On a business trip to Philadelphia, I paid a visit to one of the city’s more reputed Cheesesteak joints, Steve’s Prince of Steaks, named to directly challenge on the of the leading cheesesteak places in Philly, Pat’s King of Steaks. There are many debates as to who has the best but Steve’s winds up on the top 5 lists and that’s good enough for me.
The place is almost entirely clad with stainless steel inside and brightly lit by fluorescent lights. The ambiance is almost hostile — “eat quickly and get the hell out”, it seems to be saying. There are 2 windows, one for ordering sandwiches and one for fries and drinks. You make separate orders with separate wait times and separate cashes. Place your order and step aside, then get called from the same window to pick up your order. I got called at the same time for each of my sandwich and my drink and one window was quite upset that they had to call my order twice. Oh well, their system, their problem.
There’s a very specific ordering protocol, kind of like the soup Nazi. If you say, “one American with”, you get a cheesesteak with American Cheese and onions. They roll their eyes and will not budge until you follow protocol. The default cheesesteak is made with Cheez Whiz (really!) and other variations include provolone and Swiss. You can also ask for mushrooms and roasted peppers on your sandwich. I order “one American with” and complete it with hot peppers and pickles at the toppings bar between the windows.
It’s delicious. It’s rich and meaty and the bun is soft. Definitely worth of being an iconic regional food. Beats the hell out of Chicago’s Italian Beef, which is a big WTF and the popularity of which is an utter mystery.
Steve’s is not just for tourists. The place is full of business people, ordering and sitting and eating or bringing back sandwiches for the office. The menu features cheesesteaks of course, but there are other things like burgers and hotdogs on the menu and an assortment of hoagies (subs for us Canucks), but every person who came into the place were ordering cheesesteaks.