Hi, my name is Jim Pappas and I have eaten 275 different cheesesteaks in the last year.
A year ago, May 16, 2018 I started my Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure to find the ultimate cheesesteak.
Yes, 275 different cheesesteaks in the last year. They have all been in this region, far west as Reading, PA; north to Princeton, NJ; east to Atlantic City, NJ; and south to Bear, DE. I was heckled twice and threatened to be sued once (by a day drinking patron). What has surprised me the most is that just about everyone I have come in contact with is uninterested in the man taking selfies with and/or video of his cheesesteak.
The question I get all of the time is; ‘Where is the best cheesesteak?’ The irony is that the person asking either 1) Wants to argue that their cheesesteak place is the best or 2) They are from out of town and will end up at Pat’s, Geno’s or Jim’s.
When I ask myself, ‘where is the best cheesesteak?’ I like to think that every cheesesteak is special and has something to offer to the eating public. That is why my ‘best of’ list has 20 categories. I trimmed it down from 25 categories but thought of a whole new category specific ‘Best of’ list that will be coming out soon. I am not a participation trophy kind of guy but I like to recognize people/places/things for what they do well.
Before we get to the list here are my disclosures:
I ate all 275 cheesesteaks. I paid for every cheesesteak and have almost all of my receipts.
The complete list of my adventure can be found on my website, www.philadelphiacheesesteakadventure.com. Date of my visit and notes are all there. If you don’t see your favorite cheesesteak place listed as one of my ‘Best of’s,’ Please check the list before getting on social media to tell me how stupid I am and that I have to go to your spot.
Videos of me at every place are on my YouTube channel, Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure. While you are there verifying that I ate every cheesesteak or just enjoying watching me describe cheesesteaks, please subscribe. You can follow me on social media, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
Without further delay, in alphabetical order and saving the biggest categories for the end; I humbly present my Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure 1st annual ‘Best of’ list.
2514 E York Street
Philadelphia, PA 19125
We are not in Kansas anymore Toto!! The Hangover Cheesesteak!! Holy Mackerel!! What a place!! What a cheesesteak!! THEY DON’T HAVE A LIQUOR LICENSE SO A BRUNCH COCKTAIL IS FREE!! The muffins are also FREE!! The Hangover Cheesesteak $9.75 and Abso-freaking-lutely fantabulous!! They describe their creation better than I can so straight from the menu; 3 fried eggs, cheddar, & homemade hash with peppers and onions on a garlic buttered long roll with fresh lettuce, tomato, & onion Quarter pound of shaved steak. Cooked to perfection and served by the nicest person, Nicole. I’m not a fan of pillows on the bench seat while I’m eating my breakfast but I guess they were a nice design feature and everyone else seemed to enjoy them. PS a clean fun bathroom!!
Best Day Drinking
The patrons of the establishments in this category are very passionate and would blow up my accounts (instagram, facebook & YouTube) if I tried to pick one. I will make a post dedicated to Best of Day Drinking establishments. Categories will include but not be limited to; disappear and day drink, current events conversation, view for old men, sports minded.
Best Date Cheesesteak
1800 Federal Street
Philadelphia, PA 19146
They finally added a Cheesesteak to there menu and it is a good one. Sidebar – according to the bartender, one of the few that asked me why I was videoing my cheesesteak, they rotate their menu so check before going. You can impress your date with their Japanese beef cheesesteak and the $14.50 price wouldn’t kill your wallet and/or won’t be as painful if you don’t get a 2nd date. The ‘Salted Caramel Bread Pudding’ sounds amazing. The Brussels Sprouts looked amazing and were being shared by a young couple. You won’t be the only people there on a date.
627 W Baltimore Pike
West Grove, PA 19390
Here is a great example of the free information you get from the Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure. A winter feeding ground for Bald Eagles is by the Conowingo Dam which is part of route 1 and just across the PA/MD border in Maryland. It is about an hour and half drive from Center City. When the temperatures are freezing, go see the Bald Eagles and then on your way home stop at Penn Brew Station. This is a top of the line Cheesesteak!! Bursting with meat and flavor!! Lots of pepper in the seasoning. If you lived near West Grove, Penn Brew Station would be your go to cheesesteak. I don’t know if it is a craft beer store that sells cheesesteaks or a cheesesteak place that sells craft beer, either way, you are limited to 3 beers while you eat. Plenty of parking, tables and a bathroom.
