First Look at Pappa Geno's Second Location in Bellaire and Its Philly Poutine

Categories: Restaurant News

Pappa Geno's 003.jpg
Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
The wicked Philly at Pappa Geno's: same as it ever was.
Just because I didn't include Pappa Geno's wicked Philly on my recent list of Top 10 Sandwiches (which was reserved strictly for deli sandwiches) doesn't mean I don't lust after the thing. I do. I have terrible urges for Pappa Geno's at least once a week.

I crave the crunchy bread that's soft on the inside and somehow always manages to stand up against the flood of meat juices and melting cheese and slippery grilled onions and mayonnaise, and the spicy giardiniera that is normally found on a hot Italian beef but does the same neat trick on a wicked Philly of slicing through all that ooze with a sharp, bright heat. It's not a Philly cheesesteak (although you can get those here too); it's so much more than that.

Athough I don't want to keep myself from the wicked Philly -- or from any of Pappa Geno's sandwiches -- I manage to restrain myself for the sake of my waistline and my cholesterol levels. This restraint makes the few Pappa Geno's sandwiches I indulge in that much sweeter. And now, I have a second location in which to indulge in my Pappa Geno's favorites.

Pappa Geno's 002.jpg
After the success of its first location in the Heights often meant lines out the door at peak hours, Pappa Geno's decided to open a second location -- this one outside the Loop. The new Pappa Geno's in Bellaire was quiet on a recent Saturday afternoon around 2 p.m., but the interior tricked out in its signature color scheme of orange, blue and white was as raucous as always.

Behind the counter, owner Paul Mitchell took our order with a smile -- again, just as always -- and we sat down to await a wicked Philly along with a new menu item: Philly cheese fries, which takes Pappa Geno's twiggy fries and smothers them with Cheez Whiz, sliced steak and grilled onions. A few short minutes later, Mitchell walked over with the sandwich, a pile of cheese-covered fries and a recommendation.

"You should try the fries with gravy and hot peppers," he said. "It's a lot better that way." He wants to sell it on the menu that way, but many of his customers are wary of the heat in the giardiniera (which features jalapeño slices alongside the pickled carrots and other vegetables). "You'd think that in Texas..." Mitchell trailed off with a laugh.

Pappa Geno's 004.jpg
Philly poutine. Patent it, Pappa Geno's.
At my request, he brought over a side of thick brown gravy and some additional giardiniera. I dumped them quickly atop the pile of seasoned fries and suddenly found myself looking at an odd but intriguing creation. Much the same as Robb Walsh called BB's Tex-Cajun Virgin "a Tex-Mex Cajun version of poutine," I saw in front of me the Philadelphian version of the Canadian dish.

The plate had the requisite fries and brown gravy, but in lieu of cheese curds was the oh-so-Philly Cheez Whiz. Along with the steak and giardiniera, the plate could have been a meal in and of itself -- and I very nearly finished it all in one go. It was a major distraction from the wicked Philly that was cooling on the table, and I was finally able to tear myself away from the fries long enough to take a few bites while it was hot.

Pappa Geno's 001.jpg
It was a carbon copy of the same wicked Philly I've always enjoyed in the Heights; Pappa Geno's gets high marks for consistency. It also gets high marks at this new location for a cute patio and nice view of Bellaire's small-town vibe near the triangular intersection of Bellaire, Bissonnet and Rice. And although there's no counter seating at the new location (nor a view into the kitchen), you'll still be greeted with the same warm smiles and hot sandwiches on the same blue-and-white checked paper.

While I don't want Pappa Geno's to become a chain any time soon, I'll admit it's very nice to have a second location of a Houston favorite (whether my waistline agrees or not).

Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords

Location Info

Pappa Geno's

5313 Bellaire Blvd., Bellaire, TX

Category: Restaurant

Pappa Geno's

1801 Ella Blvd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

BB's Cafe

2710 Montrose, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help

OMG I was so excited to see a second location. We first met Paul and his family shortly after they opened (and sadly before their televisions were stolen) but they have been warm and inviting since that first day. The first location is 5-10 minutes from my house which makes it for a long commute for lunch from the med center so imagine my giddy surprise when the Bellaire location opened. Not to mention I get to see Paul and his son's face welcome us with a handshake and the same oh so yummy Phillys that I crave. But I agree, for the sake of my waistline, I have to space out my visits!


