In the battle of Geno’s versus Pat’s there doesn’t seem to be much of a dispute about who created the famous Philly cheesesteak. That honor belongs to Pat’s King of Steaks, the second stop in my late-night journey to the vaunted food tourism spot. Situated quite literally across the street from Geno’s, Pat’s serves up cheesesteaks at the exact same price to ensure that any taste-tester is not biased by such a thing.
I’m not sure any first-time trip to Philly is worthwhile without a trip to Pat’s and Geno’s. Yes, I realize that they probably attract more tourists than locals, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are bad. Yes, I also realize that this wasn’t my first trip to Philly, but the only other time I set foot in the city was long before I became a meat blogger and I was snowed in the whole time anyway. So, yeah, I feel confident in saying it wasn’t worthwhile. I began my taste test with Geno’s for no other reason aside from that spot being where my taxi dropped me off.
Arriving in Philly late at night, I was in need of cheesesteak. Of course, anyone with a right mind would want such a thing when arriving in Philly, but finding myself downtown and only looking for a place in walking distance, I opted for Steve’s Prince of Steaks. To outsiders, Steve’s doesn’t have the allure of Pat’s or Geno’s, but locals seem to like the place.
If you, as a restaurant, are going to call yourself great, as the Great Steak and Potato Company does, you had better be truly great. If not, you are opening yourself up for a slew of invited criticism. As an optimist, I figured the place was worth a try, if for no other reason than I had pretty much exhausted the options at Burbank’s Empire Center.
I wasn’t expecting a fancy steak dinner joint, so when I walked in and found it to be a predominantly cheesesteak and fries joint, I was pretty happy. I cannot claim to be a cheesesteak expert, since I’ve never had one in Philly, but I feel as thought I’ve tried enough to say what a good one should taste like. I ordered their Original Philly Cheesesteak, which was offered at a discounted price, without the onions (it was only cheese, onions and steak), then ordered their Coney Island Fries, which were topped with chili and cheese.
While LA may not have a signature food (the closest it gets is either Asian fusion or burgers), it has a hell of a lot of options for immigrants who miss the signature food of their homeland, be it Chicago Pizza or Detroit Coney Dogs. The Philly Cheese Steak is no exception, with plenty of places offering their “authentic” version. I don’t claim to be an expert on the cheese steak (only been to Philly once, during a massive blizzard), but the sandwich has always been a dear friend of mine. After all, what can go wrong when meat and cheese mix? Don’t answer that if you’re one of them Kosher people. South Street in Burbank has been bringing Philly toLA for a few years, so I thought I would see how they measure up.
In North Hollywood there is a little sandwich place with a ’50s theme called Philadelphia Sandwiches. I’m not sure how Elvis and cheese steaks are related (unless it’s a fluffernutter cheese steak), but somehow they have managed to coexist since the sandwich shop was started in the ’80s. Specializing in Philly Cheese Steaks, I figured the place at least deserved a shot at meaty glory.
Sometimes, following LA’s food trucks on Twitter can be a difficult process. If you don’t have a Twitter account or a smartphone, then it gets even harder (seriously, not having Twitter or a smartphone is soooo 2008). Luckily for those who fight the future of technology, there is a little event on the first Friday of every month on Abbot Kinney in Venice creatively called First Fridays. These nights are the best opportunity to experience LA’s food truck culture.
One truck I’ve been trying to find for a while happened to be there. It’s called South Philly Experience (SPE) and dishes out Philly Cheese Steaks, plus a couple other random East Coast faves like Tastykakes. The menu was as basic as you’d expect from a food truck, offering a couple varieties of sandwiches, but I only wanted the original. I ordered as specified on the menu, “witout” onions and “wit” Cheez Wiz, as I’ve heard the Wiz is Philly’s top choice for cheese steaks.