Medical workers across the region are being treated to cheesesteaks from Pat’s King of Steaks. The South Philly icon has begun a project to donate 1,000 of its signature sandwiches to hospitals, according to spokesperson Nancy Schure.

So far, the local comfort food has been delivered to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Jefferson and Penn Presbyterian, Schure said, with additional batches set for Einstein, Temple Hospital and CHOP this week.

The 90-year-old steak shop has also sent hundreds to workers at Mt. Sinai in New York and the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.

“I can’t believe this is my first Philly cheesesteak,” says a nurse at Mt. Sinai, seen in a video peeling back the paper and adding her own Whiz on top.

Hospitals have welcomed a flood of food donations over the past couple of weeks. Some of these medical worker meals are being paid for by crowdfunding campaigns, set up with the dual purpose of giving shuttered restaurants some business and feeding frontline medical workers at the same time.

Despite business being down 75%, Pat’s is funding the cheesesteak giveaways on its own, Schure said. She and third-generation owner Frank Olivieiri are working locally with an initiative called Philadelphia Area Hospital/ity Support to coordinate delivery and logistics.

That GoFundMe was organized by Jeff Rubin, manager of Four Dogs Tavern in West Chester. He’s heard an outpouring of thanks for the thousands of meals he’s helped deliver, he told Billy Penn.

“Just heard from the hospital people what your group is donating. For all of the folks at Temple, thank you so much!” reads a note sent to Rubin by a Philly medical worker.

“We know the difficult circumstances that you guys are under and we cannot thank you enough for taking the time and effort to support us,” says another.

Credit: Courtesy Jeff Rubin

Pat’s has also gotten similar messages directly, Schure said. One man was so excited to be able to give his hospital worker wife a cheesesteak that he offered to pay for it — and was thrilled to find out it was being delivered for free.

Like many other food operations, the walk-up shack at the corner of 9th and Passyunk is suffering from lack of regular business. Half the staff has been laid off, according to Schure, who also pointed to one bright spot:

Nationwide delivery via Goldbelly has exploded during the pandemic, with up to 8,000 frozen, ready-to-reheat steaks being shipped each week.

That’s up from about 250 weekly orders during normal times, Schure said. The surge is enough to keep the business afloat, for now, and for it to continue paying longtime managers. And though Goldbelly orders are backed up for a month at this point, locals can still order fresh cheesesteaks online via Grubhub, DoorDash or other courier services.

“Our hearts go out to those who have lost lives and to everyone affected — which is everyone,” said Olivieri. “We will do all we can do to help. I hope when this is over we will become a closer and more loving world.”

Credit: Courtesy Jeff Rubin

Danya Henninger is director and editor of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation — including the membership program. She is a former food...