"You can find your way across this country using burger joints the way a navigator uses stars." Charles Kuralt

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

White House Sub Shop

There are a lot of reasons to visit Atlantic City, NJ. There’s the boardwalk, saltwater taffy, gambling and Lucy the Elephant*, but best of all there’s the White House Sub Shop. Solidly rooted to the corner of Mississippi & Arctic Avenues, the White House has spent the last 60 plus years building what are arguably the best submarine sandwiches in the known world.
In September of 1946 Anthony Basile came home to Atlantic City from the Philippines where he served in the military after the end of WWII. A month later he opened the White House Sub Shop. Demanding the use of nothing but the best and freshest ingredients, this hands-on family operation has set the standard for meat on a roll.

When asked, many people will tell you that the secret of the White House sub is the bread. I think that I have to agree. Baked just up the block by Formica Brothers Italian Bakery, loads of fresh and warm 20” long rolls are delivered up to 12 times a day.
A good Italian roll (or Atlantic City roll as it is sometimes called) is something to be appreciated. Solid enough to stand up to a dose of oil or mayo without falling apart, but soft and chewy enough to eat without having to work too hard at it. A decent Italian roll can be difficult to find outside certain parts of the U.S., as can be attested to by many a Northeasterner.
When you first approach the White House Sub Shop several things immediately strike you. The first is the building itself. It is obvious that nothing about it has changed for a very long time. It may not be bright and shiny, but it has character. Next, sitting in stark contrast to the structure beneath it is the large neon sign on the roof which proudly proclaims to all who approach that this is the one and only “White House: Home of Submarines”. All that bright, shiny, blinking neon can distract from the final feature that is a testament to the White House’s ability to stick around so long. And, that would be the line of people, which stretches out the door and never seems to go away.
Once inside, the White House Sub Shop is a pretty small place. Made smaller by the fact that most of your time there is spent elbow to elbow with your fellow man. I needed to wait quite a while before I could get a clear shot down the isle, and it only lasted a few seconds, if that.
When a table finally opened up, we were shown to a small booth two-thirds of the way back.As we were escorted to our seats we passed the half dozen or so counter seats and the to-go counter, which is backed by the long galley style kitchen from which rose all manner of steam and good smells.Proudly displayed above for all to see is the sandwich menu listing many of the popular sub choices.

The interior of the White House Sub Shop is dominated by the color orange. It’s on the booths, the stools, the walls and is the color of most of the picture frames that line the walls above the seating area.Those framed photographs document the fact that the White House has been a dining destination for a vast array of famous faces. Over the years the White House has seen visits from Frank Sinatra to the Beatles and beyond.
The White House Sub Shop signature sandwich is hands down the best Italian sub that I have ever had. I’ve had a few over the years. This time though, I wanted something else. After some debate I decided to try the White House’s cheese steak, which has a solid reputation of its own. We ordered that and a provolone cheese sub. The service is speedy, and the food was delivered in no time.
The provolone sub came stuffed with cheese and a load of fresh tomatoes on a bed of shredded lettuce. Surrounding all of the ingredients is the signature White House roll doused in oil. A sprinkle of Italian seasoning tops the whole thing off. If you are looking for a superior meat free sandwich you just found it.
For a real cheese steak lover playing favorites can be a risky social maneuver. People who live within the cultural influence of Philadelphia take their cheese steaks seriously. They tend to stake out their favorite and can get pretty territorial about it. I don’t attest to a favorite, but I do know a good cheese steak when I eat one. The cheese steak at the White House Sub Shop is one of the best.They claim to use 91.1% fat free USDA choice lean top round steak cut fresh daily. Add fried onions, melted cheese. The addition of an outstanding fresh Italian roll really makes the sandwich.
Upon finishing, we got the bill and quickly vacated our booth for the next person waiting on line outside. Behind the register up front was a small variety of White House merchandise.The sign on the wall advertised the prices for t-shirts, hats, and sweatshirts.I paid the bill, squeezed through the crowded entryway and emerged back out on Arctic Avenue a happier and fuller person.* Lucy the Elephant isn’t actually in Atlantic City, but in neighboring Margate.


DIS said...

I totally agree with everything George has written about White House. Let me add that you will also notice how narrow the tables are. My father, the late Emmanual Saridakis, an AC local, designed the interior. It was his first job out of Penn architecture school and in order to get more seating, he made the tables narrower than the usual, but plenty wide for a paperplate, bag of chips,and a beverage. Enjoy!

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