Tag Archives: food

Pat’s vs Geno’s – The Philly Cheese steak Controversy

headtoheadI love a good controversy…AND I love a good sammich.  The thing with Philly Cheese steak goes way back to the old truism that you should ALWAYS eat the local specialty.  You will get the best of the best of everything.  So, while rolling through Philadelphia recently, my wife and I decided to fan the flames of controversy and do our own throw-down, head-to-head taste-test to uncover the BEST Philly Cheese steak.

There are Philly Cheese steak (PCS) joints all over Philadelphia – and all over the country for that matter.  But there are two that have been duking it out year after year – literally on opposite corners of the street in south Philadelphia.  Both CLAIM to be THE PCS.  Both have extremely loyal followings.  But is one really superior to the other?  Is there a discernable difference?  For the purpose of this taste-test, let’s just agree that this is totally unscientific – two people’s uneducated opinions based on the fact that we like good food. (Seriously, this is a white-hot controversial issue and no matter which way we go or what we say – there will be hate mail…lots and lots of hate mail).  But if you read this far, you care – so we press on.

PatsExteriorMy wife and I went to some lengths to even the playing field.  First of all, eating on the street corner in 90 degree weather can do a lot to sway your opinion.  And Pat’s and Geno’s have very different vibes in terms of décor (or lack thereof) and personality – can’t control that – so we got our sandwiches “to go”.  Each was “born” minutes apart – passing through the windows of Pat’s and Geno’s with exactly the same ingredients.  For the inexperienced, the Philly Cheese steak or PCS is not a complicated thing – and yet, if you haven’t had one from one or the other of these places…you really haven’t had one.  More on that in a moment.  There is only one proper combination of ingredients for a true PCS – grilled steak on a roll with Cheese Whiz and onions.  There is no mustard, there are no pickles, there is no lettuce, no hot sauce – nothin’.  Known as a “Whiz ‘wit” – that’s Philly slang and proper ordering etiquette for grilled steak on a roll with Cheese Whiz and onions – got it? Good, ‘cause you’re holdin’ up da line!  One can choose another type of cheese – say, provolone or Swiss, and I believe at least one of the places will add grilled mushrooms or peppers.  But why do you want to mess with perfection?  Whiz Wit – that’s all you gotta know.

PatsSammichSo, we get our sandwiches “to go” and we make them road ready for the ride back to DC – wrapped up in foil and inside an aluminum serving tray with a lid on it.  We went through the trouble of clearly marking which was which so as to not taint the results of the taste test – but after our analysis, I’m confident I could tell you which was which on sight – a subtle, yet important difference in the construction method that is a dead giveaway.  When we unwrapped the sandwiches, we noticed a couple of things immediately – Pat’s is a bigger sandwich – more STUFF in it.  Also, Pat’s slathers the top of the sandwich with cheese – Geno’s puts the cheese on first under the steak and the onions.  So, even after a couple of hours on the road, one is fairly neat and one is cheesy and gooey.  Believe it or not, the difference in the construction does seem to have an effect on the taste.  But we’re talking about Cheese Whiz here – it’s not even cheese – it’s a cheese “product” out of a can.  It’s not like it’s a fine-aged cheddar or a creamy brie – its Whiz wit a “Z”, baby.

Did I tell you this was going to be detailed? – because we picked these things apart for YOUR benefit.

Next up, the rolls.  Geno’s roll is a softer white bread kind of roll.  Pat’s is like crunchy, Italian-style bread.  Both are definitely fresh – and both good in their own way.  But again, THIS sammich is a sum of its parts.

Onions.  Grilled.  Onions are onions, right?  Nope.  Both are white onions and both are grilled with the steak.  Pat’s puts a fine chop on the onions, so they mix in more with the steak and the cheese – almost like the three elements become one yummy sammich goo.  Geno’s on the other hand features larger diced pieces, a little bit smaller than a postage stamp.  The larger size leaves you with a bit more oniony crunch in your sandwich.  (I’m making up all kinds of words here, but the PCS is a religious experience and I need a little latitude).

GenoExteriorFinally, steak.  You have to remember that every scrap of steak that comes out of either place is grilled on a flat-top grill that has had millions of steaks grilled on it.  Don’t discount that.  While I couldn’t say for sure, I think this is why you haven’t REALLY had a PCS unless it comes from one of these places.  Something about the juice and the kibbles and bits and char and mojo of a ba-jillion steaks affects the taste in a good way.  Next, Pat’s chops the steak up – so you get shards and pieces of steak.  It’s all steak – and I think it’s why the Pat’s sandwich looks bigger.  I doubt you get significantly more steak, but with it all chopped up, it makes for a “meatier” sandwich.  Geno’s, on the other hand, uses whole pieces of thinly sliced steak.  Also, in tasting the steak independent of the sandwich – Geno’s tastes like the meat is seasoned more than the Pat’s steak.  It might just be that whole pieces allow more surface area for the seasoning to hold on to.  My wife said that the Geno’s steak reminded her of Steak-um meat.  You want controversy – here it is.  In my opinion, the Geno’s steak is more tender.  Without a doubt, the Pat’s steak is chewier.  One theory – JUST A THEORY, a notion, whatever, easy there – Pat’s could be using a more inexpensive piece of meat, tougher meat, chopped up to make it more palatable and tender.  Less expensive meat = more on the sandwich = bigger sandwich.  And for a lot of people – that’s the key factor and Pat’s is a winner hands down.  (Man, I can just feel the rush of hatemail from the Pat’s loyalists coming my way for suggesting such a thing).

These are both the finest sandwiches known to humankind and both these joints are institutions in their own right.  Neither is going out of business anytime soon and each rakes in a ton of cash.  And it IS cash, because neither accepts credit cards.  I’d go out of my way – in fact, I DO go out of my way to get them.  If you haven’t tried them – make some excuse to go to Philadelphia and go do your own taste test.  At the end of a long, hot day in south Philly, I think there’s room for both.  And I think on any given day, I could see myself saying “Today, I’m in the mood for Pat’s” or “I think I’ll have Geno’s today”.  Each sandwich has its own unique taste despite being essentially made of the same ingredients.  In the interest of full disclosure, I was worried that I’d be biased to go with Pat’s.  Pat’s is what I’ve had before.  Pat’s was my first PCS.  It’s consistently great.  Pat’s just FEELS like the “People’s cheese steak” – numero uno, the original.  Geno’s has a lot of flash and personality – lots of neon and a million pictures of Joey Vento, the owner, with every celebrity that ever ate a PCS lining the walls.  Always seemed to me that they were trying to make up for some inferiority.  If they thought they had to try so hard, they must know something is up – why am I gonna break my neck to cross a busy street for #2, right?  Well, it was worth the trip across the street.  GENO’S WINS.  The combination of the soft, fresh roll, the tender steak, the crunchy onions and the cheese on the bottom tying it all together worked for us.  Pat’s seemed tougher.  Everything chopped up and mixed together created kind of a gooey mixture – that, while still great – didn’t give you enough definition of flavors to set it apart.


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The Mayo Debates

I got no time for mayonnaise.

Back in high school, I worked for an Italian deli – a REAL Italian deli. The kind of a joint that proudly displays a framed photo of the Pope BENEATH a framed photo of Mr. Francis Albert Sinatra. Yessir, things are black and white in a REAL Italian deli. Coming from a mixed and mysterious national heritage myself, I adopted many of these Italian idiosyncrasies as my own. Like our love of the Pope and Sinatra, we Italians know one thing with absolute certainty – mayonnaise has NO business near salami, proscuitto or any other Italian premium lunch meat. Maybe you could get away with a swipe on a turkey or ham sub – but we were instructed at the Italian Deli to check and double check if patrons REALLY wanted the mayo they ordered with their Italian cold-cut subs. In a completely unspoken way, we were encouraged to suggest in the strongest possible terms that the cheap mayo would destroy the flavor of the quality meats. This mayo issue is serious business.

So, having dropped off the NutriSystem bus, I found myself in need of a quickie dinner solution last night. As mentioned previously, I’m all about a nice Subway sandwich. All of a sudden, Jared and his 6-inch turkey with no cheese is sounding like a right tasty alternative. Yes – Subway comes through yet again.

People don’t know how to order at the Subway. If you waltz up to the Subway counter and tell the guy you want a ham sandwich – you give yourself away right off the bat. And I feel for these Subway guys – ’cause they get rubes like this all day long, I’m sure. By the time you’ve declared your desire for a ham sammich – you’ve already skipped over, like 4 basic pieces of information your Subway guy needs to know to get your meal rollin’ Size, type of bread, toasted or not, cheese on that – just watch and learn. I roll up and it’s “Six inch wheat with turkey, no cheese, untoasted”. How hard is that? Then Subway guy 1 hands you off to Subway guy 2 who puts all the silly toppings on. And God forbid these hun-yacks in line need to order more than one sandwich – no, THAT one gets the onions, the FIRST one has the swiss cheese. What a mess. But last night, I witnessed the most horrifying sandwich debacle I have ever seen in all my days. Number one, the lady in front of me was trying to hold down a spirited discussion on her cell phone whilst ordering her three subs. She was not intelligent enough to pull off either task on it’s on – much less multi-task. So, she finally tells the genius on the other end of the phone that she needs to go and sets off to order her sammiches. Every possible, confusing, twisted, neglected, banged up Subway ordering issue comes forth in a powerplay of luncheon meat confusion. I have to hand it to Subway guy – he REALLY kept himself together and didn’t bat an eye as Anna Nicole Bacon Sandwich fumbled and bumbled through her jumbled order. At this point, I’m already rolling my eyes and feeling a migraine coming on and then she does the unspeakable. She orders up a foot-long, white bread, bacon with shredded cheddar toasted. In and of itself that’s not such a sin. I’ll forgive the mile and a half of gummy white bread. And bacon is a fine choice. I’ve never considered this option at the Subway. I’ve always viewed the bacon as more of a topping than a main meat choice. But then the horrifying, gag-inducing part. After toasting, she instructs Mr. Subway to add mayo. And I’m not talking about a little schmear of mayo – she keeps goading him “more, more, more” until this thing has a good half an inch of mayo over the whole thing. You can’t even see the bacon for the mayo. Then of course – no lettuce, no onion – no nothing. Just a few strips of bacon doused in about a quart of mayo. Mama Mia! I felt the silent urgings of the Italian deli owner to reach across the counter and slap the offensive sub to the ground whilst shaking this woman like a British nanny until she came to her senses. I don’t want to belabor the point – and this wasn’t meant to become the Subway blog. Perhaps if I keep blogging about Subway they’ll fork over free Subway for life to keep me in their good graces. Not a chance that happens. I’ll just have to keep scraping together my three dollars and fifty-nine cents for my daily dose!


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Diner, Drive-Ins, Dives and Indigestion

We got no biography to speak of – so you’ll just have to get to know me and the Mookster by and by.  Here’s a nugget…we’re both members of the bigman’s club.  Not talking sloppy fat and sweaty – just big and proud to lumber through this life with our heads held high knocking down trees.  Yeah, that’s it – like strapping lumberjacks – THAT kind of big.

So, anywho, a couple of days ago I started a great experiment that I originally had decided against blogging on.  But what the hell?  You already know about my unnatural obsession with American Idol – I might as well let you know about this too.  I started on the NutriSystem to drop a few L-B-S.  No big deal. 

Today is day 2 of Ye Olde NutriSystem.  Not bad.  The food ain’t bad.  I like that it comes all ready to go.  A minute in the microwave and boom – I’m eating it.  Tastes like real food.  I can tell my metabolism is already going wonky on me.  It’s like I’m good, not hungry, not hungry, not hungry……starving.  There’s no more of that slow burn – I’m either full up or starving.  That’ll even out, I’m sure.  I don’t know if this has anything to do with the diet – but I haven’t been able to drink a diet coke with the new food.  It’s like the carbonation doesn’t sit well with the heavy protein in the food.  That and the fact that I’m trying to down 8 glasses of water a day – 4 standard bottles.  Doesn’t seem like a lot – but tell that to my bladder.  Good Lord!  I also like that I have a little check list for when I eat stuff.  It’s all planned out.  It’s more like a run down to make sure I eat everything I’m supposed to.  There’s a lot of little snacks and things that are easy to overlook.  Right now, I’m pretty much up to date – more water and I believe I have a fruit serving and a dairy serving in the form of string cheese waiting for me in the fridge.  Lunch is fettucini and salad with fat-free dressing.  Hey shut up – I gotta look forward to something.  Dinner tonight is pizza, which I snatched from the bottom of my dinner-box at home.  Yum! 

As I’m flipping around the stations on the magic picture box last night I came across that Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives show on the food network.  Normally I really like this show.  The host basically rolls around the country and shows off the really horrifying food served at establishments like the Vienna Inn all over the country.  Really super bad for you diner and bar kind of food.  Which I love!  Last night, as I munched on my NutriSystem peanut butter cookie, I found it to be like way over the top hard-core food pornography.  I had to look away and change the channel.  That’s probably not a good sign, eh?

UPDATE:  Wednesday, 5/14 – here it is two days later.  I’m off it.  God bless you if NutriSystem is your thing and it works for you.  At least one reader of the blog is valiantly plugging away it and I encourage them with every fiber of my being – but it just wouldn’t work for me.  I hit a speed-bump at lunch on the day I wrote this initial blog.  The fetuccini made me ill to the point that I’m still not fully over it.  And it’s probably me – it’s more in my head than in my stomach – but that little cup of awful threw me for a loop.  However, I feel like I got a good – albeit brief – education on portion size.  No, I think I’ll opt for some more traditional approaches to diet and exercise and will forego my big box of NutriSystem approved foods.

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Bread, Man

It’s Monday morning and I can’t believe I’m gonna do it – but I’m pulling out the red conspiracy card already this week.
An alarming trend hit me like a ton of bricks as I ordered my delicious Subway foot-long turkey and cheese on wheat this past weekend. First off – a big, giant kudos gift basket full of love for the Subway. Ever since I swore off the Taco Bell, it’s my “go to” convenience food of choice and it could NOT be improved upon. You cannot beat the store-baked bread-goodness and fresh toppings.  Finished off with the spicy relish – heaven on a bun. And therein lies the topic of this mornings post…..
As I stand there ready to deliver my condiment requirements for my awesome Subway sub, my Subway sandwich artist asks me the question that I’ve so often heard and disregarded that – for whatever reason – struck fear in my heart this weekend….
“Would you like that as a wrap?”
Hell no I don’t want a wrap!! It occurs to me that there aren’t many sandwich establishments that don’t now offer this bastardization of the good ol’ American sammich. You can get snack-wraps at KFC, McDs, Wendy’s – almost anywhere. Well, I speak for Americas bakers when I say BOYCOTT THE WRAP!!! The wrap is a half-ass, flat alternative to the roll, sliced bread and the beloved loaf. My xenophobic buddy says this proves that our Mexican friends from the south are taking over the country. I say it goes much deeper than that.  For several years now the evils of bread have been pointed out by Dr Atkins and the carb-counting crazies in the media.  They tout flat-bread, tortillas and even pitas as the calorie and carb conscious superior alternative. Like putting a deep-fried piece of Kentucky FRIED Chicken in a slim little tortilla is going to save your 300-pound ass a couple of calories. Don’t try to hide behind your cute little branded initials – You sell FRIED chicken, KFC! The Colonel even laughs at your cartoony, marketing shortcut to dupe the dim-witted public. You have giant vats of calorie-laden grease and oil in which you deep fry the products you sell. Puh-lease. It’s a bit akin to the people that sue tobacco companies. You smoke cigarettes for 40 years and are dumbfounded when you get lung cancer – how could this have happened? DUH! I actually know someone who smoked like a chimney for more than 3/4 of his life and blamed his cancer on the military in Vietnam and that Agent Orange crap.  Or what about the big-fat yentas that eat Krispy Kreme’s EVERY morning of their life and can’t figure out why they have big fat asses and cholesterol issues?  Must be glandular!! Yeah, that’s it – when you’re shoveling gobs of fried dough covered in sugar into your big yapper day after day, it’s effecting your glands!! Dummies.

Maybe this is becoming a central theme of the Cageboy blog – but how stupid do you think I am? I think it was the Wendy’s wrap that pushed me over the top. That little girl in the office prancing around with her Wendy’s snack-wrap was just WAY to perky.  So this week, do something for your American bakers – order your club, sub, hoagie, grinder, open-face, po’ boy or sammich of your choosing on good, old-fashioned bread!  Proudly consume the carbs and God Bless America!

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