Friday, September 4, 2009

Jim's Steaks Cheese Steak Review

Jim's Steaks South Street Cheese Steak Review

Today’s review will be of Jim’s Steaks South Street cheese steak shop. After many years of visiting Jim’s I have made a frequent visit to keep this review fresh. First thing that I will do today is to start out with an overview of Jim’s Steaks. It’s important that you understand its significance in the cheese steak world before I proceed with my review.

Jim’s Steaks has 4 locations as of this review. The location that I went to was at 400 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147. Jim’s Steaks’ history actually had its beginnings in 1939 in West Philly at 431 North 62nd Street by the owner Jim and his family. Jim’s expanded to the South Street location in 1976. Another expansion happened many years later in 1996. Jim’s had opened up a new location at Bustleton and Cottman Avenues (at the Roosevelt Mall). The last cheese steak shop opened in Springfield (469 Baltimore Pike).

Last week I had discussed Pat’s steaks and their significance to the cheese steak world. Specifically, because they were the first cheese steak hop in Philadelphia, they are a Mecca for cheese steak lovers. Well, you also have to give a place like Jim’s Steaks credit because although they are not the first cheesesteak shop they are one of the first. They opened approximately 10 years after Pat’s and about 30 years before Geno’s Steaks (the so called King of Steaks). With four stores under their belt, Jim’s Steaks’ history is extremely important for cheese steak lovers. They must be appreciated and relished because they are the foundation for the massive worldwide marketing of making Philly known for this type of food.

So on to my review…please recall that this review of Jim’s Steaks is of its location on South Street. Eventually, I may post a review of the other locations. Ideally, I would like to get in a nice review of the original location and make some comparisons to today’s review. There are so many good cheese steak places to cover in this blog that I don’t want to spend too much time on any given one.

Jim’s Steaks is a totally different cheese steak compared to Geno’s or Pat’s and in many ways. Geno’s and Pat’s have sliced steaks (extremely thin and layered on their steaks). Jim’s Steaks uses chopped steak, a completely different cheese steak experience. Sliced versus chopped both have very good tastes but yet very distinguished.

I ordered a plain cheese steak with onions at Jim’s Steaks. The steak was about 8 -10 inches (sorry I don’t carry a ruler). The great part about Jim’s is that as you wait in line you have to actually pass the frontline of the chef’s working quarters so that you see every move that is made. This is different than Pat’s and Geno’s where the grill is much more obscure. By the way, Jim’s is inside unlike Pat’s and Geno’s. This is a huge factor for those waiting in some ridiculous line in the middle of the winter. At least you can be a little warm inside. But I have also seen Jim’s Steaks‘ line wrap around the building outside on most weekend nights.

The inside of Jim’s Steaks is another interesting part of Jim’s history. There is pictures and autographs from many famous people all over the walls. Don’t forget to go upstairs to eat. Most people aren’t even aware that an upstairs exists but it does and there is many, many more pictures up there too. Upstairs they are even several tables for you to sit and relax while you eat (but don’t forget to feed the meter first because South Street ticket police are always on patrol).

Jim’s Steaks is also famous for its plaque that it has on its wall for the cheese steak record. This record is of the person who ate the most cheese steaks in one hour. The last I can remember it was about 13 but I didn’t check it when I went. If you can beat that record I am sure they will get your name up on that wall.

Ok…sorry I digressed (a bad habit). Back to the cheese steak review…While waiting in line you can watch your steak being cooked right in front of your eyes. There are tons of steaks on the grill. What makes Jim’s Steaks unique is that the cook is chopping your steak. I did not order whiz because I like American cheese (but I recommend it). By the way, Jim’s does not sell cheese fries unlike the other major stores.

Jim’s Steaks’ cheese steak was very good. My sandwich costs about seven dollars plus I ordered a root bear. The chopped steak is really tasty as it is cooked thoroughly. You very rarely find a Philly cheese steak place that has steak with a drop of red in it. This is uncommon as that is not what this steak sandwich is about. This needs to be distinguished from your usual bloody Mary Steak at a pure steakhouse (some served rare).

Jim’s Steaks puts the cheese under the steak in the sandwich. I got to say that this is one thing that I didn’t like. The ears of the bottom layer of cheese that were sticking out never got melted. I like cheese completely melted in a cheese steak. That is the way that it should be. If you want a sandwich with unmelted cheese then you would order a hoagie (subway or poor boy to many other Northeast folks).

The onions were chopped in large slices and were just lightly cooked. The ideal cheese steak would have onions thinly sliced and caramelized. You will rarely find this at any Philly cheese steak joint because it is too much work. However, when I cook them at home I will put any of these steak places to shame (the onion factor has a big reason to do with this). Try it at home and you will see what I mean. If you slice the onions really thin then it will result in much more flavor.

Overall, Jim’s Steaks is Jim’s. Whether or not I like it Jim’s is one of the oldest and most popular cheese steak places in Philly and will continue to be for a long time. I always wondered what would be the effect if Jim’s Steaks opened up a place right next to Pat’s and Geno’s. I think that they would help take some of that traffic off the streets and put them on the pavement. I don’t think their competition would appreciate this though and may have to retaliate by opening another one of their stores next to Jim’s.

I hope that you have enjoyed my review. If you get to Jim’s Steaks, please stop by our blog and let us know what you think about their cheese steak sandwich.

Jim's Steaks on Urbanspoon


  1. It is how many you can eat in 90 minutes. It just took me 60. "Humble" Bob now known as Notorious B.O.B. By the way, Jim's is THE best.

  2. Thanks for clarifying that Bob. So how many Philly cheese steaks did you eat at Jim's in 60 minutes? Any updates on Jim's Philly cheese steak record?

  3. I heard it's a new cheese steak spot on South Street..........called South Street Gourmet Steaks................opening this summer.........I think it will be the best in town

  4. IMO Jim's is the most overrated cheesesteak in the city, I don't understand why they get half the adulation that they do. Every time I've been there (which is sadly many over the last 20-odd years) I walk away highly disappointed, wondering why I ever go back. Well, I've decided to hold myself to that and never ever step foot in the place again.

  5. Jim's was my first philly steak (back in 1999)and since trying other Philly steaks (and south jersey one's) i feel like they are pretty subpar. I used to frequent the TLA for shows and given its location i would grab a wiz with before or after.After my last two visits (2006 probably) it's safe to say i wont be returning. Both times i asked for extra wiz and it seemed that i received less than if i would've just said "wiz with" lol. And given the warm response i know i would've gotten if i were to return to the counter i figured it best to just deal with it and not give them my business from then on out