Written By: Sarah Clausen
Philadelphia. It’s a city brimming with history: Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell are two of the most famous landmarks of the city. While all may agree that these are important historical icons, one things that Philadelphians and visitors alike have a tough time agreeing on is where to go to get the best representation of a Philly food icon: The Cheesesteak. Two landmark restaurants, Pat’s and Geno’s, are consistently in the running for the best cheesesteak.
Visitors to the City of Brotherly Love, eager for an authentic Philadelphia Cheesesteak experience, usually head down to South Philadelphia. There, at the intersection of South 9th Street and East Passyunk Avenue, across the street from each other, stand rival cheesesteak emporiums: Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks.
Pat’s King of Steaks claims to be the first vendor to sell steak sandwiches. Founded by Pat and Harry Olivieri in 1930, the brothers first sold hot dogs. The in 1933, after deciding to try something new, the brothers grilled thinly sliced steak with chopped onions, put it on a roll, and sold it for ten cents. The steak sandwich was born. Pat’s is currently run by Harry’s grandson, Frank Oliveri, Jr.
Geno’s Steaks was started in 1966 by Joey Vento. He chose the name Geno’s because Joe’s Steak Place was already taken. Geno’s is a modified version of the word GINO that Vento saw painted on a broken door. Geno’s ran into controversy in 2006 because of a sign placed on the front window that read “This is America: When Ordering Please Speak English.” The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations filed a discrimination complaint.
Both Pat’s and Geno’s have similar menus. Both sell steak sandwiches “wit” or “wit out” cheese, as well as fries and drinks. Both restaurants have walk-up windows with limited outdoor seating and both are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Regardless of your preference for Pat’s or Geno’s one thing is clear: A visit to Philadelphia is not complete without sampling its most famous dish.