For this Philadelphian, when I want a cheesesteak there is only one place to go; Jim’s Steaks on South Street.
In Philadelphia, there are basically three ways you can start an argument anytime, anywhere with just about anyone in the city:
One, tell someone that the movie Rocky is overrated.
Two, say anything about the Philadelphia Eagles. Really, anything at all.
Three, say to someone “You can get the best cheesesteak at (insert name of favorite cheesesteak joint here).
Because while everyone can agree that the beloved cheesesteak may be the signature sandwich of Philly, no one can agree where to get the best one.
Pat’s. Geno’s. Tony Luke’s. Dalessandro’s. The list of places where you can get a really good cheesesteak that will do Philadelphia proud goes on and on. If you are from out of town and want to try one for the first time, any of the above will do the trick. Just remember if you want a genuine cheesesteak, just go up to the counter and say “Wiz, wit” and they will take care of you.
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However, if you live in Philadelphia, you are usually lucky enough to have tried all of the above and have come to a conclusion which is your absolute favorite. The one you will go out of your way to get and will gladly wait in line with the tourists so you can get the only cheesesteak that will satisfy that craving.
For me, that craving means a trip to South Street and Jim’s Steaks.
Serving cheesesteaks since the 1930’s and at their flagship location on Philly’s eclectic South Street since 1976, Jim’s Steaks is my go to cheesesteak place and has been since I first went there as a teenager in the 80’s.
Why is it the one I favor over all others? It’s a combination of things really, some having to do with the sandwich itself and some having to do with the city it calls home.
A sandwich from Jim’s is simply everything you could ever want from a cheesesteak. The onions are just barely cooked so they are tender but still have some crunch when you bite into them. The rolls are ridiculously fresh and doughy so they soak up the flavor of the top Angus beef Jim’s uses that comes hot off the grill the moment you place your order.
In short, it is exactly what a cheesesteak is supposed to be.
Eating at Jim’s Steaks is also a trip to a Philadelphia that doesn’t really exist anymore. In the decades I’ve been going there, nothing about the place has changed. It still features the same chrome counter and linoleum floors that have in all likelihood been there since day one. The wooden tables upstairs wobble and creak and could probably tell some of the best stories you’ve ever heard about generations of Philadelphians from years gone by.
In an age of Chipotles and Starbucks and Whole Foods and organic this and all natural that, it is very comforting to be able to go a place that doesn’t change, doesn’t worry about trends and couldn’t care less what is happening in the world of food.
All Jim’s Steaks does is make cheesesteaks, the best ones you can get in all of Philadelphia.
So if you are new to the city or have been living here for years, next time you want a cheesesteak head over to South Street and try Jim’s Steaks.
And I promise the next time someone tells you where to get the best cheesesteak, you’ll be able to argue with them like a real Philadelphian.