America’s Best Cheesesteaks Gallery
September 19, 2017
You don’t need to go all the way to Philly for a great cheesesteak
America’s Best Cheesesteaks
The cheesesteak is one of those perfect foods. There’s something about the combination of griddled thin-sliced steak, melted processed cheese, diced onions, and a soft Italian roll that hits us on a level that only the most decadent meals do. Philadelphia is of course synonymous with this legendary sandwich, but there are exemplary versions to be found both inside and outside the City of Brotherly Love.
Big John Steak & Onion, Various Michigan Locations
This Michigan mini-chain has 16 locations, most of which are in Flint. In business since 1972, they’re using fresh rib-eye steak in their cheesesteaks, griddled to order and piled onto a freshly baked roll with or without onions. White American is the cheese of choice here.
Boo’s Philly Cheesesteaks, Los Angeles
Boos Philly Cheesesteaks and Hoagies/Yelp
This family-run shop is serving the best cheesesteaks in Los Angeles, starting with rolls shipped in from Philadelphia’s Amoroso’s. The formula here is simple — griddled thin-sliced rib-eye, grilled onions, and your choice of American, Cheese Whiz, or provolone — but the ratio is a lot harder to perfect than you might think. These guys hit the nail on the head.
Don’t expect anyone to hold your hand at Campo’s, an Old City deli that’s been making cheesesteaks the same exact way for more than 40 years. You might get served a side of attitude along with your steak (don’t ask for extra napkins!), but the cheesesteak is definitely worth it. They start with a crunchy and airy long Italian roll from Liscio’s Bakery (with seeds or without), and load it with a huge amount of rib-eye that’s been freshly griddled and lightly chopped. Added to that is your choice of American, provolone, or Whiz and onions that might be chopped a little too large, although nobody seems to mind.
Campo’s is crowded and not particularly comfortable, but again, people don’t line up here for the charm. They come to this family-run shop for that old-school Philly experience… and one heck of a cheesesteak.
Chick’s, Cherry Hill, N.J.
A Cherry Hill staple since 1957, Chick’s is tucked away in a strip mall so it isn’t exactly easy to find, but once you do you’ll become one of the many regulars. It’s particularly known for its chicken cheesesteaks (especially the Buffalo chicken), but the classics are also as good as Philly’s best. The bread comes from Liscio’s (where many Philly standouts get theirs), the thin-sliced steak is chopped as it’s seared on the hot griddle, and cheese and onions are perfectly integrated.
When a Philadelphian travels all the way to Roxborough for a cheesesteak, you know it’s good. And at Dalessandro’s, they’ve got the cheesesteak formula down to a science.
These beauties start with crusty rolls from local legend Amoroso’s, as well as thinly sliced rib-eye that this place chops up on the griddle more than just about any other cheesesteak shop in town. It’s then allowed to slowly brown in its own fat and juices, with the fine chop ensuring that it doesn’t dry out (in fact, you might find the juices running down your arm while you eat it). Your choice of American, provolone, or Whiz is fully incorporated into the meat, binding it all together. Fried onions top it off, but don’t miss their selection of pickled or roasted peppers; a sprinkling of hot pepper relish cuts through the richness perfectly.
Donkey’s Place, Camden, N.J.
Since opening in 1947, Donkey’s has been turning out some spectacular cheesesteaks, and doing it slightly differently from their neighbors in Philly: Instead of a soft Italian roll, theirs comes on a poppy seed-topped kaiser. It may be sacrilege to some, but one bite will tell you all you need to know. Piles of thin-shaved steak take up half of the grill; a mound of sliced onions occupies the rest. Each pile of steak gets a sprinkle of seasoning before being piled onto a soft steamed bun, then topped with onions and a couple slices of melty American cheese. Not incorporating the cheese into the beef can also be seen as a cardinal sin, but — once again — the proof is in the pudding, and the end result is one spectacular cheesesteak.
Holding down the corner with longtime rival Pat’s, Geno’s Steaks was founded in 1966 by Joey Vento, who was a regular fixture there until he passed away in 2011. (His son, Geno, who was named after the restaurant, now runs it). The walls and even the roof are decorated with memorabilia and framed photos of celebrities who have dined there, and the seating areas are utilitarian at best, but really, it’s all about the cheesesteak.
As opposed to Pat’s, where thin-sliced rib-eye is chopped up on the grill, at Geno’s the sliced steak stays whole. Vento was always in favor of provolone, but you get your choice of Cheez Whiz, provolone, or American. You can also order a pepper, mushroom, or pizza steak, or a roast pork sandwich. Save the roast pork for the third or fourth visit, though; a cheesesteak from Geno’s, whether it’s with onions or without, or with provolone or Whiz, is something that every Philly visitor should experience.
