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Jim’s South Street Steaks Reopens! Delicious Cheesesteaks, Beautiful Artistic Setting

Jim’s South Street Steaks Reopens! Delicious Cheesesteaks, Beautiful Artistic Setting
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Jim’s South Street has reopened after being closed for almost two years Iconic Philadelphia hotspot offers top rated cheesesteaks and hoagies in a rebuilt and expanded beautiful space.

Of course the reopening of Jim’s is the lead story here, but after you visit you’ll likely talk as much about the amazing dining space they’ve added… which comes from taking over the former building of Eye’s Gallery which was next door. (The Gallery relocated a block away)

Jim’s South Street has reopened and incorporated mosaic art spaces from Isaiah Zagar into the new dining areas.

Famed Philadelphia mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar previously had his gallery directly next to Jim’s, and created amazing mosaic art pieces on the walls, floor and ceilings of the space… with several areas and rooms now incorporated into the Jim’s South Street dining areas.

I guarantee that when you enter the second floor of the new Jim and turn left… “Woah” is the first thing that comes out of your mouth!

And then when you take that first bite of your Jim’s cheesesteak after an almost two year absence… again you’ll say “Woah”… although this time your mouth will be full and most likely will come out like “mmwwwooowwmmppphh”

And to be clear, the Eye’s Gallery is still open but relocated a block away on South Street.

Jim’s South Street – Background

Any conversation of “who has the best Philadelphia cheesesteaks” always includes Jim’s South Street.  They are on everyone’s short list of the best.

Jim’s Steaks opened in 1976 on South Street just as the street was experiencing a rebirth, and Jim’s instantly established it’s place as one of the Philadelphia’s top cheesesteak destinations.

My own Philadelphia hanging out hey-day was the late 80s and early 90s when “let’s go to the city” meant only one thing… South Street.

Over the years other Philly neighborhoods experienced their own rebirth and much of the crowds followed…  Old City, Northern Liberties, Fishtown and more… But South Street has held its own, with Jim’s as one of the cornerstone destination businesses for the neighborhood.

A devastating fire in July 2022 closed Jim’s for almost two years… Now Open and larger!

Sadly, in July of 2022 a devastating fire moved through the block, shutting down Jim’s South Street for almost two years as they worked on a massive rebuild.

On Wednesday of this week, the beloved cheesesteak eatery finally reopened to a large crowd of fans and media, who were excited to see their favorite cheesesteak place chopping meat and frying onions again.

Likely most area businesses are also happy for Jim’s… and happy for the people it brings to South Street. It’s been stated that local businesses noticed a revenue decline after Jim’s had closed! (Inquirer)

The new Jim’s South Street opens with a significant seating capacity improvement going from 42 seats to 112.

This was achieved by expanding into the adjacent unit which was previously home to Isaiah Zagar’s Eye’s Gallery.

Back in the same location as before is the main restaurant kitchen area with the large grill, customer waiting and ordering area, and payment counter. In my visit yesterday the customer area was wide enough for three theme park style zig-zag queue line rows.

The main grill is effectively an open kitchen with the customer line passing right in front.

A short protective glass offers enough open air space above to get that clear smartphone video shot of your steak cooking on the grill… Something that it seemed every 3rd customer chose to do.

Some may not realize that Jim’s South Street actually offers more than cheesesteaks. While it’s not an extensive menu, beyond the variety of cheesesteaks they also offer several egg sandwich options and Maxine’s meatless…  as well as a variety of hoagies, ranging from Italian to ham and cheese, tuna and more.

While not available at the opening… Jim’s will even have canned beer!

After you receive your sandwich (cash only!) you walk over directly into the lower level of the former Eye’s Gallery where there is seating in the rebuilt room, as well as areas of mosaic wall and ceiling art… particularly in the front entrance.

The narrow stairway to the upstairs is in this segment of Jim’s, and upstairs is where the fun really starts.

All Eyes On The Jim’s Dining Spaces

As soon as you get to the top of the steps you’re bound to look left and right and notice the room in the rear is fully covered top to bottom in mosaic artwork… including the entryway heading towards that room… you’re immediately going to be drawn to it.

It is a beautiful and amazing space featuring mosaic art created from pieces of tile, ceramics, mirrors and more.  It’s absolutely abstract but in defined sections which are both free formed while also connected to itself and the other areas of the room.

Beautiful mosaic art pieces from famed Philly artist Isaiah Zagar are now part of your dining options.

The ceiling in the back space features 2 skylights which brought a large amount of light into the room for my afternoon visit.

I’m not an art critic so it’s hard for me to delve deeply into the experience, but all I know is it was amazing and I really loved such care, time and expense was put into retaining the cherished artwork,

I don’t know if they would want me to say this, but I bet soon young couples getting married in the city will start popping into Jim’s to get a few photos in the upstairs back dining room! Hopefully walking out with a big bag of to-go orders for their reception guests.

There’s a second smaller alcove area with space for two tables.   The three walls are covered with mosaic art but I wonder how many people casually walking by won’t look up and realize that the ceiling goes up and through the third floor… it’s a tall interior tower of artistic beauty!

The front of the restaurant on the 2nd floor features two different dining areas with a small number of seats at the front of the Eye’s Gallery (where I sat) and the largest and most significant amount of seats are above the main Jim’s South Street area in a large and completely new dining area.

The Cheesesteak!

Like other high volume cheesesteak shops, the grilling process is somewhat of an assembly line where one person is focused on cooking bulk quantities of meat and onions, as another grill chef is focused on creating the individual sandwich for each customer order.

At Jim’s you order directly with the grill chef, who after bringing your ingredients together and finishing “the cook” of the sandwich, pass it on to the counter staff.

You a front row seat to seeing your sandwich being created.

One aspect of any cheesesteak is how the meat is prepared.   I see this three different variations…  full thin slices, medium sized steak pieces, or finely chopped.

Jim’s absolutely fits into the “finely chopped” category with the steak meat pieces almost becoming like ground beef.

It makes for a tasty but easy to bite sandwich which blends in the cheese and other ingredients, very well.

I met up with my buddy Steve and he and I found a great second floor location on the second floor. The large windows had a perfect view down to South Street. Directly across the street was the original Zipperhead location…  With its open Zipper front facade and giant ants!

For my cheesesteak I went a little bit off of my normal script, choosing “Wiz-wit” but adding in mushrooms.

The roll is an incredibly fresh and soft Amoroso’s roll. For Cheese Whiz steaks the grill chefs use a narrow spatula to coat the bread with cheese and then add in the steak and onions.

After everything us heated up a bit, the mushrooms were added on top… and a bonus extra portion of cheese whiz!

I really enjoyed my Jim’s cheesesteak…. Honestly it’s been about 10 years since I’ve had one.  I plowed through that sandwich very fast, and will be back again very soon!

Links and Locations

Jim’s Steaks South Street
400 South Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19147

The new Eye’s Gallery!