The Absolute Best Cheesesteaks In America

The cheesesteak is a sandwich beloved by many. It's a quintessentially American meal that comes from one of the most historic U.S. cities: Philadelphia. Now, nearly a century after Philly restaurant owner Pat Oliveri (owner of Pat's King of Steaks) created it, the cheesesteak is an essential part of American food culture (via First We Feast).

Philly gets it right by sticking to staples of the country's diet: beef, cheese, and bread. It may seem simple, but true cheesesteak lovers will obsess endlessly over the specifics of those three components. Cheesesteak purists will tell you the meat used must be ribeye, but plenty of renowned cheesesteak spots will also use sirloin. Some supporters will insist that Cheez Whiz is the necessary cheese for a "real" Philly cheesesteak. Also, most fans of the sandwich agree an Italian or hoagie roll is essential for the bread.

The Philly war over which the best cheesesteak spot has expanded outside of the simple Pat's vs. Geno's battle, reaching coast to coast. Even fast-food chains like IHOP and Arby's are making cheesesteaks. It's true, most non-Philly cheesesteak-makers are still judged on how well they can mimic the City of Brotherly Love's style. But it's a gift that no matter where someone lives in the country, they never have to go "without" the sandwich now, as onion-ordering code goes (via The Philadelphia Inquirer). Here are the absolute best cheesesteaks in America.

Shorty's

The surrounding states of New Jersey, New York, and Ohio have been in the cheesesteak game almost as long as Pennsylvania. Shorty's claims their cheesesteak is the most authentic in the Big Apple. They base that statement on the Philly-inspired ingredients used to make their sandwiches. Shorty's cheesesteak menu includes items like thinly-sliced sirloin, as well as American, Provolone, and Whiz for cheese options. Popular cheesesteak toppings like fried onions and peppers are also available.

Most importantly, Shorty's gets their bread shipped from Philadelphia. On their website, Shorty's asserts that this bread is the key to making genuine Philly cheesesteaks. In reviews, bread is often a factor in winning over their customers, who sometimes say Shorty's makes the best cheesesteak they've ever had. The NYC chain is also celebrated for its french fries. Shorty's plain fries are some of the best in the entire city, according to Gothamist. Originally founded as a single sports bar, Shorty's fame has allowed it to keep open two additional Manhattan locations. 

Donkey's Place

This historic New Jersey cheesesteak joint has been around since 1943 when boxer Leon "Donkey" Lucas opened the first location in Camden (via Donkey's Place). According to the late Anthony Bourdain, Donkey's Place makes the best cheesesteak ever, period. The culinary icon visited the restaurant in 2015 for a "Parts Unknown" episode where he claimed that the best Philly cheesesteak isn't even made in Philly.

Many other patrons would agree with Bourdain. Donkey's cheesesteak was called one of the country's best by Condé Nast Traveler. The Inquirer reported that Donkey's Place was even featured on a 2018 episode of the sitcom "The Goldbergs," which is set in the region.

Despite the high praise, the cheesesteak at Donkey's Place is untraditional. The sandwich is made on a small, round poppyseed Kaiser roll rather than the typical Italian or hoagie roll. Then, Donkey's likes to stack the meat in a tall pile, topped with onions and American cheese. Although it's a specific kind of cheesesteak, there's a reason Donkey's Place is still going strong. Per NJ.com, the chain even opened a third New Jersey location in Mount Holly this October.

Charleys Philly Steaks

In Ohio, Charleys has been a favorite since the 1980s. Owner Charley Shin founded the company as a hungry college student at The Ohio State University. The first restaurant was opened right next to the school in Columbus, according to their website. Charleys now has over 600 locations in 46 states and 17 countries, and there are multiple stores to visit in Ohio alone. The chain likes to claim it has the #1 Cheesesteak in the World (although that seems to be their personal opinion).

Menu items include much more than cheesesteaks, of which they have 10 different kinds, including an "Old School Steak" made of traditional South Philly ingredients. They also serve other hot sandwiches, fries, and wings. Reviews of Charley's cheesesteaks celebrate their affordability and portion sizes, according to The Endorsement. The sandwiches have been criticized for being unhealthy, but how nutritious can a cheesesteak get?

Tony Luke's

In Philadelphia, the argument over who makes the best cheesesteak never ends. Along with Pat's and Geno's, there's a long list of other restaurants referring to one guy's first name — including Dalessandro's, Angelo's, Joe's, Max's, Mike's, and Philip's — that all claim to be the best. For decades, Tony Luke's has also been a part of that group of favorite Philly cheesesteak restaurants. The South Philly-located Tony Luke's was founded in 1992. It is now one of many Tony Luke's locations throughout the Philly region. There are even Tony Luke's outposts in Brooklyn and New Jersey. However, according to many reviews including one by The Infatuation, the best location is the original, at 39. East Oregon Ave. in Philly.

