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Pat's King of Steaks

1237 E. Passyunk, Philadelphia, PA - (215) 468-1546
Posted By Michael Stern on 12/12/2007 1:12:00 PM
Pat’s has no wine list, no silverware, and no maitre d’; but it has ambience galore. Observe the splattered hot sauce underfoot, the dropped and crushed French fries on the sidewalk. Listen to the rumble of trucks going past on their way to or from the Italian market. Smell the mingling of cheap after-shave lotion and fancy fragrances on customers in line – both aromas overwhelmed, as the line approaches the take-out window, by the powerhouse aroma of steak and onions sizzling on a hot grill. Dining facilities are quite comfortable, if you are comfortable standing up. At Pat’s the dining room is the sidewalk, and experienced customers have perfected a slightly bent-forward posture as they stand and eat, thus ensuring that drippage hits the concrete rather than their shoes.

Pat Olivieri invented the cheese steak in 1930. His family continues to operate the restaurant, and while connoisseurs enjoy debating the merits of the city’s many cheese steak restaurants (some operated by renegades from Pat’s own family), this joint’s shaved-beef-and-cheese sandwiches on serious Italian bread have stood for over half a century as the benchmark. This original Philly sandwich is oily, salty, meaty, i.e. everything nutrition prigs dislike. Thin flaps of less-than-prime beef are sizzled on a grill alongside onions and hefted into a roll (with or without some of those onions), then a trowel of melted Cheese Whiz is dripped on top. That's the classic steak sandwich. Peppers, mushrooms, pizza sauce, and extra cheese are all extra-cost options; and if you wish to dude it up further, there are big glass jars with hot sauce and peppers: near the take-out windows.

It is a combination of plebeian ingredients that transcend their lowly status and become something … if not aristocratic, then certainly distinguished. Side your sandwich with a cup full of cheese fries (French fries blanketed with more of that melted Whiz), and eat standing up on the sidewalk under harsh lights: for our money, there isn’t a meal in Philadelphia that can beat it.

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4 - Overall: One of the Best - Worth a Trip
Overall: One of the Best - Worth a Trip
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

A Pat's cheesesteak with Whiz and onions.  This 2008 edition of a Pat's steak was particularly good.
"A Pat's cheesesteak with Whiz and onions. This 2008 edition of a Pat's steak was particularly good."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle





The original Philadelphia cheese steak, an American classic
"The original Philadelphia cheese steak, an American classic"
Michael Stern


A nice addition to the basic sandwich: mushrooms. Also, this one was made with provolone instead of Whiz. Extra peppers and hot sauce are available for customers to pile on.
"A nice addition to the basic sandwich: mushrooms. Also, this one was made with provolone instead of Whiz. Extra peppers and hot sauce are available for customers to pile on."
Michael Stern


A look into the grill of the originator.
"A look into the grill of the originator."
Pete Duval


Heaps of steak and onions await assembly.
"Heaps of steak and onions await assembly. "
Jack Barry


These instructions are no joke. Say your order correctly, or run the risk of ridicule from the counter men and experienced steak eaters waiting to order theirs. Note the photos on the ceiling. Like most Delaware Valley sandwich shops, Pat's primary form of decoration is 8x10s of celebs who love the place, family, and friends.
"These instructions are no joke. Say your order correctly, or run the risk of ridicule from the counter men and experienced steak eaters waiting to order theirs. Note the photos on the ceiling. Like most Delaware Valley sandwich shops, Pat's primary form of decoration is 8x10s of celebs who love the place, family, and friends."
Michael Stern


This commemorative plaque, honoring the movie Rocky, filmed in the neighborhood, is on the sidewalk at Pat's. No one seems to mind dripping Cheez Whiz on it while they eat.
"This commemorative plaque, honoring the movie Rocky, filmed in the neighborhood, is on the sidewalk at Pat's. No one seems to mind dripping Cheez Whiz on it while they eat."
Michael Stern


A view through the steamy, splattered window shows a big pile of cooked, hacked beef.
"A view through the steamy, splattered window shows a big pile of cooked, hacked beef."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


The left side of the grill holds raw beef, thinly sliced and freshly laid on the hot surface.
"The left side of the grill holds raw beef, thinly sliced and freshly laid on the hot surface."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Memorial Day '08 shows Pat's with a new sign.  Most customers are probably at the beach or barbecueing in their own backyards.
"Memorial Day '08 shows Pat's with a new sign. Most customers are probably at the beach or barbecueing in their own backyards."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


The Mural Arts Program was started in the 1980's as a way to combat graffiti.  Today there are over 2700 of these murals in Philadelphia.  We combined our cheesesteak expedition with a casual tour of some of these works of street art.  This mural is across the street from Pat's.  Done by artist Peter Pagast, it features portraits of South Philly musical legends Fabian, Bobby Rydell, Al Martino, Eddie Fisher, Frankie Avalon, Chubby Checker, and Jerry Blavat.  For more info on the Mural Arts Program, see http://www.muralarts.org/.
"The Mural Arts Program was started in the 1980's as a way to combat graffiti. Today there are over 2700 of these murals in Philadelphia. We combined our cheesesteak expedition with a casual tour of some of these works of street art. This mural is across the street from Pat's. Done by artist Peter Pagast, it features portraits of South Philly musical legends Fabian, Bobby Rydell, Al Martino, Eddie Fisher, Frankie Avalon, Chubby Checker, and Jerry Blavat. For more info on the Mural Arts Program, see http://www.muralarts.org/."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle



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