Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Philly Cheese Steak Experience

philadelphia philly cheese steaks,Tom's Take Out Mark Velasquez Photography
As I've already mentioned several times on my flickr accounts, Kacie was a blast. The eighteen hours or less I spent in Philly was more enjoyable than the several days I spent in one or two other places on my cross country trip (not West Virginia). Along with the six different photo shoot set-ups we accomplished into the early morning, we also made time to stop and compare the different philly cheese steaks offered by Geno's and Pat's, one of my goals from the very start.

They are both legendary places, and being across the street from each other made it even more convenient to take samples of each and compare in real time. Of course, first we did a shoot with Geno's as a backdrop since it was the more colorful of the two, all the while getting cat calls from loud drunks which Kacie handled by yelling profanities back at them. Only after that did we get sandwiches and fries from each place, found ourselves a table amidst the drunks, including the Toronto Blue Jay and Phillies fans who had just gotten out of their game, and began our taste test.

Not only is Kacie a perfect model, but with getting her degree in photography that week I could trust someone else to document me for the first time on the trip, which she did wonderfully.
Tom's Take Out Mark Velasquez Photography,philadelphia philly cheese steaks
I cleansed my palette as best I could between bites while Kacie took a much less scientific approach. Famished, she would take a bite of a sandwich, definitively stating that it was the best, then after eating a french fry she would take a bite of the other sandwich, seriously and definitively stating that now that one in her hand was the best. This went on repeatedly until they were both gone. Pretty hilarious.
philadelphia philly cheese steaks,Tom's Take Out Mark Velasquez Photography

Towards the end of the meal the peace and fun of the moment was broken by a throng of yelling and cursing at a group of girls walking past by another group of girls seated behind me. "Get the fuck out of here, you fuckin' Jersey Sluts! Fuckin' Whores! Goddamn Jersey Bitches!" I turned around expecting to see some type of tough, street hardened gang members, only to find four of the most innocent, sweet looking South Philly girls texting away, smoking their cigarettes and eating their sandwiches. Kacie and I looked at each other with amusement, though I am sure I had more shock and confusion on my face than she did on her's.
philadelphia philly cheese steaks,Tom's Take Out Mark Velasquez Photography
Though she is from another part of Pennsylvania, Kacie has the tough, shitty attitude that is quite at home in the tougher, more run down area that is South Philadelphia. Once the group of female roughnecks saw Kacie posing for more photos a few minutes later, they immediately became young girls again, talking about photography and modeling, asking for my business cards and wanting to pose for me. With all of them being 15 years old I let them down gently, saying they'd have to wait a while. They were very excited when I asked to take their group photo though. How could I leave without documenting them?

So the conclusion on "The Philly Cheese Steak Experience": for one, Pat's had better fries, hands down. For the sandwiches though it was far more complicated. After much deliberation I had to agree with what someone had told me earlier in the week, that Pat's has better tasting meat but Geno's has better rolls. Together they would be unstoppable, maybe they should team up...?

Quite the intense night. I was pretty worn out from the trip so far, highly satisfied with the photos I had taken that day and with the company I was presently keeping, and yet was fully aware of the daunting hours, days and weeks ahead. I couldn't help but breathe a heavy sigh of unnameable meaning while smiling the whole time. Only a month after returning did I realize that the sigh was equal parts exhaustion, amazement at the task I had undertaken and was accomplishing, and extreme joy.

By the next day I would be once again sleep deprived, taking photos in a stranger's house in New Jersey, and by the afternoon travel to New York City and beyond.


  1. Mark, Great story and thanks for the positive comment about West Virginia. Wish you were planning another trip here. A few of my photography friends are planning a trip to the cabin on October 10th to take fall pictures. My brother Roger is also going along. Hope the power goes out again, still great memorys of our talks by the fire pit. Take care and good to hear you are doing well. Your friend in West Virginia. Mike

  2. I love to prepare some recipe that contain many cheese. I think the cheese, always give to the meals a speciall flavor. So when i cook i usually add many cheese what ever i am cooking and i love it. simply delicious.
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  3. Thanks for sharing !

    I do miss a true Philly cheese steak.. subway here in Brazil has something called 'meat and chesse' but not even close to the real deal.

    Congratulations on your work !