"How to order a Steak" 
by I. M. Hungry
Step 1
Specify if you want your steak with (wit) or without (wit-out) onions.
(If you're not a rookie this should come naturally)
Step 2
Specify Plain, Cheez Whiz, Provolone, American Cheese or a Pizza Steak
(We have lettuce and tomatoes) / (If we have to read your mind it's 50 cents extra)
Step 3
Have your money ready.
(Do all of your borrowing in line)
Step 4
Practice all of the above while waiting in line.
(If you make a mistake, don't panic, just go to the back of the line and start over)



The First Annual Philly Cheesesteak Tour kicked off under sunny-blue skies at Jim's on the corner of 4th and South Street in South Philly. Our group, led to the trough by the event's organizer and Philadelphia native Andrew Shapiro, was comprised of both dedicated connoisseurs and students of the cheesesteak. Shapiro (pronounced sha-PIE-row), a lifelong cheesesteak enthusiast, organized the event to appreciate the simple beauty of the City of Brotherly Love's greatest contribution to the Menu of the Americas. When asked what motivated him to organize the day's event, Shapiro replied simply, "I want to spread the love of the cheesesteak. I am the ambassador of cheesesteak love."

Jim's Steaks clearly benefits from its prime South Street location. When we arrived at the peak of lunch hour, a line snaked out onto the sidewalk and around the corner. Clearly we weren't the only ones with cheesesteaks on our minds. Andrew helped navigate our hungry stomachs through the tightly-packed line and preped the cheesesteak initiates on the protocol of ordering without riling the impatience of the counter help. As we neared the steamed glass behind which simmered mounds of beef and onions, we split into ordering-pairs. (Over the course of our day's journey we would visit four steak establishments. As a matter of survival we decided that it would be best if we didn't try to eat an entire cheesesteak at each location. Instead, we decided to split cheesesteaks so that by the end of the day we only ate two steaks each.)

Some members of the group ordered their cheesesteaks with provolone, some ordered theirs with Cheez Whiz. Some ordered theirs with peppers. Some ordered the Pizza Steak (Cheez Whiz with pizza sauce). Everybody ordered theirs with onions. The assembly line of workers behind the counter kept the cheesesteaks coming, and before long we were carrying our trays upstairs to Jim's "dining" area. The walls of Jim's are decorated with autographs and testimonies from a wide range of sports stars and entertainers, a clear indication that Jim's was a popular establishment with locals and out-of-towners alike.

The general consensus of the experienced cheesesteak eaters in the group was that the meat was a little dry. On the other hand, those who were new to cheesesteak, those who ordered theirs with Cheez Whiz, and those who ordered the Pizza Steak were more pleased with their orders. All in all, no one seemed to be disappointed, and everyone cleaned their plate.

It was time for the second destination.


The second destination on the tour was Rocky's. The West Philly location is clearly out of the tourists' and shoppers' circuit, however this might be a plus in the eyes of most. The lack of brightly colored plastic and neon signs contributed to the sense that Rocky's is an authentic neighborhood joint, one that can exist solely on word of mouth and the dedication of the neighborhood cheesesteak addicts. If you think that, for example, Cadillac-fin-adorned Fifties-themed restaurants exemplify "good" atmosphere, then Rocky's might not be your kind of place.

Rocky's was a welcome contrast from the chaos and crowds at Jim's. Instead of the testimonies of the rich and famous, Rocky's simply featured a wall of yellowed news clippings and dog-eared photographs of Rocky Marciano and Jake La Motta and movie stills from Sylvester Stallone's Reagan-era Cold War kitsch classic Rocky IV. Also, in contrast to Jim's, the service at Rocky's was friendly and the cheesesteaks were cooked to order. As a result, the steaks were juicy, without being too greasy, and generally satisfying with their "peppery" flavor. Those who might be pinching pennies in this sour economy should also take note that Rocky's cheesesteaks are cheaper and bigger than Jim's— a claim that you might have expected to see scrawled on the bathroom wall... if there was one! Having chosen by necessity to eat standing in front of Rocky's, we enjoyed a wonderful opportunity to perfect our "cheesesteak lean" technique. (Any experienced cheesesteak eater will be impressed to know that none of the participants had stained their shirts by the end of the day.)

On our way to PAT'S . . .

After Rocky's the group decided to take a walk through the Italian market. We walked up and down the street and tried to work off the first two installments of the tour. We speculated aloud on how we would be feeling by the end of the day. We rubbed our bellies. We swore not to let the cheesesteaks get the best of us. Some of us recharged with cups of coffee. Some bought accouterments for their espresso machines and some bought mops. Some took a moment to marvel at the gutted pigs and lambs hanging in the storefront windows.

PAT'S "King of Steaks"

The next-to-last destination point was Pat's "King of Steaks." Pat's is situated up the street from its most obvious and immediate competitor Geno's. Of the two, Pat's retains the modesty and worn grace of an old favorite, an architectural relic of an era long gone. As an indication of the allure of Pat's charm, a young artist stood with paintbrush and palette painting a muted rendition of Pat's corner, having obviously made a clear decision from purely an aesthetic point of view which of the two buildings merited his time and interest.

Again we found ourselves amidst the crowds of the cheesesteak seekers, and again we found ourselves quickly moving through line. By this time we had all become quite accomplished at ordering our cheesesteaks; however, we discovered that Pat's will not cut their hoagies in half. When Jake asked if they could cut his, the man behind the window replied, "Stick it in a blender!"

The reviews of Pat's steaks were mixed; none were extreme in either direction. Some thought that Pat's beef was fattier and less tasty than Jim's and Rocky's, but others disagreed. On the best of days Pat's probably deserves it's reputation as "King of Steaks"— it should be added, however, that kings don't always treat their subjects with excellency.

Across the street from PAT'S:


Geno's Steaks marks a striking contrast to the modesty of Pat's old-timey exterior. Brightly colored signs make the bold assertion that Geno's steaks are The Best. If you are the type who dislikes a braggart, I recommend ignoring the glitz and tacky glamour. Instead, as you approach the building, shade your eyes and make your way as quickly as you can to the window and order your cheesesteak. You might find yourself surprised that Geno's steaks just might live up to the brash claims.

What distinguished Geno's from Jim's, Rocky's, and Pat's seemed to all to be the quality of the beef. Unlike the other three places, which served their steaks with chopped beef, Geno's serves their steaks with thin slices of beef that were cooked to everyone's liking. It could be that the sliced beef retains its taste and juice better than chopped beef. Whatever explanation, the consensus was that Geno's was the winner of the tour.

The group lingered at the table, enjoying the breeze and marveling at our feat. It was at this point in the day that Jake suggested that, no matter where you were eating, the essential ingredient in any cheesesteak was Cheez Whiz. His proposition met no dissent. The next proposition that met no dissent was the proposition of getting beers at Dirty Franks.

Recovering at

We concluded our day with pints of Yuengling at Dirty Franks, one of Philadelphia's most notorious hipster dive bars. There, when we weren't transfixed by the amateur art, we recapped the days events and swore to go to the gym the very next day.

For information and suggestions regarding the 2004 Philly Cheesesteak Tour please contact Andrew Shapiro.