There are two facts about cheesesteaks few people would deny. One is that they are not native to New York. The other is that no one here is especially fond of them. The cheesesteak has a low ceiling, I'll be the first to admit; but when done well, it's a worthy rival to any of the city's great native sandwiches, from the Reuben to the bacon, egg, and cheese on a hard roll.
Sometimes called the Mecca of deli, Katz's is more accurately the Dome of the Rock of Deli: the sanctum sanctorum, the source and shrine of all that deli means in America. Go for the mystique -- but stay for the pastami.
Of all New York's cheesesteak imports, Carl's tries harder for true Philly authenticity than any of its rivals, and succeeds. It's the most Philly-like cheesesteak in town. But that doesn't make it the best.
This west village hangout is a fine place to have a beer and watch a football game, but its only true mark of distinction is its excellent cheesesteak. t's good, but like its near neighbor the Corner Bistro, has been coasting on its rep for years.
The artist formerly known as Tony Luke's produces the greatest of all philly sandwiches -- no, not the cheesesteak (though theirs is great.) It's the pork sandwich with broccoli rabe and extra sharp provolone. Maddon'!
Whitman's is a high-minded, somewhat too urbane, and not inexpensive East Village luncheonette that happens to serve the best cheesesteak in the world. That is all I have to say on the subject.
There's not much to say about Philly Slim's, other than that they make great, great cheesesteaks. Others are slightly more authentic and one or two are better, but this one has it all.
A sequel of sorts to a legendary deli, this Bay Ridge sandwich shop serves some truly excellent pastrami, good-enough corned beef and brisket, and a surprisingly good cheesesteak. It also has about as much atmosphere as the DMV.