I glanced at. Instead of putting the whiz on top, they spread it on the bread with a knife, making it not very cheesy at all. The shining star of Geno's steak was the bread. It was fresh and crusty but not flaky. I really enjoyed this bread and wished that Pat's used the same. The ambiance of Geno's was less appealing to me. It was flashier, which is obvious, but it was also dirtier. The tables were smeared with grease and I'm not going to lie-it grossed me out a bit. I had to psych myself out a bit in order to sit at the table. The staff was friendly-though I did hear one lady yell at someone because she thought they were putting ketchup on their Pat's fries. I know this is probably part of their thing, but I thought it was a little ridiculous and she was kind of too rude for me.

I'm sure that from my descriptions above you can probably guess that I liked Pat's better. A lot better, in fact. It was just overall a better sandwich, had more flavor and was...well, tastier. Neither sandwich, however, was worth a drive to Philly. (This trip was totally worth it-just overall, I wouldn't drive to Philly for these 2 sandwiches again.) Neither of them blew me away-in fact, I've had better cheese steak sandwiches in CT and MA than I did here. BUT, it was fun to go see 2 places that are so well known and to spend time with some of my favorite people doing it.


Melisa with one S said...

This is SO something my family would do! I love it!

LceeL said...

The last half of the last line is the most important part of the whole thing.

Vinny "Bond" Marini said...

Pat's is much much better...Geno's reminds me of Steak-Umms...

heck, I make a better cheese steak than either of them! LOL

"Lois Grebowski" said...

Now I don't feel so weird about driving 3 hours for a cheeseburger or stuffed cabbage...LOL!

Travis Cody said...

Since I've never been to Philly, I'm told I've never had an authentic cheese steak. And since I don't care for onions, I'm told that's a double whammy.

But I had a steak sammich smothered in melty cheedar cheese, made for me by a guy from Philly. And it was awesome, even it doesn't qualify as authentic.

Linda said...

I used to love the cheesesteaks that I would get in New Jersey outside of McGuire Air Force Base when I was stationed there and never even went to get an "official" one from Philly until a couple of years ago even though the Air Force Base was close to Philly and I went there quite often.

As I'm not a major onion fan, I would never get my cheesesteak with onions - just steak and cheese. I don't want to taste onions - I want to taste beef!

No matter which one you liked best, though, you had a good time and that's the really important part. That and you didn't get mugged in the City of Brotherly Love which is - unfortunately - all too often an occurrence!