I Just Ate My First Philly Cheesesteak

Categories: Here, Eat This

IMG_4882.JPG
Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
The cheesesteak, in all her glory.
I never intended to eat a Philly cheesesteak the other day. Or ever, really.

It's not that I had some ethical opposition to thinly sliced steak, melted cheese and a doughy roll. I like all those things. It's just that I like them separately, and I didn't see how they could be improved upon when combined. I like my steak medium-rare and in tenderloin or short rib form. Why would you cut it up and overcook it?

But it happens that a friend and I found ourselves at Hughie's on an evening when, for whatever reason, the electricity went out.

"We have beer," they told us. "If you want food, we're closed."

My friend knew the neighborhood better than me, so he came up with an alternative.

"How do you feel about cheesesteak?" he asked.

I shrugged. "Never had it."

He balked. "We're getting cheesesteak."

IMG_4885.JPG
The wonderfully melty interior of the Philly Works.
We headed to Pappa Geno's right across the street from Hughie's, tucked into a corner of a strip center near the intersection of Ella and TC Jester. It's a small space, garishly decorated in Whataburger orange and white with just a few booths and bar seats. The menu is short and sweet: A few sandwiches, some sides and seven different Philly varieties.

My friend stuck with the traditional "Philly style steak and cheese," while I figured go big or go home and ordered the "Philly works." Go big was right.

Each sandwich is about a foot long and is overflowing with chopped steak and melted cheese. In the case of my friend's sandwich, the melted cheese was actually Cheez Whiz. Mine came topped with provolone grilled onions, sautéed mushrooms, green bell peppers and mayo.

"What's that white shit on your sandwich?" my friend asked, gesturing to the provolone. "You can't get a Philly with white cheese." Apparently I'm still learning.

I'm please to say that, as a food writer, I've now crossed another you-should-probably-eat-this-before-you-die dish off my list (balut and Rocky Mountain oysters are still there, for the record). I'm ashamed to say it took me this long to finally try a Philly cheesesteak, especially now that I know I kinda like the artery-clogging sammich.

I hear that as far as cheesesteaks go, Pappa Geno's is about as legit as you can get in Houston. But I think in order to truly say I've conquered the cheesesteak, I'm gonna have to get one in Philly. Until that time, Geno is my man.

Location Info

Pappa Geno's

1801 Ella Blvd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
38 comments
WhathashappenedHP
WhathashappenedHP

I'm intrigued. Can you tell me more about this "food" stuff that I hear so many people talking about of late?

txjboy
txjboy

We tried Pappa Geno's when they opened their Bellaire location.  Couldn't eat the damn thing!  Joey Vento is spinning in his grave. Sorry it's your first encounter with this classic Philly sandwich.  Until you try Pat's, Geno's, Tony Lukes (there's others), you haven't had a cheesesteak.  The cheesesteaks at Lenny's subs are far better than this place you reviewed.  You have set the bar pretty low!!

htownsexymama
htownsexymama

  • Brian Tagtmeier Her limited knowledge of food, inability to write about food and her constant attention to the inane detail are amongst her strengths as a food critic. Otherwise, she has no qualifications.May 29 at 1:58pm · 5
  • Molly Ann Quigley She is a f-ing food critic. Good God...these people must know food. It's like saying I am a book critic, but I never read anything by Dickens and then someone threw a book at me, and I wrote an article about the book saying "Hey, it wasn't that bad." Ugh. She must be sleeping with someone.May 29 at 2:01pm · 1
  • Ellen Rein Pierce she has got to be sleeping with the owner. who the hell has never had a philly cheesesteak?

Laura Cox
Laura Cox

Papa Geno's is supreme and Jake's are gross.

The Baker's Man
The Baker's Man

Best Philly Cheesesteak in Houston at Papa Geno's on Ella!

Brie VanKeuren Kelman
Brie VanKeuren Kelman

We go to papa genos so you did it right! The ones in Philly are delicious too obvi since that's where they come from. Papa genos is pretty darn good too though

Nicole Ponder Bradford
Nicole Ponder Bradford

Had a heavenly one in Philadelphia a long time ago. I haven't had that many in Houston, but Kenny & Ziggy's comes damned close to that experience.

Barbara Erceg
Barbara Erceg

I haven't tried Papa Geno's, but Jakes Philly Steaks on Chimney Rock is really good too!

Donnie Carroll
Donnie Carroll

Congratulations! As a Lazybrook resident, I find myself walking there on a bi-weekly basis. The #2 with whiz is pretty much much the best!

Dylan Webb
Dylan Webb

amazing cheesesteaks... and they travel so well, soaking the bread in the perfect amount it grease and liquid cheese :)

Jeff Berlat
Jeff Berlat

Papa Geno's on Ella and 18th is awesome.

GluttonousMaximus
GluttonousMaximus

I have eaten plenty of cheesesteaks in Philly and Jersey.  Believe me.  Pappa Geno's is every bit as good or better.  

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard topcommenter

I went to Eatsie Boys with a couple of previous EOW writers to have their cheese steak. We all thought it was awesome. They still make it as a special and I highly encourage trying it when you can.

Sherri L. Drain
Sherri L. Drain

I was just there last night & had The Works too...so delish! Never had an "authentic" Philly cheesesteak...I've been missing out! The fries w/brown gravy were yum too! My son took on the Fat Philly...all his favs on 1 soft but crispy roll...steak, chicken strips, cheese sticks, fries w/brown gravy & Cheez Whiz! His eyes got big @ the sight of it & couldn't get his mouth around it until he ate some off the top. Can't wait to go back to try other menu items!

lettere
lettere

Pappa Geno's has good steaks, but your friend is 100% incorrect about "white" cheese.  Provolone is the proper and best choice, the sharper the better.  Wit Whiz is for tourists and French fries.

Robin Wong
Robin Wong

Crazy good cheesesteaks. Also have a location in Bellaire. Next to the soon the be open Bernie's Burger Bus.

texmex01
texmex01 topcommenter

I always get both cheeses at Pappa Geno's, it makes it mo'awesome!

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

Where did you grow up, Pakistan? Cheesesteaks are ubiquitous.

Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

Your friend needs to learn that cheesesteaks are commonly served with white cheese, usually either provolone or white american.

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

@KaitlinS @gossamersixteen Haha at least you went to the best one, Geno's is stellar.. Did find this around your hometown, apparently it's well liked too:

Yo Philly Cheesesteak And Subs

3314 Surfside Blvd
Corpus Christi, TX 78402

Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

@texmex01 

That too, but I was countering the incorrect assertion that cheesesteaks are not served with white cheese. They are. Some people apparently like Cheez Whiz but I agree with lettere, above, that this is more of a tourist idea than what the locals eat.  I find Cheez Whiz to be low-end cheese--surely provolone is better, no?

KaitlinS
KaitlinS topcommenter

@gossamersixteen I'll have to check it out should I ever spend more than a night in that city again.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...