The Quest for the Best Cheesesteak

While traveling to Philadelphia this past weekend I had one goal- to eat an original, authentic Philly cheesesteak. I’d never had one and thought “why not?” Why go to Philly and not experience the sandwich named after the city? I’m the type of person who travels for the sites and the taste. Eating new food in a new environment is as exciting as it can get when you’re on vacation. It’s the best way to get an idea of what daily life is like. So my search began for the most delicious, famous and authentic Philly cheesesteak.

After asking around there seemed to be a general consensus: go to Jim’s. Pat’s and Geno’s were brought up, but it was decided that they didn’t measure up to Jim’s. (Disclaimer: I’ve never been to Geno’s or Pat’s so if you go please let me know what you think!)

Luckily Jim’s was down the street from the famous Fourth Street Deli (an amazing Jewish deli, but not the restaurant I needed for a Philly cheesesteak). After finishing brunch at the deli, I started down the street, eagerly anticipating the alleged “best” cheesesteak.

Jim’s was styled like an old 50s diner on the outside. It stood on a street corner and I almost missed it because there was no sign that stuck out from the building to grab my attention. You know it’s a good restaurant when they don’t need a sign; people know about them because they’re good, not because they have a huge sign.

Stepping inside, I could tell the place was constantly busy. Their seating area was upstairs and the downstairs area was dedicated solely to the line of people streaming through the restaurant. The ordering area was an assembly line; you told the employees what you want and then paid for your food right away at the counter. The line had filled up the lower level of the restaurant, but wasn’t snaked around the block yet (I was told that it could take up to an hour just to get a cheesesteak when the line is outside).

There are basic choices you have to make when ordering an authentic cheese steak. American or Provolone cheese? Or do you want to be a true cheesesteak eater and get Cheese Whiz? Cheese whiz looked like the fake cheese that gets put on top of nachos so I opted to go with American. The next choice involves toppings: mushrooms, peppers or onions? All are grilled and stuffed on top. It just depends what your preference is. (I was told that if I had asked for lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles I would get laughed at and kicked out.)

Ordering was actually intimidating. The employees expected you to know what you wanted, tell them loudly and clearly and not ask questions. They had better things to do than to answer my stupid requests and questions. People in Philly don’t have patience and don’t take crap from anyone. Luckily I ordered without an issue and can proudly say I survived.

The cheesesteak was amazing. No words can accurately describe how good my sandwich was. But the interesting thing was, while I was able to eat an amazing meal, I also gained knowledge about a typical lunch in Philadelphia. By ordering myself and standing in line I not only got an authentic cheesesteak, but an experience I will never forget.

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