The Steaks Are High

Barack Obama stops by Pat's, eats a sandwich, blows Catholic minds.

By Brian McManus
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 12 | Posted Apr. 23, 2008

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Say cheesesteak: What a treat to see the candidate stuff his face ... and talk a little politics. (Photographs by Michael Persico)

"Oh, snap! It's Barack Obama!" a teenage Catholic schoolboy yells at the top of his lungs while pulling the phone out of his khakis to snap a shot. The young man and about 60 or so of his Allentown Central Catholic classmates (plus one priest) begin to lose their collective minds.

Tears. Screams. Pictures. Hysteria. Secret Service. Police. Scores of photographers.

Obama smiles, saunters up to Pat's King of Steaks, wife Michelle at his side. "I'm hungry. How's school going, kids?"

More tears. More screams. More pictures. More hysteria.

Pat's King of Steaks is under siege.

Let's back up.

Pat's is an awful place to broadcast a live radio show. Quite possibly the worst.

It's too loud. The streets surrounding it are too narrow. The microphones pick up every ear-piercing squeak of bus brakes, every car alarm going off, every wing flap of every pigeon on the ground escaping with every leftover they've successfully pecked.

And then there's the crowd noise. There's a lot of that too. Duh. It's Pat's.

Sample conversation:

Fat out-of-towner one: "What are you ordering?"

Fat out-of-towner two: "Whiz wit' is what you're supposed to get. I read that in Frommer's."

But the myriad distractions aren't rattling the team of POTUS '08 (tagline: "Where everyone is an insider!"), an XM radio show out of Washington, D.C., that's broadcasting from Pat's today. David Butler, senior director of corporate affairs at XM, is overseeing the madness, and is as cool as a cucumber.

"We chose Pat's because it's the first. It's the oldest, and they're credited with inventing the cheesesteak," Butler says calmly. "Also, [owner] Frank [Olivieri] really rolled out the red carpet for us."

Butler is soon joined on the sidelines by Joe Mathieu, co-host of POTUS (White House-speak for "president of the United States"), who's taking a short break while his on-air partner Rebecca Roberts interviews a gaggle of special guests you've never heard of ( blogger Greg Palmer, CN8 bureau chief and former aide to Rick Santorum Robert Traynham), a few you have (Mayor Michael Nutter, Sen. Bob Casey) and, naturally, a couple women blogging about the election for Glamour magazine (blog name: Glamocracy).

"I'm having Pat's for breakfast, lunch and dinner," Mathieu smiles, adding, "I'm the typical out-of-towner!"

Mathieu expresses disbelief that Obama has already pulled up his Pennsylvania stakes and hightailed it to Indiana. But the radio host is clearly unaware that in just a few short hours he'll be face-to-face with the junior senator from Illinois talking about the economy and other key issues. "He should at least stick around, thank his supporters," he says and then wonders aloud whether this is a political misstep.

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Comments 1 - 12 of 12
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1. Anonymous said... on Jan 21, 2013 at 11:28PM

“Pat's sucks!”

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2. Anonymous said... on Mar 25, 2013 at 12:20PM

“pat's is awesome. best steaks in philly!”

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3. Joe Green said... on Apr 10, 2013 at 02:46PM

“Always go to Pat's when I'm back in Philly and it's the place I recommend to friends I know who are visiting. Something about the history of the place make it special.”

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4. john morrow said... on Jan 23, 2014 at 12:51PM

“I love Pat's. My son prefers Jim's.”

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5. Julie said... on Feb 21, 2014 at 12:07AM

“I lOvE pAtS!!!!! P.A. All Day Son!!”

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6. IntheKnow said... on Jul 1, 2014 at 09:22AM

“Pat's is decent and respect the originator, but JIM'S STEAKS are the best. Try them both and you'll see.”

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7. Anonymous said... on Jul 11, 2014 at 12:38PM


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8. GUNNY said... on Aug 7, 2014 at 05:33PM

“I was stationed in South Philadelphia in the 70's and Pat's was our choice for cheesesteaks! I have family I New England and friends in D.C. I exit the New Jersey turnpike, go into Philly to Pat's for a meal regardless of the time of day.
Always th ed same "Wit, mushrooms, peppers, whiz!"”

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9. Bill DeLussey said... on Sep 1, 2014 at 11:31AM

“I've had steaks all around the entire city. I find Pat's to be the best and no other shop gets the right balance of steak, onion and cheese-whiz. The roll is perfect, as the roll is the most important part of the sandwich. Finally, when you get food at Pat's you're not only eating a sandwich but eating history. One of the coolest things to do there is to stand where Rocky stood in the movie. And seeing my daughter stand there as I and my dad and pop pop did brought tears to my eyes. Pat's- You're Awesome!! Gimmie one whiz wit and, as always, one or two to go. Thanks.”

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10. Bob said... on Jan 21, 2015 at 07:38PM

“Came into town to taste the famous steaks sandwich from both Pat's / Geno's. We had to go to back to Pat's. Hands down the best....Good Job!”

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11. Carrie said... on Mar 29, 2015 at 04:37PM

“Will be back in Philly next month after a 9-year absence. First stop: Pat's Steaks. The best!”

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12. andrew betancourt said... on Aug 19, 2015 at 03:22PM

“Every time I visit Phila. on my annual visit, I make it a point to tour the 9th street market and then go to Pats for a cheese steak with peppers. Its the best. why there are so many detractors and insults is beyond my understanding. Pat's is a business that should be honored and respected.”


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