The restaurant that serves the best cheesesteak to cross my lips in 2021 is going through a branding change. Granted – I didn’t get to most of the heavy hitters until this year. But the steak I had there with Cheese Whiz – rather than the usual Cooper Sharp or American – back in December made a big impression on me.
I switched over to American cheese on a second visit and was less impressed. That left me with a decision to make on how to rate Charlie’s when it came time to decide which sandwiches would make my final Top 10 list. I decided to give them another – tiebreaking shot; returning to Whiz to see if it is as good as I remember from nine months ago, and let that determine their final ranking.
Sounds easy enough, but when I looked up their Facebook page, I saw a recent message indicating that they had changed their name to Jaxx Steaks – or possibly Jaxx Steaks Taproom. Yet I couldn’t find any updated information beyond that. When I called, I was told they had, in fact, changed their name and were in the process of rebranding, but that they’re still open and nothing else has changed. They don’t appear to have an updated website yet, but here is a link to their new Facebook page.
They are situated at a three-way intersection where Third and Wharton Streets cross paths with Moyamensing Avenue in the Pennsport section of South Philadelphia. One of the other confusing things about the place is that Charlie’s had a Third Street address, but the door was on Moyamensing. It was natural to wander around the building trying to figure out how to get inside during the first visit. In addition to changing the name, they now have a Wharton Street address, which may – or may not help, as the entrance is still on Moyamensing.
They also have a covered outdoor beer garden.
But on a rainy day, I sat inside with my mother, step-father and Kent, a friend of the family. The atmosphere has a sort of grunge/hipster vibe, although it was quiet while we were there.
The menu is relatively sparse, especially when pizza and strombolis aren’t available, as was the case at lunch today. My mother and step-father had hoped to split one, but shared a chicken cheesesteak with American cheese and fried onions instead. Kent was visiting from Michigan and wanted to try his first cheesesteak. I advised him to give Whiz a shot based on my previous experiences there, and he was happy to take the suggestion, although he had his sans fried onions and with banana peppers. I’m not a peppers guy and stuck with my usual onions.
The sandwiches were out fairly quickly.
We all liked the seeded rolls, which come from South Philly’s Carangi Bakery and are used by several of the places I’ve reviewed. They are sturdy with a nice crust and not too doughy.
My mother was unhappy that the American cheese in her chicken cheesesteak was laid onto the roll rather than being blended in with the meat, something I always look for when eating a cheesesteak.
But that wasn’t an issue for Kent and me. In fact, one of the things that impressed me so much about the steak during my first visit was the extent to which they blend in the Whiz with the coarsely chopped ribeye. A lot of places don’t go to that trouble and just ladle it on top of the meat. Not here. Each piece of meat was nicely coated with cheese.
I may have even felt there was a little too much cheese if there were a similar amount of Cooper Sharp on there. I seem to have a higher tolerance for the taste of Whiz. Cooper Sharp’s flavor is stronger and plays better in smaller doses.
I don’t expect this steak to repeat as the best of the year, but it’s one of only two I’ve had with Whiz during this process that will receive serious consideration for my final list; the other being the one from the Prince.