Photo credit: @chew_with_crys on Instagram.
Here in Philly, cheesesteaks are more than just a meal: They’re civic icons, tourist draws and — let’s own it — cultural obsessions.
Our mission: Help you find the best cheesesteaks in Philadelphia, because, while often imitated around the world, the authentic Philly cheesesteak is rarely duplicated successfully outside of Philadelphia. (Sorry, not sorry.)
So, What Is a Cheesesteak?
A cheesesteak — always one word, with no need for a “Philly” prefix or “sandwich” suffix — consists of a long, crusty roll filled with thinly sliced, freshly sautéed ribeye beef and melted cheese. The art of cheesesteak preparation lies in the balance of flavors, textures and what is often referred to as the drip factor.
For many dedicated cheesesteak aficionados, the definitive cheese of choice is Cheez Whiz (melty cheddar-style cheese sauce, not spray cheese), referred to simply as whiz, with white American and provolone as widely accepted alternatives. Other common toppings include sautéed onions, ketchup or mayo and sweet or Italian “long hots” peppers (bell peppers are typically shunned).
Aside from the standard steak, there are lots of creative takes on this region’s specialty sandwich from pizza steaks to cheesesteak hoagies to vegan steaks. But here, let’s focus mainly on where to get the classic Philly cheesesteak with a few nods to contenders that stray slightly from the tried-and-true fashion in a seriously delicious way.
Without further ado, here are our picks for notable cheesesteak spots. The list is organized by area, so you can sample more than one sandwich on any single outing and choose your favorite or favorites (consider yourself in a no-judgment zone).
Here’s the lowdown on where to find some of the best cheesesteaks in Philadelphia for 2023.
Ishkabibble’s I & II
A noted favorite of The Roots’ emcee Black Thought, Ishkabibble’s I & II (just 750 feet apart on South Street) touts itself as inventors of the chicken cheesesteak. Whether chicken or traditional beef, Ish’s throws out the cheesesteak rule book, letting patrons call the shots and the toppings. Other must-tries include Spanish fries (with hot peppers and onions), sweet potato cheese fries and the original Gremlin, a refreshing half-lemonade, half-grape-juice beverage. Both stores serve the same menu, but the newer shop on South between 5th and 6th (opened in 2014) offers plentiful seating compared to the tiny circa-1979 original walkup window near 4th.
📍: Ishkabibble’s I, 337 South Street
📍: Ishkabibble’s II, 517 South Street
Woodrow’s Sandwich Shop
Despite offering unique, upscale specialty sandwiches like Cajun Mahi Mahi, vegetarian Falafel BLT (beet, lettuce and tomato) and its famous Coffee BBQ Brisket, Woodrow’s Sandwich Shop on Philly’s famous South Street also makes one heck of a cheesesteak. Established in 2016, Woody’s — named for owner Kevin Kramer’s father and grandfather — revels in creative takes on sandwich classics. His signature Woodrow’s Whiz Wit comes with shaved ribeye, caramelized onions, homemade cherry pepper mayo and creamy made-fresh-daily truffle-infused four-cheese whiz. Is it a fancier take? Yes. Will you regret eschewing a traditional cheesesteak? Not a chance.
📍: 630 South Street
Notable: Jim’s South Street
If you came to this page looking for the renowned Jim’s South Street, please note that the iconic steak shop is currently closed due to a fire in the summer of 2022. Jim’s plans on reopening on the same corner at 4th and South streets and serving the same legendary steaks by Labor Day 2023.
📍: 400 South Street
Originally published by Visit Philadelphia.
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