I am a New Jersey native now in Georgia who gets to Philly at least once a year for a few days. I am truly a fan of Philadelphia and cheese steak sandwiches but....
I am continually amazed at the number of folks who rave about the twin towers of Pat's and Geno's. I realize that they lay claim to virtually inventing this species of sandwich, and while I value the tradition of these well lit establishments, I still think that they should win customers by producing a top steak rather than by simply being the Philly landmarks mentioned in all the guide books. In my opinion, Pat's (and Geno's) serve a clearly inferior sandwich to many lesser known places. Far superior steaks are served at many Philly area locations including Larry's near St Joe's, D'allesandro's, Leo's in Folcroft, and even a joint called Carmine's Parkside out in Eagle, PA.
What's wrong with Pat's ( and Geno's)?? Among other things:
1. Arrogance and laziness -- these guys don't work hard -- they don't chop up the meat because it is easier not to
2. Assembly line precooked meat -- no made to order here -- this is fast food
3. Onions, peppers, cheese, other ingredients are cooked separately (and also in advance). As a result there is none of the blending of flavors and spices in the cooking process so critical to a top quality "custom" steak.
4. There is inadequate meat for the size of the roll. The all-important meat-to-bread ratio is wrong!
5. If you don't go the, ugh, cheez wiz route, they don't even bother to melt the cheese slices
If these guys didn't have history and location on their side, they would simply not merit a second look with the many other truly great steak options in the Philadelphia area. I hate to admit that I actually prefer a steak from the Philly Connection chain in Georgia over those served at Pat's and Geno's.