Geno’s Steaks

Written by on November 6, 2011 in I Eat America, I Eat...Out with 0 Comments

( – South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

How I heard of this place: We were up in West Chester, PA, briefly, and decided we had to visit with our good friend Samyar before the long traffic-entrentched road trip back to Arlington. Wanting to sample some good ol’ Philly Cheesesteak, Samyar recommended one of the two best in Philly: Geno’s. So, we made our way to the bright orange, neon signs that made Geno’s easily seen from any direction.

Type of cuisine: “Geno’s Steaks was started by Joe Vento back in 1966. He figured that if he was going to sell a steak, he had to be where they were already eating them…at the “X” shaped intersection of 9th & Passyunk in South Philadelphia. Joe learned the cheese steak business from his father who in the early 1940’s opened “Jim’s Steaks”. In 1966, Joe started “Geno’s” with $6.00 in his pocket, 2 boxes of steaks and some hot dogs.” According to their website, “The ingredients are simple, exacting and never greasy thinly sliced rib-eye steak, melted cheese, oven-fresh baked bread and delicately grilled onions. Awaiting your piping hot sandwich on the counter outside are ketchup, mustard, relish and Joe’s choice hot sauce.

Geno's Steaks

Ambiance: Good thing we were warned while standing in the street, in line for our orders. Samyar let us know that we say, “One with…(fill in the blank with type of cheese between Provolone, American or Cheese Whiz) and with onions (or without).” Writing this, now, I also see that Geno’s has also enlighted it’s website readers, “Be prepared and know how to order, because the service is fast and the line keeps moving. For example, on a cheese steak with onions, specifiy which kind of cheese you’d like. By the time you have given your order, your money will be taken and your sandwich will e out the window nice and hot! At the next window you can pick up your soda, fries and coffee.” This is no joke! Walking up to the eccentric, slightly overboard signage denoting Geno’s from blocks away, over the fenced field housing a community garden, one is immediately inundated with orange. The chest-height, glossy, orange-tiled walls with a blue-tiled stripe, the awning overhead noting: “Geno’s Welcomes You!” and the orange, plastic picnic tables attached to metallic pillars with an orange cover cannot go unnoticed. While there is no indoor dining, these casual tables find themselves under a canopy on the sidewalk “for those who wish to enjoy sandwiches on the premises rather than drive off with them“. The condiment bar, a large, chest-height, metal box with an opening on the side facing the order windows, offers Cherry Peppers, Ketchup, Mustard and Relish.

Condiment Bar

Large, locked, glass display cases include badges which ornamented civil service members throughout the years. Everywhere from the walls above the orange tiles to the ceiling can be seen such memorabilia, including plaques in memory and honor of. A Path of Honor lays the foundation in the brick tile-work that leads to the ordering windows from the street corner, in between orange horse-heads set atop metal pillars chained to one another. As we watch, hawk-eyed for a spot at the orange tables, we find one at the far end, closest to the ordering line, and snag it while no one else is paying attention.

Chef at Geno's

At the table, on the table, we see numerous photographs, set like a collage, underneath a thick, plexi-glass table surface. Our sandwiches, wrapped in wax paper with the Geno’s logo, immediately in front of us, awaiting the first bite.

What I ordered: I ordered “One with Provolone and onions.” Chris seconded. Samyar selected “One with American and onions.” (Each sandwich: Price $8.33, Tax $0.67, Total: $9.) At the next window, we also placed two orders for Cheese Fries ($4.60 plus $0.40 tax, for a total of $5), a rounded container of thin-cut fries drenched in Cheese Whiz.


What I loved: I loved the cherry peppers at the condiment bar, fluffy, juicy and just spicy enough to give a kick, without numbing your taste buds. I also loved the relish, surprisingly. I have never been a fan of relish, especially store-bought, pre-packaged. This relish had larger cut pickles and less of a sweet flavor. I enjoyed the salty, tangy taste of the pickles with the otherwise, slightly dry sandwich.

Cheesesteak in my Hand

Why I loved it: The bright orange, the casual atmosphere, the large bikers with tattoos the size of my head on each arm working the kitchen line and the scruff woman at the register snapping our orders across the room behind the plexiglass separating us from them, inside.

Cost: High ($9 per sandwich, sides extra)

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