I’ve been assigned to work in Philly for the next six month’s and of course, you can’t begin to do a proper food tour of any city without making the proper food pilgrimages to the host cities most famous eateries, right? So naturally my first stop was for some Philly cheesesteaks, but it was a toss up decision between the iconic Geno’s Steaks or Pat’s. I went for the shiny neon lights of Geno’s, figuring that I’ll come back on an empty stomach for Pat’s another evening soon.
Upon arriving in the South Philly neighborhood where both of these famous restaurants reside, I marveled at how the two were positioned right across the street from one and other. It almost seems crazy that these two legendary food rivals would have choose, or just ended up occupying a pointy street corner that looks like a food “face off”. Much like two giant adversarial fingers pointed at each other, I’ve certainly never seen anything like it in the food world anywhere else.
As I walked up to the neon lit Geno’s, I said to myself: “this is going to be the day that I raise my bar for cheesesteaks, Philly’s Best, here’s the real Philly’s Best!” I ordered up the classic cheesesteak, wit’ onions and wiz, it was about $9. Business seemed light, maybe even a bit slow that night, and the much reported “rude” or “impatient” service that I’ve heard so much about, was actually quite polite and *almost* even friendly, maybe they just don’t like drunks & blowhards who walk in expecting speaking menus working at at the counters, I know, goofy huh?
Anyway, my benchmark cheessteak has long been a place called “Philly’s Best” in Chicago. The owner, a Philadelphia native takes enormous pride in the fact that he brings his steak meat & Amoroso soft rolls directly to Chicago from Philly, where he in turn serves up some pretty mean cheesesteaks to us Windy City schumcks.
Now it’s been said, that I apparently have a somewhat curious and predictable M.O (Modis Operandi) in my blog posts. It generally consists of me constructing in my head a vision, where a restaurant is built up in my mind of what I should expect and how ultimately my restaurant experience should be. “It’s unreasonable to set such high expectations for a place”, or so I was told by none other than Sweet Baby Ray himself.
Yet, when the reality of that first bite wafts across my tongue, and the foods aroma crosses into my sizable nasal passages forming a sensory bond that becomes a taste memory imprint, the wheels in my head are put in motion, I can't help it. The imprint get processed immediately, it gets crosschecked against my mental database of mental expectations, other previous taste imprints for that type of food. It’s at this crucial point that I’m magically dealt an opinion my brain, one that is all too often generally negative and conveys disappointment; this night the brain result returned this:
“Geno’s simply didn’t deliver you the goods”.
It wasn’t because the bright neon lights “wowed” me, or that the counter experience offended, in the end Geno’s came up short because it just didn't taste great, and it certainly didn’t raise my bar for cheessteaks at all. In fact, it kind of fell beneath my expected bar.
I later came to find out from a few Philly natives that I was not alone in that assessment, and that of the next big four places I had started out near the bottom, so did this mean there was a positive outlook in this lackluster experience? Could there be a potential silver lining? Maybe even a happy ending? I don’t know, but next up are Pat’s, Tony Luke’s & Jim’s Steaks, so something's bound to impress.