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an artsy cheesesteak adventure

Culinary/Museum jaunt through the city of Brotherly Love

High brow art meets greasy comfort food. I teach Art History and French. I can surround myself with some pretty snooty stuff sometimes. But, I’m not above an everyman sandwich topped with something called “whiz.”

I’ve eaten “cheesesteaks” in Virginia before. Who wouldn’t love a warm bun filled with grilled meat and topped with onions and melted cheese. Sounds fabulous, right?. However, my friends from Philly swear that there’s something in the air (or stuck to the greasy grill) in Philly that makes theirs better than anywhere else. Ok, I’ll bite.

Pat’s is the original hot dog stand turned steak purveyor.

I took a day off from work and hustled up with the family to Philly for a long weekend to explore some history, art, and cheesesteaks.

I loosened my belt (or maybe donned some elastic and lycra) and decided that we could sample at least three different cheesesteaks during our trip. It was a struggle, but someone had to do it. We got recommendations and I found three candidates. We and our German exchange student were all up to the task.

First stop was the original, Pat’s. It was surprisingly our least favorite. It was good, but I’ve had just as good (and not so overpriced) cheesesteaks back home. The only thing that was special was the bread. I’ll give that to Philly. Their bread is special.

This one was adorned with American and not the iconic “whiz.”

Stop # 2; Tony Luke’s was amazing! The kids all chose the classic with whiz. I opted for the roasted pork with broccoli rabe; it was something special. We all agreed that the product at Tony Luke’s was definitely something different and worth the five-hour car trip to Philly.

This is the original location on 10th Street in South Philly.
Roast pork with greens. Give it a try!

Third and final stop, Jim’s on South Street. This was worth the wait. It was a fabulous greasy bit of goodness and it was perfect washed down with a cold Yards IPA. I’d go back to Jim’s or Tony Luke’s. They were unique enough to say that they were better than any grilled steak sandwich that I’d had outside Pennsylvania.

The well-seasoned grill!
This wasn’t actually our order, because we wouldn’t bastardize a cheesesteak with vegetables… But, nonetheless, they were steamy hot. It’s almost sensual.

Philly and the Cheesesteak Wars, here’s what we learned:

Philly is a a fun place despite its constant history lessons. My kids endured Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the requisite landmarks of Philadelphia history for the promise of greasy meat and cheese on a warm bun. I think it was a good deal. As a teacher, it’s a win-win.

South Philly is full of funky mosaics, interesting shops, and the amazing Italian Market. We were able to make a whole dinner out of our purchases since we rented a fun Airbnb for the trip.

Cannolis are just as good for breakfast as they are any time of day.

Famous cheesesteak joints may not live up to their hype. Try the less touristy places and you won’t be disappointed.

Philly is a hidden gem ( but in plain sight) for beautiful art. VISIT THE BARNES FOUNDATION and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It’s not just there as the backdrop of the Rocky Statue. Climb the steps (not just on your workout) and actually explore.

Everyone should visit the Barnes Foundation for an Art History lesson. I didn’t allot enough time to take in this beautiful and amazingly-arranged space. It’s like no other museum ever. You will learn something as you go. Then watch this documentary. You may never see the art world as a coterie of prissy, stuck up snobs again. Seriously, this story could rival Game of Thrones for ruthlessness. (Ok, maybe that is a bit exaggerated; there are no dragons.)

Explore the gallery below to see more of what we did.

Love statue