There’s something to be said for the humble sandwich. Some people love ’em, some people aren’t fans at all. Pressing some meat and cheese between some bread makes for a great lunch but some people just aren’t that impressed. But I love my sandwiches, especially if they’re done well. Recently in the NC Triangle, we’ve had a surge of good sandwich shops pop up. It started with East Cut several years back, then Ideal’s Sandwich and Alimentari at Mothers & Sons in Durham. The recent addition of Bongiorno and Son in Raleigh was another great sandwich option. So I was curious to see what the new PrimoHoagies could do up in North Hills. A small, sandwich chain based out of S. Philadelphia, the feedback I got from Northerners I ran into was very positive. So I headed off on their opening day to see what all the sandwich fuss was about!
Located in the old Crepe Traditions space, PrimoHoagies is a simple affair. Pretty much counter order, take-out only, the small storefront opens up to a narrow ordering-waiting area. There are some refrigerated cases with drinks, Italian foodstuffs (marinated olives, peppers, etc) along with racks of chips and sides to munch on with your sandwich. Overhead there are 4 LED screens with the menu and prices. There is no interior seating at PrimoHoagies but there are some chairs and a table outside the store on the sidewalk if the weather is nice!
Choosing a sandwich is the tough part. PrimoHoagies bakes their own seeded rolls in-house but you have a ton of Italian sandwich options to choose from in Small, Primo (12″ from $12 to $14) and Whole sizes. Note that the Small size comes on a white bread roll, not the seeded roll. Most hoagies come with lettuce, tomatoes, onion (LTO) and peppers and pickles are available upon request. The menu spans a wide range for protein options. Choose from cold sandwiches standards like tuna, roast beer or the American. Or how about some Italian-American classics like a meatball, cheesesteak, or roast pork? Or choose from a selection of chicken cutlet sandwiches: Buffalo-style, parm-style or with broccoli di rabe and peppers. PrimoHoagies even offers up Schwarzies, their take on a Reuben sandwich (protein, Swiss cheese, cole slaw, Russian dressing). Note that broccoli rabe (also know as broccoli di rabe, rapini) is a popular ingredient on the menu, sauteed and garlicky, yum!
So far I’ve gone with the classics: the mild Italian and the Abruzzi (roast pork, sharp provolone, broccoli rabe). PrimoHoagies mild Italian is stuffed with prosciutto, salami, and capicola along with mild provolone. The sandwiches here are well constructed and love the thinly shredded lettuce which means you’re not pulling a big leaf out with your mouth. PrimoHoagies’ bread is quite good, crusty with some density and chew. The mayo is spread on evenly so it’s in every bite. Loved the Abruzzi, it’s a cold version of a traditional roast pork sandwich. The broccoli rabe is super garlicky which I love and the balance of flavors in this sammich is quite good. I could see adding some red peppers in for some extra pop and flavor. Overall I feel that PrimoHoagies is using excellent, fresh ingredients and serving them with care.
When it comes to hot sandwiches at PrimoHoagies, they are doing a lot of things right. Covering cheesesteaks, chicken cutlet sandwiches and Reubens is not an easy task. But luckily, a recent visit to Philadelphia and Tony Luke’s helped me set a baseline for what to expect. And PrimoHoagies is staying true to that Philadelphia sandwich spirit. They stuff their lovely, seeded hoagie rolls with grilled steak, melty mozzarella cheese, and some marinara sauce, yum! Pizza steaks are one of my favorites and PrimoHoagies does a good one. The chicken cutlet sandwiches are offered in several styles but I go with the classic chicken parm which is lovely. Note that the gravy (red sauce) is pretty light and just gives the sandwich a bit of tomato contrast in each bite. These sandwiches were VERY similar to what I got at Tony Luke’s just weeks beforehand, a good sign.
One take-away I had with PrimoHoagies is that you’re best off ordering the 12″ Primo size vs. the small size since it seems like you get twice the sandwich for $3 or $4 more dollars. Save the second half for another meal or eat it all in one sitting and take a nap! While there are quite a few good and new sandwich shops in the Triangle now, PrimoHoagies can hold up with the best. Only time will tell as I work through the menu. Just be aware the restaurant is pretty much takeout only and I’m guessing they get slammed at lunch with the local office crowd. But great job PrimoHoagies for bringing a taste of South Philadelphia to North Hills and Raleigh.