“Now that I live in New York, I tell people that Philly is my second home—but really it’s my first home.” That’s Questlove, talking about the city where he was born and raised, in his awesome upcoming book somethingtofoodabout (due out in April via Clarkson Potter). There are no recipes in the book; instead, the always-thinking, food-loving musician goes deep with ten outstanding chefs around the country, from Dave Beran in Chicago to L.A.’s Ludo Lefebvre. His subjects range from how a bad review can save a career to fast food that’s more exciting than fine dining.
Questlove—whose birthday is today, January 20; HBD, Questlove!—makes it his business to know the great restaurants in the cities where he tours. But there’s no city that he knows as well as Philly. A couple of years ago, I got to run around Philadelphia with him, hitting stellar spots like Vedge. He also gave me a list of his favorite cheesesteak spots.
“Every day, the most consistent question I’m asked, is: ‘I’m in Philadelphia, I need a cheesesteak. Where do I go?’ When Justin Timberlake and Jay Z come to town, I give them my list. Jay went to Ishkabibble’s. I think he ordered cheesesteaks for his entire touring crew.”
In honor of his birthday, we present Questlove’s top 5 Philly cheesesteaks:
1. Tony Luke’s
Some people might dispute it, but it’s #1. #1. #1.
- The Hungry Crowd: Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson
- Fried Chicken Battle: David Chang vs. Questlove
- Grilled Philly Cheesesteaks
2. Cosmi’s Deli
When The Sopranos was in full production, Cosmi’s would send 100 cheesesteaks every week.
3. Gennaro’s Pizza
It’s labeled a pizzeria, but you get the cheesesteak. When you need extra grease in your life, go to 13th & South Streets.
Of the tourist cheesesteak spots, Ishkabibble’s has the most inventive cheesesteak of them all, especially the chicken cheesesteak, the best nontraditional cheesesteak in Philly.
5. Pagano’s Market & Bar
It’s North Philly, and it’s the fattest, juiciest, tangiest cheesesteak the city has to offer.