…I have now had the for-real, honest-to-goodness Philly cheesesteak experience.
My dad drove us to South Philadelphia yesterday where we were going to get us some genuine cheesesteaks. There are two amazing little cornerside shops, both of which claim to have invented the Philly cheeseteak — Pat’s, the older establishment, invented the steak-on-a-hoagie thing, but Geno’s was the first to put cheese on it (or so the story goes). Apparently the invention of the sandwich is a subject of much debate in these parts.
First we went to Pat’s to get a sandwich. Observe below.
There is a very specific way to order your cheesesteak. You do not walk up and say, “I would like a cheesesteak sandwich with onions and provolone cheese.” Especially not if there’s a big line behind you. If you want it with onions, you say “Wit.” No, not with. Wit. If you don’t like onions, you order it “wit-out.” And the cheese is abbreviated, so for my sandwich, I was supposed to order, “Provie-Wit.” I didn’t know the thing about the cheese, but fortunately the cashier was good-humored enough to inform me how to say it properly and was nice about it. But in fact, the original, real way to order a sandwich is to have it with Cheez-Wiz (no, I’m not kidding), so if you want an authentic cheesesteak, you order it, “Wiz-Wit.”
The sandwich was, in fact, amazing. But of course, you can’t go to Philadelphia and only try Pat’s cheesesteak. You have to go to the other self-claimed inventor of the Philly cheesesteak, Geno’s. Again, observe below.
I love seeing the difference between these two establishments. Geno’s is all “FLASHY NEON LIGHTS! COME AND EAT HERE!” And Pat’s is more, “Whatevs. We were here first.”
Apparently it’s a pretty common thing for tourists to order a sandwich at one place, with no side dishes, and then cross the street to try a sandwich at the other place, to see which one they like better. I’m going to quote the wisdom of Christine on this one: “It seems like whichever one you eat first is the one you will like better.” These are some massive sandwiches, and I can’t imagine packing away two of them.
None of us could imagine doing that, actually, so we just got some cheese fries at Geno’s, along with “Birch Beer,” a soft drink which tastes kind of like root beer or sarsaprilla, except it’s not. I’m not quite sure how to describe it, but it was really good.
Couple of footnotes about the photos:
- Those photographs you see adorning both Pat’s and Geno’s are pictures of various famous people who have eaten there. We saw pictures of Oprah, Nicolas Cage, Clay Aiken… I can’t remember some of the others off hand, but there were a lot of them.
- Geno’s has a sign posted in their window that they have taken a lot of heat for: “This is America. Order in English.” Around on the side of the building, they are also sporting this quote by Theodore Roosevelt… I can see why a few feathers might get ruffled (although I think I’m on Geno’s side).
- We missed a little bit of the cheesesteak experience which involves waiting in a really long line. Reports have it that during rush times, these places can have a line that backs out into the intersection. I don’t know how people manage to not get run over, but apparently at least most of them survive.
- Please try not to pay too much attention that Christine and I are matching. I have had my gray hoodie since September. During our stay here, she found hers at an outlet store (probably for less money…. sigh). We got back to the house before we realized that they are the same blasted hoodie. So we’ve been toodling around Philly in matching sweatshirts. We’re so cool.
- The reason we are both wearing sweatshirts is because it was about 50 degrees and windy. It added a level of excitement to our day as we ate our sandwiches shivering and trying not to let our napkins blow away. The wind quit by the time we got to Geno’s, though, which was nice. Fun times all around. 🙂