ROADTRIP: PHILLY CHEESETEAKS
John’s Roast Pork vs. Pat’s King of Steaks
John’s: 14 Snyder Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19148
Pat’s: 1237 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Date dined: February 2014
A few weeks ago I went to Philly for a university alumni event. Naturally, the first thing that came to mind was cheesesteak! I decided to do a cheesesteak-off between my two favorite cheesesteaks from my college days – John’s Roast Pork and Pat’s King of Steaks.
First stop was John’s Roast Pork. John’s has been around since 1930 so they have their recipe down. They are located in just about the most random location, which is in the middle of a shopping center down by the South Philly docks. One could easily miss it if they didn’t know to look for a non-descript shack that just happens to serve some of the best Philadelphia style comfort food around. Their signature sandwich, as you might guess from their name, is roast pork. We also sampled the pork but honestly, the cheesesteak is better.
The steak is served on seeded hard roll and packed with meat that is grilled to order for each sandwich. The meat is thinly sliced and grilled with the onions to infuse the meat with their aroma. The cheese is then melted on top of the meat so that every bite is cheesy. At John’s you are more likely to have provolone than wiz for a bit of tangy flavor. The steak is perfect as is, just salty, cheesy, and oniony enough with no need for anything else. Of course we complemented our steaks with some crispy hot French fries. Steak perfection.
One thing to note about John’s – it is a lunch spot exclusively so make sure to get there early as it often has very long lines and shuts down the grill at 2:30pm.
Next up was Pat’s King of Steaks, which has also been serving steaks since 1930. Pat’s is much more what you would think of when imagining a Philly cheesesteak – plain hard roll, slathered with bright yellow cheese wiz and then topped with a mound of steaming sliced steak and onions. Pat’s is open 24 hours a day but amazingly has a long line at almost any time of day or night. The line moves quickly though as they cook their ingredients in bulk ready for assembling.
There is a special place in my heart for this artificial yellow cheese which has a unique flavor that cannot be replicated elsewhere. While one thing is for certain – Pat’s is far superior to its neighbor Geno’s Prince of Steaks – I must say that in my opinion John’s Roast Pork makes the tastiest Philly cheesesteak in the city.
WINNER: John’s Roast Pork