The Best Cheesesteak Rivalry in Philly

Had I called this post, “The Most Famous Cheesesteak Rivalry in Philly,” there would be little doubt as to which two steak shops I was referring. Pat’s, the originator of the cheesesteak, and Geno’ sit across a busy South Philly intersection from each other, iconic neon light displays blasting away.  However, many cheesesteak aficionados consider Pat’s and Geno’s to be for tourists and don’t rate their sandwiches among the best in Philadelphia. 

Iconic, but disappointing South Philly cheesesteak rivalry

But there is another cheesesteak rivalry in the Roxborough section of Northwest Philadelphia. I refer to D’Alessandro’s and Chubby’s, which sit across Henry Avenue, one of Roxborough’s main drags, from each other. Their rivalry isn’t as old as Pat’s vs. Geno’s. While D’Alessandro’s opened in 1960, Chubby’s didn’t come along until 1987. But they’ve made up for lost time with a quality that the two older steak shops in South Philly arguably lack. 

A shorter-than-usual line at D’Alessandro’s on a cloudy Tuesday after the lunch rush
The view from the corner next to D’Alsessandro’s. My dining companion was inside Chubby’s ordering half of our meal.

D’Alessandro’s has made adjustments to their operation since COVID hit. They are now strictly takeout. There are signs directing customers to place their order at one window, then step aside and wait for their names to be called over a loudspeaker. There is another window at which to pick up your order and pay after you hear your name. Chubby’s still offers dine-in service, both at their counter and a row of booths. There are a few tables out on the sidewalk next to both restaurants. 

While my dining companion picked up a steak at Chubby’s, I grabbed one at D’Alssandro’s. We then met up at one of the outdoor tables next to Chubby’s to do our head-to-head comparison.

The D’Alessandro’s steak is closer to the camera.
D’Alessandro’s. I would have preferred that they cut it. I broke it in two by hand.
Chubby’s

The two sandwiches were similar in style. Both rolls were on the soft side. While I prefer a crust with a bit more substance, these rolls had a very nice, fresh quality and chew. There was a lot of finely chopped meat in both sandwiches and the onions were diced fairly large and added nicely to the two steaks, both in terms of texture and flavor. 

There isn’t much doubt that of the two shops, D’Alessandro’s has the bigger and better reputation. It’s not unusual to see their name mentioned when the topic of Best Cheesesteak comes up. Chubby’s has a loyal following, but a lesser city-wide and even national reputation than D’Alessandro’s. So I was surprised when I decided that I had a clear preference for the steak from Chubby’s. 

Two factors set the Chubby’s cheesesteak above the one from D’Alessandro’s. First, while the D’Alessandro’s sandwich was certainly not lacking in cheese, it was more noticeable while eating the Chubby’s sandwich. They melted it beautifully throughout, which resulted in a nice textural mix of chopped meat and creamy cheese with every bite.

The other thing that pushed Chubby’s over the top was seasoning. They put an ample amount of salt and pepper on their meat, which had excellent flavor. I thought the meat on the D’Alessandro’s sandwich was a little bland-tasting. A bit more salt and pepper would have helped.

Chubby’s on the left; D’Alessandro’s on the right.

D’Alessandro’s generally has a longer line than Chubby’s. Next time, I won’t worry about that. I’ll just go straight to Chubby’s. 

Published by BZ Maestro

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9 thoughts on “The Best Cheesesteak Rivalry in Philly

    1. That’s actually a solid list in the Conde Nast article. Angelo’s and John’s Roast Pork would both get votes for best. There are some lesser known places in the suburbs or outlying parts of the city that were left off, but it could have been a lot worse. The barbecue place strikes me as wrong though. It’s more of a gimmicky thing to do with brisket than a real cheesesteak.

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  1. Cheesesteaks with onions? Those look more like a couple of cheeseonions topped with steak! ;^)

    I like that Chubby’s offers 5 cheeses (sharp provolone would be my first choice). Are those more options than most other places?

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    1. Those really are big chunks of onion. It’s amazing how similar the two steaks are. I wonder if the person who started Chubby’s worked at D’Alessandro’s before opening his own place. I may have read something like that, but I can’t remember with certainty and couldn’t find anything on it, so I left it out of the post. Jim’s on South Street, another well-known long-standing steak shop, also is known for big pieces of onion. I didn’t mind that today. There is so much meat on these sandwiches that even the big onion chunks can’t overwhelm it.

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    2. And actually, the onions were cooked to just short of caramelization, so they were very soft and their flavor seemed relatively mild as far as onions go; on both sandwiches.

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