Jim’s South Street Makes The Quintessentia l Philly Cheesesteak


Taryn Varricchio: People

have three true loves

in Philadelphia:

the Eagles, Wawa, and a

great Philly cheesesteak.

Cheesesteaks are everywhere in Philly,

found in restaurants across the city,

each with their own

fiercely loyal followings.

But many of Philly's biggest

cheesesteak fans go here.

This is Jim's South Street,

and it's been serving

Philly's quintessential

cheesesteak since 1939.

Customer: If the cheesesteak

is the institutional sandwich

of Philadelphia, this

is the place to get it.

This is the institution.

Taryn: We're heading to Jim's

South Street for cheesesteaks,

but when you can get a cheesesteak

basically anywhere in

this city, we wanna know:

Why are people going to Jim's?

Let's go find out.

It was created back in 1930,

when a hot dog vendor, Pat Olivieri,

opted to throw beef on the grill.

Steak sandwiches became

a popular cheap eat

with cab drivers and by

1940 had made their way

onto restaurant menus

throughout Philadelphia.

One of which was Jim's Steaks,

a West Philly shop opened in 1939.

Ken Silver: The definition of

a classic Philly cheesesteak

is our cheesesteak.

We make it a little differently

than some of the other folks.

We use sliced top-round thin

choice black Angus beef,

and Pat's and Geno's use rib eye.

And we chop our steak.

A lot of our competition kind

of flips it on the grill.

As far as the classic Philly cheesesteak,

ours looks super classic.

Taryn: Generally, the cheese

of choice is Cheez Whiz,

the Kraft processed-cheese

product we all know and love,

but customers can also opt

for American or provolone.

Jim's lathers Whiz on both

the top and bottom of the roll

and then adds a final drizzle across

thinly chopped steak

and a mix-in of onions.

Customer: I mean, I feel

like if you don't get Whiz,

they would just probably

throw you out of here.

I mean, that's the play, right?

Everyone has to get Whiz.

Taryn: Kind of skeptical about putting

processed cheese on my sandwich,

because this whole Whiz

thing is new to me.

That melted consistency, I think,

plays such a huge part in the sandwich,

because it's so intertwined in the steak,

and you just get, like, that saltiness

and that creaminess in every single bite.

This roll is soft.

It's all kind of, like,

absorbing and morphing together,

and it's just, like...

I don't know, it's really

warm and enjoyable to eat.

Customer: I don't come to Philly often,

but I've always thought

Pat and Geno's was a thing,

and I have a friend here.

He swore that this was,

like, the local spot.

Forget the big two, you

had to come to Jim's.

Taryn: Abner Silver and William Proetto

bought the original Jim's Steaks in 1976

and moved the shop to South Street,

where they carved their own slice

of the ever-growing cheesesteak market.

Ken: There was no place

else that was selling

cheesesteaks, you know, exclusively.

I mean, everybody sells

cheesesteak in Philadelphia,

but we were the first cheesesteak place

to open on South Street.

Taryn: In 1977, after a

year at its new location,

Philadelphia Magazine

named Jim's cheesesteak

the best in the city.

The restaurant won the

Best in Philly award

four more times after that,

standing out as South Street's

premier cheesesteak restaurant.

Ken: We were doing 100 cheesesteaks a day

instead of 2,000 cheesesteaks today.

Taryn: Is that what you're doing now?

Ken: On a busy day,

we'll do more than that.

And this past weekend we

served 6,000 cheesesteaks.

Taryn: OK.

Ken: Yeah.

Customer: It's the best in the country.

Customer: It's the

best. And we're natives.

We live here.

We live in the Center City, we live here.

And we know. It's the best.

Ken: I'm more proud of our local clientele

than just the tourists that

come here all the time.

Taryn: 'Cause they know.

They know the deal.

Ken: Because they know that

we have guys that come here

same day, the same sandwich,

every day, all the time.

Customer: We're so excited to be here,

we can hardly stand it.

We've been told that this is

the original Philly steak,

so here we are.

I mean, I feel like I

wanna get the T-shirts

and strap them on!

Taryn: There is a hype,

and I really believe

it's warranted.

It has a vibe.

And it has, like, this

community that is just, like,

very loyal to this place on South Street.

Customer: The difference is,

I used to come here in 1967,

you'd likely find me here

at 1 o'clock in the morning.

Not 1 o'clock in the afternoon.

Taryn: This hoagie is dense, so it's

holding it pretty well.

Producer: I'm gonna just

stop you right there.

Taryn: Yeah.

Producer: Did they call it a hoagie roll?

Taryn: Well, they have hoagies, yeah.

Producer: That's cold sandwiches.

Taryn: When it's a

cheesesteak it's just a roll?

Producer: Yeah.

A hoagie is a sub.

Taryn: Rewind.

Comments