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Where to Find the Best Cheesesteaks in Philadelphia
Our picks for the best cheesesteak places to go for an authentic Philly experience...
Here in Philly, cheesesteaks are more than just a meal: They’re civic icons, tourist draws and — let’s own it — cultural obsessions.
Our mission: Help you find the best cheesesteaks in Philadelphia, because, while often imitated around the world, the authentic Philly cheesesteak is rarely duplicated successfully outside of Philadelphia. (Sorry, not sorry.)
So, What Is a Cheesesteak?
A cheesesteak — always one word, with no need for a “Philly” prefix or “sandwich” suffix — consists of a long, crusty roll filled with thinly sliced, freshly sautéed ribeye beef and melted cheese. The art of cheesesteak preparation lies in the balance of flavors, textures and what is often referred to as the drip factor.
For many dedicated cheesesteak aficionados, the definitive cheese of choice is Cheez Whiz (melty cheddar-style cheese sauce, not spray cheese), referred to simply as whiz, with white American and provolone as widely accepted alternatives. Other common toppings include sautéed onions, ketchup or mayo and sweet or Italian “long hots” peppers (bell peppers are typically shunned).
Aside from the standard steak, there are lots of creative takes on this region’s specialty sandwich from pizza steaks to cheesesteak hoagies to vegan steaks. But here, let’s focus mainly on where to get the classic Philly cheesesteak with a few nods to contenders that stray slightly from the tried-and-true fashion in a seriously delicious way.
Without further ado, here are our picks for notable cheesesteak spots. The list is organized by area, so you can sample more than one sandwich on any single outing and choose your favorite or favorites (consider yourself in a no-judgment zone).
Here’s the lowdown on where to find some of the best cheesesteaks in Philadelphia for 2023.
How to Order a Cheesesteak
Nearly every corner pizzeria or sandwich shop in nearly every Philadelphia neighborhood serves up the casual delicacy. But a key ingredient to keep in mind: At many spots, there’s a very specific, very Philly way to order a cheesesteak.
So when that cheesesteak craving hits, one must first consider two critical questions:
- What kind of cheese?
- Onions or no onions?
Once you decide, Philly has a cheesesteak shorthand all its own to convey your order. First say the kind of cheese you desire, whiz or otherwise. Then your onion choice: “wit” means with onions, and “witout” means without. For example, if you order a “whiz wit,” you’ll get a steak with Cheez Whiz and onions. Don’t be intimidated, it’s easy.
The cheesesteak’s origin dates back to 1930, when, during one fateful lunch hour, South Philly hot dog vendor Pat Olivieri cooked up some leftover beef on his stand’s grill and slapped it on a bun. A cabbie driving by sniffed something delicious, leaned out his window and requested his own. It didn’t take long for news of the creation to spread. Other taxi drivers came to the vendor demanding their own steak sandwiches.
Soon after, Olivieri opened a permanent shop on 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue — Pat’s King of Steaks — to sell his invention to the masses. And what about the cheese? It took another decade before a Pat’s manager threw some provolone onto the creation, and that’s when the cheesesteak was born.
Pat’s grills now sizzle 24 hours a day, as do the ones at Geno’s Steaks, Pat’s across-the-street rival, which opened in 1966. For more than half a century, Pat’s and Geno’s have waged a (mostly) friendly competition and, as is custom, visitors often order from both to see which they anoint the winner.
Our suggestion? Don’t stop the taste-testing at Pat’s and Geno’s. A visit to Philadelphia would be incomplete without digging into several of the best cheesesteaks in town.
One of the oldest steak shops in the city, Cosmi’s Deli has the look of a corner market — and the cheesesteak cred of a champion. Dating back to 1932, this tiny corner store in South Philadelphia has won plenty of praise for its rendition of the Philly specialty, as well as its hoagies and roast pork , all served fresh, soft and packed with meat on long rolls from famous Sarcone’s Bakery. Grab a classic, a specialty steak like the Mexicano, Buffalo or spicy Diavolo, or Cosmi’s vegetarian variation, the Veggie Lovers Cheesesteak, with provolone, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, onions and sautéed green and roasted peppers.