As for the cheesesteak, Tony Luke's has a specific formula. For their meat, the chain uses 100% rib-eye that's free of hormones and steroids. For cheese, Tony Luke's offers Kraft Cheez Whiz, American, or Provolone. The shop gets their bread from Philly bakery Liscio's and then bakes it in-house (via Condé Nast Traveler).

Tony Luke's shop has been featured on several shows like "Man v. Food," "Food Wars," and "Throwdown With Bobby Flay." In 2005, The New Yorker called their cheesesteak one of the best, noting their specific choice to serve the sandwich whole. The shop is also known for making an excellent roast pork Italian sandwich with broccoli rabe, provolone, and gravy, according to VisitPhilly.

Monti's

In Chicago, Monti's is the recommended place to get a real Philly cheesesteak. The joint is a mom-and-pop combination bar and restaurant. If you look anywhere, you'll find a great review. Monti's ranks number one among the top cheesesteak restaurants on Yelp, FourSquare, and Trip Advisor. It even has nearly five stars on Google with over 600 reviews. The restaurant's authenticity could be the reason for its popularity. According to The Chicago Reader, Monti's was founded by a couple of Philly transplants: Jennifer Monti and James Gottwald. 

Monti's also sticks to its roots and gets bread imported from Amoroso's in Philadelphia. As for the rest of the sandwich, Monti's uses regionally-sourced ingredients. For cheese, it offers the unique choice of adding aged Wisconsin cheddar sauce to their cheesesteaks. Monti's also gets its ribeye from nearby beef sellers in the Midwest, according to the company's website. The Chicago eatery calls it their way of "combining the best of both Philly and Chi-Town."

Jim's South Street

Jim's South Street is another essential cheesesteak spot in Philly. The counter-service eatery opened in 1976, according to their website. It's located in South Philly, not far from Tony Luke's and many other top Philly cheesesteak counters. Unlike its competitors, Jim's has only one location. The spot is known for its unique, vintage-looking storefront decorated with black and chrome. Around that noticeable facade there will usually be an even more noticeable crowd waiting to grab one of the celebrated sandwiches.

Jim's has long been referred to as a top cheesesteak spot. In 2003, The New York Times referred to Jim's as one of the "Big Three" of Philadelphia cheesesteak restaurants, along with Pat's and Geno's.

Jim's recipe is slightly different from the others. Their menu states that they use top round black Angus beef for their meat. Also, Jim's tends to be more partial to Cheez Whiz over other dairy options. As one customer told Insider, "If you don't get Whiz, they would just probably throw you out of here."

Frank From Philly and Andrea Pizza

Frank From Philly makes some of the best cheesesteaks in the Minneapolis area. The spot is attached to sibling concept Andrea Pizza, giving diners more choices when they visit, but most are coming for the cheesesteaks. Many of those visitors are also hungry students coming from the nearby University of Michigan campus, MSPMag reported.

This Twin Cities eatery is the number one cheesesteak spot on Yelp in Minneapolis, and number two in St. Paul (second to Tono Pizzeria + Cheesesteaks). In 2018, the restaurant was highlighted by CBS Philly for having some authentic cheesesteaks to serve to visiting Eagles fans in town for the Super Bowl.

Frank From Philly was founded by — surprise — not a Philly native, but the offspring of one. The Gambino brothers, born from a Sicilian mother and Philadelphian father, opened the two-part restaurant in honor of their parents, according to their website. It's a pro-Whiz establishment, and also offers unique sandwiches like the garlic cheesesteak, made with arugula and provolone for a more colorful than usual bite. While it's not often talked about, they're not the first to add garlic. Some people argue that the allium is the cheesesteak's secret ingredient.

John's Roast Pork

John's Roast Pork also makes a great cheesesteak. Although its name refers to another type of Philadelphia sandwich, John's Roast Pork has been making cheesesteaks longer than most. It opened its doors in the 1930's, owner John Bucci told 6ABC. As for reviews, Philadelphia Inquirer food critic Craig LaBan said in 2002 the cheesesteak at John's Roast Pork was overall the best, hands down. Renowned chef Andrew Zimmern is also a huge fan, he says on his website. Even Bon Appétit has called the cheesesteak at John's "really, really good."

