How to Order a Philly Cheesesteak at an Authentic Philadelphia Sandwich Restaurant

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Tourists know they have to get an authentic Philly cheesesteak when they visit Philadelphia. Most even find their way to one of the two most famous sandwich shops--Pat's and Geno's Steaks. What many tourists don't realize, though, is that there is a very specific way to order a real Philly Cheesesteak. The lines at these restaurants are generally very long, and the ordering process has been turned into a highly efficient, assembly line procedure that keeps the lines moving at exceptional speed. Not knowing the proper Philly cheesesteak ordering procedure not only makes a tourist stand out as an outsider, it also slows the progress of the line considerably.

  • Go to either Pat's or Geno's Steaks. They are the most famous, and for good reason. Though most Philadelphians have an allegiance to one, either is an excellent choice. They are located caddy corner from each other at the intersection of 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue.

  • Get in line. Don't be dismayed by the length of the line. It moves at an incredible speed, so even if there are 20 people ahead of you, you shouldn't have to wait long.

  • Expect to order your meal in two phases. At the first window, you will order your Philly cheesesteak. At the second window, you order French fries, other sides, and your beverage.

  • Skip the friendly greeting at the window and don't expect one. Your Philly cheesesteak order should consist of exactly three words. The first word is a number, indicating how many cheesesteaks you want. So, if you want one, the first word is "One." The second word indicates the type of cheese you want on your sandwich. The third and final word is either "with" or "without," indicating your preference for fried onion. So, an order for the most authentic Philly cheesesteak would simply be, "One, whiz, with." That's it.

  • Take your cheesesteak, which will be handed to you in a matter of second. Move down to the second window, where you can order other items and pay for your meal.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you're ordering multiple Philly cheesesteaks that are all the same, just use your first word to indicate the quantity. If you want several that are different, order them separately, but stick to the three-word formula for each variation.
  • Pat's King of Steaks is credited as the originator of the authentic Philly cheesesteak, invented by the founding brothers Pat and Harry Olivieri in 1933.
  • Besides Pat's and Geno's, two other well-known places to get an authentic Philly cheesesteak are Rick's Steaks, found in the famous Reading Terminal Market, and Jim's Steaks at the corner of 4th and South Streets.
  • Photo Credit Underphl/Andrew Davidson
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