N.J.'s best sub/hoagie shop: This 'Gut Buster' lives up to its name

N.J.'s best sub/hoagie shop: This 'Gut Buster' lives up to its name

It’s not just all roast beef, turkey and tuna subs on our epic search for N.J.’s best sub/hoagie shops, now in its final round.

I’m always up for trying out-of-the-box subs; this week, as we visit our ten finalists, that especially holds true, since I am not ordering any sub I already sampled in the semifinal round.

That leads me, somehow, to the Gut Buster at the Sugar Hill Sub Shop in Mays Landing. Nine ounces – it seems more like two pounds – of prime steak lathered and loaded with sauteed onions, mushrooms, chopped stuffed pepper shooters, pepperoni, mozzarella and hot pepper cheese. 

No sandwich in the history of sandwich civilization is better-named.

Call it a cheesesteak on steroids; good luck trying to hold it, much less try to stuff it in your mouth. The front side of Sugar Hill’s menu lists mainstream subs – turkey, roast beef, ham and so on. The back side is labeled “for our dangerous and intriguing people.”

Guess which side of the menu you’ll find the Gut Buster? Or the Sauerkraut Nessie (a turkey Reuben with melted Swiss, sauerkraut, Russian dressing), the Italian Stallion (black pepper ham; imported prosciutto, salami and smoked provolone; tomatoes, onions), and the Breakfast Club, an improbable three-layer combination of ham, Taylor pork roll, melted cheese, bacon, lettuce and tomato.

The Armie Bomb is only slightly less fatal-sounding than the Gut Buster, with nine ounces of steak, plus mushrooms, pepperoni, bacon, cheese and smoked provolone.

The sub is named after Jerry Armitage, who’s been working at Sugar Hill for 20 years. There’s a customer who comes in every Sunday and orders it; he says it’s the perfect hangover cure after a night of drinking. Armitage says he lost 150-plus pounds working at Sugar Hill, dropping from 396 to 236. Hmm, maybe there is something to that Gut Buster.

“I’ve been (working) here three years and I’ve lost 82 pounds,” says Lindsey Woerner, busy filling to-go cups of banana peppers.

Sugar Hill, owned by Denise Delany, opened in 1982. They get slammed in the summer; the store is located on a back road leading to popular Ocean City. They’ll crank out 800-1,000 subs on a typical summer Saturday.

“The hotter it is, the busier it is,” Armitage explains. “People don’t want to cook.” 

When it comes to odd sub combinations, the staff has heard everything. One regular can’t do without his roast beef, butter and lettuce sub.

So how were the subs? Guest judge Fred Schaffer called the Gut Buster a “great” sandwich with “plenty of flavor,” one that “seemed to get better with every bite.”

John Cohl was shocked and awed.

“A cheesesteak spiked with the stuff the doctors gave Captain America in that movie,” he said of the Gut Buster. “If it were any more of a hot mess, it would be starring on the next season of Real Housewives of New Jersey.”

The readers joining me this week are acting in an advisory capacity; I will pick the overall winner, N.J.’s best sub/hoagie shop, next Wednesday, Dec. 7. You can watch the announcement live on nj.com. You can also vote for the Readers’ Choice winner until 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6.

My favorite sub here: The Taste of Philli. A roasted pork sub with red peppers and smoked provolone. A tasty alternative to that turkey sub you’ve been  ordering all these years.

Why this shop can win it all:  Country store with tons of sub/hoagie options. Homemade salads, good Atlantic City bread. The Gut Buster is the neighborhood  bully of cheesesteaks; approach it at your own peril.

WHITE HOUSE SUB SHOP, ATLANTIC CITY 

You can check into this White House, but apparently you can never leave.

Waitress Holy Smith and cook Joe Gallagher have each worked at the White House Sub Shop 40-plus years. 

“May of 1973; I was 16, 17,” says Gallagher, standing by the grill of the fabled Atlantic City sub shop. “My family was the first Irish family to work here. It was all Italian back then.”

His wife and niece work at the White House, a fluorescent-lit, orange-boothed shrine to the famous and not-so-famous, its walls covered with photos of actors, actresses, singers, athletes and TV personalities who have paid a visit to the corner of Arctic and Mississippi over the years. The Beatles. Elvis. Frank Sinatra. Tiny Tim. Countless Miss Americas.

Maybe no other sub shop – even restaurant – has such a love-hate relationship with New Jerseyans as the White House; there are legions who think it’s hoagie – or sub – heaven, and seemingly as many who think it’s over-hyped and overrated.

The shop has won many food awards and mentions over the years, yet staff still seemed excited by being one of our ten finalists, quickly posting the live reveal announcement on its Facebook page. Smith first heard the news from her niece in Amsterdam. “She saw the story, sent it to me,” Smith said.

Doing takeout? Walk to the back and take a number. Eating in? Grab a table and be seated; the waitress will not stop at your table until you’re truly and finally seated. Want to wander around take photos? Wait until after you order.

The White House is known as much for its cheesesteaks as subs, but we’re sticking to the sub script here. Undecided? Try the Famous Italian Submarine, with layered meats and cheese, or the White House Special, the extra-meat version.

Schaffer, one of the judges this week, was not enamored with the cheeseburger sub  and pepper and egg sub, but he fell in love with the White House Special. “Plenty of meat, plenty of spices and just the right amount of oil and vinegar made this sandwich a taste of heaven,” he said. “Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous.”

Yes, he said it three times.

John Cohl, another judge, said the sub was “everything that an Italian sub/hoagie should be – balanced, big and branded to impress. Definitely a sandwich I’d return for. Often.”

Whether you love it or hate it, the White House is a timeless slice of Jersey culinary culture, the kind of place where the conversation sounds more real than any movie script:

“Every see ‘Weird Science’ ?”

“Yeah, but it’s been a while.”

“Hot peppers?’

“Give me a little jar.”

“You need ketchup or anything?”

“I’m good.”

“Yesterday we had a guy with hair, one side that was light, one side was dark, looked like the guy on Star Trek.”

Just another day at the White House.

My favorite sub here: The Famous Italian Submarine. Classic Italian sub, with meat and cheese layered expertly.

Why this shop can win it all: The state’s most legendary sub shop; photos of celebrities on the walls attest to its fame. No-nonsense waitresses, but once you’re a regular you’re in like Flynn. Basic,  classic subs; no designer ingredients here.

Peter Genovese may be reached at pgenovese@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PeteGenovese or via The Munchmobile @NJ_Munchmobile. Find the Munchmobile on Facebook and Instagram.

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Published at Thu, 01 Dec 2016 15:27:12 +0000