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Friday, May 29, 2009

Joe Vento, the founder and owner of Geno's Steaks, can be accused of a lot of things, but being subtle is certainly not one of them. Every time you visit ,he's managed to find another space on his walls to put up another neon sign. This isn't necessarily bad, as it reflects Joe's character pretty well, and I'm sure that more than a few drunk college students have been glad to see those familiar lights in the distance as they aimlessly wandered around the Italian Market trying to find cheesesteak Mecca.

The lights are a part of Geno's, and we recognized this throughout the redesign proces. Sure, our ideas are very different from what's there at the moment, but we didn't want to take the essence of Pat's and Geno's and just throw them out of the window...

Pat's, on the other hand, is more of a blank slate. They have a look, but they also seem to have changed a lot less over the years. Except for a few of the signs, you can easily imagine Pat's today looking very similar to how it did in the 1950s. For this reason, Pat's has to be approached in a different way. A lot of people are turned off by the flash over at Geno's. In fact, as Frank Oliveri, owner of Pat's, once said "you can't eat flash."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Thankfully, this is not a taste-test post, if it were this entry would probably be being written from a hospital bed, though knowing our dedication to better understanding the art of the cheesesteak in its many form, a heart-attack inducing trip to Pizza Snobz in Easton, PA surely cannot be far away.

Pizza Snobz gained notoriety for offering deep-fried pizza, a practice that has occurred in Scotland for years, much to the delight of batter fans, and is even seen in Naples, It, the home of pizza, but when Pizza Snobz owner David Barker wrapped a cheesesteak in pizza dough and then deep-fried it, he became a true culinary pioneer.

Unfortunately, the actual cheesesteak appears to pale in comparison to the prime examples that can be found all-over Philly, I can't even see any cheese in the picture above, can you? I'll let that slide (just this once), on account of Barker being such a visionary in the cheesesteak world.

If you would like to sample the deep-fried cheesesteak yourself, for the reasonable price of $7.50, amongst a range of other deep-fried goods like pound cake, twinkies, snikcers, and many more in the pipeline, head to 2300 Butler St, Easton, PA, though please be aware that they are moving to a larger location at 308 Old Mill Road on April 10th.

Monday, May 25, 2009

It's pretty hard to turn around in Philadelphia without seeing a mention of Benjamin Franklin. The great man may have spent his early years in Boston, but it was in Philadelphia that he shaped the nation, and his beliefs still help direct the course of America today. But, I'm sure you're wondering, what would Philly's favorite Founding Father think of Philly's favorite food?

Of course, with Franklin dying in 1790 and the cheesesteak not being invented until the middle of the 20th century, we'll never know what he actually thought, but we do have the next best thing; Ralph Archbold. Archbold (pictured above, with his wife Linda Wilde, a Betsy Ross impersonator) bears more than a striking resemblance to Franklin and has been impersonating him since 1973, in fact, the two even share the same birthday, so there are few people better qualified to speak on Franklin's behalf.

Archbold spoke with Unbreaded, a Philly-based blog dedicated to sandwiches that ensures no one in Philadelphia should suffer a disappointing sandwich again. Shockingly, neither Pat's nor Geno's made the list of his favored cheesesteaks spots, opting instead for "Campo’s, Cheesesteak Corner, Jim’s, and Dalessandro’s." Despite this snub, Archbold did make one thing quite clear, "as long as you get it in Philadelphia, the closest cheesesteak is the best." This sentiment is echoed by a number of Philadelphians, though judging by the lines outside Pat's and Geno's after the Sixers soundly beat the Hawks on Tuesday, people are willing to make the trip to 9th and Passyunk to get their cheesesteak fix.

[Photo credits: & wallyg]

Friday, May 22, 2009

There are only two iconic eateries long associated with the history of Philadelphia and they are Pat’s “King of Steak’s” and Geno’s Steaks. Why do we say this you may ask? Well, just by looking through all the press they have received over the years and the inspiration that they have on other cheese steak vendors, it is no wonder why they are credited for being the originators of the steak sandwich. It all dates back to the year 1930, the day that changed American history forever. Pat Oliveri owned a hot dog stand in a South Philadelphia neighborhood on Passyunk and Wharton Streets. One fine day, curious Pat decided he wanted to try something different. I mean how many hot dogs can you eat? So Mr. Oliveri walked to a local meat shop asked for some sliced meat and picked up some Italian rolls (emphasis on the Italian) and brought the ingredients back to his hot dog stand. He cooked up the steak on his hotdog grill and added some diced onions. The distinct aroma filled the Philadelphia air catching the attention of a local cab driver that just so happened to be driving by. The cab driver hoped out of his car following the scent of steak. He walked up to Pat asked to try it and insisted, after tasting the best sandwich he has ever tasted, Pat should open a steak sandwich shop. Pat’s Steaks was then born.

Following in the footsteps of its precedent, Joe Vento felt that he had what it takes to make great steaks that people would enjoy in an environment that was well kept and bright, so he opened up Geno’s Steaks, directly across from Pat’s Steaks. Geno’s neon light fixtures and bright colors dominate the building and the entire block, which started to draw in its consumers like a bug to a light bulb causing the overshadowing of its top competitor, Pat's "King of Steaks."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Rising from humble beginnings on 9th and Passyunk, the cheesesteak has quickly become not only a Philadelphia tradition, but also the king of comfort food. However, over the past few years there has been a trend in high-class restaurants to create gourmet versions of the cheesesteak, attempting to improve on the Philly classic.

When Philadelphia’s serial-restauranteur, Stephen Starr, opened the Barclay Prime steakhouse in late 2004, he included a $100 cheesesteak on the menu, which is more than 13 times the cost of a cheesesteak at Pat’s.

This isn’t any old cheesesteak, though. The bun is a brioche roll baked fresh that morning; in place of the traditional rib eye steak you’ll find thinly-sliced Kobe beef; there’s no room for Cheese Whiz at Barclay Prime either, with the ‘almost like real cheese’ product being substituted for fresh Taleggio cheese. And it doesn’t end there. Where most cheesesteaks are finished, Starr feels the need to add a little something extra, with both lobster and shaved truffles added to separate Barclay Prime from the rest of the pack in the race to create the finest ‘haute cheesesteak'.

And what are you meant to drink with such a luxurious cheesesteak? Well, the decision is made for you, as every order comes with a small bottle of champagne to ensure that this cheesesteak will be as memorable as the first time you tasted the magical combination of bread, cheese, and steak.

[Photo credit:]

Monday, May 18, 2009

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For the Spring semester, Quaker City Mercantile has chosen six students and recent graduates from various universities to take on an internship project determined by QCM’s CEO, Steven Grasse.

The Spring 2009 internship project encompasses the re-branding and promotion of iconic Philadelphia businesses, Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks. These businesses were selected because of how much they part of the community in Philadelphia and the American culinary landscape as a whole. As a leading creative and innovative agency, Quaker City Mercantile wants to show that modernization, re-branding, and change does not imply that the brand essence, core beliefs or nostalgia will be lost. The interns are acting as an agency within an agency to develop this project from conception to completion, which was designed to extend their knowledge and further their skill sets.