It may sit across the street from the oldest cheesesteak joint on the planet, but Geno’s Steaks is an icon all its own, a formidable competitor going roll-for-roll with Pat’s since 1966 and fueling a mostly friendly competition in the cheesesteak capital of the world. The key to success for the 24/7 spot is employing quality, thinly sliced rib-eye steak for maximum juiciness, the freshest of onions and house-made bread. As you travel down Passyunk Avenue, you can’t miss Geno’s, with its cacophony of neon lights beckoning curious travelers. Heading out of town? Grab one to go in the Philadelphia International Airport between terminals B and C.
If you’re hungry and in the mood for a big cheesesteak, look no further than Gooey Looie’s , a no-frills lunch counter inside a Pennsport grocery store. Order a large and you’ll be served up 20 ounces of meat on a long roll, as tasty as it is immense and at the same price as most other shops’ steaks despite its hefty size. The neighborhood deli is located in Pennsport Plaza, a nondescript gated outdoor marketplace mall surrounded by rowhomes. Take your steak to go or grab a spot at a table in the plaza’s urban courtyard.
For a joint with “roast pork” in the name, this spot knows a few things about cheesesteaks. Though famous for its eponymous sandwich, John’s Roast Pork is perennially ranked among Philly’s top steak spots. Its secret weapon? A crusty hollowed-out Carangi’s Bakery seeded roll — and a bold ban on cheese whiz. Opened in 1930, John’s first grew its reputation as a favored cheesesteak among South Philly dock workers and contractors, but gained mainstream recognition over the last two decades and earned a nod as an “American classic” from the James Beard Award . Get your order in early though, as the low-slung luncheonette is only open until 5 p.m. (and only Tuesday through Saturday).
Home of the original cheesesteak, Pat’s King of Steaks is still owned and operated by the legendary Olivieri family, whose patriarch and founder Pat invented the first steak sandwich in 1930, then added cheese to the mix a decade later. Since then, Pat’s has grown from a little corner stand at the southern tip of Philly’s Italian Market into one of the most famous restaurants in the world, still slinging steaks in their same — and only — location, and creating Philly’s familiar cheesesteak ordering language along the way. Open 24-hours, seven days a week, Pat’s shuts down for just 48 hours each year: Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Shank’s and Evelyn’s was a beloved luncheonette that operated in the Italian Market from 1962 until closing in 2009. But that legacy lives on at Shank’s Original , a stand overlooking the Delaware River along Columbus Boulevard at Pier 40. The current Shank’s (also known for their award-winning Chicken Cutlet Italiano) is a walk-up window run by Shank and Evelyn Perri’s daughter Pamela Poppa, with thatched-wire tables on their patio for alfresco riverside dining. Interested in straying from the classic cheesesteak? Check out the Philly Special, topped with “scrapple fries” (oh yeah) and whiz and American cheese.
Standing alone at the corner of a triangle intersection, SQ Philip’s Steaks is exactly what you’d expect from a South Philly steak joint: a 24-hour walk-up window spot with florescent lights, a bright red roof and a checkerboard-painted exterior. Opened in 1983, Philip’s (the SQ is for owner Suzie Q) offers quality neighborhood cheesesteaks in a nostalgic setting. One menu highlight: the Old Fashion Steak, a specialty ribeye with provolone, grilled tomato, long hots, onion and oregano. The boxy, well-loved building doesn’t offer seating, just a smattering of chest-level metal shelves along the sidewalk on which to set your meal.
Every sandwich at Tony and Nick’s Steaks — formerly the original location of Tony Luke’s — is worth digging your teeth into. The restaurant, still owned by Tony “Luke” Lucidonio, Sr. and his son Nick, serves a tried-and-true cheesesteak made from thin-sliced cooked-to-order ribeye in a variety of styles, including a pizza steak with gravy (that’s red sauce for those not from South Philly), a cheesesteak hoagie and the Nicky Luke with ham and mushrooms. The red-and-white checkered takeaway window sits just below an I-95 overpass and offers a smattering of picnic tables along the sidewalk.
