Being one of the first states to join the union and form the beginning foundations for life in the United States, the historic city of Philadelphia is famous for many things. Benjamin Franklin, Betsy Ross and the Liberty Bell easily come to mind as some of the city’s most cherished historical figures and sites.
On a more modern perspective however, Philadelphia is also recognized for its famous “Philadelphia Cheesesteaks” which, I can unequivocally guarantee you, are not made anywhere in the country like they are in Philadelphia.
Articles on the origin of the Philadelphia cheesesteak and several of the top producers in the city can be easily found online through various search engines. However, this article is dedicated to giving props to the best Philadelphia cheesesteak makers in the city who don’t get as much media exposure as some of their more well-known or publicized counterparts.
Let me begin by saying that the most publicized of all Philadelphia cheesesteak makers (Pat’s and Geno’s on Passyunk Avenue in the heart of South Philly) reside directly across the street from one another. Both businesses are recognized by many as the top cheesesteak makers in the city. However, as most Philadelphians know, a great cheesesteak can be found at a lot of different places that may not get as much notoriety as either Pat’s or Geno’s.
Now, the debate of who makes the best cheesesteak is one that will live on forever in Philadelphia, but I have compiled my list of the five best cheesesteak makers in the city.
Each business makes a cheesesteak that will make you want to come back several times. Trust me, I know from firsthand experience. As a matter of fact, I’m currently on a diet because of all the cheesesteaks I have consumed over the past 30 years.
Papa Nick’s (2nd Street and Godfrey Avenue in Olney)
Papa’s Nick’s is my number one cheesesteak spot in the entire city. Located in the Olney section, it is easily accessible by car or public transportation. From the soft rolls to the healthy serving of meat, Papa Nick’s doesn’t disappoint. The service is always speedy and the employees have been very friendly every time I’ve gone there. Papa Nick’s is truly one of the best cheesesteak makers in the entire city.
Wadsworth Pizzeria (1523 E. Wadsworth Ave in Mt. Airy)
Wadsworth Pizzeria, located in the Mt. Airy section of the city, is a cheesesteak lover’s haven. With a healthy serving of meat and fresh rolls, all nestled in the quiet Mt. Airy community, Wadsworth Pizzeria is a must for visiting cheesesteak fanatics.
Explorer’s Den (2160 W. Olney Avenue in Germantown)
The Explorer’s Den, located right near the campus of LaSalle University (Hence, the name the Explorer’s Den) puts so much meat on their cheesesteaks you can actually make two cheesesteaks out of one. The “Den” is a favorite among knowledgeable cheesesteak lovers who live near the venerable college.
Dalessandro’s (Henry Avenue and Wendover St. in Roxborough)
Ever since I first went to Daleassandro’s, I have been a huge fan of their cheesesteaks. The down-home feel and friendly atmosphere only serve as extras for their wonderful cheesesteaks.
Now, I hear Pagano’s has recently come under new management, so I can’t necessarily speak for how things are being run at the longtime establishment right now, but I most certainly will say that the West Oak Lane establishment has drawn a reputation over the years for making one of the biggest and best cheesesteaks in the city. Until I go into Pagano’s again for another meal, I will reserve judgment. However, I must say that the last time I went to Pagano’s, which was the summer of 2005, they made the same great cheesesteak that I have been eating for over two decades.