After living in Philadelphia for almost 9 years, it was not until last month that I experienced John’s Roast Pork, a South Philadelphia staple for out-of-this-world cheese steaks and roast pork sandwiches. Ordering lunch at this hot spot is an experience in itself. To be a part of the ultimate Philadelphia experience, stand in line at John’s Roast Pork and take it all in. In typical Philly style, the location is on a random corner across from a busy South Philadelphia shopping strip with a Target, Shop Rite, IHop and Marshall’s on one side and a factory and railroad tracks on the other. One thing you don’t realize as you drive up to this unassuming corner “lunch shack” is that this place was here well before any Target or IHop was even a thought. Since 1930, this family business has stood on this corner of Weccacoe and Snyder Avenue. You are lucky to get a nearby parking spot during peak hours but somehow I did. With my parents in town helping me prepare to move into a new home, we planned to fuel up at John’s Roast Pork before hitting South Philly’s Home Depot for our long list of household items.
On that one unseasonably warm day in February, when we all thought maybe winter was over, my mom claimed a table for us outside and basked in the sunshine and clear skies while my dad and I got in the line that extended about 15 feet outside the door. We were just in time because as soon as we got in line about 10 more people did. A John’s employee came out with a long hoagie roll and handed it to the last guy in line. He said, “No more cheese steaks for anyone after this guy with the roll!” The folks that trickled into line after him were clearly disappointed. As we inched closer to the door, we could here orders being shouted out. My dad, a New Orleans man through and through, was ready to fearlessly holler our cheese steak order to these Philly guys.
Suspense was rising as we got inside the door. The line twisted up and around this small store. Walls are lined with “Best of Philly” awards as well as numerous newspaper and magazine clippings from over the years praising the goodness of John’s Roast Pork all dirtied up by the grease in the air from the constant cooking of cheese steaks and sandwiches on the grill. Beverages, chips and Tastee Cakes also line the walls, designed so you can get your drinks and chips while waiting in line. The man in front of us shouted his order and then it was time; the spotlight turned toward us. The hard-working, red faced cook behind the counter looked us in the eye and yelled out, “Next for steaks!”. That was our cue. I coached my dad a bit and he was ready. He embraced the moment and yelled out in this small space packed with locals in a no-nonsense voice with just a hint of his New Orleans accent, “Steak with PROVolone, fried onions!” He did it. Our big part was over and now it was all business. Up to the counter, our steak was just about ready and it was time to order the roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe, roasted peppers and provolone. About 20 minutes after getting in line, the process was over; we paid in cash and headed back to the sunshine to indulge in these highly acclaimed Philadelphia specialties.
Even though this place is called John’s Roast Pork, we were most impressed by their cheese steak. This was no surprise as this place has been known as “the home of the ultimate cheese steak”. The steak is seasoned to perfection and topped with sweet fried onions and sharp provolone cheese, although any cheese would make this steak scream. The seeded roll adds a crisp nuttiness that finishes off this winning sandwich along with tiny dollops of hot cherry peppers with each bite for a kick. With this said, the pork sandwich still makes quite a statement. This business boasts homemade roasted pork made right in house with their commercial oven and their secret family recipe that has been used for generations. The succulent, moist pork soaks right into the roll complimented by the bitterness of broccoli rabe, the sweetness of roasted peppers and sharpness from the provolone cheese.
These two sandwiches are worth the trip to this corner in South Philly. But that’s not all you can get from John’s. If you work nearby, then stop on by for a divine breakfast sandwich that will keep you running all day. Any kind of egg sandwich that you can think of is served here started as early as 6:45am Monday through Friday. Tough day ahead, then maybe try the Italian Sausage and Eggs or Steak and Eggs sandwich on a long roll. For lunch, any kind of hoagie or steak sandwich is available…Cheese Steak, Pizza Steak, Bacon Cheese Steak, Mushroom Cheese Steak, Steak Milano, Chicken Steak, Chicken Steak Italiano, and Bruschetta Cheese Steak. And that’s just the steaks!
This place cooks and serves bright and early Monday through Friday and ends the day at 3:00pm. Don’t expect to get a cheese steak close to 3pm-be sure to arrive early if you want one of these. Stop by John’s Roast Pork to experience the “ultimate cheese steak” and a roast pork recipe also known as “Pop Pop’s Recipe” that has been going strong since 1930. You know its good if Pop Pop made it!
John’s Roast Pork
14 East Snyder Avenue – South Philadelphia
Across from Snyder Plaza