The shop has received several accolades, including a James Beard Award in 2006. Very recently, it also won a $10,000 cheesesteak contest hosted by the hot sauce brand TRUFF, PhillyVoice reported. Thanks to the shop's loyal fans, their sandwich was voted the best in Philadelphia, once again.

According to Eater, the rolls are from Philly-based Carangi Baking Company, the steak is made from loin tails, and American, mild provolone, and sharp provolone are the cheese choices. Unlike its Philly competitors, John's Roast Pork does not serve Cheez Whiz.

Pop's Philly Steaks

Pop's Philly Steaks in Las Vegas is another winner. Since 2002, the restaurant has been slinging hundreds of cheesesteaks all day, every day (since the place is open 24/7). Pop's sells around 2,000 cheesesteaks every week, according to their website. It is a popular spot in this tourist-heavy town.

It's also a hit with locals. The place may only have the third-highest rating for cheesesteaks on Yelp, but it has twice as many reviews as its competitors. Many of the reviews will confidently say it's the best cheesesteak in Las Vegas. Several will say it's the best cheesesteak they've ever had. Some even dare to say Pop's cheesesteak is better than anything they've ever bought in Philadelphia

The name of the shop Pop's is actually an acronym for "Pride of Philly Steaks," and its customers are proud as well. Pop's uses Amoroso's rolls and offers Cheez Whiz for an extra dose of authenticity. As a critic for the Las Vegas Review-Journal put it, "These tasty sandwiches are not just close to the real thing, they are the real thing."

Jake's Steaks

Located in San Francisco, Jake's Steaks is another spot to know. The place is typically recommended along with a handful of other cheesesteak spots — Phillies, Phat Philly, and The CheeseSteak Shop are some — but Jake's is often awarded for its authenticity (via Yelp).

Jake's makes a cheesesteak right and sticks to the basics. The restaurant uses rolls from Amoroso's and offers Cheez Whiz, as reported by The Food Network. On their menu, Jake's also offers a chicken cheesesteak, which swaps the cow of the original sandwich for poultry. It also has a mushroom cheesesteak "Whiz Wit," which is Philly slang for "with onions and Cheez Whiz."

The place is even decorated with a picture of Philadelphia's boathouse row, according to the eatery's website. The attention to detail can be explained by this quote from founder Jake Gillis: "My goals are to make the best-tasting cheesesteaks in or out of Philadelphia — and give people a great place to eat them."

Boo's Philly Cheesesteaks

Boo's Philly Cheesesteaks in Los Angeles makes a cheesesteak "that should please the most demanding Philly ex-pat," according to Los Angeles Magazine. Boo's cheesesteak has been called "righteously traditional" by LA Weekly, who named it their "sandwich of the week" in 2012.

The reason for that authenticity comes from Boo's ties to the Philly region. The father of Boo's founder, Andrew Ahn, worked in a cheesesteak shop in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia for years before opening his own shop in nearby New Jersey (via KTLA). His son eventually moved to California, where he noticed a lack of places to get a "real" Philly cheesesteak. As a result, he did everyone a favor and founded Boo's.

Boo's now has two locations in LA, one in Koreatown and one in Silver Lake. They serve their cheesesteaks on rolls made by Amoroso's. In addition to cheesesteaks, they also offer other Philly-area favorites like hoagies and Tastykakes, individually wrapped baked desserts made in Philadelphia.

Primanti Brothers

In nearby Pittsburgh, The Groove Cheesesteak Co. was once celebrated for having one of the best cheesesteaks around (via Pittsburgh Magazine). In 2016, it was voted "Best Cheesesteak in Pennsylvania," in a poll hosted by USA Today, which came as a shock to the many cheesesteak lovers across the state. But since The Groove is now closed, Primanti Bros is now the go-to Pittsburgh spot. Primanti's sandwich isn't a traditional cheesesteak, but it's a fun spin on the formula that's worth appreciating on its own merits.

Where The Groove was celebrated for beating Philly at their own game (making a better combination of bread, beef, and cheese), Primanti Bros invented their own sandwich. According to the Food Network,  a "Pittsburgh Cheesesteak" differs from Philly's in a few key ways. Most notably, this sandwich includes coleslaw, mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, french fries, and lettuce. Although other Pittsburgh restaurants will have their own, Primanti Bros has been making theirs since the 1930's — as long as the Philly cheesesteak has been around.

Primanti Bros serves the Philly-style cheesesteak as well. It's not their specialty, but it is also said to be delicious. Today, Primanti Bros can also be found outside of Pittsburgh. Per Business Insider, their chain of restaurants has several locations in Pennsylvania, as well as in Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, and Michigan.