If you’re visiting Philadelphia and looking for a true cheesesteak experience, allow this list to guide you past the mediocre cheesesteaks, and toward the best that Philadelphia has to offer!
1. Jimmy G’s
I am going to start out with a very bold and highly biased statement…Jimmy G’s is hands down the best cheesesteak I’ve had in Philadelphia. With that out of the way, let me try explaining why. Jimmy G’s is advertised as a “cheesesteak restaurant”, offering various recreations of the typical cheesesteak with items like chicken cheesesteaks, pizza steaks, mushroom steaks, and even a “Philadelphia Cream Cheese Steak”. It’s located on North Broad Street and I think I most likely found it by accident—probably during one of my drunken searches for food—and by a beautiful twist of fate, Jimmy G’s was discovered.
One of my favorite parts about visiting Jimmy G’s—besides the obvious act of “sandwich-eating”—is hungrily staring through the glass window in awe, as the cooks effortlessly churn out sandwich after sandwich, applying generous amounts of that glorious whiz wherever needed. Along with whiz, Jimmy G’s offers the typical American and Provolone, as well as various toppings like peppers, mayo, veggies and more. What makes this cheesesteak stand out from the rest is the very noticeable freshness of the bread; I’ve eaten my fair share of cheesesteaks, and most have been…good, but the bread is always a constant hurdle for me—a dry inconvenience that my teeth always struggle to rip apart. However, with Jimmy G’s that is NEVER the case—fresh and soft bread is always a guarantee, and my eager teeth thank me each time I go in for another cheesy bite.
Ishkabibble is a well known cheesesteak spot with two locations conveniently along the popular South Street—right outside all of Philadelphia’s favorite bars and music venues. I recently ate at an Ishkabibble while on my lunch break and I opted for a typical cheesesteak with American cheese. The steak was chopped up beautifully and finely—which is a must for me if I’m eating a cheesesteak anywhere; Oftentimes, cheesesteaks bought from places outside of Philly are presented as typical looking cheesesteaks, but with giant chunks of steak on the inside—as opposed to tiny and savory bits—making it less of a sandwich and more of a…steak? Ishkabibble, like Jimmy G’s, is quick and the wait never exceeds a couple of minutes. While South Street has some serious cheesesteak competition, with the notorious Jim’s on 4th street—and it’s constant lines around the block—you won’t be disappointed if you find yourself in an Ishkabibble ordering one of their delicious cheesesteaks!
3. Jim’s Steaks
Of course Jim’s makes the list for the best cheesesteaks in Philadelphia! There is never a time I am walking down South Street and fail to encounter a line wrapped around this place. Jim’s is great, and probably a little hyped up, but for good reason! They make great steaks, in fact, if you try hard enough you can smell these delicious sandwiches all the way from 6th street. Seriously, passing by this place broke and with an empty stomach is a bad idea. Not only do they have sandwiches that smell good but they taste even better. Like Jimmy G’s, Jim’s is not shy about whiz, they happily lather up their sandwiches with it, much to their customers hungry delight. Each bite is hot and full of flavor, delicious enough to have you reconsidering that silly diet of yours. All I’m saying is if you’re on South Street, preferably around 4th street, you wouldn’t regret coughing up the money for one of these cheesesteaks.
4. Chickie’s and Pete’s
There’s nothing quite like being at a Philadelphia sporting event and hazily seeing in the distance those giant red letters signaling a Chickie’s and Pete’s nearby. I know this is about cheesesteaks but I just want to take the time to say that if you do go to a Chickie’s and Pete’s for a cheesesteak, YOU MUST get a side of crab fries to go along with it, it would be almost disrespectful not to. With that out of the way, yes, Chickie’s and Pete’s make a great cheesesteak. Although not exactly a hidden gem within Philadelphia’s “cheesesteak scene”, Chickie’s and Pete’s deserves to be acknowledged. Again, not shy about cheese, Chickie’s and Pete’s have also unlocked the formula of all formulas when it comes to their addicting cheese. I will admit, I have embarrassingly tried multiple times to google the recipe for Chickie’s and Pete’s cheese, but with no success. It is a mystery that remains unsolved, but maybe one of these days I’ll take up a job in their kitchen and get to the bottom of it myself. Either way, Chickie’s and Pete’s has the whole addicting quality down, and while pricey, I am always more than willing to give them all of my money, for those much anticipated moments of cheesy perfection.
5. Joe’s Steaks
Joe’s is a popular little joint located in Fishtown on the corner of Girard Avenue. It stands right outside of the famous Johnny Brenda’s and Garage. I first discovered Joe’s while I was living in Fishtown, probably hungrily stumbling out of either of the two bars. Joe’s is another spot that is usually very quick and even if it wasn’t, they are very much worth the wait. I suggest maybe popping in on a weekday though, as it is not unusual on weekends to see hoards of people crowded around the small establishment, trying very literally to get their foot in the door. Whether you get your food while dining in, or for takeout, it is always hot, fresh, and mind-blowingly delicious. I suggest pairing your cheesesteak with their famous old bay fries—my personal favorite. If you find yourself not craving steak, I highly suggest their chicken cheesesteaks—cooked to perfection, the meat is tender, flavorful, and importantly, packed with cheese. Add on a milkshake or two, maybe throw in a grilled cheese, Joe’s is always the main event of a night out in Fishtown.