1823 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
$5 Cheesesteak Mondays at Cavanaugh’s Rittenhouse! This is a cheesesteak you would like at full price. It comes with fries or tots. I choose the tots and there was a lot of them. Lots of fried onions on the cheesesteak and they gave it a great taste! The roll was struggling but held it together. Very good cheesesteak at full price, awesome cheesesteak at $5!! Thank you Kevin Wilson from Dining on a Dime for this gem!
Dessert after your
111 S 13th St
Philadelphia, PA 19107
The cheesesteak was a good one and stood on it’s own but the Fried Dough with Cannoli Cream should be taught in our schools, have monuments built in their honor and recognized as a National holiday!! They have seating, bathroom and the girl behind the counter was awesome. Warning, there is a non-associated Zio’s in (I think) NE Philly, they don’t have fried dough.
Early Morning on the Go
6701 State Road
Philadelphia, PA 19135
Sometimes you are on the go and need that 7am Cheesesteak. Little Pete’s is the place for you. Good little cheesesteak for the price, under $7. There is a steady stream of regulars (mostly truckers crossing the Tacony-Palmyra bridge) so the grill is fired up and greasey.
the Original location in Primos
540 Oak Ave
Primos, PA 19018
This is one of the bright spots of the Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure because without the Adventure I would never have gone here. This is the perfect place if are eating with kids, especially someone else’s kids. You will get a very good cheesesteak with great customer service. The kids will go on sensory overload with the train that goes around on an elevated track and the display case of Coke-Cola memorabilia, then you can get the kids sugared up on Coco’s made ice cream and cookies. Great meal for you, someone else’s wired kids.
8634 Germantown Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19118
I almost feel bad for the hundreds of people that stroll by the green door on Germantown Ave and don’t realize how much Philadelphia Cheesesteak history they just past. The Schmitter, created in 1921 and still being enjoyed today. Great neighborhood bar feel, great history, great family, great carrot cake and the bathroom is in the basement. What more could you want!
364 Wilmington Pike
Glen Mills, PA 19342
The best time to go is between meal rushes when Melinda is bored and she’ll make whatever you want. Rolls and sauces are made in house. I drew on my inner J Cohl (co-host Dining on a Dime podcast, Wildfire radio, and my mash-up mentor) and got the ‘Big Cheesesteak’ combined with the ‘Special Cheesesteak’ on a garlic roll. The garlic roll wasn’t on the menu but Melinda said, ‘Sure, I can make one of those.’ The Franken-cheesesteak (my name) was a flavorful taste explosion in my mouth. PS The fried sugar dough balls and custard sauce were a close 2nd for best Dessert. Google maps takes you to the wrong address, they are in the shopping center on the right of the south bound lanes.
2504 Red Lion Rd
Bear, DE 19701
3 lb. CHEESESTEAK!! If you find yourself in Bear, DE, I’m sorry. The good news is you will be near Tenderbones Rib Shack!! 3 lbs of Ribeye, fried onions, green peppers, mushrooms and cheese. The $15 price shocked me. But, I got 4 meals out of this beautiful creation. Chef Bones is wonderful. He numbers and signs every cheesesteak container. What surprised me the most was that only half the people that came in got cheesesteaks. I guess the other food is good also.
Most Ways to enjoy a beer with you
31 Brookline Blvd
Havertown, PA 19083
This was a very very very good cheesesteak. The meat was plentiful, moist and flavorful. Very good amount of cheese and melt. What made Sam’s really stand out is you have three ways to enjoy a beer with your cheesesteak; 1. Craft beer from the cooler at Sam’s. 2. Eat in McGillicuddy’s next door (no smoking). 3. Take your Sam’s cheesesteak to the Ivy Room (2 doors down and smoking allowed inside). Great overall experience!!
425 E Philadelphia Ave
Boyertown, PA 19512
Find a reason to go Boyertown and when you are there go to Talarico’s Sandwich shop. Soft Rolls, according to Kyle 4th generation proprietor, it is an Amish thing. I will be researching that next week at the Farmers Market. Anyway I am a soft roll fan because they are… soft… and hold up under a lot of sauce. The Pepper Ham cheesesteak. It was amazing and Kyle discloses the origin of the Pepper Ham sandwich in the video that I posted on my YouTube channel, Philadelphia Cheesesteak adventure. Green peppers, fried onions and a generous amount of cheese make this a great non-cheesesteak cheesesteak. Get a piece of the Homemade Carrot Cake. PS $23, 2 (amazing) sandwiches, 2 (small) bags of chips, 1 24oz (Kutztown) soda and big piece of carrot cake.
