A quick tour of Philly's cheesesteak joints:
Pat's & Geno's are both at the low end of the spectrum, but if you're a tourist and/or you're piss drunk, go for it. It's still 10x better than any cheesesteak you've had before if you've never been to this area.
Jim's is pretty good.
Tony Luke's is good.
Steve's Prince Of Steaks is good.
Don't be afraid to take a chance on a diner, bar, or "lunch truck"... many of them will surprise you. If you see the word "Amoroso's" anywhere, that's a good sign. (They make the rolls most of the good steak joints use. Sarcone's rolls are even better, but not nearly as common.)
The atmosphere pretty much blows at all the cheesesteak joints. That's part of the charm.
I hate Cheez Whiz, and so do most other Philadelphians, contrary to the rumors. Some vendors try to propagate the rumors that "wiz" is the preferred "cheese" because it helps their bottom line to use some nasty food-like substance with infinite shelf life, rather than real cheese.
Provolone or American are the way to go on a plain cheesesteak.
Mozzarella is allowed on pizza cheese steaks.
Fried onions, peppers, "sauce" (pizza sauce, basically), and DIY ketchup are all acceptable toppings.
I can't really think of anything else other than salt & pepper that you should be putting on a cheesesteak if you want to avoid ridicule and possible bodily harm.
When it comes to ordering, if there's a long line behind you, just be quick about it. The simpler your order is, the better your steak is going to taste, anyway.
Despite the large portions and excessive greasiness, you will be amazed at how you don't immediately **** yourself, and you can still pound beer after beer right after stuffing your gullet with a big cheesesteak and fries. It's an exceptional "base" meal.
Lager is a good drink with your cheesesteak, as it's usually about the best beer you'll find at these dumps. Better to save your money and go to one of our fine pubs or gastropubs. Just shove the hipsters out of your way or you'll never get service.
If you have a hundred bucks burning a hole in your pocket, you can get the Kobe cheese steak at Barclay Prime--but there are much better things on the menu there (just be prepared to spend a lot.)
For a truly great
steak, I recommend D'allessandro's, but it's a bit out of the way for most people.