Introducing The Gourmet Runner, who will be posting in this space.
In Philadelphia recently for a racing symposium, I knew I had to have a cheesesteak. If you watch the Food Network or The Cooking Channel with any regularity, either “DIners and Drive-Ins” is visiting a cheesesteak place, or “Man Vs. Food” has someone trying to eat as many cheesesteaks as they can in 45 minutes. Consistently, Gene’s and Pat’s get the most love. So, I polled some of the symposium attendees, and they weren’t fans of either place. Canned mushrooms, tough steak, and NO BEER were a few of their complaints. I went the usual tourist route next and asked the hotel staff about this. Without much dissent, they all agreed that Jim’s was the best cheesesteak in Philly.
Nothing much about Jim’s from the outside, but that’s exactly what I would expect from a cheesesteak diner. Once inside you are immediately in line, and this one had 35 people already, but the mood was somber. We had the distinct feeling that we had better be clear and concise on our order when we got to the counter. We got two sandwiches. One with the Wiz, which is canned Cheez Wiz, and another with White American Cheese.
We clearly defined the steak we wanted, and then I was reminded of that famous “Soup Nazi” Seinfeld episode. He barked “NO ONIONS!”, and I realized I had forgotten to order them. I sheepishly asked for the onions, and got a “you’re a moron,” stare. The bill was $28.75 for two steak sandwiches, a Stella Artois and a Blue Moon.
After being informed that we could take the steaks to any local bar and eat them there, we noticed a no-frills upstairs seating area, so we moved up there. The steaks LOOKED great. Jim’s, like all good Philly Cheesesteak places, uses Liscio’s bread. The bread is key, because just like any po-boy sandwich, it can get soggy from the ingredients. My companion asked if she should put any condiments on her sandwich. I told her technically no, but to go ahead. She chose pickle relish because she wanted pickles but was afraid to ask for them. I confessed that same thing about the peppers I originally wanted but also forgot to ask for.
So, was this the best cheesesteak in Philly?
The meat was chopped nicely and of good quality, the onions cooked to perfection, but maybe a little under seasoned. I tried the Cheez Wiz version, and that lent a much stronger flavor to the steak than my American Cheese. This was a great cheesesteak, but really, no better than any I could get at Liberty Cheesesteaks on Freret. Probably because the owners are from Philly.
But maybe in the end, a cheesesteak is just a cheesesteak?
400 South St Philadelphia PA