Philadelphia, PA - Jim Pappas was busy this year, trying out over 500 different cheesesteaks in the last 21 months. On May 16, 2018, Jim started his Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure to find the Ultimate Cheesesteak in and around the Philadelphia region. His search has taken as far west as Reading, North to Princeton, and South to Bear, DE.
He was heckled twice, threatened to be sued once (by a day drinking patron), and most surprised that most, almost all, of the people were uninterested in the man taking selfies with and video of his cheesesteak.
Jim Pappas Best ‘20 Cheesesteaks You Should Try in 2020
While Jim hasn't eaten every cheesesteak in the region yet, he has eaten over 500 cheesesteaks and came up with a list of the best ‘20 cheesesteaks you should try in 2020. Including the ‘Best Overall’ cheesesteak this year, and it is number 1 on the list.
For the fans of the 480 spot, that did not make a list! Jim Says, “I look forward to your creative and descriptive comments, but please leave my hair out of it. I still haven’t found a haircut I like, so I am a little sensitive.”
So, without further delay, in numerical order and saving the most significant categories for the end, Jim Pappa’s ‘20 cheesesteaks you should eat in 2020’ list.
Jim Pappa’s ‘20 Cheesesteaks List
20. Next Celebrity Chef Cheesesteak
WFT? Where’s the Food? Food truck, 1543 Parkway Ave W, Trenton, NJ
Tim McRae will become a household name and celebrity chef, with the WTF, Where's The Food? Food truck. Tim has turned a food truck and an empty gas station lot into a Cheesesteak Nirvana, complete with entertainment in the form of Tim talking over the outdoor speaker. Tim has a special sauce that he doesn't talk about except to say, ‘I have a special sauce.’ This cheesesteak is delicious and made with love. Bonus, it comes with french fries. Time is an example of how you don't need to start with a lot to build something great. Most importantly, he makes a great cheesesteak.
Link to Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure at WFT? Where’s the Food? YouTube video;
YouTube Video Link: Https://youtu.be/M78bVNbDdTY
19. Best Vegan Cheesesteak
Founding Fathers Sports Bar & Grill, 1612 South St, Philadelphia, PA
It was my fourth vegan Cheesesteak and my favorite. It was almost like a cheesesteak, and I found the seitan had a mushroom-like composition. I like mushrooms, so I loved them. If, after eating your vegan Cheesesteak, you might feel the need for traditional cheesesteak meat, you're in luck. You can get the Cheesesteak egg rolls and the cheesesteak fries.
Link to Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure at Founding Fathers Sports Bar YouTube video;
YouTube Video Link: Https://youtu.be/TbhORfQL03A
18. Best Cheesesteak on the Mainline
DiBruno Bros. Ardmore Farmers Market, 120 Coulter Ave, Ardmore, PA 19003
A Mainline Cheesesteak, with plenty to brag about. I tried the DB Cheesesteak, and it's a great cheesesteak. However, It does have a few Mainline problems; 1. Small plate portion. 2. The roll is fantastic; however, a little too big for the amount of meat.
Link to Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure at DiBruno Bros YouTube video;
YouTube Video Link: Https://youtu.be/cjiTYj3EKIM
17. ‘Back in Time’ Cheesesteak
Zandy’s Steak Shop, 813 St John St, Allentown, PA
Take a step back in time, cheesesteak. This Cheesesteak takes you back to the 1950s & ’60s. The wall’s in Zandy’s have awesome memorabilia, full of both athletes and movie stars. I have noticed the Lehigh Valley has its unique twist for making cheesesteaks. They use a soft roll. It's still a torpedo roll but soft. They also put sauce on their cheesesteaks. Zandy makes a small cheesesteak, so you might want to consider getting 2.
Link to Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure at Zandy’s Steak Shop YouTube video;
YouTube Video Link: Https://youtu.be/f7oAI-btDt0
16. Best Flat Steak Cheesesteak
Steve’s Prince of Steaks, 7200 Bustleton Ave, Philadelphia, PA
Yes, I am pandering to the flat steak, also known as ribbons, society. Steve's Prince of steaks is my go-to ribbon cheesesteak. It is something about their cheese. I also prefer their original location on Bustleton Pike.
