Pat’s King of Steaks

Pat's King of Steaks

Pat’s King of Steaks Copyright © 2014 Will Chen.

I had the opportunity to make a pit stop at the iconic South Philadelphia’s Pat’s King of Steaks, the birthplace of the famous Philly Cheesesteak (2014).

Pat’s King of Steaks (also known as Pat’s Steaks) is a Philadelphia restaurant specializing in cheesesteaks, and located at the intersection of South 9th Street, Wharton Street and East Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia, directly across the street from rival Geno’s Steaks. It was founded in 1930 by brothers, Pat and Harry Olivieri, who are credited with the creation of the Philly Cheesesteak.

Pat’s King of Steaks was founded by Pat and Harry Olivieri in 1930. The brothers were generally credited as the 1933 co-creators of the Philly Cheesesteak.

In 1930, the brothers opened a hot dog stall at the corners of 9th Street, Wharton Street and Passyunk Avenue.

In 1933, as the family relates the story, the brothers were working their stand when they decided to try something different for lunch. Pat Olivieri sent Harry Olivieri to the market for some inexpensive steak. The brothers thinly sliced the steak, then grilled it along with some chopped onions. The aroma attracted a cabdriver who was a regular customer; he asked to try the dish which the brothers called a steak sandwich. Pat sold him the sandwich for ten cents.

Soon afterwards, at the advice of the aforementioned cabdriver, the brothers started selling steak sandwiches instead of hot dogs. By 1940, they had saved enough to rent space to open a restaurant at the same spot where they had their stand. The two brothers worked at the restaurant for 15 to 18 hours a day for the next few decades while the restaurant was open 24 hours a day. Harry worked at the Philadelphia Navy Yard during World War II before returning to the restaurant.

After pulling back from expansion and franchising efforts in the 1980s, the business was divided up by the Olivieri family. Harry and his son kept the original location, today run by Harry’s grandson, Frank Jr. Pat’s son Herbert opened “Olivieri’s Prince of Steaks”, later to be the source of a family dispute.