- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 1, 2000

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Cheez Whiz dripping onto the sidewalk. Fried onions hanging off the side of the roll. Grease sliding from fingertips and chins.
It's probably the reason Philadelphia was ranked the fattest in the country — and why the city has no five-star restaurants.
"When you talk about cheesesteaks, this is where it is. When you come to Philly, you gotta come to Pat's," said Mike Cautillo, 39, of Wilmington, Del., downing his second cheesesteak of the night recently at Pat's in South Philadelphia.
Sure, Mayor John Street told Oprah about a healthier eggplant cheesesteak and some weak-kneed folks might seek out chicken or cheese-less versions of the traditional sandwich.
But for true aficionados, there is only Pat's or Geno's, across the street from each other.
"I always go to Pat's, that's the real Philly cheesesteak. It's not that shoe leather that you get at other places," said Philadelphia 76ers President Pat Croce. "Dripping with Whiz and onions, breathing in the carbon monoxide from the street. There's nothing like it."
Geno's also has its partisans, including Iris Maldonado of New York: "This is real steak. Not Steak-ums."
Whether it's pretzels or hoagies, Tastykakes or water ice, Philadelphians are passionate about food. About 200 die-hard hoagie fans turned out this week at City Hall to sample a mile-long hoagie, a new record.
The basic cheesesteak is thinly sliced beef and cheese on a hoagie roll, with optional sweet or hot peppers, onions, mushrooms and hot sauce. Always to-go, cheesesteaks often are paired with cheese fries (Cheez Whiz) and birch beer, a Pennsylvania version of root beer.
Open 24 hours, Pat's and Geno's are busy around the clock — especially before Philadelphia Flyers games and when the nearby South Street bars close at around 2 a.m.
Numerous other cheesesteak joints have been touted as the best in town, including Jim's and Dalessandro's as well as Sun Valley Pizza Company — lauded for its chicken cheesesteak — but Pat's and Geno's are the traditional, long-standing rivals.
Pat's calls itself the original, boasting that it started in 1930. It's distinguished by yellow neon lights and no decoration except for a sign for the unwary explaining, "How to Order a Steak, by I.M. Hungry." Legend has it that nasty Soup Nazi-type Pat's workers often send customers who misorder to the end of lines that sometimes snake down the block.
Geno's is more tourist-friendly, plastered with pictures of celebrities and their steaks — from Sylvester Stallone to President Clinton.
"Good Morning America" chose Geno's in a taste test a few years back. Former Mayor Ed Rendell will eat only at Pat's. Clinton has judiciously stopped at both sites. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., stopped at Pat's this week.
Joe LaBella, of Utica, N.Y., eating his second steak of the night — one from each place — said the secret seems to be the Cheez Whiz mixed with onions.
As for his fries without Whiz, he deadpanned: "I'm watching my cholesterol."

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