Link to Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure at Steve’s Prince of Steaks YouTube video;
YouTube Video Link: Https://youtu.be/PIwdlc-kOL0
15. Anytown USA Dining Experience Cheesesteak
Kitty’s Luncheonette, 2721 E Somerset St, Philadelphia, PA
I am pretty sure Aunt Bea and Opie we're sitting at a table near me. If you want to feel like you could be in any small town anywhere in the United States but not leave Port Richmond, Kitty's luncheonette is the place for you. In the front room is a counter, complete with locals talking about the day's events, that could have been in any small town, USA. In the backroom, I felt like I was in Kitty’s dining room. Kitty’s in her 90s, so the next generation is doing a lot of the day-to-day stuff. They are doing Kitty very proud. They care about the place and the food. Everything, food, and people work very well together at Kitty’s.
Link to Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure at Kitty’s Luncheonette YouTube video;
YouTube Video Link: Https://youtu.be/h04VqwadY-c
14. When you have to pretend to be classy, Cheesesteak
Yardley Inn, 82 E Afton Ave, Yardley, PA
We have to, at some point, for whatever reason, pretend we are chic and sophisticated. Here is your place for some sophistication while still enjoying a delicious cheesesteak and beer. Plus, you can stare out at the Delaware River while you pretend to be interested in the conversation. Yardley is $16, but it is delicious, big, and comes with french fries.
Link to Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure at Yardley Inn YouTube video;
YouTube Video Link: Https://youtu.be/X3JtRQCY_6Q
13. Best ‘Down the Shore’ Cheesesteak
A & LP Foods, 101 E 15th Ave, Wildwood, NJ
It was a little off-season at the shore, but A & LP was in peak form. We got ‘the Bom.’ A cheesesteak with Salami, provolone, and a long hot. Everything was in perfect balance and blended very well together. The seeded roll started you off right and held everything together magnificently. You can eat at A & LP or take your cheesesteak to one local brewery or distillery, as I did.
Link to Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure at A&L P Foods YouTube video;
YouTube Video Link: Https://youtu.be/fLOYtzT7M4o
12. Deep-Fried Game-Changing Cheesesteak
Hoagie Xpress, 5426 Bristol Emilie Rd, Levittown, PA
When I heard Hoagie Xpress had a deep-fried cheesesteak, I made it a priority to get there, and I am glad I did for this juicy cheesesteak. The meat was very flavorful. I'm assuming the deep-frying helps hold the juice and flavor in the meat, plus It comes with wiz on the side. One of the best things about this Cheesesteak is that it keeps the Heat. I waited a little bit to eat this Cheesesteak, and it was still hot to the touch. $8.50, that’s right, $8.50. Bonus video below because they have a very lengthy and tasty list of cheesesteak concoctions.
Link to Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure at Hoagie Xpress YouTube video;
YouTube Video Link: Https://youtu.be/LCbPz7ZFHjI
YouTube Video Link: Https://youtu.be/YaAl74r8K7A
11. Riverside Dining Cheesesteak
Shank’s Original, 901 S Christopher Columbus Blvd, Philadelphia, PA
I am always surprised when I drive down Columbus Boulevard on a beautiful day, and I don't see people lined up at Shanks. It is a delicious Cheesesteak, and you sit by the Delaware River to enjoy it. It is outside seating. There is a pier, so you're not actually on the river. But what the heck, it's a delicious cheesesteak, you're sitting by the river, and you're not getting hit over the head with price, Plus you can park your car right there. Double plus, your vehicle is right there and if you have a travel mug in your car with your favorite beverage, grab it. Sit by the river, eat a perfect cheesesteak, drink whatever you brought, and you don't get killed on price—no brainer to me.
Link to Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure at Shank’s Original YouTube video;
YouTube Video Link: Https://youtu.be/0hRra3u-pJc
10. Best Cheesesteak in Delco
Johnny Paisano’s, 226 Baltimore Pike, Springfield, PA
Ok, this is a very, very good cheesesteak. If Johnny weren’t such a great caterer, everyone would be talking about his cheesesteak. It starts with a very, very good seeded roll and gets better from there. Johnny knows good ingredients, he knows how to get them to work together, and every cheesesteak shows how much he loves to cook for people. It was my 400th cheesesteak, and I had special guest eater Mike Opelka with me.