Some of the best cheesesteaks in Philly can be found at neighborhood pizza joints, and at the top of the list is Angelo’s Pizzeria South Philly , a favorite of Philly foodies. Beloved for their award-winning pizzas (made with fermented dough that creates a bubbly crust), Angelo’s cheesesteaks hold their own, served oozing from a seeded Sarcone’s Bakery roll, piled high with finely sliced steak, gooey cheese (cooper sharp, American, provolone or traditional whiz) and sautéed onions. Aside from craveable pizzas and chewy, melty, tender steaks, the Bella Vista spot just two blocks off South Street also makes a mean hoagie.
A noted favorite of The Roots’ emcee Black Thought, Ishkabibble’s I & II (just 750 feet apart on South Street ) touts itself as inventors of the chicken cheesesteak. Whether chicken or traditional beef, Ish’s throws out the cheesesteak rule book, letting patrons call the shots and the toppings. Other must-tries include Spanish fries (with hot peppers and onions), sweet potato cheese fries and the original Gremlin, a refreshing half-lemonade, half-grape-juice beverage. Both stores serve the same menu, but the newer shop on South between 5th and 6th (opened in 2014) offers plentiful seating compared to the tiny circa-1979 original walkup window near 4th.
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Despite offering unique, upscale specialty sandwiches like Cajun Mahi Mahi, vegetarian Falafel BLT (beet, lettuce and tomato) and its famous Coffee BBQ Brisket, Woodrow’s Sandwich Shop on Philly’s famous South Street also makes one heck of a cheesesteak. Established in 2016, Woody’s — named for owner Kevin Kramer’s father and grandfather — revels in creative takes on sandwich classics. His signature Woodrow’s Whiz Wit comes with shaved ribeye, caramelized onions, homemade cherry pepper mayo and creamy made-fresh-daily truffle-infused four-cheese whiz. Is it a fancier take? Yes. Will you regret eschewing a traditional cheesesteak? Not a chance.
Open since 1947, Campo’s Philly Cheesesteaks is a great spot to sample old-school Philadelphia flavor in old-school environs. Located on Market Street in Old City under its famous blue, red and green awning, the tiny corner shop sits just three blocks from the Liberty Bell , Independence Hall and the Museum of the American Revolution . After a day of museum-ing, enjoy a steak and local craft beer from Yards Brewing (available on site) alfresco. Besides traditional steaks, Campo’s also offers vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free and gluten-free options. At the Sports Complex ? Visit their stalls at Citizens Bank Park and Wells Fargo Center.
Founded in 2000, Sonny’s Famous Steaks is new school in the heart of the Historic District . But this is no tourist trap. The sign of a great steak, on any given day the Old City shop is filled with equal parts eager visitors from around the world and life-long Philly locals. Sonny’s uses fresh-sliced ribeye on Amoroso’s Italian rolls with local cheese or whiz and boasts a more casual ordering experience, meaning patrons shouldn’t feel the pressure to order a cheesesteak in notorious Philly fashion. Bonus: Indoor/outdoor seating and gluten-free rolls are available by request.
Go DIY with your cheesesteak. Rittenhouse Square ’s Cleavers offers an entire “Make Your Own” menu of cheesesteak options that covers the classics and moves beyond traditional cheesesteak territory too, with toppings like Sriracha aioli, blue cheese dressing, long hots and fried onions. If you’re feeling really risky, you can trade the roll for a wrap or just get the innards in a bowl.
Where: Cleavers, 108 S. 18th Street
Stalls full of farm-fresh produce, meats and cheeses, Amish baked goods and international eats are staples of the circa-1893 Reading Terminal Market . But the world-famous public marketplace also houses a bevy of the best cheesesteaks in Philadelphia. Carmen’s Famous Italian Hoagies & Cheesesteaks, Spataro’s Cheesesteaks, By George, Molly Malloy’s and Down Home Diner are solid options for traditional orders. But for a different take on the classic, there’s the Trainwreck at Beck’s Cajun Café — finely chopped steak, andouille sausage, salami, American cheese, fried onions and creole mayo on a French baguette — or Miller’s Twist ‘s Cheesesteak Pretzel, sliced ribeye and melty cheese inside a fresh-baked salty-sweet-buttery Amish pretzel. (Find more can’t-miss eats in the iconic market in our RTM guide .)
