Jim’s Cheesesteaks ( Jim’s South St.)
Situated in a black art deco building on the southwest corner of 4th and South St. is our favorite cheese steak place in all of Philadelphia (Philly)! There are so many other great cheesesteak joints throughout Philly including Pat’s, Geno’s, Tony Lukes, and Dalessandro’s, but Jim’s is our favorite after trying so many of these other offerings. Jim’s, like the City’s self-proclaimed hero and champ – Rocky Balboa, is the cheesesteak champ of all Philadelphia. They have won the “Best of Philly” award five times and are Zagat rated
For our foodie friends outside of the northeastern United States, who are unfamiliar with cheesesteaks may need a quick history lesson. According to the Philly’s official tourism site, Pat Oliver invented the cheesesteak back in the 1930’s. He was a hot dog vendor who decided to grill some beef from the butcher and put it on an Italian roll. A nearby cab driver caught a whiff and asked for a steak sandwich and the rest is history.
Jim’s has been on this legendary corner, with a line wrapped around it since 1976. For years, we used to stand in line for the obligatory hour to experience the amazing taste of Jim’s rolls, packed with their amazing thinly sliced rib eye steak steak “wid onions” (with Cheez Wiz and onions) served on an a “hearth-baked” Amoroso’s roll. Hearth baked means each roll never sees the inside of a pan and is free to form their own individual “personalities” in the oven. Each one is unique as the way you order your Jim’s cheesesteak. Although Valarie is not a fan of the onions or Wiz, it is popular with most others. She enjoys it simply with American cheese. I have seen every combination of cheesesteak being assembled while waiting in line, some choose mushrooms, hot peppers, or lettuce and tomato. The smells of the sizzling steak and vegetables on the fry grill, the visual of the steam rising from the water they add to the meat on the grill and the cook grabbing the meat with the inverted bun, it is always worth standing in line to enjoy the show.
There are tales of people being kicked out or sent to the back of the line for ordering the wrong way or insulting the staff. We have never experienced people losing their spot, but we did not create the legend. I have seen “tourists” come in and not be respectful of the “creation” occurring in front of their eyes, but never any denied the legendary taste of friendly service by the staff. If the food is not enough, enjoy looking at history unfold in front of you with all the autographed photos that line the walls of this two-story food mecca.
As the true foodies we are, we put on our “food ambassador hats” and take friends and family to Jim’s for the experience whenever we are in the area or passing through after an airport pick-up. Whether it is our family visiting from England or our former exchange students, Theo and Elise from France, a stop to Jim’s is on the Philly Top 10 Must Do List. There is no denying the quality of the incredible taste of those special ingredients all stacked together on their famous rolls. We have learned from experience, the best time to grab a Jim’s cheesesteak is between 10-11am when they first open. You are always guaranteed an amazing sandwich with front row seating to “people watch” from the large windows facing South St., the self proclaimed “Hippest Street in Town.”
One never seems enough, but two would be indulging. So we say “slow down” and savor every bite and enjoy the 12” inch culinary masterpiece in front of you. Once again, as great as the legendary cheesesteaks are here, it is the people we “break bread” with that truly make it a rewarding experience. It is such a delight to slow down and enjoy each other’s company over a famous Philly cheesesteak. Oh how we love life’s simple pleasures.
Hope to see you there.