Link to Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure at Johnny Paisano’s YouTube video;
YouTube Video Link: Https://youtu.be/uatWqPyzjwM
9. Best Papi/Bodega Store Cheesesteak
Girard Mini Market, 2901 W Girard Ave, Philadelphia, PA
I am amazed at the size and quality of a Cheesesteak you can get for $4.50. Bodega and Papi store, whatever you call it, this is a good one. I have found that the difference between a good cheesesteak and a great cheesesteak is how much care/love the grill person puts into the cheesesteak. At Girard Mini Market, they care about making a good cheesesteak, and it comes through in every cheesesteak.
Link to Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure at Girard Mini Market YouTube video;
YouTube Video Link: Https://youtu.be/6588jf1A3Ug
8. Best ‘Not a Cheesesteak’ Cheesesteak
Pastrami & Things, 24 S 18th St, Philadelphia, PA
Kimchi Bulgogi cheesesteak, this could be my new recreational cheesesteak and a Cheesesteak with Pizzazz. I think of the Oldsmobile commercials where the traditional Cheesesteak is your dad's Oldsmobile, and then the bulgogi kimchi Cheesesteak is the new, hip, trendy, fun, and techno equipped cheesesteak.
Link to Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure at Pastrami & Things YouTube video;
YouTube Video Link: Https://youtu.be/NGpD3hRDh4o
7. ‘Made exactly the way I love a Cheesesteak’ Cheesesteak
Prima’s Pizza & Pasta, 7454 Lancaster Pike, Hockessin, DE
I genuinely believe they did some Vulcan Mind Melt on me. Prima’s makes their cheesesteaks precisely the way I would make a cheesesteak. Prima's is a traditional pizza shop. Sweet Standard Pizza Shop roll with a good crust and nice edible bread. The meat was plentiful, chopped, and slightly seasoned. They mixed a perfect amount of cheese thoroughly with the meat and extras. The extras spent a reasonable amount of time on the grill with the meat, and everyone got to know each other and blend their flavors perfectly.
Link to Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure at Prima’s Pizza & Pasta YouTube video;
YouTube Video Link: Https://youtu.be/ujxNB5EUQxU
6. Cheesesteak Pretzel Log, Cheesesteak Plan B, and Donuts
Amish Market, 1165 Wilmington Pike, West Chester, PA
Do yourself a favor and find a reason to go to West Chester on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. The pretzel log cheesesteak. It is pretzel dough used like an egg roll wrapper. Very nice. It adds much flavor without overpowering the cheesesteak and is pretty darn tasty. What's that? Someone in your group isn't feeling adventurous. No worries. Turn right, cross the aisle and order a regular cheesesteak from H&L Grill. Hopefully, they are brave enough to get the Amish steak sauce on their cheesesteak. I find it to be like a sweet light barbecue sauce. Once everyone's done their cheesesteaks, turn around and walk the five steps to be Beiler’s Donuts.
Link to Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure at Westtown Amish Market YouTube video;
YouTube Video Link: Https://youtu.be/GNBkfCrIRZ4
YouTube Video Link: Https://youtu.be/u3NBfyE_ycQ
5. Best Cheesesteak in Reading Terminal
By George!, 1200 Filbert St, Philadelphia, PA
By George!, the clear winner of several Reading Terminal Cheesesteak Smack Downs. Carrying a By George! Cheesesteak in one hand and a contending cheesesteak in the other while walking back to my seat in the center court seating area, I could always feel the weight difference in the By George! Cheesesteak. I also got a By George! Cheesesteak when they were having a joint promotion with Hershel's Deli, The Pastrami Cheesesteak. It had the perfect amount of pastrami added to their cheesesteak. Suburbanites, I will now give you the gift that is the Reading Terminal Market. Two parking garages have parking deals with Reading Terminal, $4, or $5 for two hours of parking when you spend $10 in Reading Terminal. Reading Terminal should be a mandatory field trip for adult Suburbanites, much like going to the Liberty Bell, Franklin Institute, and Betsy Ross's house was when we were in elementary school.