A classic remains a classic through new names and new locations. That’s the story at Joe’s Steaks + Soda Shop . The original 1949 mom-and-pop shop in Northeast Philly closed in 2022, leaving its Fishtown location (opened in 2015) to carry on its name (which itself changed in 2013). Through it all, the vintage soda fountain parlor has continued serving its beloved decades-old steak recipe alongside handcrafted milkshakes, ice cream sodas, chocolate Cokes and egg creams. Expect a dozens-deep line on weekends, so come early if you’re planning a meal before heading across the street to a show at Johnny Brenda’s or drinks at Garage .
Don’t let bakery in the name fool you. Gilben’s Bakery offers up some of the best sandwiches in the city. The secret? Garlic. Rather than plain rolls, sandwich creations here are served on long, buttery garlic bread baked from scratch on-site. The massive Ooey Gooey Cheesesteak is a delicious steak finished off with a generous portion of molten white cheese sauce ladled on top. The Black-owned Mount Airy bakery, headed by founders Crystal Brown and fiancé Kevin Paulhill, also offers eclectic cheesesteak varieties like jerk chicken, honey Sriracha and sweet chili, all made by cousin and head chef Joshua Coston.
There are famous cheesesteak shops, and there are cheesesteak shops that are famous. North Philly’s Max’s Steaks is both. The spot boasts bona fide Hollywood chops as the setting for Michael B. Jordan’s memorable ”jawn” lesson in 2015’s Creed, the first spinoff in the Rocky film franchise . Max’s also made a cameo in a season four episode of NBC’s smash-hit This Is Us . But for decades before on-screen fame, the neon-lit destination has been a go-to spot in Nicetown for “The Giant” cheesesteak, made from 100% sirloin (no ribeye), and an attached bar (try the daiquiris, trust us). Max’s is open late, until 2 a.m. on weekends and 1 a.m. during the week.
Now with three locations in the region, the original Steve’s Prince of Steaks was born in 1980 on Bustleton Avenue in Northeast Philly. Owner Steve Iliescu, who named his shop to honor Pat’s King of Steaks, uses thick-cut eighth-inch slabs of sautéed ribeye (much thicker than most competitors), cooked on a flattop and served chewy and mostly unchopped on a long, thin roll drowned in gooey whiz. The cash-only neon-and-metal Airstream trailer diner offers two service windows for maximum convenience: one for steaks and one for side orders and beverages (the chocolate soda comes highly recommended).
Baltimore Avenue in West Philly is a mecca for international cuisine, particularly from the neighborhood’s thriving Ethiopian and Eritrean communities. Gojjo , just two blocks west of Clark Park , is a restaurant, bar and coffee roastery serving up classic Ethiopian and East African dishes. Along with its traditional doro wats and zilzil tibs, the café offers unique takes on familiar pub grub, including their popular Ethiopian Cheesesteak, a traditional cheesesteak flavored with quintessential Ethiopian berbere spices like cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and cumin. While the intimate late night spot is open until 2 a.m. seven days a week, be sure to save room for more great eats along Baltimore Avenue .
Where: Gojjo, 4540 Baltimore Avenue
You can’t argue with greatness. Overbrook’s Larry’s Steaks was the late Kobe Bryant’s favorite steak shop growing up in Philly. So much so that the Lakers great had their steaks shipped to L.A. on the regular. His go-to order? The “Belly Filler,” which measures a belly-filling two feet long. In his honor, Larry’s created “The Kobe Cheesesteak,” a regular-sized partly chopped ribeye (not Kobe beef, sorry) steak with white American cheese, onions and mayo. Founded in 1956, Larry’s sits directly across the street from St. Joseph’s University’s basketball arena. A second location opened on Girard Avenue in North Philly in 2013.
