Travel & Food

A Cheesesteak Is a Hug in Sandwich Form

When our MLK weekend plans fell through, the Complimentary Spouse and I called an audible and booked a last-minute trip to Philadelphia. Not only would it give us a chance to catch up with good friends, but also the opportunity to scarf down as many cheesesteaks as possible in 48 hours.

So, how many cheesesteaks did we eat? Three. I know you’re dying to know all about them, so keep reading.

A Trip to Fishtown

On Saturday, we got together with our friends Chris and Ashley. We met them several years ago in, of all places, a microbrewery in Reykjavik and bonded immediately because Chris, Ashley, and Britt all come from Alabama.

After doing a few touristy things1 and catching up over (many) drinks, Chris and Ashley took us to Joe’s Steaks & Soda Shop in the Fishtown neighborhood. Britt and I shared a traditional cheesesteak with provolone. It was everything a cheesesteak should be: warm, melty, and comforting. The waitress brought some pickles to the table, so I tried a few on my cheesesteak for some zing and texture. I wasn’t disappointed.

We enjoyed our second cheesesteaks at lunch on Sunday. We went to a place called Carmen’s Famous Italian Hoagies & Cheesesteaks in Reading Terminal Market. Here’s a short video I made about the experience:

Britt ordered a regular cheesesteak, but I opted for a special called the Franklin which tweaks the traditional recipe by adding cream cheese. (I assume it’s Philadelphia cream cheese because, well, you know, it’s Philadelphia.) The cream cheese paired well with the provolone and provided a little extra zip and creaminess. Britt and I felt our cheesesteaks were worth the long wait in line and the hassle of finding seating.

A Cheesesteak Before Leaving

We ate our third cheesesteak on Monday. We arrived at the airport a little early, and there was a place called Chickie’s & Pete’s near our gate. We saw cheesesteaks on the menu and decided to split one more on the way out of town.

Airport food is always a crapshoot, but this cheesesteak was pretty good. It ranked behind the other two we ate on our trip, but it was better than anything you’d find here in Florida. It ticked all the boxes: flavorful beef, melted provolone, soft bread that didn’t fall apart. I have no complaints.

Every Philly Cheesesteak Is a Winner

Cheesesteaks in Philadelphia are a work of art. In other cities, cheesesteaks are hit and miss — sometimes you’ll find an OK one, but usually the meat-to-cheese ratio is off, or the bread falls apart, or the sandwich is too thick. In Philadelphia, they nail it every time. They take a few simple ingredients and transform them into comfort and delight. I get the feeling that making a cheesesteak in Philadelphia isn’t just a job — it’s a source of civic pride.

Philadelphia, keep your grills hot. We’ll be back soon and, when we do, we’ll be ready to eat every cheesesteak we see.

1 Is there anything more touristy than this photo?