Philadelphia is half a nation away from the River Valley, but last summer my family and I were fortunate to visit the City of Brotherly Love. First thing on the agenda was the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, but then it was all about the cheesesteak. We asked a few locals about the best Philly cheesesteak and found ourselves wandering down South 4th Street past the Third Presbyterian Church founded in 1768, past brick roads and other historic buildings to Jim’s Steaks South St. for an authentic Philly cheesesteak experience. That’s what we got and we thought it was grand. But one bite at Jim’s told me that the best Philly cheesesteak is not found in Philadelphia. It’s found at Steve’s Snack Shack in Russellville.
To be fair, Steve hails from the Northeast and brought his Yankee sandwich expertise down to Dixie after learning the technique at Giovani’s Pizza in Hudson, New Hampshire. Steve worked at Giovani’s off and on from 1966 until 1970. That’s 50 years to get it right. But Steve said he crafts and sells the original recipe with no tinkering required. It’s a savory mix of fresh vegetable toppings piled on seasoned sliced steak and cheese and nestled up to a fried potatoes browned to perfection. And it is delectable. There is no other word to describe it.
Seeing the birthplace of our nation is worth the mileage, but River Valley residents can enjoy a better version of an iconic sandwich without the cross-country trip.