Saturday, July 23, 2011
Dispatches from Abroad, Part 2: We Did Pat's and Geno's
So the Missus, the Giblet, and I ended up in good ol' Philly-delphia the other day. Ms. Dave is not usually game for my ridiculous food adventures, however, she is currently 8 months pregnant and had recently seen some Food Network special on Philly cheese steaks which inculcated in her a grand craving for cheese steaks. We decided to do the Geno's and Pat's thing, very touristy I know, but we were pressed for time.
If you don't know, Geno's and Pat's are a couple of walk up cheese steak joints that happen to be located kitty corner across an intersection and have something of a rivalry. The below picture is of Pat's taken from just outside Geno's.
If you do research you will find that a lot of Philly locals will poo poo these two places and recommend some joint that is located at the end of a hidden trail and staffed by magical creatures who shit out Plato's ideal of a cheese steak. Locals get very deep with the whole cheese steak thing (kind of like I do with dinky dogs), and Geno's and Pat's are considered touristy and bush league. But the wife had seen these places on TV which sealed the deal for my little family. We started with a Geno's.
Apparently, the owner of Geno's is something of a card. You get a little right wing propaganda to cleanse the palate at Geno's. They are even still doing the whole "freedom fries" thing.
The Missus and I decided to split each joint's offering. At Geno's we got a steak "wit" (onions) and cheese whiz. It was about 9 bucks. Here she is.
At Geno's the beef is left in slices, not chopped up as per usual with cheese steaks. The cheese whiz is placed under the meat and the onions are on top. The onions are diced and cooked through but still toothsome, not much caramelization. It should be noted that the onions seem to be cooked independently from the beef and placed on top during sandwich assembly. The bread is an Italian style hoagie roll with a chewy crust and airy crumb. The grease is copious and free flowing, but not in a badway. Mrs. Dave immediately voiced her approval of this form of sandwich.
We had been lucky enough to score a table at Geno's (perpetually crowded) so I left the wife and daughter munching on the remaining heel of the sandwich and ambled over to Pat's to see how the other half lives. Pat's is a little more subdued in decor than Geno's, none of the flash and a little bit more of a nuts and bolts operation. They give you some instructions on how to order a sammitch so you don't get yelled at.
Pat's is not shy about being the "originator" of the cheese steak. I picture Pat nightly shaking his fist across the intersection at the upstart operation that is Geno's.
I decided to get provolone on the Pat's for a little change of pace. Here is the Pat's steak. Notice the ketchup on half. Mrs. Dave is a hardcore ketchup fiend from way back and would not think to eat anything served betwixt bread without a dollop of the crimson goo. It should be said that the fact that Geno's offers Heinz and Pat's Huntz could have tilted her preference towards Geno's. She is a bonafide Heinz lady.
On my return trip it was pretty clear that it would not be the best idea to sit at the Geno's table and eat a Pat's sub, so we took this one to the car for consumption.
The meat on Pat's steak is chopped up and the onions seem to be cooked a bit more and mixed into the beef during cooking. A couple half rounds of fairly sharp provolone are placed on the bread before the beef. The only melting that occurs is through contact with the hot meat so the cheese maintains its form. I found the bread to be similar to Geno's but a little (dare I say it?) less fresh. It didn't have the same pleasant chewiness. Also, Pat's hands you your cheese steak on a square of wax paper as opposed to wrapped up like Geno's. If you are not careful, you will spill a torrent of beef grease onto your pants whilst holding the thing and walking. Trust me, I have a ruined pair of pants that serve as a testament to this fact.
Before my final thoughts, a note on condiments. Both locations have a stainless steel cart with serve yourself accoutrement for the cheese steak. The one pictured here is Pat's.
Both places have ketchup, mustard, and all you can eat cherry peppers. Unique to each is that Geno's offers a signature hot sauce (pretty spicy) and Pat's has these chiles.
I found this to be an interesting and pleasant surprise at Pat's. These are dried chiles in oil, not something I would have thought to throw on a sandwich but it is pretty ingenious. Should I ever open a sandwich shop this will be offered.
So which one did I like best you ask? The sandwiches weren't really that different in terms of quality but I would have to say I like Geno's better. Pat's was pretty good, but not leaps and bounds above your work-a-day cheese steak that you could find right here in the Capital Region. The Geno's cheese steak seemed to me a little more unique. I liked the pleasing greasiness of the intact slices of thin beef and the hearty chew of the bread. If you are ever in that neck of the woods I recommend that you do what we did and try both.
Anyhow, we did a little sight seeing in Philadelphia prior to the sandwiches and happened upon the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile at a red light. As we were stopped next to the blessed vehicle, Mrs. Dave (bless her heart) managed only to capture this image as proof.
Anyhow, Philadelphia seemed to be my kind of city. It was dirty, gritty (in parts), and working class but with a visceral since of history (not to mention a fiercely proud populous). Philly seems to operate within the same plane of America that I do (it is not quite Upstate America, but it is close).