Looks good to me. I may have to try it out.


Katherine - Were you aware that Andrew Zimmern was in town filming for Bizarre Foods America?  He was at the Texans game and stopped by the tailgate I was attending in the blue lot and tried some Beef Tongue that they had prepared for him.

FattyFatBastard topcommenter

Not sure why, but the Bellaire location is always dead.  I hope business picks up, because it is a fun alternative to the typical fare.

WestSideBob topcommenter

Hey txjboy ... (reference to Kinky, huh ?) ... I grew in in Western Pa.  Like Katharine, never made it to Philly for either of the ultimate sandwiches.  Two observations:  


a:  the giardinera immediately takes my mouth back to the many old school Italian joints I frequented as I grew up.


b:  sitting at the Heights counter during a busy stretch, you would be amazed at how many customers claim they'r from Philly and Geno's is the greatest steak this side of Eastern Pa.


Too bad it didn't work for you, but Geno's seems to be working for a ton of folks jonesing for a cheesesteak with Whiz.


My wife and I just got back from Papa Geno's in Bellaire.   Katherine, it's obvious you've never been to Geno's or Pat's on Philly's south side.  I couldn't wait to try Geno's here based on HP's reviews.  What a disappointment.  Had the basic cheese steak with provolone (no mayo).  It was AWFUL!!!   and, I'm bummed.



 I went to summer camp at Echo Hill Ranch, owned by Kinky's parents.  If you enjoy's Geno's here than dine there.  Opinions are like **sholds, everybody's got one.

kshilcutt editortopcommenter

 @txjboy I'm really bummed to hear that. You're right; I've never been to either Geno's or Pat's. But I've taken hardcore Philly cheesesteak fiends with me to Pappa Geno's (even one who wrote a guidebook to dining in Philadelphia) and they've all said it's as close as you'll get in Houston. That said, I do look forward to finally eating a real Philly cheesesteak someday soon and finding out what I'm missing down here in Texas.


@kshilcutt Pappa Geno's probably can be compared to Pat's and Geno's because Pat's and Geno's are also a bad example of a Philly Cheesesteak. They're clearly catering to tourists. Also, putting mayo on this sandwich is NEVER done in Philly. The thought in itself is disgusting.

As soon as I could chew solid food I was introduced to Philly Cheesesteaks and ate them all over Philly and the surrounding Bucks and Delaware counties for over 20 years.

The best Philly Cheesesteaks are found in pizza joints and deli's in that part of the country. Pappa Geno's uses sirloin which is never done in Philly. It's supposed to be rib-eye. Wiz is also something that's never used in the places I've mentioned. It's either American or provolone cheese. The right bread (Amoroso's) can't be found here, and nothing sourced locally comes close to that.

How someone who wrote a dining guidebook for Philly can call Pappa Geno's version "as close as you'll get in Houston" leads me to believe they haven't tried them all.

I won't mention Jake's beyond saying - they suck too.

Currently, it takes a trip to Spring for "as close as you'll get" at Vito's Famous. This establishment was opened a couple years ago by a family from Philly and it's the best I've had in 30 years living in the Houston area. We also had a Capriotti's located in Sugar Land but they only lasted a year, due to their hidden location and competition by all the surrounding restaurants at Town Center. I've been in touch with them and they say a new location will open in the future. THAT is the place to be looking for – and to review. It was actually better than Vito's because they had the right peppers, just like back home. Another place that is much better than Pappa Geno's is Tornado Burger in Stafford. Not always consistent but they do it right most of the time.

Take a drive to Spring, Katharine, and then review THAT place. You'll then have a proper gauge for any future "Philly Cheesesteak" reviews.

WestSideBob topcommenter

 @kshilcutt  @txjboy I believe someone told me " Opinions are like **sholds, everybody's got one."  He's entitled to his.  Both of them. Some folks just bring the term "yankee" to life whenever they appear in public.

FattyFatBastard topcommenter

 @txjboy  @WestSideBob Try out the philly sandwich at Eatsie Boys.  Let me know what you think of that one.  It's been my favorite in town, so far.

Now Trending

From the Vault