Everyone knows that you don’t go to Philadelphia without eating a cheesesteak (or 12). It’s one of the things Philly is most famous for, and it’s undeniable that they truly know what they’re doing over there when it comes to cheesy shaved steak.
Of course, there are so many cheesesteak joints to pick from when you’re in Philly. It’s like Dunkin’ in New England: There’s one on every corner. Luckily, we have Jim Pappas to do the research for us. The 56-year-old Philadelphia suburb local began a quest in May of 2018 to test every cheesesteak he could find to suss out the best one. To date, he’s eaten 275 steak and cheeses, more than probably any of us will eat in our entire lifetimes.
He does have a method, of course.
“I always get American cheese, mushrooms, lettuce and tomato. I score them in five categories: roll, meat, cheese, extras and overall,” he told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Pappas said he avoids cheese whiz at all costs (I back that completely) and recommends opting for garlic bread rolls if a place has it on the menu. The inclusion of the lettuce and tomato, he explained, helps him gauge the freshness of the ingredients as a whole, but isn’t he missing the peppers and onions? Maybe I’m just a naive little New Englander.
The winner so far? The sandwich from Meatheadz in Lawrence Township, N.J. Putting it on my list. Plus, Pappas has rated about two dozen places on Philly Grub in various categories.
Pappas, who got the idea for his passion project by driving for Uber and Lyft and asking riders about their favorite cheesesteak eateries, wanted to try something fun and inventive to spice up his life, especially after having lived through the end of his 25-year finance career, dissolvement of his marriage and a leukemia diagnosis. He was seeking a “second half of life victory,” he wrote on his website, and so was born the Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure (his name, not mine).
You can follow along with Pappas on his site, where he documents each cheesesteak with their respective ratings. He’s logged 50,000 miles and probably about $3,000 -- this sh*t’s serious.
And no, he hasn’t gotten sick of them yet.