The Philly cheesesteak is a culinary icon in Philadelphia. This means no blog on Philly is complete without some tips on where to find the best cheesesteaks.
Before we go further, let’s explain that calling the cheesesteak an icon does not mean it's a trendy or gourmet food. Philly cheesesteaks are delights from the deli, just like subs or bagels. If you had been around Philly in our grandparents’ time, you’d have seen immigrant shopkeepers and street vendors selling meat scraps in local bakery bread. That’s how it all started. Today, a good Philly steak sandwich doesn’t taste like mystery meat, but it’s not too fancy, either.
Here, then, we focus on a few no-frills spots offering the famous sandwich as it’s evolved—with tried-and-true, local appeal.
Old City Classic
Sonny’s on Market in Old City is an absolute classic. The venue is fun, and the fare is easy-going. Sonny’s serves true steak sandwiches, and you can take your pick of American of Italian cheese.
Sonny’s stays open late, too, so if you’re dancing up a storm in Old City, you know where to go when the cravings set in.
Joe’s Steaks is the place for sandwiches you can’t beat, in a classic, diner-style atmosphere. The cheesesteaks are sliced to order in house. Need we say more?
No wonder Northern Liberties residents love having lunch at Joe’s in Fishtown, at 1 W. Girard Avenue.
Heard the good news about Steve's Prince of Steaks? There’s a branch on 16th Street right in Center City now. It's more convenient than ever to get Steve’s massive sandwiches in all their cheesy, juicy, decadent glory.
Then there’s Jim's South Street in Center City. It’s a bustling spot, too, and you’ll soon find out why. This cheesesteak is finely sliced, tender, smothered in sautéed onions, light on the cheese.
Is Veg the New Steak?
You just haven’t lived in Philly until you’ve had a cheesesteak, no matter your dietary orientation. So let's add a Northern Liberties favorite called The Abbaye Bar and Restaurant, at 637 N. Third Street, to the list. They’ve earned it, with their excellent vegetarian cheesesteak as well as their enthusiastic service.
Among at least two dozen restaurants that now offer a vegan cheesesteak is Blackbird Pizzeria. Located at 507 S. Sixth Street, it’s also convenient for Northern Liberties folks. Blackbird’s vegan version has been winning a string of awards. How do they do it? With seared seitan cooked in a garlic and rosemary sauce, served on crusty hoagie roll with onions and a delectable (because it’s homemade) melty non-dairy cheese.
Cheesesteaks on the Main Line
Just west of Philly on Lancaster Avenue (the “Main Line” out to the western burbs) you’ll find Bella Italia Pizza offering a Philly cheesesteak to rival downtown’s best. Find Bella Italia at 12 E. Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore. Get it with a goblet of Golden Monkey, a super-strong Belgian Tripel style beer from Victory Brewing Co.
Nearby Jack McShea's, at 34 E. Lancaster Avenue, is a popular sports bar. It’s a great place to grab a Philly cheesesteak and a pint of McShea’s Ale from the Philadelphia Brewing Company. You can also get a happy hour special offer (we don’t know; it’s a surprise!) if you bring a group.
We Love Classic Philly
Cheesesteaks are just the beginning. There are so many traditions that evolve and enrich Philly’s great neighborhoods, such as Old City, Center City, Northern Liberties, and Ardmore on the Main Line.
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