9 Phenomenal Philly Cheesesteaks, From Classic to Vegan to Luxe (2024)

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Curate your own Philly cheesesteak tour next time you visit the City of Brotherly Love.

By

Robert DiGiacomo

Robert DiGiacomo

Robert DiGiacomo is a Philadelphia-based journalist. He covers food and restaurants in Philadelphia for Food & Wine, among other publications.

Published on June 25, 2024

9 Phenomenal Philly Cheesesteaks, From Classic to Vegan to Luxe (1)

A major chapter in Philadelphia’s food story might have turned out differently if a vendor named Pat Olivieri had stuck to hot dogs. The story goes that in 1930 Olivieri opted to mix things up one day by making himself a chopped steak sandwich on an Italian roll for lunch. He later added cheese and established Pat’s King of Steaks as the standard bearer for the cheesesteak as we know it today.

Whether Olivieri really created the cheesesteak is a matter for debate, but it’s clear that the traditional combo of beef, fried onions, and cheese, real or Cheez Whiz, has shown its staying power. Cheesesteaks aren’t just a Philly thing, either: You can find them all over the U.S. and globally from London to Sao Paulo to Dubai, and with all kinds of variations from vegan to luxe.

Here's a sampling of the best Philly cheesesteaks in Philadelphia.

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Geno’s and Pat’s King of Steaks

9 Phenomenal Philly Cheesesteaks, From Classic to Vegan to Luxe (2)

Awash in neon, family-owned rivals Pat's King of Steaks and Geno's Steaks dominate a South Philly intersection between the Asian and Mexican spots along Washington Avenue and South Philly’s transformed Passyunk Avenue business district. Beloved by some and dismissed by others as tourist traps, these 24/7 stands are popular gathering spots before and after sporting events, weddings, birthdays and other celebrations, or just a big night out with friends. Order yours Whiz Wit (Cheez Whiz with fried onions) for the real deal experience.

9 Phenomenal Philly Cheesesteaks, From Classic to Vegan to Luxe (3)

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Angelo’s Pizzeria South Philly

It’s easy to find this pizzeria-sandwich shop located several blocks north of the Italian Market — look for the crowds queuing for their food. Angelo’s doesn’t take online orders and the phone is usually busy, so many customers just order in person and wait. Angelo’s is worth the effort, standing out for its house-baked seeded roll and perfectly blended combo of rib-eye and cheese, preferably Cooper Sharp, and fried onions. There’s no table seating, but you can perch on a nearby stoop or chow down your cheesesteak on the hood of your car.

03of 08

Campo’s

9 Phenomenal Philly Cheesesteaks, From Classic to Vegan to Luxe (4)

This shop with a red, blue, and green awning near the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall has been slinging steaks since 1947. Over the decades, Campo’s has expanded its menu from its traditional grass-fed, rib-eye version to accommodate almost any modern preference, including vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free, and gluten-free. The family-owned business also ties into Philly’s sports scene with locations at Citizens Bank Park, where it’s the official cheesesteak of the Phillies, and Wells Fargo Center, home of the Flyers and 76ers.

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Barclay Prime

Cheesesteak as status symbol? At Barclay Prime, a high-end steakhouse on Rittenhouse Square, the price is $140 and the ingredients are equally over the top: hand-cut wagyu beef, on a housemade sesame roll with Cooper Sharp cheese, foie gras in a brandy-veal sauce, fried onion truffle cream, and shaved black truffles —paired with an included half bottle of Champagne. This version is as easy on the stomach as it is hard on the wallet.

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Jim’s

9 Phenomenal Philly Cheesesteaks, From Classic to Vegan to Luxe (6)

One of Philly’s most beloved cheesesteak shops almost flamed out in July 2022, when an electrical fire gutted its black and white-tiled corner storefront on South Street. But owner Ken Silver was determined to restore the legacy business started by his father in 1976 and beloved as a spot to grab a late-night bite. Jim’s reopened in May 2024 and picked up where it left off — it’s open until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday and until 1 a.m. the rest of the week. The renovation not only restored Jim’s iconic façade but also added seating next door in the former Eyes Gallery, where a newly uncovered mosaic mural by renowned local artist Isaiah Zagar now provides a colorful backdrop. The sammies check the traditional boxes —soft roll, finely chopped meat, and your choice of cheese from Whiz to provolone to American.

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John’s Roast Pork

9 Phenomenal Philly Cheesesteaks, From Classic to Vegan to Luxe (7)

Don’t let the name fool you — John’s Roast Pork is the real deal when it comes to crafting its “ultimate” cheesesteak. Named one of America’s Classics by the James Beard Awards, John’s has been open since 1930 in a nondescript building located close to the Delaware River in South Philly. John’s cheesesteak starts with a crusty-on-the-outside, squishy-on-the-inside roll and builds its version with beef loin tails cut to order with your choice of American, mild provolone, and sharp provolone — no Whiz here.

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Little Sicily Pizza II

9 Phenomenal Philly Cheesesteaks, From Classic to Vegan to Luxe (8)

Head to a South Philly strip mall in the shadow of I-95 for this lip-tinglingly spicy, Indian-style take on the traditional cheesesteak. Available with chicken or beef, this reinterpretation comes dressed with mayo, onion, and cilantro. You pick the heat level —mild, medium, spicy, or if you dare, extra spicy — at Little Sicily Pizza II.

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Triangle Tavern

This old school bar in South Philly dates to 1933 but has reimagined itself as a neighborhood gastropub known for craft co*cktails and beer, as well as vegan variations on Italian and Philly classics. Triangle Tavern is the perfect spot to chow down on a vegan cheesesteak, featuring locally made seitan and housemade “Whiz.”

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9 Phenomenal Philly Cheesesteaks, From Classic to Vegan to Luxe (2024)
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