George’s Sandwich Shop, Philadelphia
Since 1936, the under-the-radar George’s has been quietly serving some stellar cheesesteaks in the Ninth Street Italian Market in Bella Vista. The roast pork, sautéed ground veal, Italian sausage, meatball, and even the tripe sandwiches are all to die for, but the cheesesteak is really something else. The coarsely chopped meat is tender and juicy, and the cheese is gooey and coats every last bit of meat. The bun is soft and moist. It’s simple perfection.
A tiny little shop with a handful of stools, a takeout window, and a small amount of outdoor seating, George’s is about as old-school as it gets. Some might say that is doesn’t have much ambiance, but if you’re looking for that classic sandwich shop experience, it doesn’t get more traditional than George’s.
A South Street institution since 1979, Ishkabibble’s is a hole in the wall with a few seats at the counter inside and a walk-up window facing the shaded sidewalk. While they pride themselves on being the inventor of the increasingly ubiquitous “chicken cheesesteak” (made with chicken tenders instead of steak), you should still order their cheesesteak. A fresh loaf of bread is lightly toasted and piled with steak that’s grilled with onions and chopped to order. While purists can stick with the Whiz, a combination of both Whiz and provolone takes this sandwich to the cheesesteak stratosphere.
Make sure you get a side order of onion rings or their perfect fries, both of which are super-crispy, and wash it all down with a “gremlin,” a mix of grape soda and lemonade.
Jake’s Steaks, San Francisco
To make the best cheesesteaks in Northern California, Philly native Jake Gillis starts with rolls shipped from Amoroso’s in Philadelphia, and piles them high with thin-sliced beef that’s shredded on the griddle, loads of Cheez Whiz, and diced onion. Locals and homesick Philly expats alike line up here daily, and with good reason.
Jim’s Steaks, Philadelphia
Jim’s Steaks opened in 1939 and has been a staple of the community ever since. With more than 75 years of experience and three locations, Jim’s is regarded as one of the best Philly cheesesteaks you’ll find in the city that made the sandwich famous. The shop has a wall of fame covered in photos of celebrities who’ve visited, and windows into the kitchen so you can watch the action.
Their most popular sandwich is, of course, the cheesesteak, made with top round. They offer two variations: one with Cheese Whiz and another with your choice of American or provolone. Their cheesesteak has won Philadelphia Magazine’s “Best of Philly” award five times and was named Zagat’s “must have” sandwich for Philadelphia. Breakfast sandwiches, burgers, and Italian hoagies are also on offer, but if you get one thing, make it a cheesesteak.
John’s Roast Pork, Philadelphia
Since 1930, the corner of Weccacoe and Snyder Avenues has been home to John’s Roast Pork, a South Philly institution if ever there was one. Their roast pork sandwiches — made with an old family recipe and house-roasted daily — are the stuff of legend. But their cheesesteak is every bit as good as the roast pork, and arguably better.
John’s cheesesteak toiled in relative obscurity until 2002, when the Philadelphia Inquirer’s restaurant critic Craig LaBan hailed it as the city’s best. And it is essentially a perfect cheesesteak. It starts with a soft and crusty seeded roll delivered fresh from nearby Carangi Baking Company every morning, which has some of its insides scooped out before being loaded with a full 12 ounces of thin-sliced loin tail (which has less gristle than the usual rib-eye). Meat is grilled to order atop diced Spanish onions and allowed to brown on one side before being flipped and separated, but not chopped. Five slices of American cheese are then added (sharp and mild provolone are also available) and folded in as the cheesesteak continues to cook; this way, every bite of the sandwich is loaded with meat, onions, and cheese. Fried Italian long hot peppers and ketchup are optional, but certainly don’t detract from this cheesesteak’s perfection.
Liberty Cheese Steaks, New Orleans
Before opening Liberty Cheese Steaks, the founders tirelessly tested dozens of different formulations before settling on what they believe is the perfect cheesesteak: soft 12-inch rolls imported from Philly, a combination of whole muscle sirloin and rib-eye (both never frozen), Cheez Whiz, and fresh local onions. You can get it “fully dressed” po’boy style with lettuce, tomato, olive oil, and vinegar if you want, but we don’t suggest it.
