I gave credit to Jim Pappas and his Cheesesteak Adventure blog in a couple of my early cheesesteak posts back in September of last year. He is currently running his third annual March Cheesesteak Madness contest, which has local judges picking the best cheesesteak in the Philly region. There are 64 sandwiches broken down into four geographic sub-regions, with 16 seeds in each region. There was an open call for judges and I gave serious consideration to volunteering. But I don’t have a very large appetite and wasn’t sure I’d make it through an even more intensive cheesesteak-eating binge than the one I’m already on without regretting it.
Last year’s surprise winner was Phil & Jim’s Steaks & Hoagies of Brookhaven in Southwest Delaware County, PA. They were seeded 11th in the Delco bracket, but went all the way for the title. After what seemed like a long wait, I finally made it over there for lunch today. I was joined by my Pulitzer Prize-winning friend and former colleague, Dan, who was one of the authors of this book that I highly recommend. We used to sit across from each other at our office and ate a lot of lunches while discussing World War II.
Phil & Jim’s has been serving up sandwiches since 1962.
Dan and I agreed in advance to split two cheesesteaks – one each with Whiz and Cooper Sharp cheese and both with fried onions. I arrived a few minutes before him and went in to place our order. I was pleased to see they had Canada Dry Black Cherry Wishniak soda to wash down our sandwiches.
There is only a long ordering counter with a few stools at the back of the entry room. I had seen photos of tables and was glad when one of the staff directed us through a storage area at the back of the shop and into a separate room that had those tables, as well as a waiting lounge and lots of great decorations with local flair, including a mannequin dressed as a Mummer.
We started with the Cooper Sharp steak. It had plenty of meat that was very finely chopped and well-seasoned. It could have used a little more cheese, but there was more than appears evident in the below photos. I may consider ordering extra cheese if I make a return visit and go for Cooper Sharp again.
The sandwich with Whiz seemed to have more cheese blended in with the meat.
The roll wasn’t really similar to any of the ones I’ve raved about in other posts. Yet while it wasn’t one of the best, it had a very nice quality to it that I enjoyed. It certainly wasn’t problematic.
There was no single aspect of Phil & Jim’s cheesesteaks that stood out as being near the top among the sandwiches I’ve had since last summer, but every single part of these sandwiches was above average. If you put it all together – roll, meat, cheese, onions, seasoning – you have a hell of a cheesesteak. I’m not sure I think it’s the best in the area, but it’s very good, with a nice overall flavor, and worthy of a loyal, long-time following.