Pat, Geno, Rocky and Me

Remember the Calorie Neutral Challenge? Here’s the latest.

Pat, Geno, Rocky … where else can I be but Philadelphia?

As I undertake the calorie-neutral challenge two things are really on my mind. First, where can I eat something good, or if not good, iconic. Secondly, where’s great to run. On these points, Philly’s probably got the most iconic double (or triple) act of the nation – Philadelphia Cheesesteak and the Rocky Steps.

I come to cheesesteak courtesy of Providence lawyer Ryan McNelis (see the post Rhode Island MLP for Children). Such is Ryan’s appreciation for Philadelphia cheesesteak he drew for me a detailed map on the back of a napkin charting the route from downtown Philly to cheesesteak rival operators Pat’s and Geno’s, making my map app instantly redundant. Ryan, I salute you.

Notwithstanding Ryan’s enthusiasm, cheesesteak is not gourmet. It is unpretentious fast food – a sandwich made from thinly-sliced pieces of steak and melted cheese in a long roll. True, there are intricacies and debates about the best cheeses and toppings and who makes the best, which Wikipedia covers adequately, but for our purposes all you need to know is that they are … essentially … gross. I mean, take a look. Although there are different cheeses you can get, the traditional option seemed to be Cheez Wiz – also covered by Wikipedia and really worth a look! They pump it on hot and it soaks in…. It was dignified by some Jalapeño peppers and some other sort of relish, but I swear I would’ve choked but for the DIET Pepsi to wash it down!

Now when you get to the intersection of Pat’s and Geno’s, which is reminiscent of Vegas, it is a tough choice. I went to Pat’s for the cheesesteak because it is considered the inventor. But I felt sorry for Geno’s and had a cheese-fries chaser. I shouldn’t have (felt sorry or had the fries). At first I was expecting some fries dusted with some sort of dry cheesy stuff, like chicken salt I guess. Duh, who’s the idiot. It was fries drowned in cheese wiz.

          “$5 bucks for cheese fries!” the woman in front of me says under her breath. Can you believe dat!”

          “But they’re good right?” I say.

          “Right”, she exhales, torn. She buys two.

I couldn’t finish the last third.





By 6am the next morning I could still feel the cheese in my gut – it’s gonna take days for that to come through. I laced up and  headed out for one of the most iconic and clichéd of all runs – the Rocky Steps.

For the uninitiated (like me until one of our law student volunteers Anthony Celi recently enlightened me) the “Rocky Steps” are the 72 stone steps before the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, so named following their appearance in the triple-Oscar-winning film Rocky and four of its sequels, Rocky II,IIIV and Rocky Balboa, in which local hero Rocky Balboa runs up them. But don’t worry you don’t have to rush out and get the boxed set of Rocky movies (which our Principal Solicitor Anna Howard now proudly possess thanks to Anthony) to see it. You can catch it here.

So, for posterity I did the 3.2 miles / 5.1 k down to the steps, around the Gallery into Fairmount Park, along the Schuylkill River  and back down Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Here’s the steps (below) – tragic and a little shakey I know. It was low-budget…

So that was Philly.


“Yo, Adrian, we did it…We did it.” (Rocky Balboa 2006)



  1. I think getting up those stairs after a night on the Cheese Whiz is a significant achievement. Inspirational stuff! One of the golden rules of Michael Pollan (awesome food/nutrition journalist from the US – -) is don’t eat anything which includes ingredients that your grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food. Cheese Whiz includes xanthan gum and carrageenan. Not sure Gran has either of those wedged between the rolled oats and the rice!

  2. Rightio. Enough of the descriptions of the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’. Is there a balances scorecard? Are you wearing one of those calculator thingies which tells you how many calories you are buring around the streets and up the steps? And how would you calculate the energy load of the cheesesteak and fries. Are you hitting the neutral – break even point? Perhaps an occasional photo of the scales would help out

    • Yeah fair call Helen. Regrettably there’s is no current balance – I couldn’t get roaming internet on a pre-paid for my ‘dumb’ phone so the app that calculates k’s and cals doesn’t work… What to do? I feel like I’m hovering a little above my departure weight – 86.2kg. So we’ll see what it’s like on weigh-in when I’m back. And as for the calories – here are the numbers, courtesy of Penn Medicine

      The numbers
      Cheese steak
      Calories: 900
      Fat: 40 grams
      Protein: 50 grams
      Carbohydrates: 80 grams

      Cheese fries
      Calories: 870
      Fat: 50 grams
      Protein: 18 grams
      Carbohydrates: 93 grams

      Meet the cheese steak, the king of Philadelphia foods — fried beef, melted Cheese Whiz® and fried onions on a fresh Italian roll. On the side: steak-cut French fries covered in melted cheese.

      For this analysis, we visited two South Philadelphia hot spots that contribute to the sandwich’s fame. Both steaks were almost identical in ingredients and amounts.

      The cheese steak really makes a big hit for calories and fat. Eat one of these and you rack up a whopping 900 calories and 40 grams of fat. Lose the cheese, and the picture’s a little better: you save about 155 calories and 12 grams of fat.

      The cheese fries pack a wallop, too: 870 calories and 50 grams of fat!

      Nutrition aside, if you’re visiting Philadelphia, be sure to try a cheese steak, as they’re a tasty treat. But there’s no question: this meal should not be a staple of a healthy diet!

      Note: Be aware that ingredients and cooking methods can vary, so the foods you order may not match these nutritional counts exactly.

      Analysis by:
      Lauren Hudson, MS, RD
      Candace Cantwell, RD
      Marianne Petrella, RD and
      Olga Antonopoulos.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: