Just in case it's been a full three days since someone tried to argue with you about who makes the best cheesesteaks in Philadelphia, Vice is here to tell you that the debate is futile, anyway, because Subway and health nuts are killing the city's go-to street food.
Writer Adam Evans investigates the horror that is a Subway cheesesteak, before name-dropping Blackbird Pizzeria and their vegan jawns. Then he goes on to explain the whole Geno's controversy and congratulate/condemn Geno's son for taking the place in a new direction, kind of.
Considering this context, the changes Vento institutes could be a welcome respite from an uncomfortable history. Certainly a healthier— and less racist—Philadelphia is a good idea. But at the same time, these healthy adaptations also make clear the attempt to tame and sterilize working-class food culture. From the exterior view, replete with numerous neon signs and a giant glowing cheesesteak, Geno’s itself looks like some kind of meat amusement park from hell. I’d love to offer a romantic history of the cheesesteak along the lines of the Cubano, with local workers lining up to grab steaks on their lunch breaks, but whatever roots in feeding the common people Geno’s may have had, it is now largely given over to the spectacle of a tourist trap.
The easiest response, of course, would be for purists to completely ignore Geno’s as it completes this transformation. But whether it be “Philly” offerings from Subway and T.G.I. Fridays or vegan steaks from the city’s local all-vegetarian shops like Blackbird Pizzeria and Govinda’s Vegetarian, the entire cheesesteak landscape is shifting dramatically. It would be comforting if the crowds of tourists drawn to Geno’s neon lights like idiotic moths to a flame walked away with at least a somewhat authentic experience of Philadelphia cuisine. Hopefully, there’s a way to preserve the only slightly toxic tradition of the delicious cheesesteak while navigating the more thoroughly toxic aspects of its present predicament.