At 56 years old, Jim Pappas made the second half of his life his cheesiest yet.

By Mike Pomranz
June 06, 2019
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Having lived in Philadelphia for a good chunk of my life, I can safely say something nearly every Philadelphian has dreamt of doing but never dared attempt: trying every single cheesesteak in the Greater Philadelphia area in a quest to find the “ultimate” one.

On May 16 of last year, Jim Pappas – who grew up in the Philadelphia suburb of Swarthmore and now lives in the “tristate” mecca of Wilmington, Delaware – launched his “Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure” and has since documented them all on his official website of the same name. After just over a year of work, he’s now eaten 275 cheesesteaks in total, garnering his work an article from the Philadelphia Inquirer (which – come on, Philadelphians – we all know is part of the aforementioned dream).

Related: Our Recipe for Philly Cheesteak Queso

After a relatively straightforward “first half” of his life, the 56-year-old writes on his site that he’s “looking for the very illusive and misunderstood 2nd half of life victory”… or as he told the Inquirer “time to have fun.” He began driving for Uber and Lyft which, in a Taxicab Confessions-like move, led him to start asking riders about their favorite cheesesteaks. He’s now tried steaks from Reading, Pennsylvania, to Princeton, New Jersey, to Bear, Delaware – logging an estimated 50,000 miles in all.

“I always get American cheese, mushrooms, lettuce and tomato,” he told the Inquirer. “I score them in five categories: roll, meat, cheese, extras, and overall. I get a lot of grief for lettuce and tomatoes, but I started doing it to gauge the overall freshness. It tells a lot about how nice a place is. I do stick to American. Whiz, I completely dislike and avoid at all costs. Lately I’ve been doing garlic bread for the roll, if a place offers it. You should try it — it’s amazing.”

He says he hasn’t gotten sick of cheesesteaks yet, and the journey will continue indefinitely. “There is a difference between a regular cheesesteak and one made by a person who really cares about what they’re doing,” he explained. But later he admitted, “I haven’t even scratched the surface of cheesesteaks.”

And as for his best ones, they land on the site Philly Grub. There, he breaks down different notable cheesesteaks into fun superlatives. But “Best Overall,” for now, that goes to Meatheadz in Lawrence Township, New Jersey. Maybe if you’re lucky, he’ll be your Lyft driver when you go check it out.

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