I expected this.
A little over a month ago when Philly Mag reached out to me to get my nomination for “best cheesesteak,” somewhat democratizing the vote for this fiercely debated Best of Philly category so readers could pick from one of five options offered up by “influential” locals, of which I am apparently one, I immediately feared the potential backlash.
Do you need some sort of copy with the pick or just the pick?, I responded, well aware that this, sans context and explanation, would stir the shit:
The Twitter responses have run the gamut from “I’m glad you’re speaking out” to “such a douche.”
Here’s the thing: Many locals turn their bulbous noses up at Pat’s and Geno’s, and perhaps now even Tony Luke’s, because they’re the popular tourist spots shown on TV ostensibly bastardizing whatever hyper-local version of the cheesesteak assholes deem is correct. But the sandwiches served up by these establishments are the canonical version of whatever it means to be a “Philly cheesesteak,” and they’re damn good. In my opinion, Pat’s is the best of the bunch.
Unlike, say, a roast pork sandwich, of which there are relatively few quality versions (with DiNic’s being the correct answer), basically any cheesesteak you can get in Philly is delicious. It’s really hard to screw one up so long as you use sliced rib-eye (or a finely-chopped lesser cut), fresh rolls and cheese, and don’t line stale bread with a full fucking strip of actual steak like they do in other cities when they try to replicate our genius. As such, there’s really no right answer to this question– just strong opinions. Most people don’t live within walking distance of the famous South Philly joints, and at the very least require a cab or Uber ride to get to them since parking is a complete shitshow. Therefore, basically anyone living in the greater Philly area, especially in the surrounding 10-mile radius of the city center, has a local shop that sticks the landing on their preferred version of the sandwich, thus inducing snobbery about said favorite hole-in-the wall, little-engine-that-could being better than Big Bad Pat’s.
I grew up in Springfield, and the Dairy Cottage did a fine job on a finely-chopped version with American. Would I choose it over Pat’s? No, but I’m sure some locals would. I prefer the thick, fatty cut of rib-eye slathered in Whiz on a fresh roll with the little nub chopped off and my fingers fucking frozen to the bone while sitting on a red bench as out-of-towners attempt to parallel park around me.
And that’s how we arrive at this pick. I am damn certain that any one of the other four nominations, and the countless ones that will inevitably follow in the comments and on Twitter the minute I post this, are all delicious. But if you were to ask me right now which Philly cheesesteak I could have brought to my desk, hot and fresh, in the next five minutes, I’d choose Pat’s. It’s a preference thing. Save your faux snobbery for more important fare.
Anyway, you can vote among these five choices now through January 28. The winner will be declared the Best of Philly. I don’t need to tell you want to do. Vote here.