Tonight – I’m getting to the bottom of the rivalry between Geno’s and Pat’s on Philadelphia’s famed Cheesesteak Corner.
The two eateries have disputed that the other invented the cheesesteak. Pat’s claims that its founder, Pat Olivieri and his brother Harry, invented the cheesesteak back in 1930. Geno’s founder, Joey Vento, claims he first added cheese to the cheesesteak.
If you want to order like a local, go for brevity. Locals and non-locals alike will frown on your indecision at the window.
Your order might sound like this: “Two whiz wit, one provy witout”
Let’s start with the oldest (and the one my Uber driver stopped closest to) Pat’s King of Steaks. Pat’s has instructions on how to order, much like the ones I listed above. They add, “If you make a mistake, don’t panic, just go to the back of the line and start over.”
Like it’s competition across the street, Pat’s is open 24/7 and takes only cash. Unlike Geno’s, this is Pat’s one and only location.
Are you ready to order? On the wall are all the celebrities that have visited Pat’s along with family photos. But only one person has a granite slab in the ground. That’s dedicated to Rocky, who visits Pat’s with his loan shark employer Tony Gazzo. You can see it in this picture on the ground to the left of the far window.
“On this spot stood Sylvester Stallone filming the great motion picture Rocky. Nov. 21, 1975.”
Compared to Geno’s, the signage is positively pedestrian. I found it much more charming than the over-the-top Geno’s.
The crown was cool and colorful. You can’t argue with the “Inventor” and the “Originator” in neon. “Since 1930” means something – and it deserves to be in neon!
I loved this fake little heritage marker. Obviously put here by Pat’s themselves, it looks very official. One more little jab at Geno’s across the street.
North of Pat’s at the corner of S 9th and E Passyunk Avenue lies Geno’s Steaks. Slinging sandwiches since 1966, they also claim to be the best and the first. Geno’s has other locations and even a gift shop across the street. See “Geno’s Gear” in the photo below. Cheesesteak Corner meets Las Vegas?
Geno’s certainly has Pat’s beat on their monthly electric bill. This place is screaming for attention, usually not a good sign in a restaurant, no pun intended.
Many similarities here – the way you order, the menu, the cash-only policy, the celebrity photos.
With so many similarities, it is hard to distinguish the two. Pat’s meat is chopped, while Genos is sliced and not chopped. Geno’s wrap their sandwiches while Pat’s is given to you with paper situated more loosely. The sandwich is practically the same. I couldn’t definitively choose one over the other. A bit anti-climactic? Sorry, it’s true!
But if I were to choose, I gotta go with the one that has been family owned for 90 years, the one where Rocky chose to eat. Gotta go with Pat’s. Don’t worry it tastes better than it looks.
The best sandwich I had in Philly was Dinic’s Roast Pork in the Reading Terminal Market. Coincidentally, Pat’s (of Pat’s King of Steaks) grandson Rick owns Rick’s Steaks also in the market.
The owner of Pat’s once said that people come to Philly to visit Pat’s King of Steaks and the Liberty Bell – in that order. I visited the Liberty Bell first, but Pat’s was later that night. These guys are both open 24/7, so it’s not like you need to visit Pat’s or Geno’s website for anything, but here they are anyway.
Cheesesteak Corner is located at the very south end of the Italian Market – certainly worth a visit, too.