Restaurants of the Road
Ask any Philadelphian. If you haven't had a cheese steak in Philly, you haven't had one at all. We'd had the knockoffs before, but now that we'd come to the source, we wanted the genuine article. We asked locals Don & Betty Graff where to go, and the answer was, "You can get them anywhere, but let's go to South Street.
Jim's Steaks had a huge line, which turned out to be a good thing. By the time we got to the front, we'd learned how to order. You aren't supposed to waste the chef's time by saying "steak" or "sandwich," and you better know beforehand which extras you want. When it's your turn, if you want a quintessentially Philadelphia experience, you yell, "Whiz!" Yes, Cheese Whiz is the topping of choice for serious steak connoisseurs. We, however, opted for provolone, onions and peppers.
The locals are right. Genuine cheese steaks bear no resemblance to the imitations found elsewhere. "There are a couple of secrets," said Don. "You have to use real chipped steak, which is steak that hs been frozen and sliced really thin. Then you have to use the right rolls. All the steak rolls in Philadelphia are made by the Amaroso bakery."
As far as we're concerned, there are two other ingredients vital to a memorable cheese steak experience. First, you should watch it being made by a professional steak maker like Angel Ortiz, pictured above. Second, you should consume it on the spot. Jim's on South Street is the perfect location.
400 South Street
Just say, "Heavy on the whiz!"