Gianna's Grille (507 S. 6th St.), $5.95
I urge you to take a detour down this tiny side street in search of paradise on a hoagie roll. Posters of local bands adorn the walls in this pizzeria/sandwich eatery, as the place has the feeling of a local "hipster" hangout. The cheesesteak itself was phenomenal, as it perfectly combined the sandwich's four fundamental ingredients of meat, Cheez Whiz, onions and a fresh bun. The sandwich contained a sufficient amount of meat and was well seasoned with fresh garlic to maximize the flavor. Additionally, the onions were not overcooked. This is quite admirable considering this is a common flaw that many cheesesteak joints in Philadelphia share. The only downside to the experience was the scorching hot temperature as I took my first bite. If you're not in the mood for a cheesesteak at Gianna's, grab a seat, and watch them prepare their famous chicken cheesesteak or one of their many vegan options.
Highlights: short lines, cheap prices
Steaks on South (308 South St.), $6.25
It's never good when the only compliment you can think of pertaining to a cheesesteak place is, " ... at least the decor's ok." Unfortunately, for this relative newcomer to the South Street cheesesteak scene, that is exactly the case for Steaks on South. The exposed brick and ample seating are perhaps the only redeeming traits. As for the sandwich, the meat was sliced into such tiny bits that I felt as if I was simply drinking meat juice. The onions were drastically undercooked and the Cheez Whiz was completely isolated from the other components of the sandwich. In terms of temperature, the meat could have used another two minutes on the grill. Combine these elements with a lousy attitude on the part of the staff, and you have a recipe for a short-lived sandwich shop.
Highlights: comfortable seating, charming decor
Ishkabibble's (337 South St.), $6.25
This cramped cheesesteak joint is in the midst of all the South Street mayhem. I definitely recommend ordering outside to avoid the cramped interior. If you're looking to sit and chat with your cheesesteak, there is a Starbucks a block away. Despite having no seating capacity and rather grimy cooking conditions, the finished sandwich product came out quite well. It contained ample slices of meat and was overflowing with Cheez Whiz. The juicy slices of beef definitely diverted my attention from the fact that the onions were slightly overcooked. If you're in a rush and craving a solid cheesesteak, look no further than the short lines at Ishkabibble's.
Highlights: quick service
Jim's Steaks (400 South St.), $6.25
While many proclaim that Jim's is home to the best cheesesteak in Philly, I can confidently proclaim that this is an absolute fallacy. For starters, making an individual wait 20 minutes for a measly cheesesteak is not my idea of creating stupendous ambience. Jim's hallowed walls are undoubtedly the highlight of the experience, as they pay homage to Philadelphia's finest names in sports and entertainment. In terms of the food, the steak was hastily prepared with an indifference that can best be described as irritating. The sandwich didn't even contain enough meat to satisfy a snack craving, and the dab of Cheez Whiz was barely present in the taste. Additionally, the undercooked onions left a bitter taste. The only saving grace was the warm, toasted Italian hoagie roll.
Highlights: the cool pictures on the walls