Link to Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure at By George! YouTube video;
YouTube Video Link: Https://youtu.be/X9om53Ws-bo
4. ‘Peanuts on a cheesesteak’ Cheesesteak
Ugly Oyster Drafthaus, 21 S 5th St, Reading, PA
Reading, PA, peanuts, ugly oyster, cheesesteak; you say, ‘egh’ with a sour puss face. With a big grin, I say ‘the most fun I've had with clothes on in a long time,’ and I am old, so my long time is longer than your long time. When I got the menu and saw peanuts as an extra option ($0.75) for the cheesesteaks, I apologized to the bartender for taking a long time choosing a beer and asking her for a real menu. She said they do put peanuts on cheesesteaks. After some banter, she convinced me to try peanuts on my cheesesteak, and I'm glad I did.
Link to Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure at Ugly Oyster Drafthaus YouTube video;
YouTube Video Link: Https://youtu.be/YpgA6l8ZIIE
3. Special Occasion Cheesesteak
Barclay Prime Philadelphia, 237 S 18th St, Philadelphia, PA.
The infamous $125 cheesesteak!. Made with Japanese Wagyu beef and a house-made cheese sauce, and did I mention it's better than any other meat in the world. I have a picture of a Japanese Wagyu filet next to a USDA prime filet, and it is by far superior. The cheese sauce flows straight from heaven. The cheesesteak comes cut in thirds and with a half bottle of champagne. This Cheesesteak is so rich you want/need to share it. Is it worth $125? I don't know. But I do know this is the most fantastic thing you will ever put in your mouth, and if you're going into the city for a special occasion, this is the only way to start or end your day.
Link to Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure at Barclay Prime YouTube video;
YouTube Video Link: Https://youtu.be/FM5TD-yw2jQ
2. Historic Cheesesteak
McGillin’s Olde Ale House, 1310 Drury St, Philadelphia, PA
I will call this the ‘Learn their story, and you’ll love them more’ cheesesteak because every time I go to McGillin's, I find a new reason to love it. The best part of that statement is that I still haven't gotten my free bowl of soup (lunchtime), and I love free. 1860 is when they poured their first beer. 1860, let that sink in. Abraham Lincoln was President. They have an original sign on the wall. $5 drafts. Mostly from Pennsylvania Brewers. Why $5 selections, because drinking drafts is greener than drinking out of bottles and cans. They have employees (plural) that have worked there for 20+ years. More couples have met at McGillin’s than any other place in Philly. Go for the history, stay for the food and go back to find a new reason to love McGillin’s. Suppose you are from out of town (or local, I grabbed 2) free postcards. They will even stamp it and mail it to you.
Link to Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure at McGillin’s Olde Ale House YouTube video;
YouTube Video Link: Https://youtu.be/Qy5OC-9MXkM
1. Best Overall Cheesesteak
Charlie’s Roast Pork, 1301 S 3rd St, Philadelphia, PA
A natural choice for the best overall cheesesteak. It starts with a beautiful seeded roll—good crust and light edible bread. The meat is chopped, juicy, and tender. When I went to Charlie's, I paid respect to their roast pork heritage and got broccoli rabe and provolone on my cheesesteak. They make phenomenal broccoli rabe. Always the right amount of cheese and cheese melt. Plenty of seating, and the staff is pleasurable and a joy to be around. You can choose to enjoy your cheesesteak in the adjacent Pennsport beer boutique. Half-price Growlers on Mondays is a good thing.
Link to Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure at Charlie’s Roast Pork YouTube video;
YouTube Video Link: Https://youtu.be/4gd3jAvh2P0
For everyone with a double-secret excellent place that I haven’t been to, please let me know where it is, and I will add it to my list of places to go.
Find Jim on Social media on Facebook at Philadelphia Cheesteak Adventure, Instagram – @cheesesteakadventure @ridesharejim, website - www.philadelphiacheesesteakadventure.com, and Youtube channel - Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure.
Philadelphia's Best of Cheesesteaks Awards 2019 - Jim Pappas has eaten over 280 different cheesesteaks in just one year. Jim started gaining notoriety on Indie Philly Radios' popular "Dining on a Dime" as a regular guest on the show. Jim has been featured on Fox Philly's morning show, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and becoming a regular contributor to Philly Bite Magazine.
The Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure - Hi, my name is Jim Pappas, and I have eaten hundreds of different cheesesteaks in the last year. A year ago, on May 16, 2018, I started my Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure to find the ultimate cheesesteak. To see more great cheesesteak places, check out my website at The Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure.