My name is Adel (yes, just like the singer), and I’m a comedian in NYC. One of my favorite things about performing on the road is getting high and eating the best of local staples—to find out which ones are just “hype,” and which ones are “highQ” (AKA “high quality”).
Everyone knows that Philly is known for two things: cranky sports fans, and cheesesteaks. Being a non-native, I had some pre-notions about where to find the best places for a cheesesteak. I remember once hearing everyone’s favorite human highlighter, Guy Fieri, say that when it comes to Philly cheesesteaks, it’s all about Pat’s and Geno’s.
So, we started there!
We got into Philly around 5 p.m., Thursday evening. We didn’t have a lot of time before the first show, so we decided to hit up the famous Pat’s and Geno’s in one shot, since they’re conveniently located next to each other.
I decided to roll a joint for the occasion (I figure it’s always the safest way to smoke in an unfamiliar city), and we blazed down South Street, taking in the architecture and lifting our satiety to the proper levels.
As we walked up to South Street, Geno’s was obviously more crowded (that’s something you’ll want to remember if you’re a paranoid smoker, maybe give your order to a professional stoner). Paul waited in Pat’s line, and I went to Geno’s. We both had to get out of line to hit the ATM, because both are CASH ONLY.
Pat’s only took five minutes, whereas Geno’s took about 15 minutes—another thing to consider if you’re too high to stand in line (we’ve all been there).
Even though Geno’s took longer, their system seemed more efficient for getting people in and out. Because I’m usually high, I like a place that’s easy to understand. Shit, even when I’m not high, it’s better. No one enjoys feeling lost, especially when you’re hungry!
We finally got our sandwiches, found a spot and began to chow down!
Both sandwiches are the priced the same. Per recommendations, at Pat’s (left) I chose the cheesesteak with provolone, at Geno’s (right), I went with the whiz.
The Results: Both sandwiches were good, but Geno’s was the clear victor for this stoner.
When it came down to it, Pat’s didn’t taste as fresh. The cheese wasn’t melted (HUGH MISTAKE), and I felt it lacked flavor. Geno’s whiz, though I was told was “touristy,” was very tasty and basically combined the need for a sauce and cheese. As someone who despises mayo (I don’t care how you feel, it’s gross), I loved the whiz. SUE ME!
After splitting a third Geno’s sandwich, it was time to head back for the first show. So, with our eyes red and bellies bulging, we grabbed a Lyft and headed uptown.
When I initially decided to write this article, I was under the impression that even locals thought that Pat’s and Geno’s were the best… My Lyft driver informed me that this was 100 percent false.
“Man, people only like them [Pat’s and Geno’s] because of that idiot, Guy Fieri. No one from Philadelphia eats that shit. I’ve had hot pockets that tasted better.” — Lyft Driver.
As someone who’s eaten a hot pocket or 20 in his day, I was skeptical of this comparison, but I was even more intrigued. When I asked him what HE thought was the best, he didn’t even hesitate.
“Jim’s! Hands down,” my driver exclaimed. “Ishkabibbles has a great chicken cheesesteak, but Jim’s the real deal. I’d bet my son’s life on it, too. But then again, I’m not the best dad.”
…You don’t say?
This is exactly what I was wanted to hear. An honest answer to what I was searching for: “Which is hype or not!”
The shows at Helium were amazing! Philadelphia has an amazing scene, and both Paul Spratt and Joe Matarese (above) killed. The crowds were awesome. The staff at Helium and a few other local comics confirmed that Jim’s was indeed amazing, and Ishkabibbles was also a great staple.
So, I knew I had to try them when we came back.
Saturday (Round 2)
We came into Philly earlier this time; we knew we had business to care of. We found a spot on Delancey Street…Right in front of Louis Winthorpe III’s house in the movie Trading Places!
I’m a nerd for movie history, and Trading Places is one of my favorite. Aside from that, we raced up the art museum’s steps, AKA “The Rocky Stairs.” Philly is one of my favorite cities in history because it’s where so much of our government began! And, after Pennsylvania “swing” voted President Buttmunch into office, looks like it might also be where government ends!
But I couldn’t let my stoner-ADD and liberal love for history, keep us from our important mission. So, we hot-boxed the car and decided to make our way back down to South Street to try Ishkabbibbles and Jim’s
All that training to beat Apollo Creed (and the Apollo weed we smoked) had made us starving for some cheesesteaks, so after walking for what felt like forever, we made it to South Street and walked in to Jim’s.
We got to Jim’s around 4 p.m. We figured it wouldn’t be that crowded at that time, but we were wrong.
The crowd wrapped around several times, but the ordering at Jim’s is extremely efficient; even though there were about 70 people in front of us, it took less than 20 minutes. My first impressions were great. Crowded, but moving. Smelled AMAZING. Everyone in line, happy. All signs point to “yes” that this place isn’t just “hype.”
I got the cheesesteak with whiz, and Paul got provolone. There isn’t much seating in Jim’s, but living in NYC has trained us to eat standing up with no problem. We grabbed our “jimmies” and posted up outside.
The Review: After the first bite, I immediately regretting not tipping that Lyft driver $100.
HOLY SHIT, Jim’s is amazing. My friend got the provolone, and it was also extremely delicious, but I still liked my whiz the best. The meat has more flavor than both Pat’s and Geno’s, and the onions were cooked perfectly. It was so good, we both decided to split a 3rd sandwich.
We knew that Jim’s would be tough to beat, but we also knew we still had to head down the street to Ishkabibbles. After eating at Jim’s, we decided to walk and smoke a bit more, to ensure that every bite was as delicious as it should be.
When we got to Ishkabibbles it looked very crowded, but upon further inspecting, it was just a very tiny place. Not the best place to order after smoking, but we decided to press on. We decided to order one cheesesteak (they recommended provolone) and one chicken cheesesteak (provolone as well). I will say that Ishkabibbles took a lot longer than I feel like it should have. The people were a little saltier than at Jim’s, but I just hoped that meant it was going to be even more locally delicious.
Ishkabbibles was nothing to write home about, or even to write “high” about.
The cheesesteak was the blandest of all the sandwiches we’d tried so far. Cheese was hardly wilted, and it was very dry.
The chicken cheesesteak had mediocre flavor, but the chicken was a little chewy and doesn’t deserve the title “cheesesteak.”
I guess I can see how some people might like this sandwich, but it reminded me of turkey bacon. Sure, it exists. But, why even bother?
I really wanted to like Ishkabibbles on the name alone, but even as an outsider, I can tell this sandwich isn’t up to par. I kind of wish I could tell that Lyft driver I’ve had chicken sandwiches at Subway that were better, but he did tell me about Jim’s. So, he’s alright in my book.
So, what’s “Hype” and what’s “HighQ?”
At the end of the day, when you put meat and cheese together on bread, no one is really a loser. Every cheesesteak, even Ishkabibbles, was somewhat tasty and all satisfying. All were priced similarly and required the same amount of effort… and because of that I feel like you should only eat the best.
I know there are many more cheesesteaks out there, but there’s only so much belly space, time and weed for one trip, but I’ll be back to Philly in a few months to tell more jokes, smoke more weed and eat more cheesesteaks.
But for now…When it comes to cheesesteaks in Philadelphia:
If want Hype, head to Pat’s and Ishkabibbles.
If you want HighQ, smoke a bowl and head to Jim’s or even Geno’s!
You can follow Adel Alizadeh @Inf_Adel on Twitter.