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Philly wouldn’t be the world’s greatest sandwich city without love from all cultures and backgrounds. That’s uniquely true at Saad’s Halal Restaurant , a once-popular food truck that opened its University City brick-and-mortar shop in 1996. The signature cheesesteak here is packed with bite-sized steak pieces melding with American halal cheese, served West Philly-style with mayonnaise. But the real star is the Chicken Shish Tawook Maroosh Way (Chicken Maroosh, for short), Saad’s version of a chicken cheesesteak — made with zabiha halal grilled chicken, sautéed onions, tomatoes, curly parsley, pickle spears and whiz-like creamy garlic sauce on a hoagie roll. There’s even a fish cheesesteak made with fried tilapia.
The cheesesteak rivalry between Dalessandro’s and Chubby’s is nearly as legendary as that South Philly steak rivalry. But ask Roxborough locals and many will tell you the third contender might beat them all. Barry’s Steaks , just a mile away, isn’t groundbreaking, but it is oh-so good. Their traditional steak is served slightly chopped on an Amoroso roll and often lauded as the cheesiest in the city. Specialty steaks at Barry’s include a pepperoni pizza steak and the Alpine steak with Swiss and brown gravy. All can be enjoyed with one of Barry’s own line of craft sodas, including Philly faves black cherry and orange cream.
The hottest cheesesteak rivalry in Philly isn’t the battle in East Passyunk; it’s in the hills of Northwest Philly. Many locals sing the praises of Dalessandro’s, but right across Henry Avenue, Chubby’s Steaks stands toe-to-toe with its Roxborough competitor. What differentiates the offering here is the gently chopped steak, somewhere between fine and chunky, flavored with their signature secret seasoning and served easy on the whiz atop soft Liscio’s Italian Bakery rolls. Eschew those crowded diners and pull up a seat at Chubby’s full bar to wash your sandwich down with a beer or a cocktail.
While those dueling Italian Market steak joints garner most of the national press, many locals proclaim the best cheesesteak in Philadelphia is served up at Roxborough’s Dalessandro’s Steaks . Open on Henry Avenue since 1960, the Northwest Philly shop has racked up accolades for its fresh signature steaks that employ a much finer chop than many of its South Philly compatriots. A visit to Dalessandro’s often requires a wait, but it’s worth the effort to enjoy authentic steaks piled-high with heaps of beef and chunky grilled onions on warm, chewy rolls. If weather permits, grab a seat outdoors or at one of the crowded tables or stools inside the tight deli.
Sometimes a cheesesteak doesn’t have to look like a cheesesteak. Take the Schmitter at McNally’s Tavern . The renowned sandwich still begins with the familiar sliced steak, melty cheese and fried onions, but adds grilled salami, tomatoes and Schmitter sauce (mayonnaise, ketchup, sweet pickle relish and Worcestershire) — all served on a flash-broiled Kaiser roll. Named for the late Schmidt’s Beer (not Phillies legend Mike Schmidt), the over-the-top sandwich has been the signature dish at the family-owned Chestnut Hill bar for 50 years. But don’t sleep on their traditional cheesesteaks, served on Conshohocken Italian Bakery long rolls. Of particular note: the chicken cheesesteak, which many proclaim is the best in the city.
A brand known around the world, Tony Luke’s is approaching cheesesteak domination. Among the 18 franchise locations, most can be found around the Philly region, including at malls in King of Prussia , Springfield (Delco) and Pottstown , across the river at the Freedom Mortgage Pavilion amphitheater in Camden, and beyond. To find a Tony Luke’s steak in Philadelphia proper, you’ll have to catch a game at Citizens Bank Park (in center field’s Ashburn Alley) and Lincoln Financial Field (behind Section 112), or grab one on the way out of town in Philadelphia International Airport’s Terminal F.
If you came to this page looking for the renowned Jim’s South Street , please note that the iconic steak shop is currently closed due to a fire in the summer of 2022. Jim’s plans on reopening on the same corner at 4th and South streets and serving the same legendary steaks by Labor Day 2023.