Planning a Philadelphia Sandwich Tour

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This humble sandwich acolyte has decided to make a pilgrimage to Philadelphia this year, to worship at the various shrines of Philly’s four signal contributions to world sandwich cuisine: hoagie, roast pork, chicken cutlet, and cheesesteak.

Photo of Chickie's Italian Deli by Benjamin Haas on flickr.com, via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike License.

My aim is to limit each sandwich type to one or two purveyors maximum, in the city proper, both for logistical and gustatory reasons. A guy can only eat so much!

So, where do I go?

Hoagie

I’m thinking I have to stop at Chickie’s Italian Deli for a hoagie. Perhaps it’s a bit overexposed, what with its appearance on Rick Sebak’s Sandwiches That You Will Like, but it’s the prototypical neighborhood deli that cranks out honest, serious hoagies. So put me down for a Chickie Special (prosciutto, sopressata, capicolla, provolone, roasted peppers).

My second hoagie stop is all about the bread: Sarcone’s Deli. If it ain’t on Sarcone’s bread, it’s not really a proper Philly hoagie, so where to get it fresher than the source itself?

They’ve got some quite interesting options, but I think I’m going to plump for the Sinatra (proscuitto, sauteed spinach, roast garlic, provolone). That’ll be a real test for the bread, with the contrasting flavors and textures.

Roast Pork

I’ve already been there once, but I have to return to DiNic’s in the Reading Terminal Market for another roast pork. On some levels, DiNic’s is responsible for my journey into serious sandwich spelunking, so an encore is well merited.

Roast Pork from DiNic's

Tender pork, crisp and bitter rabe, brilliant roll. I’m thinking this is my first stop of the entire tour. Heck, I might visit twice.

Yet since roast pork has become something of an obsession with me, I need another source. I’ve already sampled John’s Roast Pork, and was quite well impressed, but I want to extend my range a bit.

For my second roast pork, I’ll go with a traditional choice, Tony Luke’s. The one on Oregon Avenue, not the one in Bahrain. Looking at it on the map, though, it’s a bit of a pain to get to on the el, over a mile from the nearest station. Still, I think it’ll be worth it to compare their roast pork to DiNic’s.

Chicken Cutlet

The chicken cutlet sandwich is, honestly, a new one by me. I’ve not yet sampled this particular delight, probably because it always competes with hoagies and roast porks on the menu. But part of this pilgrimage is to encounter the new while celebrating the old, so chicken cutlet, here I come!

Consensus seems to indicate that any chicken cutlet journey begins and ends at Shank’s Original Luncheonette, so even though it’s not quite the original anymore, having switched locations, that’s where I’ll head. They claim to have invented the chicken cutlet sandwich (and who am I to argue?), so one Chicken Italiano (with greens and provolone), please.

Cheesesteak

This one, I face with trepidation. It’s iconic and yet it’s not my favorite of the Philly fab four. Just about every place I’ve listed so far claims to have the city’s best, according to some survey or contest or other. I mean, they’re everywhere in the city. The true question becomes whether or not I resist the dueling sirens of Pat’s and Geno’s (which are conveniently located not far from Chickie’s).

Yeah, I do. Wool in the ears, lashed to the mast, and beeline for Sonny’s Famous Steaks. Jim’s Steaks was in the mix for a while, but Sonny’s is quite convenient to transit and just looks like a steak place should look. We’ll see how it goes.

What brilliant places in the city have I missed? This trip is still several months off, so I’m amenable to suggestions from fellow sandwich aficionados.

(Picture of Chickie’s Italian Deli courtesy of Benjamin Haas via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike License.)

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