You don’t have to be in Philly — or even in the greater Philadelphia area — to find a great cheesesteak in Pennsylvania.
Whether you’re a cheese whiz fanatic, a provolone purist, or an American singles heathen, you know that the Philly cheesesteak holds a special place in the state’s culinary history. Invented in the 1930s by hot dog stand owners Pat (of the iconic South Philly spot Pat’s King of Steaks) and Harry Olivieri, the sandwich exploded in popularity during the second half of the 20th century, and has become the signature Philadelphia food, as synonymous with the city as the Liberty Bell and Rocky Balboa.
Nowadays, you can find cheesesteaks across the country, but nothing compares to a cheesesteak made in the state where it all started. Philadelphians may scoff at the idea of a cheesesteak made outside of the city limits, but if you keep your mind open, you’ll find many hidden (and not so hidden) cheesesteak gems throughout the state.
The Original Thunderbird, Broomall
Despite its unassuming appearance, the Original Thunderbird is one of the best steak shops in Delaware County. Serving excellent sandwiches, steaks, pizza, and even breakfast, the Original Thunderbird is beloved by locals for a reason. The restaurant has been family-owned and operated since 1956, winning Main Line Today’s “Best Cheesesteak” award in 2018 along with numerous other local awards.
Jay’s Steak and Hoagie Joint, Langhorne
This Bucks County institution delights in marching to the beat of its own drum. Not only is the menu stacked with creative ideas like beer dip stuffed cheesesteak egg rolls, but the shop donates 10% of sales to local charities. By eating here, you can have a great cheesesteak while helping to do some good in the community.
The Crazy Tomato, Williamsport
This restaurant’s excellent pizza and subs may take top spot on their menu, but the Crazy Tomato makes one of the best chicken cheesesteaks in the state. Be warned however: the crazy hot chicken cheesesteak isn’t for the faint of heart, so If you’re planning on ordering it, make sure you can take some heat.
Fresh from a pilgrimage along the east coast, Peppi’s founder Jim “Big Tree” Trebac returned home to Pittsburgh in 1983 and founded his own steak shop inspired by his travels. He found that the bread was the secret to a great steak and took that to heart by focusing on acquiring fresh local buns from an area staple called Mancini’s. Trebec’s philosophy seems to work, as 40 years on, the shop is still receiving acclaim for their wide selection of cheesesteaks.
Hellertown Crossroads Inn, Hellertown
Serving their cheesesteaks with hand cut beef and fresh buns alongside their famous pizza and fries, this historic inn has been serving Hellertown locals for more than half a century. Cheesesteak purists be warned: the inn makes theirs with a special house-made sauce and pickles, but there still are plenty of other options for the more traditional cheesesteak fanatic.
The Jackson House, Harrisburg
Located in downtown Harrisburg, this charmingly old-school shop ships in bread fresh from South Philly daily to ensure authenticity. While traditionally a burger restaurant, the variety of steak sandwiches and retro vibe at the Jackson House are a welcome treat in a sea of chain restaurants and shiny gastropubs.
Yocco’s the Hot Dog King, Allentown/Emmaus/Trexlertown
And you thought this Lehigh Valley staple (with six locations) only did hot dogs. Outside of excellent dogs, Yocco’s is known for its “Allentown-style” cheesesteaks with stewed onions, chili sauce, pickles and hot peppers. Unconventional? Maybe. Delicious? Absolutely.
The Pepper Mill, West Chester
The Pepper Mill is famous throughout southeastern PA, with a menu that will deliver on almost anything you order. Not only are its classic cheesesteaks and pizzas excellent, they offer a number of creative cheesesteak options like the Tex-Mex inspired south of the border steak and a decadent, spicy chicken steak cordon bleu.