For fans of regional food, the quintessential Philadelphia cheesesteak joints are Pat’s and Geno’s. Located across from one another in South Philly, they’re walk-up windows with some picnic table seating outside. Though they’re most known to outsiders, Philadelphians will argue that at least 10 other places are better. (I’m partial to Vinnie’s Place in Media, my suburban Philly hometown.) It’s similar to how Cincinnatians debate chili: Sure, Skyline has the brand recognition, but it’s not necessarily the best. In the spirit of Skyline’s Philly counterparts, 13th Street Alley serves a damn good cheesesteak, operating out of a window off Main Street that’s fast and convenient for OTR workers, residents, and late-night revelers.
The OTR Philly is a classic cheesesteak with chopped sirloin, provolone, and fried onions on a nice, chewy roll; you can add green peppers and mayo and substitute Cheez Whiz for provolone, but why ruin a perfectly good sandwich? It hits all the right notes, mixing savory, crunchy, and gooey, and the bread does a good job holding the deliciousness together. If you’re the type who likes variety, the cheesesteak experience is also offered in a wrap, a salad, and a bowl with white rice. My lunch companions enjoyed the salad (topped with veggies and a dressing of your choice) more than the bowl and said the chicken Philly, buffalo chicken Philly, and Killer Veggie Philly all delivered. We strolled over to nearby Ziegler Park to eat, and I was in cheesesteak al fresco heaven.
13th Street Alley, 126 E. 13th St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 813-8000