The Daily Meal's Dan Myers previews our list of the best hoagie shops in the City of Brotherly Love.
In Philadelphia, the sandwich is king. You’ve got your cheesesteak, of course. Your pork and broccoli rabe from DiNic’s. But there’s a third type of sandwich that doesn’t get nearly as much press as its hot and melty cousins, although it’s absolutely worthy of attention, and we’re here to give it the praise it deserves: the hoagie.
Most people are aware of the term “hoagie” as just another word for hero or sub. But that’s not exactly the case. A hero or sub can be hot, cold, and filled with essentially anything as long as it’s on a long roll. But a hoagie, especially in Philadelphia, is actually a well-defined, specific variety of sandwich: a made-to-order cold sandwich on a long Italian roll; filled with deli cold cuts and cheese; topped with lettuce, tomatoes, and onions; and finished off with an oregano-kicked oil and vinegar dressing. Sure, hoagie shops will also sell tuna hoagies or chicken cutlet hoagies, but those aren’t hoagies in the true sense.
The origins of the word hoagie are open to debate. Some claim that the term stems from the turn-of-the-century term “on the hoke,” slang for a poor person. Others think it derived from the “hokey pokey men,” 1900s Italian street vendors who sold Italian salads and meats. Still others claim that it got its name from the giant sandwiches that workers at the Hog Island Shipping Yard, nicknamed Hoggies, would bring for lunch. Either way, the sandwich rose in popularity during the Great Depression, and is today a Philly staple.
In order to choose the best hoagie shops in the city, we started by combing through existing rankings both in print and online, and then assembled a list of the city’s hoagie shops and judged them on the quality of ingredients, variety, and their level of local and national renown. In the end, we’re confident that these hoagie shops are the absolute finest spots to grab the sandwich that was named the official Sandwich of Philadelphia by Mayor Ed Rendell in 1992.
#10 Lorenzo’s Steaks & Hoagies
Lorenzo’s Steaks & Hoagies / Facebook
At this West Chester gem, hoagies are ordered by the pound: “mini” hoagies weigh a measly pound and a quarter and larges clock in at an insane four pounds. So if you’re looking to feed an entire family with one hoagie, Lorenzo’s is the place to go (their motto is also “Where’s the roll?,” so expect these sandwiches to be packed to the brim). The hoagies here are no-frills but delicious, and they’re sliced to order; go for the Special Italian (ham, pepper ham, genoa salami, prosciutto, capicola, and Genoa salami) or the Nigerian (roast beef, cheese, and turkey) and you’ll be eating well.
#9 Primo Hoagies
Yes, Primo Hoagies is a chain, but it’s hard to deny that their hoagies are just as good as what you’ll find at any of the best one-off Italian delis in Philly. Visit their original location in South Philly if you need convincing and order the Sharp Italian (prosciutto, sharp provolone, capicola, and Genoa salami on a long seeded roll) — you’ll soon understand why this place now has locations all across the Eastern Seaboard.