I’LL TAKE ONE WHIZ WITH.
In Philadelphia, the ordering process for a cheesesteak is very straightforward. All you need is three words, illustrated by the simple equation below:
Quantity of cheesesteaks + Type of cheese + With/without fried onions
So, if you look at the title of the post, you can translate “One Whiz With” to one cheesesteak with Cheese Whiz and fried onions. See? It’s so easy, so convenient! No need to say “Philly” when you’re ordering your cheesesteak. Saying something like that is almost the equivalent of saying, “Let’s go get Chinese food” in China.
Yesterday, I took a day trip down to South Jersey to visit my friend Jason, who had just moved to New Jersey to start his job this past Monday. Because of his apartment’s proximity to Philadelphia, we decided to head into the city to have a go at some Philly cheesesteaks.
When I go and read about all the different go-to spots for a cheesesteak in Philly (and there are quite a few of them), I feel like some of the recommendations are relative to each person’s perception of what a cheesesteak entails. Amount of cheese? Texture of the steak? Moisture of the steak? Additional toppings to put on? All of these factors are what differ in cheesesteaks from shop to shop. Over time, I hope to compare the different places I visit and find which one is my personal preference.
Both of us have had a cheesesteak from Pat’s, but we wanted to explore what other shops in the city had to offer. Our first stop took us right into South Philly to seek out Jim’s Steaks.
Address: 400 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147
We were able to hit this place right at noon, and luckily the line was still short enough that we could stand inside (it was about 95 degrees out, so standing in the sweltering heat wouldn’t have been fun). Once you’re inside, you enter into a weaving queue system, where you eventually walk right past the cooks to place your initial order. Moving down further on the line, you’ll get asked if you want additional toppings on there, like peppers, mushrooms, lettuce or tomatoes. Lastly, you’ll get shifted right out in front of the cashier to pay, after which you are free to either head upstairs to their dining area or back out onto the street. We opted to head upstairs.
When you are up there, the large window gives you a nice view of the streetfront. There are several round tabletops that you can sit at, or if they are all filled (like when we got up there) you can eat at a countertop that is attached along the walls. For our cheesesteak, since we were going to go and try another later, we decided to get one with cheese whiz, fried onions, and peppers, and each of us could eat half.
The steak itself was very finely shredded, which I do prefer over the thin strips like I had at Pat’s. The shredded steak makes it easier to eat without fear of having some of the steak fall out due to you tugging at a piece that didn’t fully detach when you bit into it. It is also a lot less chewy than the thin strips, which is a definite plus. The steak itself was a little on the dry side, however, but the cheese whiz made up for that very quickly. The peppers and onions also managed to add some great flavor to the sandwich.
Here are my rankings for Jim’s Steaks:
Food: 4 / 5
The cheesesteak tasted great, and the hot cheese whiz on the sandwich really sealed the deal.
Atmosphere: 4.5 / 5
There are pictures that cover the walls of famous figures that have visited the establishment, from celebrities to politicians. The upstairs dining room was also nice and seemed clean. Having you able to walk in front of the cooktop was also pretty neat.
Service: 4 / 5
Service pretty much consisted of interacting with the cooks behind the counter for the sandwich. Everything moved smoothly and we didn’t have to wait long in line for our food.
Price: 4.5 / 5
I’m pretty sure we paid around $7.50 or $8 for that footlong cheesesteak, which is pretty good in my book.
Overall: 17 / 20 (85%)
With our cheesesteak appetites whetted, we hopped back into the car and took a drive up north of Philly into the neighborhood of Roxborough, where our second stop awaited us: Dalessandro’s Steaks and Hoagies.
Address: 600 Wendover Street, Philadelphia, PA 19128
The shop itself is located right on a street corner in the suburb, next to a baseball field. Once you enter inside, however, it instantly becomes pretty crowded once again. There is a single aisle running to the ordering counter, with some tables and chairs on your left and a countertop with bar stools on the right. Jason and I sat right at the bar and placed an order with the waitress that walked over when we sat down. For a fair comparison, we decided to order the exact same thing that we got over at Jim’s: cheesesteak with cheese whiz, fried onions, and peppers.
I could tell that this particular cheesesteak was different than Jim’s, most notably because it seemed to feel heavier. Dalessandro’s used a bit thicker of an Italian hoagie roll and also put more meat into the sandwich. With the extra bread and meat, the size felt more of what you would expect to be a cheesesteak. However, the one thing that I was impressed with was that the shredded steak was actually still very moist. The juices from the cooked meat added even more flavor to the overall sandwich, a similar feeling to when you bite into a nice, juicy hamburger that isn’t overcooked. They were a little more scarce on the cheese though; the sandwich had just enough to give it the cheese taste, but just needed some more to hit the spot.
It’s about a 20-minute drive up north from the South Philly area, but it’s definitely worth it for a great tasting cheesesteak. Like I mentioned before, the steak was definitely more moist and the bread was a bit thicker, giving it that hearty sandwich feeling. I think that those two qualities (even though the cheese was slightly lacking) makes Dalessandro’s cheesesteak better than Jim’s.
Here are my rankings for Dalessandro’s:
Food: 4.5 / 5
They sure do make a fantastic cheesesteak sandwich loaded with great flavor and texture. More meat and some extra bread gives it that hefty size that I would come to expect out of a cheesesteak.
Atmosphere: 4 / 5
With limited seating inside and a few tables placed outside, on a busy rush this place can get jam-packed real quick.
Service: 4 / 5
Taking our order was pretty quick and the food didn’t take very long to come out from the back.
Price: 4.5 / 5
Once again, under $8 for a footlong cheesesteak sandwich. I think the prices will be the same in many of the establishments around the Philly area.
Overall: 17 / 20 (85%)