Shiny Metal Tiger

Experiences in Baltimore, MD


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Well, this weekend didn’t turn out quite as adventurous as originally planned, but quite well nonetheless.

The first plan involved seeing America by freight train, which has been postponed due to delays in getting the appropriate guidebook. Then we’d planned an American history weekend in recognition of Memorial Day, going to Gettysburg, PA and Colonial Williamsburg, VA. But then Pete had to work one of the days, and honestly going to an old battlefield didn’t really sound too exciting. Williamsburg more so, but also 4 hours each way. So in the end, we decided to drive to Philadelphia instead, just for a day trip.

I must admit that I knew next to nothing about Philadelphia as we set out, except that it contained an art museum and a number of Italians. I had, however, heard of the Philly cheese steak, though I had never tried one. Clearly, this meant that sampling this delicacy had to be put on the agenda. I did a little bit of research and found out that the cheese steak had originated from Pat’s King of Steaks in 1930, which is still one of the most famous vendors for the sandwich. I’d noted that it was in South Philly, but nothing beyond that, figuring I’d ask around. So imagine Pete’s surprise when I’m driving through an unknown street on the way to the old city (I hadn’t written down any directions, for added adventure) and pull into an intersection boasting Pat’s on the one side, and the newer but equally famous Geno’s Steaks on the other! This naturally called for a scientific inquiry as to who could make the best cheese steak; as with all science, I would limit myself to changing one variable at a time, so I got a ‘provolone wit’ (provolone cheese, with onions) at each place and added some ketchup and mustard and a little relish before chomping down.

Pat's King of Steaks, cradle of the cheese steak

Geno's Steaks, new and improved?

Pat's steak

Geno's steak

The verdict? Pat’s is far better. Geno’s was pretty generic, some alright beef in a bun with a small amount of cheese not making a big difference. For $8.5+tax. At Pat’s the meat was way juicier (and fattier) and fried together with the onions, for a superior chomping experience. Cheese still didn’t really factor in though, and I must admit that I’m not terribly impressed with the whole concept. It’s just some meat in a bun, like a kebab with less seasoning and without the vegetables for variety. It should be noted that Geno’s was also blatantly xenophobic, so I guess we can conclude that racists just fail at life.

With that out of the way, we headed into the Old City. It turns out that Philly had quite a bit of US heritage history attached to it. For a long time it was the largest colony, and indeed the second largest city in the British empire. From 1790 until 1800 it was the capital of the United States, and its Independence Hall is where the constitution and declaration of independence were signed. Add to that the US mint, first federal bank, grave of Benjamin Franklin as well as many other sites, and it turns out to be not entirely unlike the US history tour we’d considered.

All this provided a very nice atmosphere when walking around the old city, but as far as actually visiting the sites it wasn’t particularly thrilling, to a non-American at least. Unlike the National Archives in DC (where the constitution is held), you didn’t really get an impression of the importance of these sites for the shaping of the modern world, although the gallery surrounding Liberty Bell did repeatedly point out their incredible significance. I’m glad we didn’t end up going to Gettysburg.

In here the 13 colonies decided on a constitution

Fortunately there were lots of other sights in Philly, and just walking around was quite enjoyable. For lack of anything profound to say, I’ll let a few pictures tell the rest of the story:

City hall perhaps?

It's the eye of the tiger, it's the thrill of the fight...

They even had the statue out in front of the museum

At the Italian market: homemade pasta, black truffle oil, and nutella...

They call it the city of brotherly love


Written by Martin

2010/06/01 at 22:56

Posted in Uncategorized

5 Responses

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  1. WOW!!! I just read about a Pat vs Geno philly steak it is nice to know some things don’t change.
    I went down to Philly two years ago with a friend who was running the marathon and I was happily surprised what a hip city it is -old town really reminded me of Europe.


    2010/06/02 at 09:56

  2. Yeah, it’s definitely a place to be pleasantly surprised about, at least in the summer.


    2010/06/02 at 10:01

    • Seemed like there were some seriously long queues for the cheese steaks, also by the sound of it, I had expected an actual massive steak, with cheese on top, or possibly filled with cheese somehow. Very disappointing.


      2010/06/02 at 16:23

  3. I’m curious about Geno’s… xenophobic how?

    Che Gobar

    2010/06/03 at 19:12

    • Some of the slogans they were displaying:

      This is America, when ordering speak English

      If you can read, thank a teacher. If you can read in English, thank a marine

      I’m mad as hell, I want my country back!

      Then there was an employee wearing a shirt saying something like “In memory of Dan Faulkner, murdered by [Arab name], who shouldn’t be in a 8×10 cell, but 6 feet closer to hell!”. And the fact that they were selling Freedom Fries. And the Confederate flags. Nothing too outrageous, but it added up.


      2010/06/03 at 19:27

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