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Jim's South Street: The Best Philly Cheesesteak in Philadelphia

Charles enjoys reviewing and photographing food and restaurants for online publications.

Jim's Philly cheesesteak: steak, onions, and Cheez Whiz. As simple as it gets.

Jim's Philly cheesesteak: steak, onions, and Cheez Whiz. As simple as it gets.

What Is Jim's South Street?

Formerly known as Jim's Steaks, Jim's South Street is a traditional Philly cheesesteak and hogie restaurant. Owned by second-generation proprietor Ken Silver, this restaurant serves Philly cheesesteaks and hoagies daily to hungry customers at its current location on the corner of 4th Street and South Street in the Headhouse District after expanding from their former location in West Philly around 1976.

Originally founded as Jim's Steaks in West Philly in 1939, the restaurant changed hands in 2011 and is now called Jim's South Street. The original iteration had humble beginnings: founders Jim and Millie served sandwiches from their home before converting it to a full-time eating establishment shortly thereafter.

Jim's South Street in Philadelphia offers customers a nostalgic meal in a historic, clean environment.

Jim's South Street in Philadelphia offers customers a nostalgic meal in a historic, clean environment.

First Impressions

I arrived at Jim's South Street on a Sunday morning. The store hours are 11:30 a.m. to midnight on Sunday. I jumped in a line that had already started to form and was quickly whisked into the restaurant at 11:30 a.m. sharp! When walking in, your senses are immediately assaulted by the commotion of cooks chopping the fresh, thinly sliced in-house ribeye steaks on the flat top grill along with the smell of grilled onions and beef.

My mouth was watering as I slowly progressed through the line until it was time to order. Now I know there is some talk about proper ordering etiquette and that you must order Philly cheesesteaks using some special Philly vernacular such as "Whiz wit" or "witout." Frankly, I don't see what all the commotion is about, at Jim's, I was able to clearly say that I wanted a cheesesteak with fried onions and Cheez Whiz! The busy cooks behind the line understood exactly what I wanted and I kept it moving down the line. Simple.

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The menu here is pretty basic. The short and sweet menu consists of mainly hot and cold sandwiches and drinks with no sides like french fries or onion rings. Menu items such as cheesesteaks, pizzasteaks, peppers and egg sandwiches, and traditional hoagies made from cold cuts/ or lunchmeat such as the Special Italian, turkey and cheese, ham, or prosciutto. They even offer a vegetarian option called Maxine's Meatless. As far as the basic menu goes, there are plenty of offerings to satisfy any hungry traveler that visits this timeless eatery.

A beautifully wrapped cheesesteak gift from Jim's South Street

A beautifully wrapped cheesesteak gift from Jim's South Street

The Cheesesteak Experience

After a short wait in the rapidly moving line, I was presented with a neatly wrapped bundle of joy and an ice-cold Pepsi. For around $10, you really can't beat the price for lunch in Philly on a Sunday afternoon. I quickly made it to the upstairs dining area located on the second floor. The dining area offers clean, spacious seating with tons of windows that allow for plenty of natural lighting. Located off to the side along the wall was a toppings bar, this area contained napkins, ketchup, and other condiments like hot sauce, mayonnaise, and mustard.

After unwrapping my Philly cheesesteak present, I was presented with a visually appealing masterpiece of 100% ribeye that was thinly sliced and chopped, covered with tender-crisp fried onions and the ubiquitous Philly favorite, Cheez Whiz. The beef was tender and flavorful with no signs of the tough gristle found at many cheesesteak establishments throughout the city. The lightly golden caramelized onions melted in my mouth and added a touch of texture to the sandwich. The roll was soft and fresh, able to withstand the crushing force of the meat, onions, and cheese that lesser rolls simply couldn't handle without bursting and spilling the contents all over the table and floor.

Final Verdict

I must say, the food, atmosphere, and service from the cheerful waitstaff and line cooks were top-notch. My order was filled quickly with a smile and I was in and out in less than 30 minutes. I have nothing bad to say about Jim's South Street.

I rate my experience 4.5 out of 5 cheesesteaks only because of the lack of sides. I would have appreciated a side order of french fries or onion rings with my sandwich. If you happen to find yourself "down on South Street," don't miss out on this time-tested establishment. Happy eating!

© 2022 Charles Kikas

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