If someone mentions Philadelphia, there's a good chance that "cheesesteak" is the first thing that comes to mind. And for good reason: In a city that prides itself on being home to some top-notch sandwich shops, it's the cheesesteak that stands above the rest.
Pat's King of Steaks and Geno's Steaks are perhaps the best-known establishments, but don't be fooled – those tourist traps and their fake across-the-street rivalry only scratch the surface of cheesesteaks in Philadelphia. Though, if you're going to eat at one of those Philly classics, Roshid Milledge, concierge at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia, says to go with Pat's over Geno's. "Why? I think the bread is softer," he says.
So, if you're looking for a cheesesteak shop that locals like to frequent, check out these five fantastic options.
Steve's Prince of Steaks
"You ask any Philadelphian [their favorite cheesesteak shop] and you're going to get a totally different answer probably," says Frank Marandino, chief concierge at The Rittenhouse Hotel.
[Read: The Best Hotels in Philadelphia.]
Cheesesteak connoisseurs have preferences when it comes to the sandwich's bread, how the shop cuts its meat (shaved versus chopped), the type of steak used and perhaps even the consistency of the processed cheese sauce. One local favorite is Steve's Prince of Steaks, whose four locations extend from Center City out to the suburbs of Philly.
"He's a meticulous guy," Stephen Hornstein, bell captain at The Warwick Hotel, Rittenhouse Square, says of owner Steve Iliescu. "His rolls ... he'd have to kill me if I told you where he gets them from, but it's a small local bakery."
Hornstein adds, "I don't remember anybody coming back saying that they didn't thoroughly enjoy their sandwich."
A cheesesteak will run you $9.26, and be sure to specify whether you'd like your cheesesteak with or without fried onions.
One of the most popular picks among locals, Jim's Steaks has been serving up Philly's favorite sandwiches since 1939. The shop still operates in its original location on North 62nd Street in West Philadelphia but has since expanded to northeast Philadelphia and suburban Springfield in Delaware County. (A location on South Street used to be affiliated with the local chain, but now it's independently operated.)
"It's a classic that's withstood the test of time," says Daniel Vetrano, concierge at Sofitel Philadelphia. "Even though it's popular, it's not overrated."
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A perk of being a Jim's fan is you don't have to be in Philadelphia to enjoy its sandwiches. Just call in an order and, within three days, Jim's will cook up your cheesesteaks, freeze them and ship them to you anywhere in the continental U.S. And no order is too large. According to Jim's website, the shop once shipped 230 cheesesteaks!
Dalessandro's Steaks & Hoagies
You don't have to be in the heart of Philadelphia to get a good cheesesteak. "There are definitely some places off the beaten path where you can get a good one," says James Portner, chief concierge at The Ritz-Carlton, Philadelphia.
One place that fits that description is Dalessandro's Steaks & Hoagies out in the Roxborough neighborhood, located on the corner of Henry Avenue and Wendover Street. Fans go for the fluffy, chopped-up cheesesteak with cheese sauce and fried onions. The sandwiches cost $9 each.
The line frequently runs out the door of this tiny corner shop. While customers typically get their sandwiches to go, consider sticking around. If you're lucky enough to snag a seat at the counter, be sure to talk up the servers. Or, if you're eating at an outside table on a fall weekend, you might catch a peewee football game on the field right across the street.
John's Roast Pork
Though the name might suggest otherwise, John's Roast Pork is a great place to grab a delicious Philly cheesesteak. Its $9.25 cheesesteak always gets recognized as among the best in the city, and it rivals the sandwich that the shop is actually named for.
"John's knocks it out of the park, and I've never been there on a bad day, but I'm convinced that they really don't ever have any bad days," says Damien Infantino, event services manager at The Inn at Penn, A Hilton Hotel. "I always try to drag another person with me, and we'll get a cheesesteak and a roast pork sandwich, and we split it down the middle so we get the best of both worlds."
John's is another shop that opened its doors in the 1930s and has remained a mainstay.
Sonny's Famous Steaks
While you're in the Old City exploring top Philly attractions like the Liberty Bell Center and Independence Hall, Marandino recommends making a stop at Sonny's Famous Steaks. "It's a great little place if you're down there visiting."
It might not get mentioned often, but Sonny's has received some well-deserved honors from time to time. And the shop's super-convenient location right on Market Street, between Second and Third streets, means you don't have to make a big detour from your trip itinerary to enjoy a great sandwich.
To experience more of what Philadelphia has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.
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