When in Philly …

I told Justin I had to tell him this story after he spent the weekend in Philly recently:

If you visit Philadelphia, of course you have to get a Philly cheese steak. Unless of course, you are like me and you don’t like cheese steak.

But seriously, it’s an experience. Bear with me on the details here, as this happened about 3 years ago, but there are 2 main cheese steak places in town, Geno’s and Pat’s, and they are right across the street from each other. After the bars close the lines to get to the counter at these places wrap around the respective buildings, and all the drunk people at Geno’s shout insults to the drunk people in line at Pat’s, and vice versa.

The places themselves consist of small, grimy buildings where you order at the counter outside and then you can eat at the tables surrounding the building.

So, even if you are like me and you don’t like cheese steak – c’mon, you still have to check it out, right?

Call it blasphemy, but I do not remember which cheese steak place I visited. I’m pretty sure it was Pat’s. Which I remember because I thought the name “Geno’s” sounded cooler and I was kind of disappointed that we weren’t going to that one. But bare with me if I’m wrong – I’m sure Jeff will correct me, as he picked the place.

We took a cab from the hotel over to Pat’s, and all along the way the cabbie was warning us of impending stomach aches if we ate there. “You gotta go to Jim’s,” he kept telling us, bringing up a third place. “Truly the best cheese steak in Philadelphia.” We told him thanks, but we had to try out Pat’s (we told Katie’s brother Brian we would), and he reluctantly took us over there. “Good luck,” he said, shaking his head as he drove off, probably to Jim’s.

There is a language you have to use when ordering. “Whiz wit” for example, means you want cheese whiz and onions (wit onions, as opposed to widdout onions) on your cheese steak.  (Ok, I love cheese, but cheese whiz? Ew.) If you want mozzarella you have to say “pizza.” And if you want provolone you have to say “Provi.”  And if you don’t order it correctly, you get laughed at by the guy behind the counter. I swear it’s true – I couldn’t make this stuff up.

Jeff had researched all of this and knew exactly what he wanted to order. We made it to the front of the counter and he said, in his very confident and direct voice, “Whiz wit”. He must’ve done it right because the guy shouted back to the cooks and the short-order process began smoothly.

Then the guy turned to me: “What do you want?” he asked.

“I’ll take a hot dog,” I said.

I swear, the world screeched to a halt for a second. “A hot dog?” he said. “You come to Pat’s and you order a hot dog?”

He turned back to the cooks. “Hey, this one wants a hot dog!”

They looked bewildered, and then they probably had to go to the far depths of the freezer to dig one up to cook for me. “That’ll take a few minutes,” he said, shaking his head, then he muttered, “She came to Pat’s and ordered a hot dog.”

I had to smile. Hey, I choose to see it this way: I’m the ultimate travel companion. I’ll go to a place that’s known for something I don’t like, and I will try it – I absolutely had a bite of Jeff’s cheese steak … and I promptly thought it was gross and enjoyed the heck out of that hot dog!

For the record, Philadelphia also has the second Italian restaurant ever opened in the United States, and it is to die for. I can’t properly review the taste of the cheese steak, but take me back to that Italian place any day …