Best NY Style Deli Cheesesteak
700 S 4th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
A NY Style Deli and a cheesesteak had a baby!! I still don’t know exactly what to think of this heaping hot mass of coma inducing food they call a cheesesteak. First off, Famous 4th St Deli is awesome!! Plate of ‘pickles’ to start. The cheesesteak was big. But it was obviously made by a deli that makes big sandwiches. A lot of good quality meat put on great bread. The meat is thicker slices than I am use to and it was kind of chopped. Lots of cheese but not melted through. The extras were great. All of the food that I saw coming out of the kitchen looked amazing and plenty to share. They are famous for their cookies. I got the white chocolate chip and I now know where all of the Famous 4th St Cookies stores are located.
Best Old School Deli
1501 S 8th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
If you want to step back in time and have a very good cheesesteak, go to Cosmi’s. Two card tables in the middle of the deli and everyone is ‘welcoming.’ Absolutely feels like you are at your grandmother’s kitchen table and all of your cousins are squeezing by to get their food.
Best Cheesesteak in
1136 Arch Street #403
Philadelphia, PA 19107
The best thing you will learn on here, Reading Terminal has 2 hours of parking for $4 at the adjacent parking garages. Take your parking ticket and get it validated in the Reading Terminal (after spending $10). The Wilt’s were visiting for Oregon so we went to the Reading Terminal and had a Cheesesteak Challenge. The results reveal video, Starring Carole and the Wilts can be seen on YouTube. As I carried the competing cheesesteaks to our seats in the center court it was obvious that the By George cheesesteak was much heavier than the others. We were all worried that the sesame seed bun would fall apart but it did NOT. Great amount of flavorful meat. Very good amount of cheese (maybe needed a better melt). Very good extras. By George it was the winner!!
Best Cheesesteak with a View
901 S Christopher Columbus Blvd
Philadelphia, PA 19147
Very good cheesesteak in a great location!! The cheesesteak was very good. Very good amount of meat. The fried onions were plentiful and added great flavor. It was served on a good roll. The guy at the counter was friendly. The price was more than fair. You can sit at an outside table next to the Delaware River!! Grab people you like and go to Shank’s for a great river side meal.
Noone is talking about
2413 S 7th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19148
This is the perfect example of what a cheesesteak tastes like when someone is trying to make a great cheesesteak (versus a 20 something yr old throw meat on a grill and chopping it up). I don’t know the name of this place, because it is in Spanish, but I love it. The juice and flavor can be seen coming out of the meat. I usually lean toward a fine chop, this is not finely chopped but I felt like I was eating a steak. They took a well known common roll and made it taste amazing. Great amount of cheese and awesome melt. The cheesesteak was made with love and it was obvious in every bite. Plenty of tables and a bathroom.
339 N Hook Road
Pennsville, NJ 08070
A bigger better traditional cheesesteak is the only way I can think of to describe this cheesesteak. I went to Italian Kitchen early in the Adventure when people were questioning why I was going on this adventure because ‘everyone knows where to get a good cheesesteak.’ After posting pictures of this cheesesteak, the doubters became believers. Plenty of parking, seating, a bathroom, deserts, choices and awesome people!! This place has it all!!
Best Overall Cheesesteak
2653 Brunswick Pike
Lawrence Twp, NJ 08648
At the top of the cheesesteak world you will meet Meatheadz!! I went rogue and love myself for it!! I got the ‘The Dripping Steak.’ Big, Tasty, Dripping and $9.50. Provolone is my new recreational cheese. Meatheadz had a regular Cheesesteak and a double meat option. To get a true comparison to other cheesesteaks on the adventure I will go back and get a regular Cheesesteak. In the meantime I will bask in the awesomeness of ‘The Dripping Steak.’ I am becoming a sauce on my cheesesteak kind of guy. The sauce adds flavor and wetness. I could really taste the difference provolone brings. A heartier cheese.