Is There Really A Difference Between Pat's And Geno's Cheesesteaks?

If Philadelphia is known for two things, it has to be its signature cheesesteak sandwiches and its passionate, loyal locals. In the ongoing debate about which Philadelphia shop has the best cheesesteak sandwich, two names come up as true contenders: Pat's and Geno's. But is there any actual difference between these two Philadelphia cheesesteak legends?

The two both serve a fairly traditional Philadelphia cheesesteak sandwich 24 hours a day on Passyunk Avenue. Both signature sandwiches consist of chopped steak, onions, and your choice of cheese — provolone, American, or Whiz. The differences are so minor that you may hardly notice them, despite what loyal fans of each allege. For one, the shops currently use different bread providers. Geno's and Pat's use Aversa and Liscio's, respectively, which seem to offer slightly different textural experiences — Geno's bread is reportedly chewier while Pat's is softer. The only distinct difference is the meat, but not how it tastes. Pat's cooks and serves its beef in thin slices, while Geno's chops the slices into small cubes. And that's about the extent of that. No mysterious, specially imported cheese or flavor-enhanced onions. So, why do these two Philly cheesesteak joints find themselves as the stars in a decades-long rivalry? That seems to be the consequence of history, Rocky Balboa, and a bit of cheeky marketing.

So where's the beef?

Pat's is credited with introducing the original Philadelphia cheesesteak and now wears the crown as King of Steaks. Founder Pat Olivieri, desperate to skip another frankfurter lunch, improvised the first cheesesteak while working at his hot dog stand on Passyunk Avenue in 1930. After a local taxi driver demanded one of these unique creations, Olivieri was in the cheesesteak business. Geno's opened in 1966 across the street on Passyunk Ave, and despite the close geographical location, things stayed pretty amicable until 1976, when the movie "Rocky" opened. In the film, Sly Stallone enjoys a cheesesteak from none other than the O.G. cheesesteak shop: Pat's. This sparked the rivalry between Pat's and Joey Vento, Geno's founder. 

Vento liked to fan the flames, but all in good humor. In an interview with Thrillist, Frank Olivieri Jr. (the current owner of Pat's) recounted of Vento, "He would put signs up — 'The Best,' 'Ace beats King,' 'No need to order double meat, walk across the street,' trying to make it seem like his business was cleaner, better, flashier." From that point on, who could go to Philadelphia and try just one of the famous cheesesteak shops? Folks wanted to weigh in on the Pat's versus Geno's debate, guaranteeing a sandwich sale for each shop. The intentionally-designed rivalry mutually benefitted both shops and worked to solidify their legacies.