In the Lehigh Valley, which forms a right angle north of Philly and west of New York City by about 60 miles, the question isn't Pat's or Geno's, or even "wiz wit?" (as in, Cheese Whiz with onions). It's about a sauce you won't find anywhere else and its confounding origins. I'm not talking about a sauce comprised of that processed cheese-related product. I'm talking about the default inclusion of a tangy red, tomato-based sauce in cheesesteaks everywhere you go.
'cheesesteak' on Serious Eats
Long story short, nothing here is going to compel you to forsake Monti's mainstay. However, there are a few standouts worth a look- as long as you pair them with a cheesesteak, of course.
The only things that I had around my corner to eat growing up was a couple of fried-chicken-peddling Chinese takeout joints, some poor pizza, and the Uni One Gourmet Deli on Broadway just south of Tiemann Place. In all my fifteen years living there, I never set foot in deli, but had Twitter existed when I was a kid, I might have known that a great sandwich was right under my nose the entire time.
I roll my eyes at the "Keep Austin Weird" slogan from time to time. Lots of businesses try to capture the city's vibe with focus group–approved logos, brushed stainless steel, reclaimed hardwood, and lots of investor backing. That doesn't seem all that weird to me, and the food quality is usually an afterthought. But there's still hope. You'll have a genuine Austin experience at Whip In, a relaxed hodge-podge convenience store, bar, restaurant, and live music venue. This family-owned operation has been refining its brand of weirdness for over 20 years.
You want to be careful when labeling a sandwich a "cheesesteak." Doing so cues certain expectations of a particular type of sandwich. But since the Smith St. Cheese Steak ($12) is in Brooklyn, not Philly, I neutralized my expectations and decided to go with the flow.
With Monti's located right around the corner from Nhu Lan Bakery, choosing where to get a sandwich in Lincoln Square just got infinitely more difficult.
Good-looking soccer bar Woodwork in Prospect Heights is a great place for a pickleback and an Arsenal game, but it's not a bad place for a sandwich, either.
The cheesesteak from Philly's Best may come up short as a perfectly realized recreation of Philadelphia's favorite sandwich (or is that the roast pork with broccoli rabe?), but it still manages to succeed as the massive beef-and-cheese gut bomb it truly is.