Monday, September 7, 2009

Philadelphia Cheese Steaks!

Getting back to my Planes, Trains, and Automobiles trek..... (Continued from there)

After spending the morning shopping and touring in the Big Apple, it was time to head off to my next destination. From New York City, it was a nice train ride from Grand Central Station through New Jersey and down to Philadelphia. It was pretty relaxing reading the newspaper and listening to music on my MP3 player. I'll be honest with you, I had two things on my mind during the train ride:

  • Checking into the Doubletree Hotel (Doubletree Hotel Philadelphia) and collecting my Cookies.

  • Getting cleaned up and heading out to find a Philly Cheesesteak!

    1. The check-in went quickly and before I knew it I had munched down my delicious cookies (Yum!), cleaned up, and was ready to head out for dinner. (You've got to eat those cookies while they're warm)

      The caloric splurge didn't bother me much because I decided a good way to burn off a few calories was to forgo the taxicab ride and walk to my next culinary delight. So I headed left out of the hotel entrance and walked towards South Street.

      Back in the day when I visited Philadelphia on a more regular basis, South Street was the place to go. I was surprised at how the environment had changed a bit. Instead of a younger, hipper, livelier crowd, there seemed to be a low-keyed more local and older (30s -40s) crowd. People didn't appear to be just hanging out. They seemed to be headed somewhere special or casually strolling and window shopping. I was pleasantly surprised when I passed by an unfamiliar but interesting site so I snapped a few photos.

      A collection of tile, glassware, bicycle parts, bottles, cans and a variety of many other items. Definitely an artist's rendering of something - I speculated.

      It was dark and the place was closed but I later learned that this fine work of art was Philadelphia's Magic Gardens - 1020 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147 -sometimes referred to as PMG. After doing some searching on the Internet...

      Here's what I learned:

      Philadelphia's Magic Gardens is a folk art environment, gallery space, and nonprofit organization that showcases the work of mosaicist Isaiah Zagar. Located at the site of Zagar's largest public mosaic installation, the Magic Gardens includes a fully mosaiced indoor gallery and a massive outdoor labyrinthine mosaic sculpture. The installation, primarily consisting of found objects and contributions from the community, covers half a city block with myriads of tile, texture, and color. A walk through the labyrinth will reveal sculptures from Latin America and Asia, bicycle wheels from local South Street shop Via Bicycles, Zagar's hand-made tiles, and mirrors of every shape and size.

      Follow these links to learn more about Philadelphia's Magic Gardens -
      Click Here

      Or about Folk Artist - Isaiah Zagar Click Here

      Isaiah Zagar

      "I built this sanctuary to be inhabited by my ideas and my fantasies."

      (Poetry from the maze of mosaics at PMG)

      The above two photos came from Photo Journalist Gabe Kirchheimer

      He has an extensive collection of premium photos on display.

      You can see more of his photo's by following this link: Gabe Kirchheimer's

      or stopping by his site at:

      So with all of the artsy - fartsy stuff done, it was time to get down to some real business. The business of finding an awesome cheesesteak. I had really talked this treat up and I was looking forward to the encounter. As I remembered, there were two competing places that always got my business. Jim's Steaks and Ishkabibble's. I wondered if either was still around. After walking a few blocks on South street I crossed paths with two local young ladies who were headed to the Whole Foods Market. Just on a whim I asked: "Where's the best place to get a Cheesesteak?" Their reply was surprisingly chatty. One suggested I try Jim's Steaks..... (score I thought, it is still open)

      Just out of curiosity, I asked about Ishkabibble's. The other gal jumped in.... "Oh that's my favorite place to go. I usually send tourists to Jim's for the atmosphere and experience but frankly, I always go to Ishkabibble's."

      Interesting - I thought. As fate would have it, I walked by Jim's Steaks first. The place was jumping. Steaks, peppers, and onions were on the grill. A soft smoke from the meat filled the air. There was a line formed inside against the wall and people were hustling upstairs in search of seating.

      Jim's Steaks - South Street

      Just to compare, I walked a few more steps and crossed the street to find Ishkabibble's.

      Things were a lot more subdued at Iskabibble's. There were a few people seated inside enjoying dinner and a short line at a walk up order station facing the street.
      I decided to go with the action and headed back to Jim's. I walked in and after a short wait started my order. My order of Steak, Onions, and Swiss cheese, was loaded expertly on a bun and was served up quickly with an equal portion of Philadelphia Attitude!
      No problem,
      I smiled....
      I'll take a Heineken with that order too - PLEASE!

      I sauntered upstairs, located a seat, added some pepper to my creation and proceeded to partake of this local treasure.

      Not bad I thought. I'll rate it 7/10 points on the taste... the meat was a tad bit chewy...

      But I'll give the experience an 8/10 points.

      Just for the record - The next time I'll try Ishkabibble's.

      Here's what

      Catherine A. from Philadelphia writes on Yelp; 09/03/2009 about Ishkabibble's:

      Whenever a tourist stops me in the vicinity of South Street and asks me where the best cheesesteak is, I send them here. Everything I've ever had from here is delicious. My personal favorite is the chicken cheesesteak, with american and fried onions, but I love their sweet potato fries, I love their cheesesteaks, I love their Gremlins, I even love their veggie burgers. I especially love watching the line for Jim's across the street as people stand by for a sub-par steak and I order, receive and eat my steak before they get in the door. Makes me smile every time.

      Schucks. Wish I had read her review prior to my trip.........

      Thanks for reading. Watch for my next stop. Gettysburg, PA.


      Bowie Mike said...

      I'll have to try Ishkabibble's on my next trip to Philly. A couple of years ago, we took my kids to a terrific Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philly. People always talk about NYC, but Philly also has an impressive parade.

      intrepidideas said...

      Interesting information on the Parade... I remember going to a Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philly when I was a kid. It was cold, windy, and snowy but fun! Let's compare notes on Ishkabible's. Thanks for the comment.

      Anonymous said...

      Thanks for the comments and photos of Philadelphia's Magic Gardens. We appreciate you spreading the word about what a wonderful place it is to visit on Philadelphia trips! Check our website before you come back because we have many interesting and fun events lined up for 2010.

      All the best,

      Philly Magic Gardens Staff