For my personal taste, I ordered the exact same thing at both places: Cheesesteak with Onions and Provolone. Apparently Kraft Cheese Whiz is a big deal here, used frequently at both establishments - but I'm not a big fan. I did get Cheese Fries at Geno's, and it was definitely the 'Whiz on there...
1237 E. Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Holding an average user review score of 3.6 Google and 3.5 Yelp, the originator of the Philly Cheesesteak holds a full-point lead over it's neighbor in terms of the publicly-available online scores.
I rolled into Pat's after circling the block a few times and then getting guided into a primo spot by a local... somewhat shady individual that was directing cars in hopes of scoring a few bucks (there's a lot of folks like this in the touristy areas of Philly). I tossed the guy a buck and went right up to the window with only two customers ahead of me.
The sandwich: Bread on the slightly moist side coupled with tasty meat that's inconsistent in texture. A few tougher pieces in there, but flavorful as I'd expect. The onions and cheese did their job here.
9th and Passyunk, 1219 South 9th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Holding an average review score of 2.8 Google and 2.5 Yelp,
While Pat's might be the originator, Geno's has turned Cheesesteak into a spectacle - pulling in 4x the line during my visit.
I tossed my order from Pat's in the car and took note that someone else from Illinois has squeezed in behind me. The wait felt longer than it was, but the service at the windows was prompt.
The sandwich: Better presentation than their neighbor's steak overall, but the taste here is key. The bread was not only more solid, but seemed fresher. And the onions (chopped into squares) were crisper and bolder. The steak, presented in longer strips was both flavorful and tender.
Pictured: On the left, Pat's. On the right, Geno's
Bottom Line: Between the two most famous Philadelphia giants, Geno's wins this round based on my personal experience. While both sandwiches were very good (and make what passes for the "Big Philly Cheesesteak" at Subway look like garbage), Geno's just scores bigger than Pat's on this trip. Is there a better Philly Cheesesteak in Philadelphia? It's quite possible, but like Chicago Pizza - there's dozens of independently-owned shops serving 'em up, and what equates to "best" is strictly dependent on taste. My advice? If you're a first-timer as I was, get the exact same thing from Geno's and Pat's, then make up your own mind.