In Philadelphia, the cheesesteak is a culinary institution. It’s a fast food you can get in food trucks, delis and small restaurants.
The cheesesteak is a long roll filled with thinly sliced steak sautéed with onions and cheese. Traditionally, the cheese was Cheez Wiz (a processed cheese sauce) which technically isn’t even real cheese. You can also choose to have American cheese (technically also not real cheese because it is also a processed cheese product) or Provolone (a proper Italian cheese for you cheese snobs).
Jim’s South Street
I was pretty sure my son would love cheese steak because he loves cheese and he loves steak. So we did a pilgrimage to one of the celebrated cheese steak restaurants in Philadelphia, Jim’s Steaks on South Street.
Jim’s Steaks is reputed to have the best cheese steaks on South Street. South Street is an historic area of Philadelphia popular with tourists and locals. It’s got a lively boho atmosphere with lots of eateries, bars and stores filled with the young and the hip.
We were lucky that there was not a long line at Jim’s when we went. We were also able to get a table to sit down in the upstairs seating area. My messy 8 year old son could not have handled eaten a cheesesteak standing up without having most of it end up on his shirt. We both agreed the cheese steak was delicious.
The Philly Taco
I did not tell my son about the newest variation of a Jim’s cheesesteak for fear he would want to try it – the Philly Taco (a.k.a. the South Street Sushi). For the Philly Taco, you take a cheese steak from Jim’s and wrap it up in a pizza from Lorenzo’s which is also on South Street.
The Philly Taco was made up by a Philadelphia journalist in 2003 for the Philadelphia Journal and has since caught on (especially with late night drinkers).
I can’t even imagine the calories or the accompanying heartburn. Just because something individually tastes good does not mean you need to put it together. The Philly Taco reminds me of that deep-fried Southern American Thanksgiving favourite, the Turduckin (a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with chicken). People say it’s delicious and I’m willing to take their word on it.
Jim’s Steaks is open 7 days a week at its Art Deco home on the corner of South and 4th Street in Philadelphia. Jim’s will also express ship a Philly cheesesteak anywhere in the United States.
Most people have heard about the National Cherry Blossom Festival that is held in Washington D.C. every spring in celebration of the friendship between Japan and the United States. You can even keep track of the cherry blossoms (sakura in Japanese) that burst into colour on Bloom Watch. This year the peak bloom in the US capital was April 4th. A little less well known is the Cherry Blossom Festival in Philadelphia.
The cherry blossom season in Washington D.C. is among its most beautiful
Although we were too late this year to see the Washington D.C. blooms, we did get to see the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia. Ironically, Philadelphia has been unseasonably cold this year and many of their cherry blossoms had not yet bloomed when we visited.
Japan presented the first cherry trees to Philadelphia in 1926 to commemorate 150 years of American independence. The Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia then took it upon themselves to plant more than a thousand cherry trees as well.
cherry trees at Morris Arboretum
The Philadelphia festival is sponsored by Subaru who have their US headquarters in nearby Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Occurring since 1998, the festival has a series of events spread out over 2 weeks and ending in Sakura Sunday. The festival celebrates not only the cherry blossoms but also Japanese art, food, culture and music. The main event, Sakura Sunday, is held at Fairmount Park, the central park of Philadelphia, which is the largest urban park in the world at over 9000 acres.
We went to some of the child friendly events such as the Japanese drumming (Taiko). Our children were even allowed to play on the drums themselves which they did with much relish.
We also saw a demonstration of the Japanese martial art involving swords (Kenjutsu). The experts used real Samurai swords instead of the usual practice ones that are made of wood.
Our children were mesmerised by the acrobatic grace of the men demonstrating and effortless cuts made the very sharp blades of the swords. They were not allowed to practice themselves! We were encouraged to ask questions though and look closely at the swords.
One of the most beautiful aspects of cherry blossoms are the fragile and ephemeral nature of the blooms. In Japanese culture, cherry blossoms represent the fragility and beauty of life. The tradition of cherry blossom viewing parties (hanami) serve as a yearly reminder to appreciate the here and now.
We thoroughly enjoyed viewing the cherry trees and partaking in a small way in Japanese culture. If you are in Philadelphia, Washington D.C., or any of these world cities that appreciate cherry blossoms next year, I would recommend that you check out the cherry trees and the festivals.
If you would like some cherry blossom action before that, check out The Cherry Blossom Murder by Fran Pickering, a fellow blogger and Japanophile who has written an entertaining murder mystery set among the sakura.
Welcome! My family and I love to travel, to learn more about different countries and to experience new cultures. We also like our nice hotels, good food and other comforts. Join us on our adventures!