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.
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.
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 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.
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.