Monti’s was founded by the husband and wife duo of James Gottwalk and Jennifer Monti, two Philadelphia natives who couldn’t find a cheesesteak in Chicago that met their expectations. So they started shipping rolls from Philly’s Amoroso’s and bringing in Midwestern Black Angus rib-eye to craft some seriously good cheesesteaks. You can choose white American or smoked provolone for your sandwich, but we suggest you opt for their house-made Cheddar sauce.
Pat’s King of Steaks, Philadelphia
On the intersection of South Ninth Street, Wharton Street, and East Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia are two cheesesteak giants: Pat’s and Geno’s. They both have a fiercely loyal clientele, each of which will tell you that their favorite is superior. Pat’s claims to have invented the cheesesteak as we know it: As the story goes, in May 1933 brothers Pat and Harry Olivieri, who owned a hot dog stand on the corner, thinly sliced a steak and fried it with onions, and a legend was born.
Pat’s and Geno’s serve a similar product (with both using thinly sliced rib-eye steak), but there’s one main difference: Pat’s chops up its meat while it’s on the grill, and Geno’s keeps its slices whole. Which one you order comes down to personal preference, but the only way to find out is to try them both. Just make sure you learn the lingo first — “wit” means with onions, “wit-out” means without onions — and know which kind of cheese you want (Cheez Whiz, provolone, American, mozzarella, or none) before you start your order.
Phil’s Steaks, New York City
Roving the streets of New York since 2012, Phil’s is New York’s only Philly cheesesteak food truck, and also the purveyor of the city’s best cheesesteak. Philly Native Jim Drew sources his rolls from Amoroso’s in Philadelphia; beef comes from the tail end of the tenderloin, and cheese is your choice of Cheese Whiz, white American, or provolone. Grab your spot on line, order a “whiz wit,” and enjoy. Don’t forget to ask if they have any Philly soft pretzels on hand; they’ve been known to stock up when visiting the homeland.
Philly’s Best, Chicago
Blazing a cheesesteak trail in Chicago since 1990, Michael Markellos is the owner of Philly’s Best, which has three locations throughout the city. All the ingredients at Philly’s Best are shipped in from Philly except for the onions, Markellos told the Chicago Tribune. Rolls come from Amoroso’s, thin-sliced beef tenderloin is from Liberty Bell Steak Co., and cheese comes from Philadelphia foodservice distributor Cedar Farms. The steak is shredded up on the griddle with two metal spatulas as it cooks, and it’s loaded into rolls with onions and your choice of white American, Whiz, sharp provolone, shredded mozzarella, or a Cheddar cheese blend.
Sonny’s Famous Steaks, located on Market Street in Old City, offers a quintessential Philly cheesesteak experience. Old-school and with lines sometimes out the door, this sparse yet welcoming shop knows the right way to make a cheesesteak: They use whole slices of rib-eye, tossed on the griddle to order and roughly chopped into big chunks during the cooking process.
A surprisingly large number of cheesesteaks are made with beef that’s been pre-cooked and left to steam (and get tough) on the grill, but you won’t find any of those shenanigans here; this meat is juicy and beefy to the max. The bread is soft as can be, and when that beef is mixed together with perfectly soft onions and just the right amount of Whiz, you can definitely understand why GQ Magazine named it the best cheesesteak in Philadelphia.
Steve’s Prince of Steaks, Philadelphia
Steve’s got its start more than 30 years ago on Bustleton Avenue in Philly’s Great Northeast neighborhood, which kept it off the radar for a while. But now there are four locations, including one in Center City, so it’s finally getting the recognition it deserves, with lines typically out the door and around the corner on weekends. And it deserves plenty of recognition: These steaks are long and thin (some might even call them dainty), made with hand-sliced rib-eye that’s not chopped up on the griddle.
Opt for Whiz and it’ll come right out of the can and onto your sandwich — and will most likely get all over the place as you try to eat it (which isn’t a bad thing). Other cheese options include American, provolone, and mozzarella, and you’re also given the option to go double-meat. We’ve heard their burgers and chicken parm sandwiches are good, too, but when you’re at Steve’s, you get a steak.
White House Subs, Atlantic City, N.J.
White House is a must-visit in Atlantic City (and has been for more than 65 years), primarily on account of its massive cold Italian-style subs, loaded with Italian cold cuts and cheeses. But those in the know also know that their hot subs are also seriously on point, especially the cheesesteak (or “steak submarine”). Fresh bread is delivered every hour from a local bakery, and it’s filled with lean top round that’s never been frozen and is sliced every morning, griddled white onions, and loads of provolone cheese. The bread is steamed on top of the cooking beef, cheese, and onions, and it’s all brought together into a spectacular sandwich.