Jim's South Street stands out among Philadelphia's wealth of cheeseteak restaurants for serving the best classic version of the sandwich. The quintessential cheesesteak at Jim's comes with black top round angus beef, Cheez Whiz (or without), and onions. It's been a staple spot for Philly's most famous plate since 1939. Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
Following is a full transcript of this video. 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.Join the conversation about this story »