Jim's Steaks is a Philadelphia icon and featured in many travel and Pennsylvanian food guides. In the cheesesteak grilling business since 1939, the original eatery since expanded to four locations, and is well-known around the country.
I recently visited the West Philly location with 15 people (men, women, and toddlers included), where the steaks were first served. The restaurant unapologetically stands on 431 N. 62nd St. (between Callowhill St. & Girard Ave.), in a residential area plagued by poverty, complete with graffiti and visibly dilapidated housing. The block may look rough, but there was adequate, free street parking and most residents were outside on that nice afternoon, trimming bushes, painting their homes, and greeting each other with warm familiarity. For those readers who are not used to living in an impoverished area and feel a bit wary, keep an open mind and don't let it turn you off to the place: delicious food awaits.
This is definitely a beloved neighborhood corner joint, a place where locals schmooze and laugh, drink a couple of beers, eat some food, and discuss town gossip. The grill master (as I'll call him) and the kind women running the establishment expertly organized our large party.
"Stay in a single file and order what you want with our main cook there. When it's ready, tell me what you'd like on top of your steak and to drink. Stay in order, please!" one of the patient women instructed us.
Two beverage refrigerators displayed their extensive drinks for sale- various sodas, including root beer, gingerale, and grape, beers (Heineken, Bud Light, and Corona), and bottled water. Individually wrapped and sized sweet potato pies tantalizingly called to us from the lined counter in front of the register.
"The Whiz is made with white American cheese today," one of the women nicely warned, as she handed off the drinks in accordance to our tentative, rattled off orders.