Wizard World 2014: Your local cheesesteak guide

Posted: June 19, 2014

FIRST THINGS FIRST. Here in Philly, we spell our signature sandwich in one word, not two. We sometimes shorten it to "steak." You, know, like "Angel." Or Whoopi.

(We don't call it a "Philly." You shouldn't, either.)

Steak slingers operate all over town. They ply their wares "wit" or "witout" sauteed onions, with cheese - usually sharp provolone or gooey goldish "Whiz," as in "Cheez." Add hot peppers for free.

Here's a list of where to find 'em, in order of closest to the Con.

Really close

* READING TERMINAL

Gotta get one for breakfast? This is your spot. Coming for lunch? Get in line. Most vendors open about 8 a.m. Sunday.

Carmen's (215-592-7799)

Just beyond Beiler's Donuts at 12th and Arch (try to resist a peanut butter cream), this spot does basic steaks right, and sells decent hoagies (a/k/a heroes/subs/grinders), too.

By George (215-829-9391)

A more all-of-the-above Italian vendor, this busy takeout-ery also offers eggplant parm, pasta, Caesar salad and a friendly 'tude. Avoid masses by entering on Filbert Street side.

Spataro's (215-925-6833) 

At the very center of the market, near the big bronze pig. Not the best-reviewed place in town, but authentic enough.

Between 11th and 12th, Filbert and Arch streets, 215-922-2317, readingterminalmarket.org.

Kinda close

* OLD CITY

The upside to traveling 10-ish blocks for lunch? You pass Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell (on your right) and the Constitution Center (to the left). A nice walk. Or, hop the Market-Frankford El, or the Nos. 17, 33 or 48 buses along Market Street ($2.25 each way).

Campo's

Brings South Philly uptown, thanks to crusty rolls (opt for sesame-seeded) from Sarcone's Bakery and, should you wish, broccoli rabe and sharp provolone. Offers vegan and veggie options, too.

214 Market St., 215-923-1000, camposdeli.com.

Sonny's

GQ magazine said their steaks were Philly's finest. But don't take their word for it. Open until 3 a.m. weekends, other nights until 10 p.m. For non-steak-eaters, there's a double-grilled cheese on brioche.

228 Market St, 215-629-5760, sonnyscheesesteaks.com.

Not so far

* ACROSS BROAD (STREET)

The blocks west of Broad are best known for fancier spots. But you can still score steaks there, too.

Steve's Prince of Steaks

A window for steaks, a window for fries, curbside delivery and late hours - midnight during the week, 3 a.m. on weekends - make this kiosk competitive with South Philly's dominators.

41 S. 16th St., 215-972-6090, stevesprinceofsteaks.com.

A little farther * 

SOUTH STREET

About 10 blocks south of the Con, South Street has tattoo parlors, funky jewelry stores, sneaker shops, mosaic walls and a few spots to score steaks.

Jim's Steaks

Lines form early and often at this longtime staple, which does the basics as well as the next guy. (And sells beer, to boot.) Shop's original, circa-1939 West Philly location still operates, too, at 431 N. 62nd St.

400 South St., 215-928-1911, jimssteaks.com.

Ishkabibbles

Philly native popstress Pink is reportedly a fan of this pink-and-yellow joint, best known for its chicken cheesesteak but also beloved for its jalapeno fries and "Gremlins" (half grape juice, half lemonade).

327 South St., 215-923-4337, philacheesesteak.com.

Blackbird Pizzeria

Don't let the name fool you. Although their vegan pizza is tops, Blackbird's meat-and-dairy-free "steaks" - actually garlicky seitan with grilled onions, peppers and faux Whiz - have earned them props from cheesesteak elites.

507 S. 6th St., 215-625-6660, blackbirdpizzeria.com.

Fairly far * 

SOUTH PHILLY

Where it all began. At the end of 9th Street's Italian Market, a little more than a mile-and-a-half from the convention center, is neon-lit hallowed ground, picnic-table eating 24/7, and the place where the Geico gecko does the "cheesesteak shuffle." Take the 23 bus down 12th Street or the 47 down 8th Street. Come back on the 23 up 11th Street. (Cab fare each way is about $10, before tip, or you could walk through the Italian Market in about 30 minutes.)

Pat's King of Steaks

Started here in 1930 with a hotdog vendor, leftover meat and a dream. Still owned and operated by founder Pat Olivieri's family. Authentic. Order fast. There's someone in line behind you.

1237 S. 9th St., 215-468-1546, patskingofsteaks.com.

Geno's

As bright as any food-making operation's ever been, the late Joey Vento's pride and joy is an illuminated homage to sanitary food prep. Fun fact: Vento's son Geno was named after the business, not the other way around.

1219 S. 9th St., 215-389-0659, genosteaks.com.

Cosmi's Deli

Put it this way: This is where the locals go, and it's just a coupla blocks from the big guys. Open till 9 p.m., 8 p.m. Sundays.

8th and Dickinson streets, 215-468-6093, cosmideli.com.

Worth the trip

Some things merit a special effort. Take the Broad Street subway south or the 23 bus to Oregon, then transfer to the 7 bus (going east). Reverse directions back. Cab ride: About $15 each way.

Tony Luke's 

The question at this local fave isn't just if your ribeye should go wit or witout. It's whether you should also order a savory, succulent roast pork, the sandwich unofficially known as Philly's other signature meal-on-a-roll. Open till 2 a.m. weekends, 8 p.m. Sunday, midnight weeknights.

39 E. Oregon Ave., 215-551-5725, tonylukes.com.


On Twitter: @LaMcCutch

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